30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (2023)

The history of rock includes a myriad of collectives in which a strong female voice provides the group’s identity while being supported by male backing musicians — and thank the heavens for it, because a new generation of these acts have made women all the more present in modern rock, country, pop and electronica.

And although there’s no rule that bands made up of all men, all women or a mix of genders are any less cool, there’s just something magical about watching a female artist lead the charge with a group of guys standing behind her onstage. From Garbage’s Shirley Manson to Evanescence’s Amy Lee, an ever-growing list of women rockers have spent decades proving that their talents are just as deserving of respect and notoriety, even in testosterone-dominated genres — and if you don’t agree, their supporting male bandmates probably have a thing or two to say to you.

That’s not to say these women aren’t perfectly capable of sticking up for themselves, however. Just take a look at Paramore’s Hayley Williams, who’s called out the music industry’s sexism on several occasions. “I remember playing North Star Bar [in Philadelphia] and this guy yelled ‘take off your shirt!” probably 10 times,” she once recalled to Rolling Stone. “By the fifth or sixth time, I realized that I’m the one with the microphone. I’ve got power here. I don’t have to be quiet.”

“There’s enough women that are rad and have great points of view and great things to say who can start encouraging that in one another and the people who are coming to shows; instill something else in them that is not being told to them through society and magazine covers,” she added. “Tell them that having a voice and going against the grain is good.”

Here are 30 of our favorite bands fronted by inspiring female artists.

  • Alabama Shakes

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (1)

    The rock crew fronted by Brittany Howard has built an electric, festival-ready live show out of the soulful Americana featured on its first two albums. 2012 debut Boys & Girls earned the Alabama Shakes a best new artist nod at the Grammys, while follow-up LP Sound & Color became the group’s first No. 1 album after its April, 21 2015 release.

  • 30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (2)

    Blondie not only scored a mountain of hit singles — “Call Me,” “Heart of Glass” and “Atomic” among them — but changed the way a female can be perceived in rock music. With Debbie Harry leading the quintet, Blondie pushed new wave in complex new directions without sacrificing a drop of attitude.

  • Gladys Knight & The Pips

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (3)

    Gladys Knight and her crew of male backup vocalists helped shape the sound of Motown in the 60’s and 70’s: “Midnight Train to Georgia” was a No. 1 hit and instant classic, but the soul act’s run extended long after that 1973 hit.

  • The Carpenters

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (4)

    After beating artists like Elton John and the Partridge Family for the best new artist Grammy in 1971, the Carpenters — brother Richard and sister Karen — enjoyed a monumentally successfully run for the rest of the decade, behind Karen’s heavenly voice. Tragically, the female vocalist passed away in 1983 after a battle with anorexia nervosa, but The Carpenters' legacy as a pop duo lives on.

  • 30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (5)

    This Swedish pop-rock duo was darn near unstoppable as the '80s came to close, with international hits like “The Look,” “Listen To Your Heart” and “It Must Have Been Love” marked by Marie Fredriksson’s gorgeous voice and dotting prom dances for decades.

  • The Band Perry

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (6)

    The Perry siblings — with Kimberly leading brothers Reid and Neil — have taken the country world by storm, following the success of their single “If I Die Young.” In the first half of the 2010's, the trio released a pair of best-selling albums and played to arenas across the globe.

  • 30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (7)

    One cannot discuss synth-pop — specifically '80s British synth-pop — without acknowledging the impact of the Eurythmics, which paired daring vocalist Annie Lennox and brilliant instrumentalist Dave Stewart and crafted a handful of classics, including “Here Comes The Rain Again” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

  • Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (8)

    An underrated force in '80s mainstream music, Lisa Lisa led Cult Jam in dance songs like “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion” while closely working with hit-making team Full Force.

  • No Doubt

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (9)

    With Gwen Stefani leading a band of three boys (including bassist/ex-boyfriend Tony Kanal), No Doubt became one of the most successful pop-rock groups of all time, releasing five studio albums before Stefani successfully went solo. A 2008 reunion led to multiple successful tours and a new album, Push and Shove, in 2012.

  • 30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (10)

    A metal band defined by the juxtaposition of chugging guitars and a heavenly female voice, the Amy Lee-led Evanescence were a leading light in rock music during the mid-2000’s, driven by the incredible success of debut single “Bring Me To Life.” Following an extended hiatus, the band released a self-titled album in 2011.

  • Paramore

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (11)

    Despite an unsavory lineup reshuffling in late 2010, Hayley Williams and her pop-rock crew are more popular than ever, selling out arenas on the strength of their self-titled 2013 album and scoring their biggest Hot 100 hit ever with that year's “Ain’t It Fun.”

  • 30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (12)

    Led by Sydney Sierota, this all-sibling band from Los Angeles broke out in 2014 with the Top 20 indie-pop hit “Cool Kids” after years of playing shows and cultivating an audience. Debut album Talking Dreams was released in 2013.

  • Garbage

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (13)

    Shirley Manson’s alt-rock project was one of the genre’s biggest success stories in the second half of the '90s, with singles like “I Think I’m Paranoid” and “Only Happy When It Rains” earning crossover success and an album of the year Grammy nod for their 1998 opus Version 2.0.

  • The Pretty Reckless

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (14)

    Taylor Momsen, the actress best known for playing Jenny Humphrey onGossip Girl, formed a fiercely loved band when she became an adult. The Pretty Reckless have toured with acts like Nickelback, Marilyn Manson and Evanescence while supporting their hard rock tunes.

  • Pretenders

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (15)

    Between 1979 and 2008, the Chrissie Hynde-fronted Pretenders were one of the most consistent names in rock, never going more than five years without releasing a new album. Their commercial peak came in 1986 with Get Close, which contained the band’s two biggest hits, “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “My Baby.”

  • The Heartless Bastards

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (16)

    Long-running garage rockers the Heartless Bastards have been accruing the respect of festivals behind Erika Wennerstrom’s powerful vocals since forming in the mid-'00s. The band has released four albums, with fourth LP Arrow — featuring Spoon’s Jim Eno as producer — issued in 2012.

  • The Cranberries

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (17)

    Dolores O’Riordan possessed one of the most memorable voices of the mid-'90s, and she put it to good use as the leader of the Irish pop-rock act The Cranberries. “Zombie” and “Linger” have inspired a countless number of sing-alongs in which massive crowds try to imitate the singer’s vocal affectation; O’Riordan, however, remains one-of-a-kind.

  • Hurray for the Riff Raff

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (18)

    Alynda Lee’s folk project Hurray for the Riff Raff was formed after the songwriter ran away from her Bronx, N.Y., home at 17, ended up in New Orleans and picked up a banjo given to her by a close friend. Lee has often been joined by a cast of male musicians, but the voice of the group is declaratively her own.

  • Sleigh Bells

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (19)

    The duo of singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller has been blowing out speakers ever since their high-wattage debut single “Crown on the Ground” was released. First album Treats was critically beloved upon its 2010 release, and Sleigh Bells has spent the first half of the decade owning large audiences at festivals and headlining shows.

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (20)

    Karen O and co. have crafted an impressive run as alt-rock soothsayers after busting out with the heartstrings-tugging single “Maps.” Now four albums and over a decade into their careers as a trio, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have jumped from electro-dance, gospel, fuzz-rock and post-punk without ever losing their identities.

  • 30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (21)

    Indie-pop newcomers MisterWives (a play off of the term “sister wives,” since the band is one girl and four guys) have earned a sizable live following thanks to pristine tracks like “Reflections” and “Vagabond.” The group’s debut album, Our Own House, was released in February 2015.

  • Siouxsie and the Banshees

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (22)

    The intersection of rock music and avant-garde goth art pulses through the work of Siouxsie and the Banshees, with leader Siouxsie Sioux (born Susan Janet Ballion) becoming a crucial voice in the U.K. post-punk movement of the late '70s. Every modern indie artist citing The Cure and The Smiths as major influences typically name-checks the unflappable Siouxsie and the Banshees as well.

  • The Dead Weather

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (23)

    In 2009, The Kills (another band that could have made this list) saw singer Alison Mosshart lead a rock supergroup that included Jack White on drums, Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita on guitar and The Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence on bass. The psych-rock project produced two albums, and rumblings of a third have recently begun.

  • Crystal Castles

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (24)

    The explosive stage energy of singer Alice Glass found a perfect complement in the 8-bit beats of producer Ethan Kath in this experimental electro-punk project from Toronto. Crystal Castles released three albums between 2008 and 2012, before calling it quits in 2014.

  • Screaming Females

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (25)

    The raw energy of Marissa Paternoster has been serving as the fuel for Screaming Females, an indie-rock band hailing from New Jersey, for a decade. Rose Mountain, the trio’s triumphant sixth album, was released in February 2015.

  • She & Him

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (26)

    Long before she was starring on New Girl, actress Zooey Deschanel tried her hand at a folk collaboration with cult indie figure M. Ward. The duo worked, and She & Him has released five albums — including a Christmas LP and a covers set — since 2008.

  • Selena Gomez & The Scene

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (27)

    Between “Who Says,” “Like A Love Song,” “Naturally” and “A Year Without Rain,” Selena Gomez’s earliest breakthroughs into pop music are still beloved by many to this day. But we’d be remiss to forget that those hits were created between Gomez and her band The Scene, formed in 2008 with Joey Clement, Greg Garman, Dane Forrest and Drew Taubenfeld. The group released three albums before going their separate ways sometime after 2012 — never to be forgotten by all who remain nostalgic for the late 2000s.

  • Florence + The Machine

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (28)

    Propelled into superstardom with 2009 hits like “Dog Days Are Over” and “You’ve Got The Love,” Florence + The Machine has been a steadfast leader of indie rock for over a decade. Lead by the cardinal-haired force of nature Florence Welch, the band was formed in London in 2007 and has five studio albums to its name, including the May 2022-released Dance Fever.

  • Hole

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (29)

    With hits like “Celebrity Skin” and “Violet,” Hole is considered one of the most influential female-fronted rock bands of all time — and that’s thanks to the enigma that is Courtney Love.

  • Jefferson Airplane

    30 Female-Fronted Bands That Rule (30)

    Grace Slick was the commanding voice of psychedelic rock pioneers Jefferson Airplane. The band changed the game in the 1960s with innovative tracks like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” and earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2016.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ms. Lucile Johns

Last Updated: 04/02/2023

Views: 5319

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ms. Lucile Johns

Birthday: 1999-11-16

Address: Suite 237 56046 Walsh Coves, West Enid, VT 46557

Phone: +59115435987187

Job: Education Supervisor

Hobby: Genealogy, Stone skipping, Skydiving, Nordic skating, Couponing, Coloring, Gardening

Introduction: My name is Ms. Lucile Johns, I am a successful, friendly, friendly, homely, adventurous, handsome, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.