Home Music Music Lists

Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time

The fiercest albums that female musicians have given the world

From Blondie to Beyonce, from Aretha to Adele, these are just 50 of the fiercest albums that female rock & rollers have given the world. There are plenty more where these came from – but these are all essential musical statements. Including, but not limited to: girl-group glamazons, guitar warriors, blues wailers, country cowgirls, disco queens, rappers, folkies, gold dust women, sweethearts of the rodeo, funky divas, punks and poets and pop stars. A little toot toot. A lot of beep beep. And of course, Lady Gaga.

38

Bjork, ‘Post’

Elektra1995

Bjork's artistic stature grew by yards in the course of this strange, affecting work, by turns harshly industrial, meditative and neon jubilant.

Essential moment: The soul-feeding beat on "Headphones."

37

Beyonce, ‘4’

Columbia, 2011

Ever since she broke out of Destiny's Child, Beyonce has been the world's favorite pop princess, whether she's in a feisty mood or making nice.

Essential moment: "Countdown," which swerves from abstract beats to killing-me-softly soul.

36

X-Ray Spex, ‘Germ Free Adolescents’

Blue Plate/EMI1978

London punk at its trashiest and catchiest, led by the thrilling screech of Poly Styrene.

Essential moment: "Art-I-Ficial,” where Poly sticks up for all the losers and outcasts like her in a consumer society.


35

The Ronettes, ‘The Best of the Ronettes’

ABKCO1992

All the simmering passion of a Catholic schoolgirl who's traded in her uniform for a slit skirt and a bullet bra oozes from Ronnie Spector's one-of-a-kind vocal cords.

Essential moment: The teenage longing and lust of Spector's "Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh" on "Be My Baby."

34

Go-Go’s, ‘Beauty and the Beat’

I.R.S., 1981

SoCal vixens-next-door fuse punk attitude with pop exuberance, full of garage-band overdrive, get-up-and-go handclaps and classicist melody.

Essential moment: Gina Schock’s drums on the chorus of "How Much More" demand some kind of Nobel Prize in Awesome.

33

Irma Thomas, ‘Soul Queen of New Orleans’

Maison De Soul1978

A soul sister from the Big Easy with indelibly emotional pipes – she sobs in time with the raindrops in "It's Raining," but she reads her man the riot act in "Hittin' on Nothing."

Essential moment: Her own out-of-nowhere "Wish Someone Would Care."

32

Dolly Parton, ‘Best of Dolly Parton’

RCA, 1975

One of Nashville’s toughest songwriters ever, putting her complex psychological epics over – from "Travelin’ Man" to "Touch Your Woman" – with one of Nashville’s most deceptively pretty voices.

Essential moment: "Jolene" is one of the most obsessively complex love stories ever captured in a country song.

31

PJ Harvey, ‘Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea’

Island, 2000

The otherworldly lass hits the concrete hard, sweaty from sex, looking for weapons and heading toward hope. With Stories, Harvey moved from punk to celestial, and took you with her.

Essential moment: "I can't believe that life's so complex/When I just want to sit here and watch you undress."

30

Alicia Keys, ‘As I Am’

J Records, 2007

A classically trained piano girl from Hell's Kitchen, Keys was one R&B prodigy who knew how to put a song together, and her magnificently smoky voice proved she was the real deal.

Essential moment: "No One," a lullaby that builds into the essence of modern soul.

29

M.I.A., ‘Kala’

XL, 2007

Maya Arulpragasam took hip-hop places it had never been before, from Third World battlegrounds to the Pineapple Express trailer. The Sri Lanka-born provocateur sounds festive and enraged at the same time.

Essential moment: "Paper Planes," a Clash-sampling rap chant that somehow stormed the Top 10.

28

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘It’s Blitz!’

Interscope, 2009

The New York art punks crash the dance floor, juicing their guitars with robot-disco synth-beats until heads start to roll.

Essential moment: "Hysteric," Karen O's most nakedly soulful love song.

27

Dionne Warwick, ‘Presenting … ‘

Scepter, 1962

Warwick, Hal David and Burt Bacharach galvanize early-Sixties girl-group longing with orchestral-pop sophistication, as Warwick's voice moves London's savoir-faire Stateside.

Essential moment: The goody-goody girl getting churchy on the chorus of "Don't Make Me Over."