I was a radio disc jockey for an alternative rock radio station in the midwest for eight years and, during that time, I came to admire the many female alternative rock singers on our playlist. During the 80s and 90s, there were so many amazing female alternative rock musicians, it’s hard to choose what I think are the top five.
Here is my top five list though – chosen because all of these women in alternative rock were doing something unusual, daring and, yep, even sexy.
Tori Amos – On any top five best female alternative rock singers list, you can’t leave out Tori Amos. Unusual because she accompanied herself on the piano on many of her songs, Tori Amos is outspoken, daring and one of the biggest political commentators in music. Blunt about religion, sex and women’s issues, Tori Amos first became popular with the release of her album Little Earthquakes.
Best Tori Amos songs include “God”, “Silent All These Years” and “Crucify”. Amos is now married to a British sound engineer and spends most of the time living in England.
She released her last album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, in 2009. Not as popular as her other works, it still got rave reviews from many critics and fans alike.
Liz Phair – Prominent in the indie alternative rock music underground movement, Liz Phair is a singer-songwriter who got her start by self-recording and releasing cassettes of her work. She’s released five albums since 1993, with her last album Somebody’s Miracle released in 2005.
Once thought to be daring and definitely alternative rock oriented, in later years her songs have a more pop sound, but still with the underlying uniqueness she’s always been known for.
Ani DiFranco – Put into both the folk and alternative rock camps, Ani DiFranco is beautiful, bizarre and incredibly talented. With more than 20 albums to her name, DiFranco’s songs comment on social issues like women’s rights, biseuxality (DiFranco has said she is bisexual), abortion and anti-war.
A devoted left-wing singer, Ani DiFranco is known for her shaved head (although she now has long hair) and her outspoken views on atheism (she has said she is atheist, although recently has begun to talk about ‘alternative Christianity).
Check out albums Not a Pretty Girl, Not So Soft and Puddle Dive. DiFranco is on my top five best female alternative rock singers because of her lyrics and her rampant feminism – you go girl!
Alanis Morissette – Canadian Alanis Morissette catapulted onto the alternative rock music scene with the release of Jagged Little Pill, which 12 years later is still the biggest selling debut album of any female rock artist. Singles like “Hand in My Pocket” and “Ironic” were played on radio stations all over the world, and not just the alternative rock radio stations either. In fact, Alanis Morissette went mainstream very fast.
Smart, talented and complicated, Morissette has been outspoken about issues like anorexia (which she suffered from as a teenager), women’s issues and the environment. A cool aside, Morisette was even ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church – which doesn’t have a doctrine and only one physical church building, but just believes in the idea that everyone should do the right thing.
Annie Lennox – Scottish born alternative rock singer, Annie Lennox, started out her popular music career partnering with David A. Stewart and forming the band Eurythmics. In later years, she went solo, and is known for her soulful music, beautiful lyrics and social activism. She’s also the most successful British female artist of all time.
Famous as a gay icon, even though she herself is not gay, in concert (I’ve seen her!), Annie Lennox is an incredibly powerful performer. My favorite Annie Lennox album is Diva, with Songs of Mass Destruction a close second. “Why” is a song you must hear, especially if you’ve ever been longing for someone.
These top five best female alternative rock singers are all the same in one respect – they’re passionate about their music and their work, and are constantly changing.