15 Female Rock Singers of the 90s That Are Unforgettable
There is something undeniably unique about the female rock singers of the 90s. Whether it be their attitude, their voice, or their style, there are so many singers from the 1990s that left a lasting impression on the music industry. So in an effort to pay homage to these talented ladies, let’s countdown our fifteen favorite 90s female rock artists.
Best Female Rock Singers of the 90s
Let’s begin with Alan’s Morrisette.
1. Alanis Morissette
It’s hard to compare to any voice quite like that of Alanis Morissette. The Canadian singer-songwriter, well-known for her full-sound, lower register belt, also easily transitions to lighter and higher tones of her voice seemingly flawlessly. Her unique vocal tone seems to always compliment the emotional drive of her lyrics. She’s most well-known for her album Jagged Little Pill, which is where we hear the song “You Oughta Know”, the timeless anthem for female righteousness!
Alanis’ voice alone had all the stage presence necessary to draw the audience in. While she would move and really get into the music during her performances, she was not seen dancing or dressing to stand-out. I think that’s just how impactful she was, not afraid to get up on stage as just herself to perform her music.
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2. Courtney Love
Courtney Love was a well-known name in the 90s as she was married to the late Kurt Cobain, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the grunge band, Nirvana. However, Love made a name for herself as the lead singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist of the 90s grunge band, Hole. Her chesty, raspy voice complimented the real rawness of grunge music as well as her confrontational, not afraid to be herself attitude. Her baby doll dress style also seemed to make her really stand out from the rest.
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3. Linda Perry
You wouldn’t expect such a big sound to come from such a small-framed woman. Linda Perry was the lead singer of the band, 4 Non Blondes as well as the songwriter, which she currently still does! She is known for her big, full deep voice and big powerhouse belt, which is present in the iconic 4 Non Blondes song, “What’s Goin’ On?”
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4. Shirley Manson
Shirley Manson was the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band, Garbage. The Scottish singer has a deep and “airy” voice, but it was a perfect fit for the rebellious sound the band was going for. While she was capable of producing a heavier “belting” sound with her voice, the movement and range of her voice seemed to stay pretty level and even keel, but nonetheless allowing us to focus on the content of her music.
5. Dolores O’ Riordan
The late and beloved Dolores was known well as the lead singer and songwriter of The Cranberries. Hailing from Ireland, with a very strong accent prevalent in her singing, she is easily recognizable for what sounds like a “yodel” in some of her vocal textures that almost seems to carry you away and take you back in time.
A very pretty voice, yet sometimes with a sound that is almost “haunting”, a perfect fit for the statements the band was trying to make for some of their protest songs, the most famous of them being “Zombie”, released in 1994.
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6. Gwen Stefani
Gwen is very well known for her voice and personal style, both very unique to her. The former lead singer and songwriter (often cowriting with her brother, Eric Stefani) of the band, No Doubt was not only talented, but always carried herself with a very big, energetic stage presence, which really stood out for the ska punk style of the band.
Even more impressive is that she could maintain such steady vocal control even while jumping around on stage. She eventually moved on to perform as a solo singer and unsurprisingly still remains a big style and fashion icon.
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7. Tracy Bonham
Tracy Bonham had a voice that carried a pleasant, almost jazzy sound, which was an interesting contrast for some of the heaviness in her music like that in her most well-known song, “Mother, Mother”. It was even more impressive that she could sing the song mostly in a lighter mezzo-soprano voice then transition in the chorus, singing “everything’s fine!” in a metal scream, then jump right back in to the lighter vocal tone.
To top off her impressive vocal skills, she was also originally a classically trained vocalist and violinist, and was actually toured with Blue Man Group. In the end, she returned to her original musical roots and decided to start teaching classical voice, piano and violin lessons instead.
8. Louise Post
Louise Post stood out as the lead singer, songwriter (cowriting with Jim Shapiro) andguitarist of the band, Veruca Salt. Her vocal lines were pleasant and had a very youthful sound to them, which she seemed to maintain despite the instrumental parts of her music having a heavier alternative sound to them. There was a lot of musical style that was incorporated into the music of Veruca Salt and it all tied together very nicely into a package of pop, punk and grunge all in one.
9. Liz Phair
An American singer and songwriter, Liz carried an impressive lower range, but nonetheless with very beautiful tones to it. Using that, she hit the music scene with a standout presence as she sang about sexual desire, wanting to emphasize that the female voice needs to be heard louder and the music world was the perfect place for her to do that. She is known to be very well-written and has even been complimented for the honestly she’s able to give in a few books she has written reviews for.
10. Sophie B. Hawkins
This singer-songwriter’s most well-known song, “Damn, Wish I Was Your Lover,” is an unforgettable one. Her beautiful singing complimented and even emphasized the feelings of longing and unrequited love that the lyrics painted very well. Sophie was very dressed down in the music video with a baggy flannel and baggy jeans, which really stuck out as that had certainly not been the norm for women in the music scene.
Perhaps this was the beginning of the statements she’s wanted to make as she now uses her voice in a different way, as an activist, supporting groups for environmental improvement and animal rights.
Sophie B. Hawkins made news recently for giving a birth at the age of 50.
There is something truly angelic about Jewel’s voice. Though she is very capable of singing low, her voice really stands out in the lighter, middle to high range. This singer-songwriter emphasizes this with her beautiful standout lyrics like that in her song “Who Will Save Your Soul?”, where that angelic voice is present, but then really hits heavy when she belts out the song title in the chorus part of her song, using characteristics of opera singing to add a very unique mix of flavor all in just one song.
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12. Fiona Apple
The silky, sultry voice of the singer-songwriter Fiona Apple is ever so appealing and very prominent in her famous song “Criminal.” Using jazz singing techniques, she drives the emotional heaviness of the song’s lyrics to hit the listener just right. Not only does she use jazz singing technique, but sings very challenging, varying vocal lines, giving us all the excitement of improvisation in jazz music.
13. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge stood out as a talented singer-songwriter, but also set her own stage for her current work as a gay and lesbian activist. Her raspy, deep and powerful voice drove the force of her lyrics, adding a folk flavor to her music all around. These characteristics of her voice seemed to tie into the message in her music, described as “confessional styled” and fitting to her coming out to the public in 1993.
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14. Hope Sandoval
Hope Sandoval was the singer and songwriter for the band Mazzy Star. When you hear the beginning of their hit song “Fade Into You”, you will instantly feel as though you’re drifting off into a nostalgic daydream.
Hope’s dreamy sounding voice captures you in a very interesting way. She doesn’t have a big, powerful voice nor does she seem to show that wide of a vocal range, in fact, though talented, she doesn’t seem to really show off with her voice much at all. Perhaps that’s what makes her stand out so much, no distraction from the lyrics of her music as you get captured in the natural simplicity of her voice.
15. Natalie Imbruglia
Natalie Imbruglia was a British singer-songwriter, most well-known for her heart wrenching single, “Torn”. Her pretty voice sounds like that of a Disney princess, which somehow makes the weight of her heartbreak feel even heavier to the listener.
So, what made the female rock singers of the 90s stand out so boldly? These women were all very talented performing musicians and singers. But, did you notice that every single one of them also wrote their own music?
I think that is the key component to what made this era of female rockers so prevalent. These women contributed to a big breakthrough in the rock music industry, not only by performing with their powerful voices, but using them to communicate and make statements with their own individual thoughts, opinions and feelings, making them all truly unforgettable.