From Shirley Manson to Stevie Nicks, here are our all time favourites

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What makes an ideal frontwoman? Someone who can capture the attention of a crowd, from a dive bar to a stadium and everything in between. You need to have the guts and the belief to make people listen - and have the intelligence and chutzpah to lead the band that follows your every word. 

From punk pioneers to pop vocalists, via some of the finest rock vocalists the industry has ever produced, Gigwise has collected together our highly subjective view the 50 greatest frontwomen of all time. They've fronted bands as diverse as Bikini Kill and Destiny's Child, come from countries ranging from Sweden to Iceland to Russia - but what unites them is a singular ability to capture fans imagination.

Here are our hotly contested top 50 - if you disagree with any of our selections feel free to get in touch on Twitter @Gigwise or in the comments below.


  • 50. Alice Glass (Crystal Castles): The thrashing, whirling dervish style of Crystal Castles frontwoman Alice Glass saw the Skins-featured 'Alice Practice' become a huge hit in the UK. She is best-known for her outrageous stage antics which included getting her set shut down at Glastonbury 2008 after climbing on a speaker and getting swallowed by the crowd.

  • 49. Tina Turner (for Ike and Tina): The duo that launched the golden career of Tina Turner wasn't always bad. Ike saw her transform from Anna-Mae into a bona-fide pop star with huge hits like 'A Fool In Love' and 'I Want To Take You Higher' showcasing that massive voice. By the time Ike turned nasty, Turner was a true talent in her own right.

  • 48. Allison Mosshart (The Kills): Best-known for fronting rock band, The Kills with Jamie Hince and as a member of Jack White's The Dead Weather, Mosshart has made her unique blend of punk-rock a favourite with supermodel Kate Moss as well as fashion magazines such as Vogue who adore her gritty, music credentials.

  • 47. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Pussy Riot): A powerful member of the anti-Putinist punk rock group Pussy Riot, the frontwoman is an advocate for LBGT rights, feminism and equality in Russia. On August 17, 2012, she was convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after a guerilla Pussy Riot performance in Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and given two years' imprisonment.

  • 46. Mary B. Timony (Ex Hex): Currently the lead singer of American punk band Ex Hex, Timony sings, writes songs and plays the guitar, keyboard and violin. According to her old music teacher she has always been a true talent: "She came to us a prodigy. You can%u2019t teach what she has".

  • 45. Justine Frischmann (Elastica): The inspiration behind Blur's hit 'Tender', Frischmann fronted Brit-pop band Elastica spawning brilliant hits 'Stutter', 'Line Up' and Connection. The musician went on to collaborate with M.I.A, her old flatmate, co-writing songs on M.I.A's first album Arular, including the 2003 single 'Galang'.

  • 44. Nina Persson (The Cardigans): Darling of the nineties indie scene, Persson was the frontwoman of the Swedish pop group The Cardigans gifting us with one of the best songs of the decade: the menacing and sickly sweet 'My Favourite Game'.

  • 43. Ronnie Spector (The Ronettes): Known as the original bad girl of rock n' roll - Ronnie (centre) was considered 'bad' for her bold use of dark mascara and short skirts - the singer rose to fame in the 1960's fronting American rock and pop group The Ronnettes. Hits like 'Be My Baby' and 'Walking In The Rain' gave the group lasting recognition and Ronnie and her 'ette's are one of the great examples of emerging social freedom in the 1960s.

  • 42. Amy Lee (Evanescence): Lee burst onto the scene in 2003 as the voice of Evanescence's huge cross-over hit 'Bring Me To Life'. The classically trained singer made waves with her band's unique gothic blend of pop-rock, which saw her collaborate with Korn and Seether and is one of the most recognisable frontwomen with her penchant for Victorian-style dress.

  • 41. Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley): Marrying Lewis' sunny, all-American charisma with Rilo Kiley's caustic, scuzzy brand of indie rock was a strange but perfect match. From the defiant despair of songs like 'Better Son Or Daughter' to the infectious, upbeat 'Silver Lining', Lewis' effortless, conversational vocals are consistently the star of the show.

  • 40. Emily Kokal (Warpaint): In many ways, Warpaint's live show relies on an element of scuzzy chaos - but it's a well-orchestrated sort of chaos, which relies on Khokal's inate ability to produce off-the-cuff guitar solos whilst still pulling her socks up and bringing the band back on track when it's needed.

  • 39. Danielle Haim (Haim): Prior to Haim's success, Danielle was a successful touring guitarist with Jenny Lewis and The Strokes' frontman, Julian Casablancas which allowed her to get the support needed to make her band, alongside sisters Este and Alana, a success. The band's first album Days Are Gone, recorded in between appearances at high-profile slots like Glastonbury Festival, charted at number one in the UK.

  • 38. Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast): The breezy laziness of Best Coast would not be complete witout the cat, weed and ocean loving Consentino. The guitarist and songwriter draws her inspiration from sixties surf rock and girl groups, helping create a noisy lo-fi sound that initially was her way of masking on-stage anxiety about her vocals.

  • 37. Kate Pierson (The B­52s): Don't listen to us on this one, here's Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein: "These were a group of outsiders and weirdos making angular music that threaded surf, new wave and pop stylings with Dada-esque lyrics. It was a confluence of the strange and the sexual, the silly and serpentine. I saw the band on their Cosmic Thing tour. That night, at age 15, I pressed to the front of the stage, sang at the top of my lungs, and went home with bruises on my ribs and a heart filled-up and transformed, like it was pumping a whole new kind of blood into my veins."

  • 36. Beyonce (Destiny's Child): Queen B needs no introduction. Her time as frontwoman of Destiny's Child saw them become one of the world's best-selling girl groups ever with nineties anthems like 'Bills, Bills, Bills', 'Say My Name' and 'Independent Woman Part 1'. The rest, as they say, is history.

  • 35. Brody Dalle (The Distillers / Spinnerette): The Australian musician, as well-known for her blood-red lips as her fierce guitar and vocals is one of the greatest female punk rock icons. Her work with The Distillers sees her responsible for the seminal punk album 'Coral Fang' which spawned huge underground hits 'Drain The Blood' and 'City Of Angels'.

  • 34. Beth Gibbons (Portishead): Last year saw the 20th anniversary of Portishead's brilliant debut album, Dummy. Its gothic trip hop combined with Gibbons' smooth, sultry vocals is a combination that many bands still try and emulate today - with far less success.

  • 33. Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders):Though she's consistently refused to call herself a feminist, Chrissie Hynde's fearless brand of alternative rock made - whether she likes it or not - something of a statement in the 1970s. "I'm going to get on stage and play my guitar and no fucker's going to stop me." Amen to that.

  • 32. Siouxsie Sioux (& The Banshees): Widely considered one of the most influential British singers in rock, Siouxsie Sioux's songs have been covered by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem and many more ­ it's hardly surprising that she won the Inspiration Award at the 2012 Ivor Novellos.

  • 31. Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless): The snarling, sultry frontwoman turned her back on her artificially sweet Gossip Girl character, Little J into a striking, gothic transformation that earned her band the accolade of being the ONLY female-fronted band to score number ones with their first two hits.

  • 30. Janis Joplin (Big Brother & The Holding Company): Such is Joplin's powerhouse legacy that, despite only being a member for two of the band's 35 years, Big Brother & The Holding company are still known first and foremost as Janis Joplin's band.

  • 29. Kat Bjelland (Babes In Toyland): Though she rejected the riot grrrl label as reductive and inaccurate, Bjelland inspired a wave of women to carve out a space for themselves in rock. When Babes In Toyland announced a string of reunion shows this year, a whole new generation pricked their ears.

  • 28. Gwen Stefani (No Doubt): The queen of '90s new wave pop and with an aesthetic and voice that stood her apart from her contemporaries, there was ­- if you'll excuse the horrendous pun - no doubt that Gwen Stefani was going to be as successful as a solo artist as she was in a band.

  • 27. Courtney Love (Hole): Despite being forever forced by vitriolic Kurt Cobain fans under the shadow of Nirvana, Love has her own life, voice and career. She's not just the eccentric wife of a rockstar, she IS a rockstar.

  • 26. Bjork (The Sugarcubes): Their name might sound sickly sweet, but The Sugarcubes' music was anything but ­ Bjork's voice meandering from ethereal soprano to snarling yells within the space of one song. There was, and still is, something captivating amd other­worldly about her whole persona.

  • 25. Donita Sparks (L7): There's more the the grunge band's frontwoman than that Reading Festival incident, when Sparks threw her used tampon into the crowd in retaliation to their mud-slinging. She's also a formidable, charismatic vocalist with a consistent social conscience.

  • 24. Klara Soderberg (First Aid Kit): It takes a special kind of talent to perform Paul Simon's own song, 'America', in front of him and a thousand other people (including Swedish royalty) without crumbling under the pressure. It takes something beyond special to pour such rich, textured emotion into it that the cover threatens to outshine the original. On First Aid Kit's own material too, Klara's voice weaves over and under that of her sister Johanna with heart-stopping ease.

  • 23. Karen O (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs): There's a malleability to Karen O that allows her to sing the defiantly raucous 'Heads Will Roll' and then glide effortlessly into the acoustic version of 'Hysteric' without missing a beat. Malleable, that is, but still intrinsically, unmistakeably Karen O.

  • 22. Joan Jett (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts): It's only fitting that Jett's band, following her time in The Runaways, should bear her own name. Her power and tangible presence on stage is magnetic, and over thirty years on, she's still performing live ­ with an extra glint in her eye when she sings "You're living in the past, it's a new generation."

  • 21. Cherie Currie (The Runaways): Currie was described by Bomp! Magazine as "the lost daughter of Iggy Pop and Brigitte Bardot" %uFFFD but that doesn't quite do justice to her own unique voice and presence. Though former bandmate Joan Jett eventually became better known, it was Currie who fronted the band to their phenomenal success in a hugely male-dominated genre.

  • 20. Hayley Williams (Paramore): The normal trajectory of a 16­year­old girl who achieves worldwide fame is, to put it bluntly, a fairly rapid downward one. Ten years since the start of Paramore, Williams has bucked this trend with a vengeance.

  • 19. Romy Madley Croft (The xx): Whilst in many ways it's Madley Croft's vocal chemistry with bandmate Oliver Sim that makes The xx's brand of dream pop so mesmeric, she's also more than capable of holding her own without him. Despite, or perhaps because of, her inherently unassuming demeanour, she's an immensely watchable live performer.

  • 18. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane): In many ways, Jefferson Airplane are a criminally underrated band, whose punchy, psychedelic rock avoids the woozy aimlessness of much of their contemporaries and beyond. Watch YouTube footage of their 1969 performance of 'Somebody To Love' at Woodstock and you'll understand within seconds why Grace Slick is on this list.

  • 17. Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches): Mayberry might possess a sweetly youthful voice and demeanour, but make no mistake, there's a steely resolve underneath. Chvrches' songs are underpinned by this resilience, and she's still found time frequently stand up against online misogyny.

  • 16. Merill Garbus (Tune-Yards): Given her propensity for layering up and looping her own vocals, Merill Garbus should really take up about five of these places. She's going to have to be content with just the one though.

  • 15. Poly Styrene (X Ray Spex): When "deliberate underachievers" X Ray Spex released 'Oh Bondage Up Yours!' in 1977, they created an instant punk classic in the form of a feminist rally cry. Poly Styrene's raucous, unapologetic delivery made it unforgettable.

  • 14. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac): The strength and success of Fleetwood Mac is due in no small part to their ensemble aesthetic ­ but if there's one band member whose iconic stature is slightly higher than the rest, it's Stevie Nicks. Rookie's Tavi Gevinson summed it up best when she said, "My favorite thing about her, other than, like, everything, is that she has always been unapologetically present on stage, and unapologetic about her flaws and about reconciling all of her contradictory feelings and she makes you listen to them and think about them."

  • 13. Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!): Just over a year after Laura Jane Grace out as a transgender woman, Against Me! released their sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, a heartbreaking and, at times, potently angry insight into her inner turmoil and strength.

  • 12. Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine): Welch's vocals, which soar above the orchestral rock underneath, are so unapologetically, uncompromisingly powerful that she often proves herself to be the musical equivalent of Marmite. But it's often when she's at her most restrained that she gives the most moving performances.

  • 11. Kim Deal (The Breeders): Best known as the former bassist of alternative rock darlings, Pixies, the brilliant Deal is now the lead vocalist and plays guitar in The Breeders. No wonder the likes of Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno look up to her so much.

  • 10. Beth Ditto (Gossip): Citing Cyndi Lauper and Boy George as influences, and with a voice akin to an indie Janis Joplin, Ditto's uncompromosing stage persona often leaves her half-dressed and drenched in sweat.

  • 9. Ellie Rowsell (Wolf Alice): The youngest entry in our top 10, Rowsell's music combines the raw sensibilities of rock with rousing pop melodies. Because of the festival's inexplicable aversion to women, Rowsell was labelled the "female headliner" of this year's Reading Leeds by default, but we suspect in a few years' time, Wolf Alice might be breaking out as genuine headliners in their own right.

  • 8. Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill): It's not just Hanna's raucous and unrestrained music that marks her out as an exceptional frontwoman: it's the sort of revolutionary female-friendly sensibility she engendered at Bikini Kill gigs. Famously demanding "girls to the front" she is credited as making the male-dominated punk scene a safer place for women: both musicians and fans.

  • 7. Lauryn Hill (Fugees): Even before she's busted out one of the most astonishing singing voices in existence, Hill's skills as a rapper are rivalled by very few. Though Wyclef Jean and Pras Michael probably do the majority of Fugees' rapping, Hill pretty effortlessly blows them out of the water every time she opens her mouth. From a cover of 'A Change Is Gonna Come' so rich and soulful it rivals Sam Cooke's original, to the deep, bassy hip hop of 'Ready Or Not' - which would sound ahead of its time if it was released now - Hill's contribution to Fugees is eclectic and incomparable.

  • 6. Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz): "I'm not bossy I'm the boss," goes the refrain of Speedy Ortiz's brilliant feminist diatribe 'Raising The Skate', from their equally brilliant new album Foil Deer. A few weeks ago, Speedy Ortiz' Major Arcana was put up as "pay what you want" on BandCamp, with all funds going towards those impacted by the Baltimore riots, and Dupuis has offered to put fans on the guestlist for shows if they're struggling for money - so everyone who wants to can witness her potent, effortless swagger, which she laces with just the right amount of vulnerability.

  • 5. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics): A millisecond after Lennox's deep, rich vocals have broken through Eurythmics' synth-heavy instrumentals, textured and layered into harmonies with herself, it's unmistakably Annie Lennox. She throws her voice between dramatic falsetto and brooding, androgynous alto at the drop of a hat.

  • 4. Carrie Brownstein (Sleater Kinney): Sleater-Kinney, in many ways, had everything to lose when they decided to release a new album this year nearly a decade after splitting up. As it happened though, they produced one of the best albums of the past few years. More taut and neatly-packed than before, it's an album with no excess fat and a whole load of punch. Brownstein's vocals are breathy, insistent and laced with just the right amount of petulance, and her presence on stage is pure magic.

  • 3. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth): "Overcome by my own hypersensitivity," writes Kim Gordon in her new book, Girl In A Band, "I had no choice but to turn fearless." And that's exactly what she did. Transforming the constraints of cheap guitars into a new style of alternative music by turning to "weird tunings" and a general DIY ethic, Sonic Youth were an intrinsic part of the no wave art and music scene. "It never occurred to me I would fail," reads another chapter of her book. And why would it?

  • 2. Debbie Harry (Blondie): Harry's photogenic beauty and distinctive sense of style are part of the reason she so quickly rose to punk icon %uFFFD but it was her brash yet ethereal vocals that really made her an icon. Her voice and persona became such an intrinsic part of the band, in fact, that many people assumed Blondie was her name.

  • 1. Shirley Manson (Garbage): What better year for Shirley Manson to earn this accolade than 2015 - the 20th anniversary of Garbage's critically acclaimed debut album? Credited with inspiring a new generation of artists, Manson's fiercely inimitable style and presence, both on and off stage, make Garbage the band they are today. It was pure chance that brought Manson to Garbage: they saw her in an MTV video that was broadcast only once. Such is her raw, distinctive power though, that we suspect she'd have made it to the top of this list somehow whatever the circumstances.

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