15 Great Alternative Bands with Female Singers from the 90s

Here Are the Alternative Bands with Female Singers from the 90s!

The 1990s was a great time for rock music and it pushed many lead females singers to the forefront. The 90s featured a huge feminist movement in the music industry and as a result, even created many great female-lead bands. With that said, here are my picks for the best alternative bands with female singers from the 90s. 

Top Alternative Bands with Female Singers from the 90s

Let’s begin with the Cranberries!

1. The Cranberries

The Cranberries are an Irish alternative rock band that is most famous for their song, “Zombies.” The Cranberries gained international attention in the 90s with the release of their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, which quickly became a successful album for the band.

The lead singer, Dolores, had a unique and amazing voice that portrayed lots of raw emotion. Unfortunately, the band split up after lead singer Dolores O’Riordan passed away in early 2018. The Cranberries are still considered one of the best alt bands with a female singer from the 90s.

My Favorite The Cranberries Song Is: Zombie from the No Need to Argue album (1994).  The Cranberries No Need to Argue album is the bands best selling album, selling 17 million copies worldwide, and features the band’s best song, “Zombie.” This song also regained traction in 2018 when the band Bad Wolves remade the song, it quickly went viral on social media and was played constantly on the radio.

Behind the great instrumentals and lyrics, the song is actually about the death of two children in an IRA bombing in the town of Warrington. The song speaks out against violence and asks the extremists: “what’s in your head?” 

2. Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette is a great singer that not only expressed herself in her music but her nuanced fashion as well. The Canadian musician is best known for her alternate rock sound and confessional lyrics that led to her being one of the biggest female alternative rock vocalists of the 90s. According to Warner Music Japan, she has managed to sell over 60 million albums worldwide, with her best album being Jagged Little Pill. 

Alanis not only used her music to fight back against the establishment, but she also dressed how she wanted, not how her record label wanted her to dress.In an interview with Spin, Alanis said, “In the mid-‘90s, I was responding to the patriarchy and my anger and frustration and my eyes rolling, so I was like: overalls, jeans, not showing my body.”  Alanis Morissette is frequently considered a feminist icon and used her music to not only discover herself but show other women they can make it on their own as well.

My Favorite Alanis Morissette Song Is: Hand In My Pocket from the Jagged Little Pill album (1995). In maintaining her feminist icon status, “Hand In My Pocket” is a song about a female protagonist who claims her independence and learns to love herself after finding herself. I absolutely love the lyric, “I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed, I’m lost but I’m hopeful.” I feel the lyrics to this song are relatable even in today’s world and the song is also a classic 90s vibe. 

3. Evanescence

Evanescence was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas by singer Amy Lee and guitarist Ben Moody in 1995. The band is considered a gothic alternative metal and hard rock band and has the hit songs, “Understanding,” “My Immortal,” and “Haunted.” Though many people think Evanescence is a Christian band, they have never had any religious affiliation. 

Evanescence is best known for the multi-platinum success they found in the late 90s and early 2000s and gained fans’ attention with their 1999 album, Sound Asleep EP.  Recently, Evanescence got back into the studio during the COVID lockdowns to create more music together.

Amy Lee sat down with Song Writers Universe and said, “Then we had the lockdown, and 2020 turned into a year of creating the album and writing remotely.” Many Evanescence fans are thrilled that the band is still active and making music. 

My Favorite Evanescence Song Is: Lies from the Origin album (2000). I really like this song, not only because it’s a good song, but because it’s a song about hurt and betrayal. I personally interpret the song as being about someone who is in a relationship where the love is only reciprocated one way. The main protagonist loves someone, but the love is not returned by the other person.

4. No Doubt

No Doubt is an American alternative rock band that was formed in Anaheim, California, in 1986. No Doubt mainly consisted of Gwen Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, and Adrian Young. The band finally broke it big with their success on MTV in 1995 with their song, “Just a Girl,” which appears on their breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom.

After the release of their Tragic Kingdom album, the band went on a 27-month international tour that led to even more fame for No Doubt. Not only did this album put No Doubt on the map, many people personally connected with the music the album had. 

Gwen Stefani sat down with Variety to talk about the album Tragic Kingdom and said, “I think when there’s something that honest and real and pure – and not done for any other reason than just to say it for your own heart – then people connect to that.” They were a solid band that was huge during the 90s but went on a hiatus in 2001 when Stefani went on her solo career. 

My Favorite No Doubt Song Is: Don’t Speak from the Tragic Kingdom album (1995). I love how this song is about Gwen Stefani’s seven-year relationship she had with bassist Tony Kanal. The song is basically saying their love was real and it’s a shame that they couldn’t make it work out; she also doesn’t want to talk about it because it hurts. The song is very catchy and extremely easy to sing along with. 

5. Garbage

Garbage is a very underrated alternative band of the 90s that was founded in 1993 in Madison, Wisconsin. The band consisted of singer Shirley Manson, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker, and Butch Vig. They had a sheen and polish that sounds great and were an interesting band with Shirley Manson’s syrupy vocals and artful lyrics. Their lyrics also contrasted with the song’s pop settings and chilly vibe of the music.  

My Favorite Garbage Song Is: Stupid Girl from the Stupid Girl album (1996). To me, this is a timeless song that was never off the radio back in 1996. With the 90s being a mash of boybands and grunge, Garbage really made a name for themselves that put them on the same level with other female front liners like The Cranberries, No Doubt, and The Cardigans. I love the sound and vibe that this song has and it always reminds me of how music was at its peak in the 90s. 

6. The Cardigans

The Cardigans were a Swedish band formed in Jönköping, Sweden, in 1992. The Cardigans consisted of lead singer Nina Persson, Peter Svensson, Magnus Sveningsson, Bengt Lagerberg, and Lars-Olof Johansson. The band made it big with their 1994 album, Emmerdale, which was especially huge in Japan.

Their second album, Life, is what helped land them an international fan base. The band has released six studio albums to date, though they have not had any major releases since 2006. The Cardigans helped trademark the country-influenced sad alternative/ rock-pop vibes. 

My Favorite The Cardigans Song Is: Lovefool from the First Band on the Moon album (1996).The song, “Lovefool” is considered one of the best The Cardigans song to date and won the 1999 BMI Pop Awards for the category Award-Winning Song. Even though this is a sad love song, many fans consider it one of the band’s best pieces of work. Justin Bieber even sampled “Lovefool” in his 2009 song “Love Me.” 

7. Sixpence None the Richer

Sixpence None the Richer is an alternative Christian rock band that was formed in New Braunfels, Texas in 1992, later moving to Nashville. The band’s name was also inspired by C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. Current band members are Leigh Nash, Matt Slocum, Justin Cary, and Rob Mitchell.

For an alternative Christian rock band, their music has a romantic accordion sound; featuring guitars and soft drums. The band broke up in 2004 due to Leigh Nash’s family commitments and in 2007, Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum got back together. 

My Favorite Sixpence None the Richer Song Is: Kiss Me from the Sixpence None the Richer album (1997). The song “Kiss Me” is one of the band’s best and most well-known songs.

I love how this song is a half-comedy that is all about a guy who is hopelessly in love with a girl who doesn’t want him. This is a very soft-sung song that has a nostalgic way to bring me back to the simplicity of the 90s. I also like how the chord progressions for “Kiss Me” is the best on this list. 

8. Halestorm

Halestorm is an alternative hard rock and metal band from Red Lion, Pennsylvania, that was formed in 1997 when Arejay and Lzzy Hale were 10 and 13 years old. The band consisted of vocalist Lzzy Hale, her brother on the drums Arejay Hale, bassist Josh Smith, and guitarist Joe Hottinger. They released two Eps titled Forecast for the Future (1997) and (Don’t Mess With The) Time Man (1999). 

The band was famous for its oriented rock sound and they had tremendous growth with each album. Though the band didn’t gain mainstream traction until their single “Freak Like Me” in April of 2013.  

My Favorite Halestorm Song Is: I Miss the Misery from The Strange Case of… album (2012). Not only does this song have a great music video, but Lzzy Hale’s voice has a tremendous range that is just unbelievable. I love how the song is about a toxic and destructive relationship and you can feel the emotion in both the lyrics and Lzzy’s vocals. 

9. Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth is considered by many to be one of the best alternative bands from the 90s due to how the band was able to cover the underground scene with multiple different styles; from noise, no-wave, and post-punk. The band was founded in 1981 with founding members Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Lee Ranaldo. 

At first, Sonic Youth started out with the no-wave art scene until they switched to the rock and noise rock scene. Many liked the band for taking the guitar to the next level with their use of unorthodox guitar tunings and altering the timbre of the guitar with drumsticks and screwdrivers. 

My Favorite Sonic Youth Song Is: 100% from the Dirty album 1992.  The song was the lead single from the 1992 album Dirty and took over with a frenzy. I love how catch “100%” is and how it sets the theme for the record. Though Thurston Moore is the one singing on this single, the song is great and about the band’s murdered friend Joe Cole. 

10. Björk

Björk, short for Björk Gudmundsdottir, is an Icelandic singer-songwriter known for her solo work that covers multiple music styles. She is a great alternative artist that features a lot of electronic and organic sounds in her music. Her voice really stands out with her light soprano pitch and unusual phrasing.

She came to fame with her 1993 album Debut and her 1995 album, Post. All of her albums feature a wide range of artists and she explores different musical genres on each album. 

My Favorite Björk Song Is: Army of Me from the Tank Girl album (1995). Not only was this song received well by music critics, but it also showcased Björk energy and the darkness in her music. I personally love how the message in this song is Björk learning to actually love herself and that she needs to stand up for herself and fight.

 11. Babes in Toyland

The Babes in Toyland were an alternative rock band that came from Minneapolis, Minnesota after forming in 1987.  The band was created by vocalist and guitarist Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero, and bassist Michelle Leon. The Babes in Toyland released three studio albums, with their second album, Fontanelle, being a commercial success in 1992.

The band took a break between 2001 to 2014 and later broke up in 2020. The band was immersed in New York punk and loudness, allowing Babes in Toyland to influence bands like Sleater-Kinney.

My Favorite Babes in Toyland Song is: Bruise Violet from the Fontanelle album (1992). From the instant that I saw the video clip for “Bruise Violet,” I was instantly hooked. For many, the first time seeing the music video was in the early 90s on RAGE. It’s speculated the song is about how Courtney Love stole Kat’s image; Mary Jane shoes, babydoll dresses, barrettes, etc. My favorite part of the song is the guitars and the classic 90s grunge sound.

12. The Breeders

The Breeders are an alternative rock band coming from Dayton, Ohio, and were founded in 1989. The original members consist of Kim Deal on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Keeley Deal on lead guitar and vocals, Josephine Wiggs on bass and vocals, and Jim Macpherson on drums. The band didn’t get big until Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain called The Breeders Pod album one of his all-time favorite albums.

After this announcement, the demand for more music from The Breeders took off, with their biggest album being their Last Splash album, released in 1993. The band has taken two small breaks over their career, but is presently active today, with their last album All Nerve, being released in 2018. 

My Favorite The Breeders Song is: Cannonball from the Last Splash album (1993).  I love how Kim Deal brought over the loud/soft dynamics from her time in the Pixies. Kim’s voice on this song is out of this world and the instrumentals are something else. I’m a huge fan of basslines, and Josephine Wiggs does not disappoint; in my opinion one of the best basslines for alternative rock in the 90s. 

13. The Donnas

The Donnas formed in 1993 in Palo Alto, California, and are an alternative rock and garage punk band in their early days. The Donnas drew their inspiration from the Ramones, AC/DC, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and Kiss; though they put their own unique and fun spin on the music instead of going straight for pure rage. 

The band gained a huge following in the punk scene with the release of their debut 1997 album self-titled The Donnas. I love how The Donnas were not only an all-female band but they are all self-taught musicians, this gave me inspiration as a young guitarist in the 90s. 

My Favorite The Donnas Song is: Take it Off from the Spend the Night album (2002). The first time I heard “Take it Off” was in the 2004 movie Dodgeball. I love how energetic the song is and how it is a mix of pop and garage punk. Instantly, as soon as the song starts, it has a hard drop of sound that does not let up. 

14. Bangs

Bangs was formed in 1997 in Olympia, Washington, and was an alternative punk rock and riot grrrl band. The bandmates consisted of Sarah Utter, Jesse Fox, and Maggie Vail. While many would argue that other riot grrrl bands were more feminist than Bangs, Bangs was still feminist in the sense that the lead bandmates were women. The band had a lot of creativity and unfortunately, they broke up in 2004, with a reunion in 2010. 

My Favorite Bangs Song is: Sweet Revenge from the Sweet Revenge album (2000). I love how this song is all in your face and does not let up. From the classic punk rock drums to the sounds of the guitar, I love everything about this song. Not only is the song good, but the energy the music has is great. 

15. Angelfish

The Angelfish were a short-lived alternative rock band from Edinburgh, Scotland, that was founded in 1990. Angelfish bandmates were Shirley Manson, Martin Metcalfe, Fin Wilson, and Derek Kelly. The band was originally formed as a side-project for the Scottish band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and they sadly disbanded in 1994.

The band’s “Suffocate Me” single became a hit and was aired on MTV during 120 Minutes. In 1994, Shirley Manson was asked to join Garbage and she did, ultimately dissolving Angelfish. 

My Favorite Angelfish Song is: The Sun Won’t Shine from the Angelfish album (1994).  I loved how Shirley Manson’s talent for singing really shined in this song. While she sings all Angelfish song’s beautifully, “The Sun Won’t Shine” is by far my favorite. I love how the intro guitar sounds so good and drives me crazy. It’s more of a slower song but still has traditional alternative rock drums and guitars in it. 

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