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14 Iconic Women Musicians from All Around the World

Sheena Joseph | Jun 06 2021
Image credits: Facebook

The entertainment industry was one of the first fields to welcome women with open arms. But, it also acted as the breeding ground of misogyny and unsafe work environments. While women have been making amazing music since the dawn of the industry, some women became representatives for the change they created. They spoke to millions through their songs and kept changing the world one beat at a time. Here are some of those women musicians you should know about.

1) Adele

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English singer-songwriter Adele is the first woman in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have several top-ten singles as a lead artist. She rose to popularity with her debut album '19'. Her second album '21' sold 31 million copies and became the best-selling album in the world in 2011 and 2012. It also earned her numerous mentions in the Guinness Book of Records. 

She is among the first plus-size women who refused to take fat jokes and dissociated her career from her physical appearance. When many called her recent weight loss an achievement, she slammed them by saying her 15 Grammy Awards wins are her achievements.

2) Taylor Swift

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American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is known for lyrics inspired by her personal life and relationships. Being one of the best-selling artists, she has won 11 Grammy Awards and three of them are 'Album of the Year'. Swift is known for inspiring an entire generation of women.

In her appearance on the Australian radio show 'Jules, Merrick & Sophie', she said those criticising her lyrics for being about her relationships are being sexist. The iconic feminist pointed out that no one has ever said the same about Ed Sheeran or Bruno Mars even though they also write about their partners and relationships.

3) Beyonce

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Beyonce rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the best-selling girl group Destiny's Child. However, it was her first solo album 'Dangerously in Love' that put her on the Billboard Hot 100. Her fourth album '4' is known for being musically diverse. Her most acclaimed album 'Lemonade' explored themes of infidelity and womanism.

Even though she was criticised by the African-American community for her lighter skin tone and style, her success has made her a cultural icon. In 2017, she performed at the Grammys in a sheer belly-highlighting gown before the birth of her twins. The Peter Dundas look completed with a headpiece went on to become iconic.

4) Anoushka Shankar

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British-Indian composer Anoushka Shankar is the youngest nominee in the World Music category at Grammys. Being the daughter of popular musician Ravi Shankar, she began training on sitar at the age of seven. She gave her first sitar performance at the age of 13. Her solo debut was accompanied by maestro Zakir Hussain.

She has always been vocal about abuse. Years before the MeToo movement, she revealed that she had been sexually abused as a child. She used her art to call out controlling men with her song ‘Sister Susannah’. The satirical take was written by Nikita Gill and recited by Anoushka over loops of sitar.

5) Norah Jones

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American pianist and singer Norah Jones (born as Geethali Norah Jones Shankar) is the half-sister of Anoushka Shankar. After her parents separated, Norah chose to go by her mother's surname. Billboard named her as the top jazz artist of the 2000s decade. Jones has sold over 50 million copies and won nine Grammy Awards.

6) Sia

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Australian singer and songwriter Sia is most popular for her sixth solo album '100 Forms of Fear' which debuted at No.1 in the US Billboard 200. She is usually seen wearing a wig that covers her face partially to protect her privacy. She has experimented with many styles including acid jazz, trip hop, and downtempo. She is an advocate for animals, and has participated in campaigns to protest against large-scale pet breeding.

7) Rosalia

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Spanish singer Rosalia has won eight Latin Grammy Awards and one Grammy Award. She discovered her love for Spanish folklore music at a young age and went on to create modern interpretations of flamenco mixed with pop and urban music. Her single "Con Altura" sold seven million copies and gave her the nickname "La Rosalia". She is known for bringing fresh flamenco-influenced pop to mainstream music.

8) Annie Lennox

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Scottish Singer Annie Lennox rose to fame in the 1970s as part of the new wave band 'The Tourists'. In 1983, she appeared wearing a man's business suit and cropped orange hair. BBC praised the powerful androgynous look that defied the male gaze. She started her solo career in 1992 and went on to win eight Brit Awards and a Billboard Century Award. Lennox is known for her political and social activism, during which she raised money for HIV victims and aiding children in Africa.

9) Selena Gomez

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American singer Selena Gomez rose to fame as a child actress with her Emmy Award-winning role in 'Wizards of Waverly Place'. However, she went on to carve a unique space for her not only in the music industry but as a millennial icon as well. She has eight songs charted on the top singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and has over five billion US song streams. She is known for her unfiltered and unique posts on social media. Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2012 and received a kidney transplant in 2017. She has also been vocal about her experiences with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

10) Nelly Furtado

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Canadian singer Nelly Furtado rose to fame when two singles from her debut album won a Grammy Award in 2000. Her second album 'Folklore' explored her Portuguese roots, but it only had moderate success. However, it was her third album that sold over 12 million copies. She continued to explore her Portuguese heritage and created four singles that topped the charts in the US and overseas.

11) Ayuki Hamasaki

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Japanese singer Ayuki Hamasaki is known as the "Empress of J-pop". She has diligently penned down all her lyrics throughout her career. She moved to Tokyo to pursue a career in singing and acting at the age of 14. Her debut album remained at the top of Oricon charts for five weeks and sold over a million copies. Her next albums only topped that success. Ayuki is the first female recording artist to have ten studio albums since her debut to top the Oricon. She is also the first-ever artist to have a number-one album for 13 consecutive years since her debut 

12) Camilla Cabello

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Cuban-born American singer Camila Cabello rose to fame as a member of the girl group Fifth Harmony. Her debut studio album topped the Billboard 200 chart. Her Latin-influenced music is critically and commercially well-received. Two of her songs - 'Havana' and 'Never Be the Same' - reached top-ten charts in multiple countries. She recently garnered praise from fans for sharing a photograph of her in a bikini with no makeup or filters. 

13) CloZee

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French artist CloZee (born as Chloé Herry) is known for composing electronic music. She has worked with specialised labels like Gravitas Recordings, Otodayo Records, Glitch-Hop Community. She won the 2014 award of best international discovery at the UK Glitch Hop Awards. Next year, her single 'Koto' streamed over two million times on Spotify, which kickstarted her string of international performances.

14) Vidya Vox

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Indian singer Vidya Vox (born as Vidya Iyer) is a YouTube star known for mixing Indian songs with Western music. Her work is focused on a mix of Indian classical music, electronic dance music, and classical rappers. She is known for styling Indian clothes and jewellery with a twist suited for a nightclub. Her YouTube channel has 7.36 million subscribers at the moment. Vidya was born in Chennai, and her family immigrated to the US when she was eight. After creating mashups for years, she released two original albums 'Kuthu Fire' and 'Mad Dreams' in 2017 and 2019.