The 15 Most Popular Black Female Singers Of All TIme

June 18, 2014  |  
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Powerhouse voices, big hair, smooth dance moves, glamorous dresses, beautiful songwriting, torch songs, female empowerment, fierceness, diva attitude and breaking down barriers in the music industry are what black women in the music industry represent.

Now many black female legends have touched the hearts of others and moved generations with their music and artistry — from the gospel of Mahalia Jackson; the lady blues of Billie Holiday; the soulful sounds that get you caught up in a rapture with Anita Baker; the bridging the gap of R&B, and Rock and Roll of Etta James; the soulful leadership of Gladys Knight; the powerful vocals of Patti Labelle; and the eclectic, political sounds of Nina Simone.

Many of today’s black female artists owe a debt of gratitude to their foremothers. Some of those foremothers made it on this lists and some of today’s artists made it on this list because of how these black women managed to overcome so many obstacles and reach the top.

In celebration of Black Music Month, MadameNoire compiled a list of 15 black women in music who managed to become some of the most popular solo acts in music ever! This list is based on record sells (albums and singles), longevity, legacy and overall popularity in both mainstream and urban-marketed music.

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

She’s the Queen of Funk. All of her hits (including with Rufus) have a soulful yet funky sound to it — explaining honorific title. And  she has the Grammys to prove it.

Notable Hits:

“Sweet Thing”

“Tell Me Something Good”

“I’m Every Woman”

“I Feel For You”



She left behind quite the legacy. Many artists sampled her and so many more tried to be like her and LOOK like her. She garnered her honorific title posthumously. She’s the Queen of Urban Pop.

Notable Hits:

“Back and Forth”

“One in a Million”

“Try Again”

Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick

The smooth sounds of Warwick dominated the music charts during the rock era. She’s the second most charted female singer of the rock era behind Aretha Franklin. She has 56 charted singles to her name.

Notable Hits:

“Don’t Make Me Over”

“Walk On By”

“I Say a Little Prayer”

Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton

Braxton is a true diva. Maybe too much of a diva with all her past money issues. But although she lived an extravagant lifestyle, she has so many hits under her belt and multi-platinum albums as well.

Notable Hits:

“Breathe Again”

“Let It Flow”

“You’re Makin’ Me High”

“Un-Break My Heart”

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys

She burst on the scene with “Fallen” in 2001 and picked up five Grammys with her debut album. Since, she released more hit singles and albums, and is one of Billboard’s top 100 artists of all time.

Notable Hits:


“If I Ain’t Got You”

“No One”

Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige

Her music touched a generation of women through her pain and survival. Now she’s one of the greatest artists of the R&B/hip hop era. And she came on the scene during a time when Hip Hop and R&B music were crossing over — creating a whole new sub-genre of urban music. She’s the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, after all.

Notable Hits:

“Real Love”

“Not Gon’ Gry”

“Family Affair”

“Be With You”



She proven her status as Queen Bey time and time again. But it’s safe to say no one would ever doubt her icon again ever since she released her fifth album as a surprise with no promotion and much success. She’s today’s Michael Jackson. There, I said it.

Notable Hits:

“Crazy in Love”


“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It”

“Drunk in Love”

(Many More)


She’s pop and urban music’s bad girl. And she’s been on her way to iconic status ever since she was a good girl gone bad. Now she’s surpassed Whitney Houston with number one hits and is tied with Michael Jackson with a total of 13 number pop hits. This is not bad, considering she’s short of just a decade into her career.

Notable Hits:


“Take a Bow”

“We Found Love”

(Many more)


Diana Ross

Diana Ross

Miss Ross is the Boss. In 1993, she was named the most successful female artist by the Guinness Book of World Records. And that only makes sense because even before going solo, she reigned as the top Supreme with 12 number one hits. Take a look at the array of number ones from her solo career below.

Notable Hits:

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

“Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)”

“Upside Down”

“I’m Coming Out”

“Endless Love”


Tina Turner

Turner is the Queen of Rock… and the Queen of Legs.  Not only is she a queen but she’s a survivor who’s proven that you don’t have to be too old to make a comeback or be sexy. She’s the epitome of rock and roll.

Notable Hits:

“Proud Mary”

“Private Dancer”

“What’s Love Got to Do with It”


Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Everyone knows who is the Queen of Soul. She’s one of the most awarded female artists of all time and definitely one of the most respected — dominating soul music in the 60s and 70s with one of the greatest voices ever.

Notable Hits:


“Chain of Fools”


“I Never Love a Man (The Way I Love You)”

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson

Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty is the second best selling artist of the 1990s and one of Billboard’s top 10 greatest artists of all time. The Jackson family’s youngest sibling has definitely held her own over the past five decades. Jackson helped break the barriers for black artists crossing over into mainstream music. Also, she succeeded in conceptual albums, visionary music videos and huge world tours.

Notable Hits:

“Rhythm Nation”


“All For You”

“That’s the Way Love Goes”

(Many more)

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

Houston is truly “The Voice.” And now she’s an angel. Houston not only became black music’s reigning queen, but arguably the Queen of Pop. Also, she’s the most awarded female artist of all time.


Notable Hits:

“I Will Always Love You”

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”

“Saving All My Love for You”

(Many more)


Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey

Carey tops the list for her vocal range, divaness, iconic songs, songwriting and having more number ones than any other solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 with a total of 18. She’s sandwiched between The Beatles as the number one musical act (solo or group) and Elvis Presley for number one hits. Also, she’s the greatest and best sell selling artist of the 1990s. Her net worth of $510 million only makes sense, due to her major success.

Notable Hits:

“We Belong Together”

“One Sweet Day”

“Vision of Love”

(Many more)

Source: WENN

Donna Summer

She’s yet another queen on this list. She’s the Queen of Disco. And she remained as such even after Disco died as a genre. Her music has kept generations dancing and will continue to do so.

Notable Hits:

“Love to Love You Baby”

“I Feel Love”

“Last Dance”

“Hot Stuff”

“Bad Girls”

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  • Matthew

    Man who ever did this list was young and dumb damn you left half of the best off terrible list but if that all you know that tells me you were born after chcken mcnuggetts were iivinted throw away music

  • Dawn5336

    Just read this. A joke.

    Can we please have articles written by someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about? This is the problem with the current generation. They think “all time” refers to only their lifetime.

    Influential black female singers list – the most influential of ALL TIME, and it has Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson on it. Are you kidding? Where’s Billie Holiday? Bessie Smith? Mahalia Jackson? No Angela Bofill, Lena Horne? I could go on and on. I agree that Aretha and Diana Ross, Whitney and Tina deserve their slots. But, please.

    This is what happens when you hire “writers” who just graduated a few years ago and think only their memories are relevant to the world.

    This list is a joke. I’m willing to bet the author has no idea who Minnie Ripperton or Rachelle Ferrell were. Beyonce, but no Ella Fitzgerald?


  • Traboe

    Popularity doesn’t necessarily equal talent I think we all can agree on that so in that respect I think this list is right on the money

  • sweet thing

    Lol at Beyonce last line. “She’s theb female MJ”
    The closest female to Mj would be Janet. This is based on overall success, talent, creativity and inpact. Bey doesnt come close.

    MN stay doing the most. Remember when yahll claimed salt n pepper “tributed” her when it was really a simple two step to 15secs of her songs? Lol

    Yahll stay obsessing over this girl.

    • Girl Bye

      Exactly. MN is reaching for Beyonce to pop up in those studios to interview. Girl Bye Micheal Jackson created a iconic status of his own. Who needs ambulance trucks at their concerts these days? LOL. Beyonce is def the most popular with Riri I wont doubt that but her record cannot touch MJ’s, there is no MJ of our time.

      And Salt and Peppa did what beyonce has done many times mixed in a popular groove song with their own music it was not a tribute. Beyonce has covered Crazy by GB, soulja boy and murder she wrote so was that a tribute?

      If someone is an true Icon then you never have to end with “there I said it”. The 1st person to push that was Jay z and he was the last … Fail.

    • Lost Soul

      There’s only one Michael Jackson.

  • Mspencer


  • Stacy D. Smith

    This must be based on album sales.

  • Shawndrea Rachelle

    …and the holier than thou negative comments already start. Most POPULAR artists of all time. It’s not like it says “10 Artists worthy of the praise Jesus gets”

  • Guest

    Read the first slide, bottom paragraph and you will understand the list lol

  • foxygirl1

    Well, since this list seems to be based on popularity, I suppose it’s accurate, but for our community, the black pov, you gotta include Phyllis Hyman, Minnie Ripperton, Angie Stone, Maysa, Evelyn Champagne King, Roberta Flack, Melba More, Valerie Simpson, Alicia Myers, Rachelle Ferrell, Jill Scott, Ledisi, Lalah Hataway, Carol Riddick, Conya Doss…..just to get started. For those who are unfamiliar with anyone I listed, please, please look them up and get to know the real sound of music.

    • FromUR2UB

      “Of All Time” appears limited to the author’s lifetime.

    • Lost Soul

      I like your list better than MN’s.

    • *MalteseObsessed*

      Maybe they need an “unsung” list, of the ones that have gr8 voices, but didn’t quite get the success that they deserved . . .

  • gekajones1

    Ummm, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills……. if you’re talking “of all time”.

    • Say What?

      I had some reservations about this list as well especially with Aaliyah, Rihanna and Alicia Keys being on the list, but this isn’t about the best singers merely the most popular.

    • *MalteseObsessed*

      Good point!

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