This is going to be an interesting list to compile. And one that is likely to cause some discussion. The title is simple enough – the most famous female singers of the 1990s. It doesn’t say “the biggest egos of the 1990s” or “those that consider themselves the pinnacle of the 1990s”.
Some of those had good voices, of course, and made some pretty good records. But they are excluded from this list. And I haven’t included or excluded anyone based on how many records they happened to sell, either.
In compiling my list, I preferred to concentrate on the singing aspect. The one element that made them famous in the first place. Rather than the PR and marketing pranks that made some infamous singers rather famous.
Something In The Water?
The 1990s were an interesting time for music. And, just like every decade, we had some great singers and some great songs. It is interesting to note how many of these female 90s singers were from Canada. Is there something in the water there that produces great female singers to rival their Canadian male counterparts?
Whatever, let’s begin our look at some of these singers that were making waves with their voices in the 1990s.
Top 9 Most Famous Female Singers Of The 1990s
Mariah Carey was born in New York, the daughter of an opera singer, Patricia Carey. We shouldn’t, therefore, be surprised that she inherited the voice and some of the drama from that world. Furthermore, she has an amazing five-octave range.
Her first album was simply called Mariah Carey and was released in 1990. It heralded her arrival and was a #1 success in America and Canada. It also did well in New Zealand, where it reached #4, and made #6 in the UK, Australia, and Holland.
From that album came a hugely successful single, “Vision of Love.” The single also made #1 in America and Canada and reached #9 in the UK. She might seem that she had it all, but there was a period in the late 90s when she was not so popular.
Some of this may have been down to musical style changes…
Her subject matter became more adult, and the music had heavy influences of R&B and Hip-Hop. Mariah was writing a lot of her own material, some in collaboration with Walter Afanasieff. This arrangement changed as she moved record labels, and she later wrote some songs with the great Diane Warren.
Whatever the reasons behind these problems, they caused many people concern. Her behavior became erratic, and she stopped making music. She was finally taken to the hospital, suffering from an emotional breakdown.
Mariah took a long time off to recover and start to write some new songs, free from all the pressures that surrounded her. Fortunately, she recovered and started to record again and found some of her earlier success.
But, it was the 90s when she produced much of her very best work. Many of her best recordings, such as “Someday,” can be found in this decade. A great voice and, for a while, was one of the top female singers of the 1990s.
She was born in New Jersey, where her mother was a well-known gospel singer and member of the recording group Sweet Inspirations. Whitney has plenty of history and influence surrounding her through her family. Her mother had Dutch and Native American heritage, and her great-great-grandfather was a Civil Rights activist.
It is well-known that she is related to Dionne Warwick and the opera singer Leontyne Price. So, no surprise then that she would be involved in music somehow.
She released her first album, Whitney Houston, in 1985. It reached #1 in America and #2 in the UK. By the 90s, she was an established performer with millions of records sold. Her third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight, was released in 1990. Whilst it didn’t make #1 anywhere, it was still a big success.
Through the 90s…
Her success started to fade a little, and her singles were often not so popular. Her album releases were also minimal. But she will always be remembered for a song written by Dolly Parton that was included in the film The Bodyguard.
And, of course, that song was “I Will Always Love You.” This song sold millions everywhere and hit #1 in just about every country. It will always be the song that she is most remembered for.
Whitney died far too young, at age 49. She had surrounded herself with the wrong people, and it ended in tragedy, as it often does. There would have been far more to come from the lady known as “The Voice.” However, we should be thankful we still have plenty of music to remember her by. No doubt, she was one of the greatest female singers in the 1990s.
Born near Anaheim, California, Stefani was exposed at a very early age to the music of her parent’s favorites. She was also introduced to 2 Tone music through performers like the British band Madness. Gwen was not one of those who exaggerated the aggressiveness of female Grunge singers, preferring the style and sensuality of people like Debbie Harry.
Most will be familiar with her as the singer of the Rock band No Doubt…
Although they were formed in the 1980s, they came to prominence in the 1990s. Their first album, No Doubt, in 1992, was not a commercial success. Nor did the second album, The Beacon Street Collection, fare any better. However, the third album, Tragic Kingdom, did considerably better.
It reached #1 in America and Canada and #3 in the UK. From that album came their most successful single, “Don’t Speak.” It was at that stage that the band took a break from each other, and Stefani went off to do some solo projects. Most of her solo success came in the decade after.
However, her vocal work with No Doubt, and her great vocal range, left “no doubt” that she was one of the vocal highlights of the 90s.
Now to a name that most people will know. Sheryl Crow was born in Missouri and had originally been a music teacher. Her work took up most of her time, but she was still able to sing on the weekends. She started doing some professional work by working on radio and TV jingles. But, it was clear she was destined for better things.
Sheryl moved up the ladder to provide backing vocals for people like Stevie Wonder, Belinda Carlisle, and Don Henley. She toured with The Eagles and later sang backing vocals on Henley’s album, The End Of The Innocence.
By this time, she was now writing her own material, which was being recorded by well-known artists like Celine Dion. The song “Love You Blind” in 1989 was the B-side of her single “If You Asked Me To.”
Sheryl recorded her first album in 1992…
But, she and others did not consider it was good enough or represented her music well. It was, therefore, shelved though there are a few collector’s copies around. Her first album, Tuesday Night Music Club, was released in 1993.
It was an immediate success reaching #1 in Australia, #3 in America, and #8 in the UK. Her next two albums during the 90s were the simply named Sheryl Crow from 1996 and the 1998 release, The Globe Sessions. These confirmed her place as one of the most influential female singers of the 90s.
The Sheryl Crow album also produced one of my personal favorites of all of her tracks, the 1996 release, “Everyday Is A Winding Road.” That reached #11 on the American chart and #12 in the UK. If you aren’t that familiar with her music, then The Very Best of Sheryl Crow is worth a listen.
So, let’s take a little trip to Canada for the first time. Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, the child of a teacher and high school principal. Their ancestry gave her a range of influences. Her father had French and Irish ancestors, and her mother had Hungarian and Jewish blood.
She started playing the piano at age six and was writing songs by ten. Her first two album releases didn’t have great commercial success. Her first, Alanis, released in 1991, reached #12 in Canada. The second, Now Is the Time, didn’t make a chart entry anywhere.
But then, a change of musical style changed just about everything…
Jagged Little Pill, released in 1995, brought her incredible success. The album reached #1 in Canada, America, the UK, Holland, and New Zealand. It also gave us one of the great singles of the 90s, “Ironic.”
It also introduced us to her songwriting skills as she co-wrote it with producer Glen Ballard. The lyrics contained some of the best lines of any song from the 90s, full of irony, of course. “It’s meeting the man of my dreams – And then meeting his beautiful wife.”
Her lyrics could be thoughtful and insightful…
But she had a side of her that could tear you to shreds. This was never more evident on the first release from Jagged Little Pill, “You Oughta Know.” “And every time you speak her name – Does she know how you told me – You’d hold me until you died? – Till you died, but you’re still alive.” That is a very mild example, one that won’t get edited out. For the full range of bitterness, it might be worth a listen.
Jagged Little Pill was the turning point and kickstarted a career that sold well over 60 million albums. But let’s not forget what a great voice she had. Alanis was quite unlike anyone else, and it made her one of the outstanding and most famous female singers of the 1990s.
Another Canadian, but this time, one that seems to have been appreciated in Nashville. She is talked about as a Country Music artist, and she might have been very early on. But, she changed course somewhat.
Her first album, Shania Twain, wasn‘t a commercial success, but the second album did quite a bit better. These were albums that had a definite Country feel to most of the tracks. However, the third album was a different story.
Come On Over was released in 1997 and topped the charts in seven countries but only made #2 in America. It was an album full of great ballads, memorable Pop songs, and even some Rock and Roll.
It was that same year that her singles started to have a major reaction…
“You’re Still The One,” still a popular song today, reached #1 in Canada, #2 in America, and #10 in the UK. Other singles followed, including the brilliant and sensitive ballad, “From This Moment On.”
The 1990s saw Shania Twain establish herself not just as a Country singer but as a worldwide artist. And, despite some personal traumas, she is still performing and recording. Her last single, “Giddy Up,” was released in 2023.
A very good voice that’s capable of plenty of emotion has meant she remains able to sing various styles. If you are not familiar with her work, then her Greatest Hits is well worth a listen.
From Shania Twain, who expanded her repertoire beyond Country, to Wynona Judd, who stayed within her Country roots. She is worth a place on this list because she has an excellent voice for Country music. And it was in the 90s that she found solo success.
Kentucky-born, she was in a duo with her mother known as The Judds, who were very successful in the 1980s. Furthermore, her work with her mother and subsequent career made her one of the top-selling Country music singers ever. You can hear for yourself in her album, All-Time Greatest Hits.
Wynona went solo in 1991 and found success…
Her first album, Wynonna, reached #4 on the main American chart as well as topped the American Country chart. She released four albums and 22 singles during the 90s, making her a prolific Country performer.
But, her success is in no small part due to her very recognizable voice. It is powerful and suits the style of music perfectly. She has created an important legacy in American Country Music circles based on her recordings and performances during the 90s.
Back to the Canadians again for Celine Dion, who is probably one of Canada’s most famous exports to the world of music. Born in Quebec, she became the best-selling Canadian singer ever and the best-selling French-speaking artist. It is not widely known, but she sang in and won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, representing Switzerland.
With success seemingly just around the corner, it was noted her English language skills were a bit lacking. For her to make the impact her exceptional voice would give her, both in Europe and America, she would need to speak better English.
So, that’s what she did…
Her first English-speaking album was Unison, released in 1990. She continued to release albums in her native French, and in the 90s, there were a further three. But, it was during this period that the successful Canadian became a global superstar, and I don’t often use that word about a singer.
The success grew steadily until she was named the best female singer of the 90s, and deservedly so. A succession of huge-selling albums followed. In 1993, The Colour of My Love reached #1 in four countries. That album featured the track “The Power of Love.”
A true phenomenon…
It reached #1 in a staggering 30-plus countries around the world. The single alone sold over 18 million and became the biggest-selling single of 1998. All that despite the American record industry limiting the number of copies available. They had to give in in the end and gave it the same availability as other artists of the period.
The 90s made her one of the biggest-selling artists on the planet selling over 200 million albums alone. And there can be no doubt that her recorded work and live performances make her the most popular female singer of the 90s.
You might think that no one else could beat that. And, in normal circumstances, you would be right, but someone was waiting to claim the #1 spot on this list.
I can hear some gasp with disbelief. But, since she first arrived in our consciousness in the 60s, Tina Turner has been a force of nature. A staggering performer.
I have chosen her to complete this list of the most famous female singers of the 1990s for a simple reason. Thirty-plus years after she arrived, she was still doing it with sold-out worldwide tours. And she was still the most powerful on-stage female performer of them all.
No other description will suffice…
I saw her show at Wembley in 1996, when she was nearer 60 than 50. And that voice? One of the greatest female Rock voices ever? I think so, and in the 90s, it was still there for all to hear. A consummate performer.
She continued to release singles and albums through the 90s. And there are so many songs to choose from to represent her. But, let’s just attach this compilation from 1991, with an appropriate title, Simply the Best.
Want to Hear More from Famous Female Artists?
If so, check out our thoughts on the Best Female Singers, the Most Famous Female Country Singers Of The 90s, the Most Famous Female Singers Of The 1980s, the Most Famous Female Singers Of The 1970s, the Most Famous British Female Singers, and the Most Famous Mexican Female Singers for more amazing song selections.
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Most Famous Female Singers Of The 1990s – Final Thoughts
There have been some notable omissions, as I said there might be. But most of those were ladies that had some success before the 90s. That is one of the reasons they haven’t been included. Tina Turner is the exception. But, since she is the best of them all, she had to be there. Christine Aguilera released her first album in 1999 and was a singer for the 2000s rather than the 90s. Beyonce was the same.
The 90s were a great time for the girls. And the new talent that arrived was in many ways better than what we saw from the men in the same period. The female singer had changed forever. Now they wrote and sang just what they thought. Good for them. But, above all were the voices. And those voices, all of them that I have mentioned here, didn’t let us down.
Until next time, happy listening.