It’s the perfect time of year to kick back, relax, and crank the R&B hits high. Today, we’re celebrating some of the best female R&B singers of all time — legends who’ve contributed to the genre with this round-up of truly legendary women.
From Chaka Khan to Janelle Monáe, we’re talking about the biggest voices around. Whether you’re looking for a soft, sultry soundtrack to your afternoon or some sing-along stunners, we’ve got you covered.
Diana Ross’s legendary solo career began back in 1970 with the release of her eponymous debut album and two smash-hit singles: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The range Ross shows in those two songs shows why she’s such a memorable performer! Ross has made an indelible mark on the music world with her contributions to the R&B genre, so much so that she is a two-time winner of the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
You really can’t talk about Diana without talking about the Supremes, right? One of the best-selling girl groups of all time, their history of hits is truly incredible. From “Baby Love” to “Stop! In the Name of Love” to “You Can’t Hurry Love,” their collective talent is evident. Just try to stop tapping your toes to “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – it’s impossible!
Is there a more joyful song out there than “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”? Natalie Cole may be Nat King Cole’s daughter, but her success was based on her own phenomenal voice and immeasurable talent. With nine GRAMMYs and over 30 million records sold worldwide, Cole truly earned her title as a Queen of R&B.
Not only does Gladys Knight have two No. 1 Hot 100 singles to her name, but a staggering eleven No. 1 singles on the R&B chart, and six No. 1 R&B albums. Knight has also racked up four GRAMMYs for her solo career and three as part of Gladys Knight & the Pips. We’d hop on a “Midnight Train to Georgia” any time if it meant we’d get to live in the Empress of Soul’s world!
One of the best-selling musicians in the world with over 100 million records sold, Janet Jackson is the definition of an iconic artist. With 18 entries, she currently holds the record for the most consecutive top-ten records on the Hot 100, and her back catalog is unmistakably “Nasty” in the best kind of way. With hit after hit under her belt, Jackson’s songs are next-level.
The first British woman to win five GRAMMYs, Amy Winehouse’s career is packed full of highlights. 2006’s Back to Black, her sophomore album, is the twelfth best-selling album of all time in Britain. It’s always a good idea to go back to Back to Black when you’re looking for soulful, jazz-inspired R&B.
Chaka Khan got her start in the 70s as part of Rufus, and her career went on to become one for the history books. By featuring rappers on the track, her 1984 song “I Feel For You” — originally written by Prince — made Khan the first-ever R&B musician to have a crossover hit. In 2023, she was selected to receive the Musical Excellence Award and join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — a well-deserved and long-awaited accolade for the Queen of Funk.
A true powerhouse of the genre, Tina Turner‘s on-stage energy was unrivaled. Considered one of the greatest comebacks of all time, Turner’s second wind in 1984 with Private Dancer spawned “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” which was her first and only Hot 100 No. 1.
As a member of the Fugees, Lauryn Hill absolutely killed us softly with her song! Not only that, but her 1998 solo release The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill set the record for the highest first-week sales for a debut album by a woman in the 20th century. She is currently tied with Beyoncé for the most GRAMMY nominations in a single night for a woman, with both of them racking up ten: Beyoncé in 2010, and Hill in 1999.
Singer, rapper, writer, and actor — is there anything Estelle can’t do? Her work as a voice actor in the much-beloved Steven Universe series has kept her distinctive, talented voice in the spotlight, and her 2008 GRAMMY-winning hit “American Boy” continues to live in our heads rent-free.
The Godmother of Soul! Starting out in Labelle — originally known as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, before a name change in the 70s — Patti Labelle’s explosion into the mainstream came with “Lady Marmalade” in 1974. With 50 million records sold worldwide, is there any wonder she’s so iconic?
TLC defined the 90s for plenty of young R&B listeners. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas comprised the band’s most well-known line-up, and they were outrageously influential in the genre. Beyoncé wrote in 2003 that “TLC has influenced just about every female group that’s out there now.” Talk about impressive!
Jennifer Hudson is currently the youngest female EGOT winner and the second Black woman to win an EGOT. Her 2008 debut album, Jennifer Hudson, won a GRAMMY award for Best R&B Album, and her debut single definitely put a “Spotlight” on her — it shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Where do we even begin? This queen has had an incredible career. One particular highlight includes the fact that 2018 saw her become the first artist to knock themselves off the No. 1 spot; Merry Christmas took Caution‘s place on the Top R&B Albums chart. The only person who can best Mariah Carey? Mariah Carey.
With their latest album making serious waves, the world is well and truly Janelle Monáe’s oyster. After a few years spent flexing their acting chops, their return to music with The Age of Pleasure has reminded everyone of just how sublime, slinky, and innovative their R&B is. They’d do anything for their “Lipstick Lover,” and we’d do anything for Janelle Monáe!
Check out the Queens of R&B channel on the SiriusXM app to keep the best female R&B singers flowing through your speakers nonstop.
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