Like Beyoncé said – “Girls run the world”. Over the decades, we’ve seen female icons top the charts and become household names for years to come. I mean, who doesn’t know Madonna? And what is “music” without Rihanna?
The 12 Best-Selling Male Artists of All Time
We’re about to honor the 30 best-selling female artists of all time and see how they’ve made their careers shine bright with their smash-hits and successful albums. Some of these celebrities may surprise you, while others are pretty predictable.
Scroll down to discover who the most successful female artists truly are…
Information was derived from Wikipedia‘s Claimed Sales.
30. Ariana Grande
Sales: 90 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Thank U, Next, 7 Rings, Stuck With U, Rain On Me, Positions, Save Your Tears
Best-Selling Album: Thank U, Next
Ariana Grande demonstrated her musical talent from an early age, earning a role in the musical 13, starring in Victorious, and by uploading covers to YouTube. In 2013, the singer released her debut album and immediately took the top spot on the Billboard 200. She has since sold more than 90 million records worldwide.
Ariana’s sensational debut album, Yours Truly, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). A decade on from this debut, however, it’s clear it was only the beginning of a trend.
Before the release of 2020’s Positions, the artist released five more albums, with each one earning platinum accolades or higher. Ariana’s top-selling album to date is Thank U, Next, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 in 2019.
The single that helped propel Ariana’s debut album to success was The Way (ft. Mac Miller), which reached number nine on the US charts and went triple platinum. Since this release, however, the artist has put out a number of even more successful singles.
Problem (ft. Iggy Azalea) and Side To Side (ft. Nicki Minaj) both went certified platinum six times over; Bang Bang (ft. Jessie J and Nicki Minaj) went platinum eight times; Thank U, Next topped the US charts, and 7 Rings holds the Guinness World Record for most Spotify streams in a single week.
Alongside more traditional accolades, Ariana has two Grammys and holds 30 Guinness World Records. She is officially the most streamed female artist of all time; the most subscribed female solo artist on YouTube; and has been named the most successful female artist to debut in the 2010s by Billboard.
Ariana also has her own makeup brand R.E.M Beauty and a fragrance line.
29. Reba McEntire
Sales: 90 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard Country Chart): Can’t Even Get the Blues, You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving, How Blue, Somebody Should Leave, Whoever’s in New England, Little Rock, What Am I Gonna Do About You, One Promise Too Late, The Last One to Know + many more
Best-Selling Album: Greatest Hits Volume Two
Known as the “Queen of Country,” Reba McEntire started off in the band “The Singing McEntires”, but it was not until years later, that she was heard singing by a country artist who helped her get her shot. Reba got a record deal in 1975, put out a single a year later, and has since released 33 studio albums.
Reba’s earliest albums weren’t hits. By the early ‘80s however, she was garnering attention on the country charts, and with Whoever’s In New England in 1986, she hit number one on the country charts.
Read My Mind reached number two on the Billboard 200 and went triple platinum; Reba: Duets and Keep On Loving You both topped the Billboard 200, in 2007 and 2009 respectively; and several compilation records have gone multi-platinum, with Greatest Hits Volume Two doing so five times over.
Reba has released 126 singles, and 100 as a lead artist. Many of these have reached number one on Billboard’s Hot Country charts, beginning with Can’t Even Get The Blues in 1982 and including tracks like You’re The First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving, How Blue, Whoever’s In New England, One Promise Too Late, and more.
Beyond her musical success, Reba has also had a cinematic career, appearing in films like North and The Little Rascals. She has won three Grammy Awards; has the second-most wins for the Academy of Country Music’s Top Female Vocalist Awards (7); and holds the record for most American Music Awards for Favorite Country Female Artist (12).
28. Avril Lavigne
Sales: 90 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Girlfriend
Best-Selling Album: Let Go
Avril Lavigne signed a deal with Atista Records at just 16 years of age. Soon thereafter, she released her debut studio album, Let Go, which went platinum seven times. She has produced seven albums to date, selling more than 40 million copies (as well as 30 million singles).
Avril’s first studio record Let Go, was one of the defining albums of the 2000s pop-punk era. In addition to its septuple-platinum run distinction, it reached number two on the Billboard 200 and remains the best-selling album produced by a Canadian artist this century.
Her next albums further solidified her as a master of her genre and era. Under My Skin went triple platinum and reached number one on the Billboard 200, while The Best Damn Thing also reached number one, going double platinum.
Three of Avril’s top-performing singles came from her album Let Go. Complicated reached number two on the US charts and became one of the defining tracks of the 2000s. Sk8er Boi and I’m With You were top-10 hits, as well.
My Happy Ending from Under My Skin also reached the top 10, though the song Breakaway arguably represents Lavigne’s biggest hit after Let Go. Most know this as a Kelly Clarkson song, but Avril actually co-wrote it.
Alongside hundreds of award nominations and wins (including eight Grammy nominations), Avril Lavigne has earned some unique distinctions. In 2003, she became the youngest artist to top the charts in the UK, setting a Guinness World Record. And in the late 2000s, her music video for the track Girlfriend became the first to register 100 million YouTube views.
27. Alicia Keys
Sales: 90 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Fallin’, My Boo, No One, Empire State of Mind
Best-Selling Album: Songs In A Minor
Alicia Keys trained to be a classical pianist from a young age. So great was her talent that at 15, with her own compositions already under her belt, she signed a deal with Columbia Records. Not long thereafter, she switched to Arista Records, with whom she recorded the debut album Songs In A Mirror in 2001 – at age 21.
Songs In A Mirror, Alicia’s debut album, was an instant success, topping the Billboard 200 and selling enough copies for septuple-platinum certification. The album established her as a singer-songwriter sensation, and she’s since bolstered the reputation through eight subsequent studio albums.
Four of those albums have gone platinum (three of them multi-platinum), and Alicia regained her spot atop the Billboard 200 with The Diary Of Alicia Keys in 2003, As I Am in 2007, and Girl On Fire in 2012.
Alicia has had four singles top the Billboard Hot 100 list. The first, Fallin’, was number one for five consecutive weeks and was officially the most listened to song in 2007. Even though If I Ain’t Got You only reached number four on the charts, it was the first single by a female artist to remain on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for over a year.
In 2009, Keys returned to the top spot with Empire State Of Mind, a song she performed with Jay-Z.
Alicia has won an impressive 15 Grammy Awards, and in 2002, became just the second woman ever to win five such awards in a single night. Billboard named her the R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Decade in the 2000s and according to RIAA, she is the top certified female R&B artist of the millennium.
26. Dionne Warwick
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Then Came You, That’s What Friends Are For
Best-Selling Album: Heartbreaker
A one-of-a-kind vocalist whose personal style blended pop, gospel, and soul, Dionne Warwick first started pursuing a career in music as a backup singer. She eventually got her first record deal with Scepter Records in 1962 and has since produced an astounding 42 studio albums across a variety of labels.
Dionne never topped the chart with a signature album that saw her become the face of musical culture at any one time. Her consistency, however, has been sensational. Ten of the artist’s albums have charted in the top 25 including Here Where There Is Love, Promises, Promises and Friends. With Dionne, in 1979, she achieved platinum success.
Through her decades of contributions to the music world, Dionne Warwick has seen 56 singles appear on the Billboard Hot 100, making her one of the most-charted vocalists of all time. Of these, there were two number one hits: Then Came You and That’s What Friends Are For.
Musically, Dionne is running out of honors to rack up. She is in the Grammy Hall Of Fame (as are three of her songs); she has a Hollywood Walk Of Fame star; she has six Grammys; and she was honored in 2019 with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Outside of music, she also served as an official UN Goodwill Ambassador.
25. Shania Twain
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard Country Chart): Any Man of Mine, I’m Outta Here, You Win My Love, No One Needs to Know, Love Gets Me Every Time, You’re Still the One, Honey, I’m Home
Best-Selling Album: Come On Over
A successful figure on the country landscape, Shania Twain is best known for blurring the lines between pop and country music. She got her start with Mercury Records in 1993, though it was her second album that brought her real success. Today, she ranks sixth among the best-selling female musicians in US history.
Shania Twain has released six studio albums, and the first four represent some of the most impressive strings of success a modern artist has ever achieved.
She is the only female artist in history to have three (consecutive) albums certified diamond by the RIAA and has sold more than 34 million albums in the US alone, making her the top-selling female artist in country music.
Her third album Come On Over reached number two on Billboard, number one among country albums, and was certified double diamond. It earned Shania a whopping four Grammy Awards. It was 2002 when Shania finally topped the Billboard chart with her 11-time platinum release Up, and again in 2017 with Now.
Surprisingly, Shania never had a number one single in the US. She came close with three top-10 hits, including You’re Still The One, That Don’t Impress Me Much, and From This Moment On.
Notably, Shania has topped the US country charts with seven singles, and has been a mainstay at number one on the Canadian country charts, as well.
Shania is widely recognized as the godmother of country-pop as its own sub-genre. She has five Grammy Awards, a World Music Award and 27 BMI Songwriter Awards. She also has inductions into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
24. Tina Turner
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): What’s Love Got to Do With It
Best-Selling Album: Private Dancer
The Queen of Rock got her start performing with the band Kings Of Rhythm in the mid-1950s. By 1960, she was performing as Tina Turner in duos with her eventual husband Ike. She released successful albums in the mid-70s, but launched her true solo career with 1978’s Rough, following her infamous divorce from Ike Turner.
With her albums Rough and Love Explosion, Tina Turner established a direction for her solo career. She achieved her greatest success with her 1984 comeback album Private Dancer, however.
The album reached number three on the Billboard 200 and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. 1986’s follow-up, Break Every Rule, charted at number four and also earned platinum distinction.
The bulk of Tina Turner’s most successful singles were released in the mid-‘80s. We Don’t Need Another Hero from the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome soundtrack reached number two in the US, as did Typical Male from the album Break Every Rule.
It is hard to argue against the iconic What’s Love Got To Do With It as Tina’s most impactful single, however. This song was a number one hit, earned three Grammys, and in 2012 was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.
Tina’s countless accolades include 12 Grammy Awards, an induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Following her retirement from music, she successfully endeavored to become a Swiss citizen, renouncing her American citizenship in the process.
23. Diana Ross
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Touch Me In the Morning, Theme from Mahogany, Love Hangover, Upside Down, Endless Love
Best-Selling Album: Diana
Prior to her solo career, Diana Ross was the lead singer of The Supremes – a Motown girl group that is to this day the top girl group in Billboard history. In 1970 however, she embarked on a solo career that continues to this day. If anything, her success on her own has eclipsed even that of The Supremes.
Diana’s first solo album, titled Diana Ross, was released by Motown Records in 1970. It reached number 19 on the Billboard charts, but also included Diana’s first number one hit: her own version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
A decade later, the album Diana became the artist’s greatest success, charting at number two and selling more than 10 million copies worldwide.
In addition to her iconic rendition of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Diana Ross produced six number one singles over the years. 1980’s Upside Down actually spent four weeks at number one, out-performing Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’s three weeks. Diana’s longest stay in the top spot, however, came from a 1981 duet of Endless Love with Lionel Richie.
Diana is one of few artists to receive two Lifetime Achievement awards from the Grammys – one as a solo artist in 2012, and one with The Supremes in 2023. She is ranked the 11th Greatest Hot 100 Female Artist of all time and in 1993, she was dubbed the “most successful female artist in music history” by Guinness World Records.
22. Linda Ronstadt
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): You’re No Good
Best-Selling Album: Greatest Hits
Linda Ronstadt is known for producing everything from iconic rock to Mexican folk music. After selling over 100 million records, she can accurately be described as one of the most accomplished musicians of the last 50 years, having released music from her late ‘60s through to a 2019 live album release.
Linda’s Heart Like A Wheel was released in 1974 and climbed to the top of the Billboard charts. It went double platinum and established the hybrid star as the de facto queen of rock at the time. Linda would then release platinum or multiplatinum albums in each of the next four years – with Simple Dreams and Living In The USA also topping Billboard.
Her Spanish album Canciones de Mi Padre is officially the best-selling non-English language record in US music history. All in all, Linda has sold 30 million certified albums in the US, making her the ninth best-selling female solo artist in the country.
Linda’s best-performing singles were released in quick succession between 1975 and 1977. First up in this stretch were You’re No Good and When Will I Be Loved, which charted 1st and 2nd respectively.
Later in 1975, Heat Wave off Prisoner In Disguise charted at number five, and in 1977 two tracks from Simple Dreams – Blue Bayouo and It’s So Easy – also made the top 10.
Linda is a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the recipient of a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; she has 11 Grammys, but also a Tony, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy to her name.
21. Dolly Parton
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): 9 To 5, Islands In The Stream
Best-Selling Album: Greatest Hits
Country icon Dolly Parton is about as big a name as there is among living musicians. She released her first studio album Hello, I’m Dolly, in 1967, and continues to produce original music today. With more than 100 million records sold, she is among the most successful female artists of all time.
Dolly Parton has an astounding 44 top 10 country albums, which is a record for any artist.
The debut album Hello I’m Dolly reached number 11 on the US country charts, but it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s that she achieved major commercial success. Here You Come Again sold over one million copies to earn platinum certification, while her two collaborations earned the same status: Once Upon A Christmas and Trio.
Over the course of her career, Dolly Parton has had 25 singles reach number one on Billboard’s country charts – a record for a female artist (alongside Reba McEntire). Her two singles 9 To 5 and Islands In The Stream are the only tracks that topped the Billboard Hot 100, each spending two weeks at number one.
Dolly Parton has obtained just about every imaginable honor for a country music artist. Alongside the Grammys, Hollywood recognition, Hall Of Fame inductions and the like though, her appearances on country charts in seven separate decades are a record.
20. Olivia Newton-John
Sales: 100 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): I Honestly Love You, Have You Never Been Mellow, You’re The One I Want, Magic, Physical
Best-Selling Album: Greatest Hits
Known for both a decorated music career and a legendary role in the film Grease, Olivia Newton-John sold more than 100 million records in her career. She is one of the biggest selling female artists in the world.
In addition to work on numerous soundtracks, Olivia Newton-John produced 26 solo studio albums over a span of 45 years. Two of those albums, If You Love Me Let Me Know and Have You Never Been Mellow, went to number one on the Billboard 200.
Olivia’s most successful album, however, was the soundtrack for Grease, which also topped the Billboard charts with over 30 million copies sold. It still remains one of the world’s best-selling albums.
Olivia produced countless successful singles throughout her career, five of which peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Her iconic track Physical, in particular, spent an incredible 10 weeks at the top spot – an unmatched achievement in the decade and led Billboard to name the single the top song of the ‘80s.
Other than being the worthy owner of four Grammys, Olivia was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979; was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2019, and even received Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun in 2021.
19. Nicki Minaj
Sales: 100 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): Trollz feat. 6ix9ine, Super Freaky Girl
Best-Selling Album: Pink Friday
After releasing her mixtapes Playtime Is Over, Sucka Free and Beam Me Up Scotty, Nicki Minaj, who we know as Queen Barbz, started receiving public recognition. It wasn’t until she signed with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment label that she became the rapstar we know and love today.
After securing her record deal, Nicki unleashed her alter-ego Roman who often makes an appearance on her tracks and released her first studio album Pink Friday. It peaked at number one on the US Billboard charts and was certified triple platinum by the RIAA.
60+ Nicki Minaj Lyrics: Best Lines from Her Songs
Since then, Nicki has gone on to sell an additional three best-selling albums – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which went to number one on the Billboard 200; and The Pinkprint and Queen, which both reached number two in the US.
After 10 years of its release, Super Bass was certified diamond by the RIAA. It was only in 2020 when Nicki earned her first number one single on the Hot 100 with her 6ix9ine collaboration Trollz. In 2022, her single Super Freaky Girl, became the first solo song by a female rapper to debut at number one in the US in the 21st century.
All in all, the rapstress has sold around 100 million records worldwide, making her the 12th highest-selling female artist.
Other than being dubbed one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time, the best-selling female rapper has bagged nine American Music Awards, 12 BET Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards (including the 2022 Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award) and four Billboard Music Awards.
18. Janet Jackson
Sales: 100 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): When I Think Of You, Miss You Much, Escapade, Black Cat, Love Will Never Do, That’s The Way Love Goes, Again, Together Again, Doesn’t Really Matter, All For You
Best-Selling Album: Janet
Janet Jackson is an American pop icon. Although one of the world’s best-selling female singers, the artist’s true legacy, is her ability to thrive outside of her family’s shadow (and that of Michael Jackson in particular), and establish herself as a pioneering Black artist who would influence white and Black pop stars alike.
Janet Jackson’s first two albums sold a combined 500,000 copies in the US. It was her third album, Control, which broke through in spectacular fashion, hitting number one on the Billboard 200 and selling 10 million copies worldwide.
That breakthrough launched an unrivaled run of success. Janet later released eight solo albums, with six of them hitting number one, including Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 which was number one for four consecutive weeks, selling 12 million copies worldwide.
Throughout her illustrious career, Janet has placed an incredible 27 singles on the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10, with 10 of those singles reaching number one. Miss You Much spent four weeks in the top spot, All For You spent seven weeks and That’s The Way Love Goes stayed atop the charts for eight weeks in 1993.
As of today, she holds the record for the most consecutive top-ten entries (18) on the Hot 100 by a female artist.
Janet has earned five Grammys, a Hollywood Walk Of Fame star, and a spot in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – in addition to a handful of Guinness World Records. With 11 Billboard Music Awards and 11 American Music Awards, she is one of the most awarded artists of all time.
Sales: 100 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): Gypsys, Tramps, & Thieves, Half-Breed, Dark Lady, Believe
Best-Selling Album: Believe
Known for her fashion sensibility and her unique vocal sound, Cher, also known as the “Goddess of Pop”, has been active since 1965. She signed with Liberty Records in 1964, and by the next year had a song on the Billboard Hot 100.
Cher’s career spans nearly 60 years. Her debut album, All I Really Want To Do, reached number 16 on the charts, but it wasn’t until the ‘80s when she achieved the major commercial success.
Cher was her first platinum effort; Heart Of Stone reached number 10 and went triple platinum; and Believe, her most successful project, hit number four and went platinum four times over.
Cher has seen 33 songs rank on the Billboard charts over the years, with four number one hits. During the 70s, she became the female artist with the most number-one singles in US history.
Cher’s most recent top hit was Believe, which held the spot for four weeks in 1999 and was named the UK’s biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist.
Though Cher’s solo work alone is enough to make her one of the last half-century’s most influential artists, she also attained success as half of the duo Sonny & Cher. The pair produced five studio albums, and their song I Got You Babe hit number one in the US and UK, altogether selling 40 million records worldwide.
16. Christina Aguilera
Sales: 100 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): Genie In A Bottle, What a Girl Wants, Come On Over, Lady Marmalade, Moves Like Jagger
Best-Selling Album: Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera is another legendary artist who seems to have been born for stardom. She was on television at as a child, and demonstrated a four-octave vocal range at a young age. To most, however, she was still a little-known figure before her 1999 debut album, which catapulted her to sensational fame.
Christina Aguilera, was one of the most successful debuts in modern history, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 and selling more than 14 million copies worldwide. It also established Xtina overnight as one of the premier pop stars of the late-‘90s/early-‘00s MTV era.
Following a Christmas album and Spanish album, the next two records solidified Christina as a generational star – Stripped went quintuple platinum while Back To Basics got her back to Billboard’s top spot.
Christina has enjoyed three number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. All three of these – Genie In A Bottle, What A Girl Wants, and Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You) – featured on the eponymous debut album.
Aguilera also spent four weeks at number one as a featured artist on Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger, and another five weeks for her Lady Marmalade compilation with Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack.
Christina Aguilera has won upwards of 300 different awards for her music over the years, including five Grammys. In 2013, she was listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Today, Aguilera is also known to many as a TV personality, having served for several seasons as a voice on the singing competition show The Voice.
15. Britney Spears
Sales: 100 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): …Baby One More Time, Womanizer, 3, Hold It Against Me, S&M
Best-Selling Album: Baby One More Time
Britney Spears got her start on television, but signed a record deal at the age of 15. This set her on a path toward teen stardom, and sure enough she was the biggest pop star in the world two years later. While she’s become something of a cautionary tale about youth and fame, Britney enjoyed a peak like few in modern history.
Britney’s 1999 debut album …Baby One More Time leapt to the top of the Billboard 200 and sold more than 12 million copies, earning certified diamond status. Her 2000 follow-up, fittingly titled Oops!… I Did It Again, well, did it again, selling over 1.3 million copies. They both remain two of the best-selling albums of all time.
From there, the era-defining pop star continued to release four more chart-topping albums including Britney and In The Zone. With a total of nine solo albums to date, neither has ever peaked below number four on the Billboard 200.
Somewhat surprisingly, only one song from Britney’s explosive early albums topped the charts: …Baby One More Time in 1998. In 2020, it was named the greatest debut single of all time by Rolling Stone.
Other fan favorites, such as Crazy, Toxic, and Oops!…I Did It Again made the top 10, but four other tracks topped Billboard’s Hot 100 including Womanizer, 3, and Hold It Against Me.
Britney Spears was the best-selling female artist of the 2000s, and has countless awards to her name including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, a Grammy Award, 15 Guinness World Records, six MTV Video Music Awards and seven Billboard Music Awards.
The popstar launched a successful perfume brand in 2004 and in 2001 and 2012, she was named Forbes’ highest-earning female musician.
Sales: 120 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You, Set Fire To The Rain, Hello, Easy on Me
Best-Selling Album: 21
British songstress Adele released her debut album (19) in 2008 and became an instant hint with her standout vocals. Selling over 120 million records worldwide so far, the vocal phenomenon released her long-awaited fourth studio album after a six-year hiatus in 2021, which became the best-selling album of that year (Billboard).
Adele made it big in America almost immediately after 19 was certified triple platinum. Three years later, the music phenomenon put out her second album which surpassed the success of its predecessor. 21 was named the best-selling album of the 21st century, with over 31 million copies sold; and in 2015, she put out her third album 25, which was Adele’s second album to be certified diamond. The singer’s fourth album, 30 has been named the world’s best-selling album of 2021.
Adele’s album 21 put her in the Guinness Book of Records as the first female in history to have three simultaneous top-ten singles in the Billboard Hot 100 including Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You.
In 2012, Adele released Skyfall which she co-wrote for the James Bond movie and of course, it received a number of awards including an Academy Award and Golden Globe.
Her single Hello later became the first song in the US to sell over one million digital copies within a week of its release, while her fifth number one single Easy on Me broke Spotify and Amazon Music records for most streams in a day.
Adele’s albums have rewarded her with several gongs over the years. She took home two Grammys for 19; six Grammys including Album of the Year for 21 – tying her up with Beyonce for the most Grammys won by a female artist in one night; and five Grammys for 25.
Adele’s music video for Hello is also one of the most-watched music videos on YouTube ever with almost three billion views, and in 2021, she was named the UK’s best-selling female album artist of the 21st century.
Sales: 135 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): So What, Raise Your Glass, Just Give Me a Reason
Best-Selling Album: Missundaztood
Pink got her start as a member of the ‘90s girl group, Choice. In 1995 however, hip-hop and R&B label LaFace Records offered her a deal to record a solo album. Five years later, Pink’s debut, Can’t Take Me Home, reached number 26 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum. From there, a high-energy, genre-spanning career was born.
While Can’t Take Me Home was a successful debut, some subsequent releases were even more successful. Missundaztood reached number 6 on the Billboard 200, while Funhouse reached number 2 and went platinum three times.
The Truth About Love was Pink’s first number one album on the Billboard 200, followed by Beautiful Trauma and Hurts 2B Human – the former becoming the world’s third best-selling album of 2017.
Pink’s worldwide singles sales exceed 50 million. Out of these well-known and accomplished tracks, three reached number one on the Hot 100. The first was So What, the lead track off Funhouse. The next was Raise Your Glass, which was actually written for the artist’s 2010 compilation Greatest Hits… So Far!!! And the third, Just Give Me A Reason (ft. Nate Ruess), was from the album The Truth About Love.
Incidentally, Pink also topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001 with Lady Marmalade.
Pink is viewed by some in music as a pioneer in modern pop, and a model for generations of pop artist to follow. Dubbed “Pop Royalty”, she has three Grammy Awards, seven MTV Video Music Awards including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and two Brit Awards.
Pink has been named Billboard’s Pop Songs Artist of the Decade (2009) and she is the UK’s most played female artist of the 21st century according to the Official Charts Company.
12. Donna Summer
Sales: 140 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): MacArthur Park, Hot Stuff, Bad Girls, No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)
Best-Selling Album: Bad Girls
Multi-talented singer-songwriter Donna Summer achieved her greatest success during the heyday of disco in the 1970s. Her debut album, Lady Of The Night, primarily earned attention in Europe. But with 1975’s Love To Love You Baby, she became well known in the US.
Donna holds the record for most consecutive double albums (3) to reach number one on the Billboard charts.
Love To Love You Baby debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than 500,000 copies to launch Donna as a US disco star. But it was 1979’s Bad Girls that launched her to true superstardom. The album reached number one and retained the position for six weeks, ultimately earning double-platinum status.
Ten more studio albums would follow, and She Works Hard For The Money got Summer back into the top-10 in 1983.
It may well be that Donna’s highlight single was Love To Love You Baby, which charted at number two. She also had 16 singles reach number one in Billboard’s “Dance Club Songs” category. But it was actually in the late ‘70s that the artist’s best-performing singles came out.
Four of her singles reached number one on the Billboard 100 including MacArthur Park, Hot Stuff and Bad Girls, the latter of which held the top spot for five weeks; and No More Tears (Enough Is Enough).
Sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Disco”, Donna Summer is viewed as a pivotal figure in American music history, and someone who paved the way for more modern pop. She has five Grammy Awards and is ranked sixth on Billboard’s list of “Greatest of All Time Top Dance Club Artists”.
11. Shirley Bassey
Sales: 140 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Goldfinger
Best-Selling Album: 25th Anniversary Album
Shirley Bassey, the epitome of James Bond theme songs, is officially the eleventh best-selling female artist. The British Welsh vocalist has had a flourishing music career spanning from the 1950s until 2020 when she released her album I Owe It All to You.
Shirley has released an astounding 37 studio albums, six live albums, and 21 compilation albums throughout her career. Her biggest selling solo albums are The Shirley Bassey Singles Album and Shirley Bassey 25th Anniversary Album, while Something is her biggest-selling studio album.
Shirley’s 2020 release I Owe It All To You made her “the first female artist to claim a Top 40 album in seven consecutive decades” in the UK.
While Shirley Bassey has gifted the world with over 100 singles over the last 60 years, it is her James Bond song that is her most successful US single. Goldfinger reached number 8 on the Hot 100. She has, however, had two number one singles in the UK including As I Love You and Reach for the Stars / Climb Ev’ry Mountain.
Shirley Bassey had the honor of being the first artist to win the Best British Female Solo Artist at the first Brit Awards in 1977. Her single Goldfinger was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and she is today an official “dame” for her services to the performing arts.
10. Katy Perry
Sales: 143 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): I Kissed a Girl, California Gurls, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T., Last Friday Night, Part of Me, Roar, Dark Horse
Best-Selling Album: One of the Boys
Katy Perry started her career as a gospel singer by releasing the unsuccessful debut album Katy Hudson in 2001. It wasn’t long before she transformed into one of the best-selling female artists and mega popstars we know today.
After the failure of Katy Hudson, Katy released One of the Boys in 2008 which featured her smash hit I Kissed a Girl. Her third album Teenage Dream then hit a record only Michael Jackson’s Bad had previously achieved – having five chart-topping Billboard Hot 100 singles including California Gurls, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T, and Last Friday Night.
Katy’s fourth album, Prism, spawned the chart-topping songs Roar and Dark Horse, which led her to become the first singer to have multiple videos reach one billion views on Vevo. She then went on to unveil her next releases Witness and Smile.
Katy brags a total of nine number one singles including California Gurls and Part of Me.
One of the Boys which included her hit-singles I Kissed a Girl and Hot n Cold were certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA; while Firework, Roar, and Dark Horse, from Prism received diamond song certifications, making her the first artist ever to achieve this. With these songs, Katy also holds the record for the most 6-million-selling songs.
Katy’s achievements include four Guinness World Records and five Billboard Music Awards as well as being named one of Forbes’ highest-earning women in music from 2011 to 2019. However, Katy’s Super Bowl Half-Time performance in 2016 became a defining moment of her career and is one of the most-watched of all time.
9. Barbra Streisand
Sales: 150 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): The Way We Were, Evergreen, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, No More Tears, Woman in Love
Best-Selling Album: Guilty
Barbara Streisand has been in the music business for more than 50 years and has performed on Broadway, numerous films and released many successful albums. Her career began in singing in the 1960s when she became an established artist after releasing her best-selling album The Barbra Streisand Album, which won two Grammy Awards including Album of the Year.
Throughout her career, Barbra has recorded over 80 albums, 11 of which have topped the Billboard 200, making her only female artist to do so. Other than Elvis Presley (the best-selling solo artist of all time), she is the only star to have 52 gold and 31 platinum albums.
Barbra is also the only artist to have number one albums in each of the last six decades. It’s no surprise then that the RIAA ranks her as the second highest-certified female album artist with 68.5 million album units in the US.
Since her music career in the 1960s, the icon has achieved five number-one singles on the Hot 100 chart including The Way We Were, Evergreen, and Woman in Love. The Way We Were in particular, was the first original single by a female artist to become the number one song of the year in the US.
Not only is Barbra the eighth best-selling female recording artist, she’s also one of the few artists and actresses to win Academy Awards (two awards!), Grammys (eight awards!), Emmys, Golden Globes, Tony Awards (EGOT) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
8. Lady Gaga
Sales: 124 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Just Dance, Poker Face, Born This Way, Shallow, Rain on Me
Best-Selling Album: The Fame / The Fame Monster
Lady Gaga is known for her wacky style, epic performances and killer voice, but she actually began her career as a songwriter. It wasn’t until she signed with Akon’s label, KonLive Distribution, in 2007 that she became an independent artist.
After her debut album The Fame, the writing-machine went on to release six number one albums including Born This Way, Artpop, Cheek to Cheek, Joanne, A Star Is Born and Chromatica.
The Fame was certified triple platinum, while Joanne was Gaga’s fourth album to top the charts in the US, making her the first woman to have four number-one albums in the 2010s. Gaga also has one of the best-selling remix albums of all time with her 2010 release, The Remix.
With over one million downloads in less than a week, Born This Way became the fastest-selling song on iTunes in 2011. It was also an international success, landing at number one in a whopping 19 countries.
Gaga has a total of five number one songs including Just Dance, Poker Face, Bad Romance and Shallow. In 2020, she released her collaboration with Ariana Grande, Rain on Me, which became the first ever female collaboration to debut at number one.
Other than being one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Gaga is also the fourth highest-earning female musician of the 2010s. She has also won various Guinness World Records, 12 Grammy Awards, and awards from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Besides that, Lady Gaga has also embarked on independent journeys launching Haus Labs (a vegan cosmetic brand) and Haus of Gaga (her fashion label).
7. Celine Dion
Sales: 200 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): The Power of Love, Because You Loved Me, My Heart Will Go On, I’m Your Angel
Best-Selling Album: Falling Into You
She may be the seventh top-selling female artist in the world, but Celine Dion is actually Canada’s best-selling recording artist of all time. After starting her career by selling French albums and winning the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, Celine soon became a household name in the 90s upon releasing her English albums.
Celine Dion has two of the best-selling albums of all time. Falling Into You achieved the twelve-times platinum certification, while Let’s Talk About Love featured the highest-selling single of her career, My Heart Will Go On.
She is also one of the best-selling stars in France, with her album D’eux being dubbed the best-selling French-language album in history. Additionally, Celine’s Christmas and Greatest Hits albums have topped charts around the world.
The Titanic theme track My Heart Will Go On was an international success after being certified diamond, multi-platinum and gold around the world. The singer has also achieved several more number-one hits including The Power of Love and Because You Loved Me, which is her biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit, selling over two million copies in the US alone.
Celine has the most cumulative weeks at number one in the Adult Contemporary charts, logging in a total of 87 weeks – A New Day Has Come spent the longest time, precisely 21 weeks. For this, Billboard has named her the “Queen of Adult Contemporary” for having the most number-one songs on the radio as a female singer.
During the 2000s, Celine became known as a performer and entertainer and gained a spot on the Las Vegas strip, which remains the highest-grossing concert residency of all time.
The influential vocalist has also won five Grammy Awards throughout her successful career.
6. Whitney Houston
Sales: 200 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Saving All My Love For You, How Will I Know, The Greatest Love Of All, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, Where Do Broken Hearts Go, I’m Your Baby Tonight, All the Man That I Need, I Will Always Love You, Exhale
Best-Selling Album: The Bodyguard
Along with being one of the biggest-selling female artists, Whitney is often regarded as the greatest singer of all time. With her powerful vocals, she landed a record deal at the age of 19 and was on her way to becoming a global superstar, eventually selling a whopping 200 million records worldwide.
The late icon released her first album Whitney Houston in 1985, which is now one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling 30 million copies globally. She then went on to produce eight more albums which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold.
Whitney had the best-selling gospel album of all time with The Preacher’s Wife, while The Bodyguard album remains the best-selling soundtrack album ever.
During her prime in the 80s, Whitney had seven consecutive number-one singles on the Hot 100 chart, from Saving All My Love for You to Where Do Broken Hearts Go; making her the only artist to ever do so.
Besides recording music, Whitney also took up a career in acting and starred in the romance film The Bodyguard. I Will Always Love You, her soundtrack for the film, became the best-selling physical single by a female in music history having sold 20 million copies worldwide.
Whitney Houston is officially the most awarded female artist of all time by the Guinness World Records, with several gongs recognizing her worldwide success over the years. These include Grammy Awards for Record of the Year (1994) and Best Pop Vocal Performance (1986, 1988, 1994).
Sales: 200 million
No. 1 Singles (Billboard): Crazy in Love, Baby Boy, Check on It, Irreplaceable, Single Ladies, Perfect Duet, Break My Soul
Best-Selling Album: Dangerously in Love
Queen Bey rose to fame in the late 1990s as part of Destiny’s Child, one of the best-selling female groups of all time. During the band’s hiatus in 2002, she tested the waters on a solo career where she acted in and recorded a song for the hit-movie Austin Powers in Goldmember.
Following the movie’s great success, Beyonce began her solo career and released her debut album Dangerously in Love in 2003. Since then, the superstar has released another six albums, as well as a joint album with her husband, Jay-Z. Beyonce was the fastest-selling album ever on iTunes, while all 12 tracks on Lemonade charted within the Hot 100 in the US (breaking a record previously held by Taylor Swift).
Her 2022 album Renaissance also debuted at number one, making Beyonce the first artist in history to have seven consecutive number one albums in the US.
The RIAA lists Beyonce’s total certified sales as a solo artist (including features) as over 171 million in the US alone.
She has seven number one singles including Crazy in Love, Check on It, Irreplaceable, Single Ladies and Break My Soul. In total, she has sold over 200 million records worldwide (and another 60 million with Destiny’s Child).
Other than being the RIAA’s Top Certified Artist of the Decade, the highest-earning Black musician in history (in 2014) and one of Forbes’ most powerful females in entertainment, Beyoncé also has the most Grammys won by a female artist in one night (6 awards) and holds the record for the most Grammys won by a woman with a whopping 28 wins.
Her most defining career moments include her Super Bowl Half-Time Performance in 2016, her headlining Coachella in 2018 and lending her voice to The Lion King live-action remake as Nala in 2019.
4. Taylor Swift
Sales: 200 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Shake It Off, Blank Space, Bad Blood, Look What You Made Me Do, Cardigan, Willow, All Too Well (Taylor’s Version), Anti-Hero
Best-Selling Album: Fearless
Popular singer-songwriter Taylor Swift rose to fame in 2006 as the innocent country singer and American girl-next-door. She soon gained worldwide attention after adding a pop twist to her songs, which would later see an even bigger shift into mainstream music.
Taylor’s first self-titled album spent 157 weeks on the Billboard 200, becoming the longest-charting album of the 2000s. Her second album, Fearless was certified diamond and became the first of Taylor’s nine remaining albums to consecutively reach number one in the US.
In total, Taylor has sold over 37 million albums in the US, and is the first singer to have the best-selling album of a year five times (Fearless in 2009, 1989 in 2014, Reputation in 2017, Lover in 2019, and Folklore and Evermore in 2020).
Her most recent album Midnights broke the record for most single-day streams for an album in Spotify history. On its first day of release, Midnights immediately became the best-selling album of 2022, selling over 800,000 copies in the U.S. It also made Taylor the first artist to spend a full year at number one on the Billboard Artist 100.
Taylor Swift has achieved 188 chart entries on the Hot 100 including nine number one singles and 40 top tens – the most entries for a female artist in the US.
Shake It Off is officially Taylor’s biggest single in America and is certified diamond, while every track on Lover and Folklore charted on the Hot 100 in the same week, breaking the record for the most simultaneous entries on the chart by a female artist.
10 tracks on her album Midnights occupied the Hot 100’s entire top 10 upon its release, becoming the first ever album to do so.
Ranked as one of Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Artists and one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world (2010, 2015 and 2019), the star has also received 11 Grammy Awards, 58 Guinness World records, 40 American Music Awards (the most wins for an artist) and 29 Billboard Music Awards – the latter being the most wins by a woman.
3. Mariah Carey
Sales: 220 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, Someday, I Don’t Wanna Cry, Emotions, I’ll Be There, Dreamlover, Hero, All I Want For Christmas is You, Fantasy, One Sweet Day, Always Be My Baby, Honey, My All, Heartbreaker, Thank God I Found You, We Belong Together, Don’t Forget About Us, Touch My Body
Best-Selling Album: Music Box
With a five-octave vocal range and a dolphin-like whistle register, Mariah has been in a league of her own since rising to fame in 1990 and releasing her debut album Mariah Carey.
Mariah is the highest-certified female artist in the US, with 69.5 million certified album units. Mariah Carey was certified nine-times platinum, and also made Mariah the first artist in history to have their first five singles hit number one on the Hot 100, from Vision of Love to Emotions.
The diva went on to release another 15 albums – including holiday albums to accompany her highest-selling hit All I Want for Christmas, which has now crowned her the “Queen of Christmas”. Mariah has two albums certified diamond in the US including Music Box, one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 28 million copies sold; and Daydream.
In total, the diva has released an extravagant 86 singles. With 19 number one hits, Mariah officially holds the record for the most chart-topping singles by a solo artist, a female songwriter, and a female producer.
Mariah has also broken the record for any superstar in US history after spending a total record of 87 weeks at number one. Her biggest singles include Fantasy, My All, and We Belong Together.
Mariah is America’s most successful artist of the 1990s (Billboard), the best-selling pop female artist of the millennium (World Music Awards), and also has five Grammy Awards, 19 World Music Awards, and 15 Billboard Music Awards under her belt.
Other than music, Mariah has also tried Hollywood. After a failed performance in Glitter, she went on to redeem herself with her performance in Precious. Since then, Mariah has sat on the panel of American Idol and starred in other hit-movies.
Sales: 250 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): SOS, Umbrella, Take a Bow, Disturbia, Rude Boy, Only Girl, What’s My Name, S&M, We Found Love, Diamonds, Work
Best-Selling Album: Good Girl Gone Bad
Since her debut single Pon de Replay in 2006, Rihanna has become a pop icon, producing hit after hit. With nine successful albums under her belt, Rihanna quickly became the second best-selling female artist of all-time, selling over 250 million records worldwide.
All nine of Rihanna’s albums are certified platinum and multi-platinum by the RIAA, with total sales of over 10 million copies in the US alone. Her number one albums include Unapologetic and Anti, both certified three-times platinum.
All in all, Rihanna has released 75 singles, 14 of which have reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 (including as a featured artist), and 31 which became top-ten singles; making her the only singer to have number-one singles on the Hot 100 chart from seven consecutive albums.
Umbrella hit number-one in 15 countries and remained in that spot for seven consecutive weeks on the Hot 100, while Rude Boy had similar success, staying at number-one for five consecutive weeks.
Rihanna has had several worldwide number-ones including We Found Love which hit the top spot in 29 countries and remained in the Hot 100 for 10 whopping weeks.
RiRi has earned nine Grammy Awards, 13 American Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and six Guinness World Records. After 2016, her career took a turn and she took a shot at acting with performances in Battleship, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Ocean’s 8.
In recent years, Rihanna has focused on growing her successful businesses, Fenty Beauty and Skincare, LVMH and Savage x Fenty. In 2021, she was announced as the wealthiest female musician, with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion.
Sales: 300 million
No.1 Singles (Billboard): Like a Virgin, Crazy For You, Live to Tell, Papa Don’t Preach, Open Your Heart, Who’s That Girl, Like a Prayer, Vogue, Justify My Love, This Used To Be My Playground, Take a Bow, Music
Best-Selling Album: The Immaculate Collection
It comes as no surprise that the long-standing “Queen of Pop” is also the best-selling female artist of all-time. Since her first appearance in the music scene in 1982, Madonna has remained current by reinventing herself and her craft and has sold over 300 million records worldwide.
While Madge’s self-titled debut album only reached number eight on the Billboard 200, her follow-up albums went on to shine even brighter. Like a Virgin was certified diamond, while True Blue hit number-one in a then record-breaking 28 countries.
Madonna’s fourth album, Like a Prayer also reached the top spot, making her the only female artist in the 1980s with the most Billboard 200 number-one albums. The Immaculate Collection then became her second diamond-certified album and still remains the best-selling compilation album.
Continuing her reign as the best female musician even in the 2000s, Madge’s tenth album Confessions on a Dance Floor went to number one in 40 countries.
Madonna has 12 number one singles, with Like a Prayer making her the female artist with the most US number-ones in the 1980s – a title shared with Whitney Houston.
Hung Up was her best-charting song worldwide and earned a place in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records for topping the charts in 41 countries.
Madonna outdid Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top 10 singles after 4 Minutes became her 37th Hot 100 top-ten in 2008.
Madonna has certainly earned the title of the best-selling female artist of all time – a title certified by Guinness World Records. She is officially the most successful solo artist ever of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and holds the record for the most number-one singles by a female singer in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
So, there you have it, the 12 fierce women that have dominated the music industry over the last few decades.
With many more great female singers in the music scene, such as Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, it’s undeniable that this list will switch up very soon.
Will Madonna always wear the crown? Let us know who you think deserves their spot on this list by leaving a comment in the section below.
There are sections of this article that were written by Joanna Zambas.
This article was originally published in February 2021.
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These lists are so off. How can Celine Dion not be #1 , also Whitney Houston. Beyonce should not even be on list.
bc Madonna ousold her
Private Dancer no es de Donna Summer, corresponde a Tina Turner
Thanks for noticing that! We’ve fixed the content.
Maybe learn the difference between a digital track and an album sale before writing an article about it. The RIAA literally has the unit equivalencies listed on their website.
There will break many changes in the next 10 20, 25+ years but first I believe that Mariah Carey will top this list as well as a few others as she is clearly the most successful singer and songwriter as well as the most commercially successful. I mean, sh we wrote and sang 19 out of her 20 Billboard #1 Singles. Think about this and it reflects the truth…Mariah Carey is the Queen of all the other Queens’ of Music (including the Queen of Soul and the Queen of Pop!!! We also know the truth of why she was robbed of the most Grammy wins…excuse Mr. Mottola for his brain lapse and haters. Just revel in the truth and give props when they are due.
Robert (Ra Ra) Carroll
Only room for 12…