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The 151 Best Songs by Women

It’s no secret that last year was an excellent one for women in music, thanks to Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Olivia Rodrigo (to name a few). This is, however, no fluke. Women have been making phenomenal music as long as we’ve been spinning records, buying CDs, and streaming to our hearts’ content. With this in mind and an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop girlies, I tasked myself with compiling the ultimate playlist. One that puts all the best of the best in one place. Before we dive in, it is important to state that while I have tried to be inclusive of different time periods, genres, and languages, this list is also subjective. Check out the full playlist at the end of the article and sound off if you think anything has been left out. 

151. Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez (1999)

Kicking off our list is a Latin pop classic. Let’s Get Loud is by far the best song Lopez has released, no doubt in part because it is penned by the truly great Gloria Estefan. I rebuke anyone who can stay still while this song plays.

150. Elastic Heart by Sia (2013)

Originally for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, this song shows off Sia’s vocal and lyrical talents in a way that only a song from her commercial peak in the early 2010s can. With a now somewhat controversial video, this song is her best. 

149. Nomvula (After the Rain) by Freshlyground (2003)

Freshlyground, led by lead vocalist Zolani Mahola, defined a post-Apartheid South Africa, blending indigenous and European languages and sounds to create a new sound. This song is a heartfelt ballad dedicated to Mahola’s father, sung in Xhosa

148. Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer (1998)

An underrated classic, Kiss Me is a song that easily fits into nearly every teen film soundtrack while having a seasoned lyricist’s steadfast maturity. It is a song you’ve heard 1000 times, yet, if you’re like me, rarely stopped to appreciate.

147. It Must Have Been Love by Roxette (1987)

Originally released in the late 80’s as a cynical Christmas song, it was when this song was rereleased in 1990 as the headline track of the Pretty Woman soundtrack did it find international success. It is a pure power ballad in the best way.

146. Mayonaka no Door / Stay With Me by Miki Matsubara (1979)

It took me by surprise when I first heard this song because I first heard it as many people in the West did through TikTok. This 1979 Japanese city pop song has a sprinkling of disco that Matsubara delivers infectiously. It now stands as a testament to the power of the internet to revive and distribute music across cultures and decades.

145. This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) by Natalie Cole (1975)

A truly wholesome soul classic delivered by Cole, this song is almost timeless with how agreeable it is. Few songs immediately set a tone of joy the way this one does.

144. Celebrity Skin by Hole (1998)

Courtney Love, Hole’s lead vocalist, wrote this 90s grunge-rock classic and littered it with clever literary references to describe the experience she had of fame. Packaged with deep, commanding vocals and heavy guitar, it is a song that pulls you in and makes you pay attention.

143. Flawless (Remix) by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj (2014)

When Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj come together, the whole world stops. This song is a totem to two of the greatest artists of the 21st century flexing on their peers and audience with a delivery so tight and polished we can’t do anything but agree with them. You could say it’s a flawless song.

142. Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield (2004)

Truly synonymous with the early 2000s, this song is a modern classic and one that nearly everybody can sing along to and not miss a single word. Bedingfield also released These Words around this time, and both are excellent pop staples.

141. BOOMBAYAH by BLACKPINK (2016)

The debut single by the current queens of K-Pop, BLACKPINK, this song plays with interesting sonic references that make it stand out from the pack of K-Pop songs that can often sound overproduced. It is one of the genre’s best.

140. I’m Like A Bird by Nelly Furtado (2000)

Possibly the most iconic of a collection of Furtado’s strongest tracks in her catalogue, this song captures the uncertainty of youth and wraps it up in a cute pop song and makes us all feel a little better about being untethered and unsure in our mid-20s.

139. SHUM by Go_A (2021)

A standout of Eurovision 2021, this song blends EDM with Ukrainian folk music to create something truly musically exciting and captivating. By far it is one of the most sonically brave songs ever to find its way on the Eurovision stage.

138. Party in The USA by Miley Cyrus (2009)

Haven’t we all agreed that this is the unofficial American national anthem right? This song is pop perfection, penned by Jessie J but made the anthem it is by Miley’s powerhouse vocals. She has gone on to make some of the best pop music of the past 15 years. 

137. Murder On The Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis-Bextor (2001)

Anyone who sleeps on this song needs to really meet me outside because this song is nothing short of pop perfection and a bop. Miss Ellis-Bextor delivered a banger for the ages.

136. Not Fair by Lily Allen (2009)

Always one to make her opinions known, Lily Allen doesn’t hold back on this country-seasoned pop song all about having a boyfriend who can’t satisfy her sexually. In an industry where women are still, 15 years later, objectified, any song that puts female sexuality at the forefront is important.

135. Jerome by Lizzo (2019)

While it’s no secret Lizzo has some great singles, this stripped-back R&B album track showcases her vocal abilities the best of all her songs and even won her a Grammy. Listen to it, and you’ll immediately see why.

134. Walking On Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves (1985)

Released in the heart of the 80s, this song transcends its decade of origin by being unmovingly uplifting. In a similar vein to other songs here, this is one that refuses to let you stay still or without a smile on your face as it plays.

133. Stars Are Blind by Paris Hilton (2006)

Hear me out, this song is pop perfection, and that is a hill I am willing to die on. In a way that only Paris Hilton could deliver, this song is equal parts cheesy and unserious while being just good enough not to feel like a novelty, a la The Ketchup Song

132. Kalam Eineh by Sherine (2018)

An example of the new generation of Middle Eastern musicians, Sherine delivers a song that feels rooted in classical Arab folk music while remaining current and accessible beyond her native Egypt. It has recently been one of many Arabic songs to become synonymous with support for the liberation of Palestine.

131. You’ve Got Time by Regina Spektor (2013)

Most well recognised as the theme song of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, this song is evocative of the show’s context and points a mirror back at the audience for how they may perceive those in the industrial prison complex.

130. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You by Gloria Estefan (1987)

Gloria Estefan is without argument one of the most important figures in Latin music’s history, and this song, packaged with pop lyrics and a heavy salsa-inspired sound, broke down barriers for Latin music to reach White suburbia.

129. Nonsense by Sabrina Carpenter (2022)

One of pop’s newest stars, Carpenter has a playful lyricism that sets her apart from contemporaries like Rodrigo and Swift. This has given her an avenue to make songs like Nonsense that have humour woven into their poetry. 

128. If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow (1996)

In an era of angsty women, Crow threw her hat into the ring with her own country-influenced rock sound that marries the storytelling prowess of her musical roots with the sound of the time. 

127. Hold On by Wilson Phillips (1990)

A song centred on Chynna Phillips’s battle with substance abuse, this song is almost misleadingly uplifting, and without really diving deep, you’d never know it has such a heavy subject matter. Bridging the 80s to the 90s, it is one of the best power ballads of both decades.

126. Cut To The Feeling by Carly Rae Jepsen (2017)

Arguably the most underrated song of the 2010s, this song is laced with Jepsen’s signature pop perfection and her undefeated ability to make dance music that connects especially to the LGBTQ+ community. 

125. Lovin’ You by Minnie Riperton (1975)

One of the most tender soul songs of all time, Riperton delivers impeccable vocals that everyone has tried (and failed) to replicate at least once listening to this classic.

124. 212 by Azealia Banks (2011)

Say what you want about Banks and her numerous controversies; she is a poet through and through. This is one of the greatest rap songs of all time and sets the tone for a career of sonically adventurous and lyrically provocative music that few can compete with.

123. Abracadabra by Brown Eyed Girls (2009)

A classic of the second generation of K-Pop, this song stands out from the pack because of its distinctive production and its iconic dance. The influence it had on younger acts in the genre is immense. 

122. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

She said it, we just want to have fun. With this song, how could you not be having fun? You have to love the veiled feminist message of independence and self-actualisation too. 

121. I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan (1978)

Another feminist bop of the past, this song was ahead of its time in so many ways. Singing about relating to every woman, Khan espouses a unity between women that is still as relevant as ever.

120. It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls (1982)

Continuing the late 70s and early 80s girl power wave, we have The Weather Girls. In a similar vein to some of the other songs on this list, this song placed women as sexual subjects who feel desire instead of as mere objects of it.

119. You Don’t Own Me by Leslie Gore (1963)

One of the earliest songs on our list, this song has one of the most relevant messages to this day, over 60 years later. As long as there are men who treat women like possessions, this song will remain relevant. 

118. Dirrty by Christina Aguilera (2002)

In the tradition of Disney-generated child stars, Aguilera sought to shed the cookie-cutter image she had been handed in her earlier career. This sex-filled club classic did just that, and then some, and I argue she did it better than most.

117. This Hell by Rina Sawayama (2022)

Sawayama is one of the most dynamic musicians of our generation, and this breakout single from her second album demonstrates why. Unafraid to lace political messages in her music, she punctuates this song with jabs at the media, religious conservatives, and sexism.

116. telepatía by Kali Uchis (2021)

Kali Uchis delivered a bi-lingual masterclass with this dreamy song, all about being able to read her lover’s mind. Listening to this song makes you feel like you’re either floating on a lavender cloud or strolling down a sun-soaked beach.

115. Tattoo by Loreen (2023)

Our second Eurovision entry on the list, and by the first woman to win the contest twice, no less. Tattoo demonstrates the maturity Loreen gained over the 11 years between her two wins and is a song that grows and grows on you until it’s stuck on you like a tattoo.

114. Umbrella by Rihanna (2007)

Picking a Rihanna song to include on this list was so difficult because, without a doubt, she has one of the most stacked discographies in music history. In the end, though, this song put her on the map and remains one of her biggest.

113. Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande (2019)

In many ways picking up where Rihanna left off as the go-to hit maker of her day, Ariana delivered a self-love break-up anthem to end them all with this sensational track. It became so ubiquitous that its title became shorthand for moving past something toxic.

112. Dancing On My Own by Robyn (2010)

One of the songs truly heralded as sacred by the gay community, this Scandi-pop tune captures the pain of seeing the one you love with someone else. The queer subtext of this resonates strongly with many who have had unrequited loves. 

111. Bitch by Meredith Brooks (1997)

A fiercely honest song about unwavering commitment to being one’s authentic self, this song exists in the vein of Morissette-core angsty woman-led music that defined much of the mid to late 90s. It is by far one of the best in this subgenre of music. 

110. Sua Cara by Anitta & Pabllo Vittar (2017)

Produced by Major Lazer, this Brazilian duo delivered one of the best EDM songs of the decade and leans heavily into the tropical-influenced electronica of the latter part of the 2010s. Add this to your pre-drinks playlist and thank me later.

109. Dum Maro Dum by Asha Bholse (1971)

Alongside Lata Mangeshkar, Bholse is one of the godmothers of contemporary Indian music. This song, popular in India and with many in the Western World (usually hippies), is a classic that fuses psychedelic music with Hindu bhajans.

108. Plan B by Megan The Stallion (2022)

Megan really resurrected the grit in female rap in a sea of Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj disciples. In this song, she defiantly tells a broke man that she’s done with his shit and holds nothing back when she does. A feminist rap gospel if I’ve ever heard one. 

107. PROVENZA by Karol G (2022)

Another track from 2022, this song blends Afro-Beats, Calypso, Reggaeton and Colombian Tropical music seamlessly to capture the summer heat and beauty of Karol’s homeland. It served as the lead single for her album Mañana Será Bonito which went on to win album of the year at the 2023 Latin Grammys.

106. High Horse by Kacey Musgraves (2018)

In a genre that seems to have the hardest time escaping archaic gender roles, Musgraves is a breath of fresh air for country music. In this song, she challenges an ignorant man, but in many ways, it feels like a greater jab at the uber-conservative in country music. 

105. Don’t Speak by No Doubt (1996)

Without a doubt, one of the best breakup songs of the 90s, this song captures the pain of rather having someone leave quietly over them, explaining all the reasons they don’t want to stay.

104. White Flag by Dido (2003)

In contrast to the last song on our list, in this song, Dido sings about refusing to give up on a relationship she knows is failing, insisting she will go down with the ship instead of swimming to safety.

103. Dancing Queen by ABBA (1976)

What list would be complete without some ABBA? Dancing Queen is one of countless songs by this Swedish institution that could be on our list. This song captures the sheer musical genius of the band, and while the men of the band wrote most of the songs, Frida and Agnetha delivered each with flawless vocals.

102. Amor Prohibido by Selena (1994)

Selena Quintanilla was the one to watch in the 90s, and until her tragic death in 1995 she put Tejano music on the map in the USA. With Amor Prohibido, she demonstrated her gorgeous vocal talent flawlessly and asserted her place in the history books of Latin Music.

101. Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani (2005)

This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

100. My Love Mine All Mine by Mitski (2023)

One of the runaway hits of 2023, this song displays the melodic gentle timbre of Mitski’s voice. The lyrics are simplistic but impactful and are nothing short of some of the most tender of the 2020s. 

99. Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott (2001)

Truly an explosive destination in the history of hip hop, Get Ur Freak On is easily one of the most iconic rap songs of all time. With an undeniable funk, flair, and attitude this track is a quintessential hit of the 2000s. 

98. Don’t Let Go (Love) by En Vogue (1996)

A phenomenal RnB infused power ballad with a pinch of subtle seduction, En Vogue delivered with this song. It’s powerful chorus and their flawless harmonies will stay with you for a lifetime. 

97. Deewani Mastani by Shreya Ghoshal (2015)

Deewani Mastani is the apex of 21st-century Bollywood. Shreya Ghoshal is, at this point, nothing short of an Indian institution, delivering some of the most stunning contemporary displays of Indian vocal techniques of all time.

96. Lady Marmalade by LaBelle (1974)

Before Christina and Pink there was the omni-talented Patti LaBelle. Her eponymous band was out on the map with this power play of a song. Without a doubt if you love the newer version then check out this classic and prepare to be amazed. 

95. Family Affair by Mary J Blige (2001)

Mary J Blige is one of the key figures of R&B music and dance music in the early 2000s, and Family Affair is a diamond in her crown. Not to mention that she killed her performance of it at the 2022 Superbowl.

94. Paloma Negra by Chavela Vargas (1961)

To many, Chavela Vargas is the mother of Mexican Ranchera music, as she established a route for women in the genre and penned some of the most beautiful songs of all time. Paloma Negra is often thought to be about her brief relationship with Frida Kahlo and was used in the bio-pic Frida.

93. My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion (1997)

A cinematic classic of the 90s, this song is one of the most ubiquitous of all time, with good reason. Dion is a goddess of vocals and this song cements her in music history. 

92. Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood (2006)

If you haven’t blasted this song at full volume and imagined you were slashing your ex’s car, then I hate to break it to you, but you’ve not lived. With lyrics like ‘carved my name into his leather seats’, Underwood taps into the old ideal of hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. 

91. Heartbreaker by Pat Benatar (1979)

A timeless rock anthem that catapulted Benatar into stardom and solidified her role as a trailblazing force in the male-dominated rock scene. The song’s powerful lyrics and Benatar’s commanding vocals deliver a message of female empowerment, challenging traditional notions of love and vulnerability. 

90. Vogue by Madonna (1990)

Vogue is Madonna’s love letter to fashion and her gay fanbase. Named not for the magazine but for the style of dance that emerged in Harlem’s queer underground ballroom scene, Madonna created the ultimate gay anthem of the 90s.

89. Kill Bill by SZA (2023)

With its soulful melodies and honest lyrics, Kill Bill showcases SZA’s distinctive voice and establishes her as a prominent figure in contemporary R&B. The song’s raw vulnerability and introspective narrative contribute to its recognition as one of the most compelling tracks in SZA’s impressive body of work.

88. Traitor by Olivia Rodrigo (2021)

While a case could be made for bigger songs like Driver’s License, Good 4 U, or Vampire, it is my opinion that Traitor is Rodrigo at her best. A ballad that mingles Rodrigo’s two best gifts, heartwrenching lyrics and musical melodrama, Traitor is her greatest song yet.

87. A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton (2002)

No this isn’t just the song from White Chicks, it is an underrated bop of the early 2000s. With one of the most iconic piano riffs in music and frequently quoted lyrics, this song is a time capsule of a moment in pop culture.

86. Shout Out to My Ex by Little Mix (2016)

Little Mix has a catalogue littered with impressive empowerment anthems, but it is not a secret that in the summer of 2016, this was the song to outdo them all. It has all the girl power you could need and set a trend for break-up music that focuses not on heartbreak but on personal growth. 

85. Four Women by Nina Simone (1966)

Long before mainstream feminist discourse was talking about intersectionality, Simone penned a song that dives into the diversity of experiences within the black community. In Four Women, she uses each verse to tell the story of a different woman with her own struggles and unique obstacles, highlighting diversity within black women and their stories.

84. Torn by Natalie Imbruglia (1997)

This song is an emotive pop-rock anthem that encapsulates heartbreak and emotional turmoil. Imbruglia’s soulful delivery and the song’s poignant lyrics resonated globally, earning her widespread acclaim and several award nominations. It is a staple of late 90s music.

83. Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton (1996)

One of the most enduring power ballads of all time, this song is a classic of R&B music and a timeless sing-your-heart-out track for the ages. Whip it out next time you go to karaoke and see how quickly everyone joins you in singing along.

82. illicit affairs by Taylor Swift (2020)

Swift is a gifted storyteller, and no more truer is this than on her 2020 album folklore which is to this day her most cohesive and poetic work. While any song from the album could find its way onto this list, illicit affairs is her most heartwrenching, with a bridge that crushes you each time you hear it. 

81. Venus by Bananarama (1986)

While this song is actually a cover, it took Bananarama to take it to the stratosphere. Without a doubt, it is one of the most empowering dance-pop tunes of the 1980s and persists as a song laced with feminine power. 

80. 99 Luftballons by Nena (1983)

Sung in German, the song tells the story of 99 red balloons that trigger a chain reaction of events, ultimately leading to a misunderstanding and a military confrontation. It became an anthem for peace and a symbol of the tense geopolitical climate of the Cold War.

79. I Love Rock ‘N Roll by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1981)

Joan Jett is nothing short of a pioneer of rock music, and for her return to the mainstream at the start of the 80s, she reminded us all of her origins and just how much she loves it. 

78. Hot N Cold by Katy Perry (2008)

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, Katy Perry was THE hitmaker on the charts, giving us some of the decade’s biggest songs. It is Hot N Cold, though, for me, that is her best, as it feels the most earnest and was a step toward her pop music domination.

77. The Only Exception by Paramore (2010)

Every emo kid from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s knows that Paramore are a staple of music from that time. While they are better known for punk-laced songs like Misery Business and Ignorance, this more tender song shows off Hayley Williams’ voice its best and her talent as a writer.

76. The Winner Takes It All by ABBA (1980)

Our second ABBA entry, and one that details the pain of divorce as all of the band were experiencing divorce, The Winner Takes It All, is their most important song. It is the emotional pinnacle of their discography and truly timeless.

75. I Know The End by Phoebe Bridgers (2020)

Phoebe Bridgers has a gift for writing songs that capture feelings and paint pictures in your mind. This is her lyrical and musical magnum opus as she laments touring, failing relationships, and finally in a crescendo of a closing bridge, grapples with the politics and social climate of the times. 

74. El Blue Del Ping Pong by Rita Indiana & Los Misterios (2010)

One of the most obscure tracks on this list, El Blue Del Ping Pong is emblematic of Dominican music at its best with a quick tempo and Caribbean rhythms to keep you coming back for more.

73. Tyrone by Erykah Badu (1997)

Badu addresses a troublesome partner named Tyrone and confidently asserts her independence. The song’s blend of soul, jazz, and Badu’s distinctive vocal style contributed to its critical acclaim and solidified its place as one of Erykah Badu’s signature songs.

72. Wannabe by The Spice Girls (1996)

The Spice Girls were a phenomenon that, at its height, rivalled the fever pitch of The Beetles. Their run was short-lived, but their impact is still felt today. With this, their greatest and most well-known song, they centre female friendships and girl power.

71. Bodak Yellow by Cardi B (2017)

Cardi B exploded into the mainstream after years of hustle with Bodak Yellow, and she has never left our minds since. This song is on our list because it started a chain reaction that led to a golden age of women in rap. 

70. Sin Pijama by Becky G & Natti Natasha (2018)

This song is a contemporary reggaeton staple and a monument to the power of Latinas, especially when they team up. Sin Pijama is one of the biggest Latin songs of the 2010s and is, without a doubt, one of the sexiest.

69. You Keep Me Hangin’ On by The Supremes (1966)

Motown’s finest, Diana Ross and The Supremes, delivered one of the best songs of the 1960s with You Keep Me Hangin’ On. The song revolves around themes of heartbreak and longing as the protagonist pleads to be released from a relationship that is causing emotional distress.

68. Say My Name by Destiny’s Child (1999)

Need I say more than to remind everyone that this song is one of the best to ever come from Destiny’s Child and that it is one of the most sing-along-able songs ever to be made? 

67. MALAMENTE by Rosalía (2018)

Opening the album El Mal Querer this song makes our list because of its flawless modern interpretation of Flamenco music and because it opens one of the most important albums of the 2010s. The album reinterprets a 13th-century Occitan novel, Flamenca, through music, and it is nothing short of poetry and a masterclass in storytelling.

66. Someone Like You by Adele (2011)

Of all the Adele songs that we have loved over the years, this feels like her at her most ‘Adele’ with lyrics that hurt and the most clean and crisp voice on the radio. Adele is a prodigy of the piano ballad. 

65. Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill (1998)

Part of Hill’s album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill this is a hip-hop and R&B song in which Lauryn Hill addresses issues of self-respect and the pitfalls of materialism and promiscuity. The song became a major hit, earning Hill critical acclaim and multiple Grammy Awards.

64. Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa (2019)

The leading charge for Dua Lipa’s lockdown campaign to repopularise disco-pop, this song is a modern classic as far as breakup songs are concerned. Dua’s album Future Nostalgia is, without a doubt, a pop bible for the 2020s.

63. Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson (2004)

Kelly Clarkson remains THE American Idol, and this song proves it more than any other. It is a pop-rock crescendo of power that demands you to turn the volume up and sing at the top of your lungs; few songs are more feel-good.

62. 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton (1980)

Every single person who has ever woken up to an alarm shouting at them on a Monday morning feels this song in their soul. Dolly penned the ultimate anthem for the working woman; even over 40 years later, this song still rings true.

61. Royals by Lorde (2013)

I doubt anyone had on their 2013 bingo card that a 16-year-old from New Zealand would put out the song of the summer, but she did. Royals is not Lorde’s best song, in all honesty, but it’s impact on music going into the mid-late 2010s and its commentary on hollow consumerism cements it on our list.

60. Fast Car by Tracy Chapman (1988)

Tracy Chapman is one of music’s most distinctive voices, with her deep melodic vocal and tender lyricism drenched in emotion. By far, her most well-known song, Fast Car, is instantly recognisable and rarely skipped over.

59. Ride by Lana Del Rey (2012)

Lana Del Rey is arguably the most influential artist of the 2010s. After her debut, the stage was set for a legion of alternative pop singers who dominated our Tumblr feeds and soundtracked our teen angst. Ride is on our list because it captures the cinematic splendour of Del Rey’s earlier work the best. 

58. Gravity by Sara Bareilles (2009)

This song beautifully depicts the struggle to break free from the emotional force that binds two individuals, making it a soul-stirring reflection on the complexities of love, longing, and the inexorable pull of heartstrings. Bareilles’ lyrical depth and melodic grace create an intimate and timeless musical experience that resonates with listeners on a profound level.

57. What Was I Made For? by Billie Eilish (2023)

What Was I Made For? is the standout track of the Barbie soundtrack by a long distance, quite the feat for such a stacked collection of songs. The song sets the scene of the film’s emotional apex and forces us to analyse our relationship to our femininity and face up to how the world around us may view it.

56. Don’t Hurt Yourself by Beyoncé (2016)

Lemonade is Beyoncé’s magnum opus, case closed. In the album, she weaves a story of her marriage and its near end into a commentary on race relations in America in a way that is revealing, captivating, and radically intimate. For me, Don’t Hurt Yourself is the best song on the album and is a totem of the power of a woman who has let go of reservations about her anger. 

55. Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira (2006)

Shakira is one of the most successful artists of all time (and my personal favourite), this was a position solidified by Hips Don’t Lie. A masterclass in pop music, it is buoyed by cumbia rhythms from Shakira’s home country, Colombia. Beyond this, it is eternally quotable. Admit it, you’ve said ‘Shakira Shakira’ at least a few times to yourself before.

54. Don’t Touch My Hair by Solange (2016)

While her sister was blazing a trail with Lemonade, Solange was branching out and flexing her musical muscles with timeless and poignant music. This, her most politically charged song, is a comment on the importance hair has in black culture. 

53. Call Me by Blondie (1980)

Debbie Harry is a legend of rock music, but when she decided to flirt with dance music and new wave sounds, she hit her artistic peak. Call Me is truly a legendary song and is, without a doubt, timeless.

52. Not Strong Enough by boygenius (2023)

Magic happens when women come together and create, boygenius is proof of that. The rock supergroup, made up of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, shines their brightest with this single because of their collective ability to express internal and relatable feelings with ease.

51. Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell (1966)

You might recognise this as the song that plays when Emma Thompson is given the CD of Love Actually. Sorry for reminding you of that. It is one of the greatest in Joni Mitchell’s stacked discography and proves why for many, she was the Taylor Swift of her day.

50. DESPECHÁ by Rosalía (2022)

The second track from Rosalía on our list shows off her more playful and joyful side. It is, without a doubt, a modern classic and a summer banger, fusing her comfortable flamenco basis with reggaeton and pop to create something uniquely Rosalía.

49. Too Lost In You by The Sugababes (2003)

I can’t lie; this is one of the best songs from the 2000s. Flawless vocals, great lyrics, and a spot on the Love Actually soundtrack to boot. It would seem that the film really got its music down to near perfect.  

48. Leave (Get Out) by JoJo (2004)

JoJo turned out one of the best pop songs of the decade with this track, and she was only 13 at the time! While she hasn’t had quite the easiest ride in the music industry, this song and the other bangers from around this time mean she will always have a place in music history.

47. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross (1970)

Anybody who doesn’t immediately adore this song is, in my humble opinion, not fit to give opinions on anything. Diana Ross is the definition of star power, and this song was one of many where she delivered sheer perfection. 

46. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston (1987)

Doesn’t everyone love this song? Whitney had a gift and a talent that is seldom matched. She pioneered in the 80s and dominated the 90s. This song was just her warm-up. 

45. Rainy Days and Monday by The Carpenters (1971)

The Carpenters are a time capsule of the 1970s. With their country music influences and their indie guitars, they have impacted music in ways many people would never fully appreciate. Rainy Days and Mondays is a true ode to melancholy, a beautiful testament to feeling blue. 

44. Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday (1939) 

Adapted from a poem by Abel Meeropol, Holiday sings chillingly about the lynching of a black person from a magnolia tree. The song was released at a time when black artists had very little social mobility and is possibly the song on our list with the most bravery behind it. 

43. Nasty by Janet Jackson (1986)

Her name isn’t Baby, it’s Janet (Miss Jackson, if ya nasty). Need I say more?

42. Say So by Doja Cat (2020)

That’s right, we’re taking it back to the lockdown with this disco-infused bop. Doja Cat is one of the most interesting artists to have risen into the mainstream in recent years, and she did so on the back of this infectiously catchy song. 

41. Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks (1982)

All I can say is that this song proves that Stevie Nicks is the goddess of rock and roll. With her miraculous witchy lyrics and her iconic voice, she lives on as the founding mother of compelling soft rock. Edge of Seventeen is, without a doubt, a staple of any self-respecting rocker’s playlist. 

40. No More Tears (Enough is Enough) by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer (1979)

When the queen of Disco and the queen of musicals come together, you know that something magical is going to happen. More than the sum of its uber-talented parts, this song is one of the OG break-up songs that paved the way for so much of what we listen to today. 

39. Vroom Vroom by Charli XCX (2016)

Lavender Lamborghini, roll up in a blue bikini. Lyrical perfection. No, seriously, Vroom Vroom is one of the most influential and genre-defining songs of all time. Thanks to Charli’s creativity, other artists in the hyperpop space have a standard and a model to follow, though few can touch her level. 

38. No Scrubs by TLC (1999)

Another empowering anthem for women everywhere, TLC reminds us that a broke man is nobody’s dream. I love this song so much, in fact, that I have its lyrics framed in my kitchen, just to remind me that I don’t want no scrubs. 

37. Fallin’ by Alicia Keys (2001)

Alicia Keys remains one of the most well-respected musicians of the 2000s, thanks to her soulful voice and her stripped-back songs. With the help of a choir toward the end of this song, Keys takes us to church and commands our attention.

36. Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald (1959)

Ella Fitzgerald is one of the most important and impactful women in the history of modern music. Rising to prominence in a time before most black people had any social mobility, she used her suave and soft voice to build a sound that laid the foundations for artists who followed her. She remains one of the most celebrated musicians of all time.

35. Mississippi Goddamn by Nina Simone (1964)

In an act of pure defiance and daring activism, Simone found herself at the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and penned one of the greatest protest songs of all time. Mississippi Goddamn is a dirge about the compounding anger Simone felt as she saw black people mistreated across the Southern United States. She performed it proudly and often to all-white audiences, forcing them to pay attention. 

34. At Last by Etta James (1960)

Another legend of the earlier years of modern music, Etta James has a voice that is incomparable to anyone. At Last is a fairly simple song, but in its simplicity comes its power.

33. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? by Carole King (1971)

Several songs on this list were written or composed by Carole King, and thanks to her, we have so much amazing music to enjoy. Originally a song by the Shrielles, this track comes alive with King’s version. The album it comes from, Tapestry, is one of the most important albums of all time, especially when talking about women in music history.

32. Paparazzi by Lady Gaga (2009)

It was incredibly hard narrowing down which of Gaga’s countless hit songs would make our list, but Paparazzi took the honour in the end. This is largely because the song shows off Gaga’s ability to weave melodrama and darkness into catchy dance pop. Listen closely to this song, and you will quickly discover the macabre subtext that makes it the gem it is. 

31. Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves by Aretha Franklin and Eurythmics (1985)

Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin. What a powerhouse of a duo. Throw in a message about women coming out of the kitchen and standing on their own feet, and you have a feminist anthem for the ages. 

30. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien by Edith Piaf (1960)

This is a timeless French chanson that translates to “No, I Regret Nothing.” Piaf’s impassioned vocals deliver a powerful anthem of resilience and defiance. The song reflects Piaf’s life experiences and serves as a testament to overcoming adversity. With a stirring orchestral arrangement, the music builds to a triumphant crescendo, emphasising the theme of embracing life without regrets.

29. Proud Mary by Tina Turner (1970)

Who would have thought that a song about a boat could inspire so much joy? Originally by Credence Clearwater Revival, Tina Turner took this song and made it something entirely her own. While she would go on to sing many legendary tunes, it is Proud Mary that gives us Tina at her best. The voice, the horns, the energy. Flawless and charismatic. 

28. Zombie by The Cranberries (1994)

Written about the troubles in Ireland, Dolores O’Riordan is haunting and commanding as she sings about an island divided and broken by colonial violence. It is a truly important song and one that remains an anthem of Ireland as it continues to recover from occupation.

27. Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve by Taylor Swift (2022)

Master of the bridge, Taylor delivers one of the most painful and fantastical of her career on this Midnights bonus track. Nearly screaming that she wants to reclaim her stolen girlhood, it makes us all think back to the people in our lives who made us grow up too fast. 

26. Bad Girls by Donna Summer (1979)

I bet you didn’t think a disco song about prostitution would make it onto this list, but here we are. Bad Girls has a hook and instrumentation that lends from Cubano music giving it an extra flare that makes it a standout in Summer’s discography. Instantly catchy and compelling, put this on at any party and see how quickly everyone is obsessed.

25. Complicated by Avril Lavigne (2002)

Like most mid-2010s emo kids, I had a big Avril Lavigne phase. She is at her best on Complicated amidst guitars and drums, singing about the frustration of knowing someone isn’t being their true self. It is a song that deserves to be truly loved and replayed again and again.

24. Sun Bleached Flies by Ethel Cain (2022)

Ethel Cain is a storyteller and a poet on her album Preacher’s Daughter as she navigates a tale punctuated by religious trauma and violence. Sun Bleached Flies, the album’s penultimate track, is the emotional summit of the album and one that Cain guides you up with the ease of a sage before setting you on the descent with her beautiful lyricism.

23. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac (1975)

At their most tender and gentle, Fleetwood Mac gives us the treasure that is Landslide. Little needs to be said about this song, as it speaks for itself. 

22. Tears Dry On Their Own by Amy Winehouse (2007)

Winehouse’s distinctive voice, rich with emotion, delivers poignant lyrics that speak to the struggle of moving on from a past relationship. The song’s retro-inspired production, drawing from Motown and soul influences, complements Winehouse’s expressive vocals. With a blend of vulnerability and defiance, the lyrics convey a narrative of self-discovery and resilience in the face of romantic disappointment.

21. Praying by Kesha (2017)

Praying is arguably the most vulnerable song of this entire list. Kesha unpacks the psychological trauma of sexual assault, solemnly wishing that her abusers would pray and change their souls. Her voice conveys the pain she has felt but also shows the strength she has gained, it is a stunning testament to the endurance and resilience of womanhood.

20. Crazy In Love by Beyoncé (2003)

Few artists have such a banger for a debut single in the way that Beyoncé did with Crazy In Love. While it is no secret that Bey has solidified herself as one of the most culturally important musicians of all, Crazy In Love reminds us that at her foundation she is a pop artist who can deliver an intoxicatingly fun single.

19. Shakira: BZRP Music Sessions Vol. 53 by Shakira (2023)

It is no joke when I say that Shakira’s session in Bizarrap’s studio caused a seismic shift that was felt around the world. She left it all out in the lyrics as she doused her cheating ex in gasoline and laughed as she lit the match. This song is a monument to the power of women when they take the gloves off and aren’t afraid to call someone out.

18. The Boy is Mine by Brandy & Monica (1998)

Who doesn’t love a salacious mid-tempo R&B hit about a love triangle? I know I do. Brandy and Monica combined their efforts on this track and played off a perceived rivalry they had to capitalise on and deliver one of the most iconic collaborations of the 90s. 

17. Telephone by Lady Gaga & Beyoncé (2010)

Another iconic collaboration on our list, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé were a bit of an unexpected duo at first. Still, one thing these women know how to do is deliver. Telephone was a true moment in pop culture; from the video to the fact it was played daily on the radio, it was a cultural reset and reignited the public’s hunger for women to collaborate.

16. I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton (1974)

While the version by Whitney Houston is better known, it is my opinion that Dolly’s original version is the stronger of the two. With her tender country lilt she emotes the lyrics of this song in a way only the original writer ever could. It is made even sweeter by how supportive and positive Dolly was about Whitney’s version 20 years later.

15. …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears (1998)

Our list would be incomplete without a nod to the Princess of Pop, Miss Britney Spears. So many of her songs could be here, but the sheer cultural force that …Baby One More Time was pit the others to the post. With an instantly recognisable video, ubiquitous chorus, and that unforgettable voice, few pop songs are this good.

14. Emotions by Mariah Carey (1994)

Mariah Carey is a true musical prodigy with a 5-octane vocal range and songwriting skills that rival those of even the very best she is a consummate embodiment of music. Emotions is a jewel in her crown as it shows off just how far her voice can go as she barely even breaks a sweat to hit notes most people would struggle even to get close to. 

13. I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor (1978)

Few songs have the universal importance that this one does, as it persists as an anthem for anyone overcoming the end of a bad relationship. As Gloria sings, you feel your soul soar, and your feelings for a bad man evaporate. 

12. Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) by Kate Bush (1985)

This synth-infused art-pop masterpiece delves into the complexities of human relationships. With its pulsating rhythm and atmospheric soundscapes, the track creates a sense of urgency and emotional intensity. It remains a symbol of Bush’s avant-garde approach to music, blending profound lyricism with atmospheric arrangements. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to evoke both introspection and a powerful, otherworldly sonic experience.

11. Antologia by Shakira (1995)

While few in the English world know this song of Shakira’s, in Latin America, it is considered one of her most essential tracks. Shakira’s lyrical poetic style of songwriting is coupled with her purely individual vocal delivery to create a song that feels near mythic. Anthologia is also one of her go-to songs to perform live, even now, nearly 30 years later.

10. Silver Springs by Fleetwood Mac (1976)

As we dive into our top 10, Stevie Nicks treats us to one of the most haunting and painful ballads of all time. It starts off as a gentle and nearly whimsical piano ballad but evolves into an all-consuming and omnipotent crescendo as Nicks curses her former flame. With scathing lyrics like ‘you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman who loved you’ Silver Springs is almost as much a prophecy as it is a song.

9. Respect by Aretha Franklin (1967)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. Without a doubt, this is one of Franklin’s greatest songs. Transforming an Otis Reading song and pulling it across to the perspective of a woman, Aretha demands something every woman needs and so often is denied basic respect. In the nearly half a century since Aretha released Respect, it has continued to live on as a rallying cry for all women to stand up and command the respect they deserve. 

8. Believe by Cher (1998)

How does one even summarise Cher in words? She is a living legend who has continued to position herself as the definition of an icon for six decades. Her career has seen her dive into disco, rock, pop, folk, and dance music. It is with dance music, though, that she pioneered the use of autotune, not to correct vocals but to enhance the delivery of a song. Believe is one of the most significant songs when talking about the shape of music heading into the 21st century. 

7. Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish (2021)

With her classic lullaby vocal technique Billie opens Happier Than Ever softly, but halfway through, she pulls the ultimate musical switch on the listener as it ramps into a distorted punk-laced rock power ballad. Branching out from her usual quiet singing style to belt the final part of the song, almost to prove to her detractors that she can, she encourages us to scream along to the cutting lyrics. 

6. Like A Prayer by Madonna (1989)

Pop music’s regal provocateur, Madonna, is at her most authentic and quintessential as she fuses religion and sexuality. Considered so scandalous that there were ripples across the Catholic Church, this song is a comment on male dominance in organised religion disguised as a risque pop masterpiece. Like A Prayer is to this day the best song Madonna has ever released and is one of the most impactful moments in pop culture history.

5. You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette (1995)

No song on this list has quite the same pure potent venom that You Oughta Know does. Morissette holds nothing back as she demolishes the man this song is about, doing the opposite of quietly walking away as she reminds him of their relationship while chastising him for how he ended things. Leaning into her anger and her pain she portrays herself as unhinged and indulges in her rage-tinted impulses beautifully. Nobody can listen to this song and not salute Alanis for writing this song with a blade. 

4. Jolene by Dolly Parton (1974)

Miraculously written on the same day as I Will Always Love You, Parton flexes her gift as a writer with this iconic song. Jolene has a quality evocative of the nearly historic music that Parton listened to growing up in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, supported by the guitar riff that feels evocative of a time when music blended into folklore. The lyrics are poetic and beautiful as she remarks on Jolene’s beauty, pleading for her not to take Dolly’s man. In recent years, fans have noted that this song even has a potential sapphic subtext, something Dolly herself has said she takes warmly. 

3. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin (1967)

The second Aretha song to crack our top 10, written by the incomparable Carole King, and sung with the studied soulful silk that is Franklin’s voice, it is truly beautiful. Franklin’s greatest gift is the soul and honesty of her voice; as she sings you are transported to her world and you feel the things she feels as she guides you through the song. While Respect is probably her biggest song, this is her most enduring and meaningful classic. 

2. All Too Well (10 Minute Version) by Taylor Swift (2021)

Taylor Swift is to many, the greatest songwriter of the 21st century, and it is this song, her magnum opus, that is most frequently used to prove that point. Unearthed during her re-recording of the album Red, it is this song that is Taylor’s most devastating and emblematic of the kind of artist she is. All Too Well already had the hearts of her audience before the 10 minute version was released, exposing more details and more heart-crushing lyrics to flesh out the story behind the song. 10 minutes hardly feels like it is long enough with this song.

1. You’re So Vain by Carly Simon (1972)

Finally, our top spot goes to the legendary Carly Simon. You’re So Vain is simply a work of genius. Simon masterfully calls out the song’s subject while subduing him by accusing him of assuming the song is about him. Without this song so many of the others on this list would never have come into existence. With You’re So Vain Carly asserted that there are few things more powerful than a woman with a voice she isn’t afraid to use. As time has gone by this song remains a critically celebrated and publicly adored testament to the sheer artistic force that women in music are. 

So there it is, our 151 best songs by women. If you want to listen to the songs listed here check out our playlist below and let us know if there are any songs you think we missed.