Disney TV star Miley Cyrus says she just wanted to “make history” with her tongue-tastic MTV VMA performance, and she certainly did, driving social media chatter and music sales into overdrive. Cyrus’ new ballad, “Wrecking Ball,” is already up 124% in sales to 201,000 since the show, while her summer single, “We Can’t Stop,” has reached 157,000.
But now that the public furor has died down, we wondered, could Miley have made history in a less nakedly ambitious way? Could she have shown a little less cheek and a lot more smarts, sass, and sensational vocals?
After all, music is full of women who blasted onto the music scene with a roar of attitude and the talent to back it up. We’re talking about Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Chrissie Hynde, Pink, Lucinda Williams, Salt & Pepa, Joan Jett, Queen Latifah, Cher, Selena, Mary J. Blige, Thalia, M.I.A., Alanis Morrissette, Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar, Eve, Annie Lennox, Christina Aguilera, Dolly Parton, Amy Winehouse, Tina Turner, Madonna … whew! And that’s just getting started.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most provocative, empowering, and chart-busting female singers we could think of (plus a couple of videos!). Many of these names you’ll recognize, some you won’t, and some you’ll violently disagree with. No matter where you fall, we hope you explore their music catalogs, find some new (or old) favorites and add them to your MyMusicCloud playlists.
10. Queen Latifah – If you just know her as a Covergirl, then you haven’t done your herstory. Rap’s first lady boss joined Monie Love for the signature hit “Ladies First,” in which she declared: “A woman can bear you, break you, take you” (watch video below).
9. Miranda Lambert – Country music’s wild child has scored rebellious hits like “Gunpowder & Lead,” “White Liar,” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
8. Adele – Gorgeous, heartfelt vocals from her album 21 shattered Whitney Houston’s Billboard crown for the longest-reigning No. 1 record (by a woman) with more than 21 weeks.
7. Janis Joplin – Woodstock’s Queen of Psychedelic Soul bared her soul onstage in hits like “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”
6. Lady Gaga – Masterful mistress of Little Monsters and meat dresses with enviable piano skills.
5. MIA – By mixing rap, dance and political messages into addictive hits like “Paper Planes,” this British-Sri-Lankan rebel earned street-cred worldwide.
4. Paulina Rubio – This feisty one-woman industry has more than 20 million hits in Spanish, and just joined Simon Cowell’s hit “X Factor” judging panel.
3. Tina Turner – After she dumped hubby Ike, her ferocious vocals on tracks like “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It” inspired several bio-pics and a memorable role in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.”
2. Pat Benatar – Hard-rocking, classically trained queen of power anthems like “Fire and Ice,” “Heartbreaker,” “Promises in the Dark,” and “Invincible” with 4 Grammys to prove it.
1. Alanis Morrissette – Her “Jagged Little Pill” introduced listeners to the raw power of post-breakup rage in “You Oughta Know” and inspired teen girls to rethink their cheerleader dreams.