Top Twenty Favourite Female Vocalists (1 to 10)

This list is part one of two of my top twenty favourite female vocalists but does not include British females as I will make a separate list of those another time. The list is based mainly on personal taste and them as singers, rather than as artists (for example, Christina would be higher as an artist) but I do draw on some truths and facts about each singer as well to tell you why I think they rank higher or lower than others – and these opinions and facts are based on tone/timbre, vocal ability, versatility and live performances (as for many singers, they may have a great recording voice, but totally suck live). For each singer I have also provided a video of their best (or one of their best) live performances.

1) Whitney Houston


Type: Spinto soprano (pre-1993), lyric mezzo? (post-1993)

A vocal beast, period. A mixture of things made Whitney stand out: her luxurious tone which consistent throughout her voice, her great range, her strong mid-range belts and practically unparalleled control, especially when using vibrato. But above all, it was how she delivered songs, particularly live, with so much emotion and added riffs, runs and inflections only when needed, and wherever she did so, still sounded magnificent and executed them great precision, perfect pitch and brilliant phrasing. Even though from the late 1990s onwards, her voice had begun to deteriorate, Whitney’s delivery was still on point (most of the time anyway).

Unfortunately, Whitney wasn’t as perfect as she may have seemed; her belting may have sounded great, but were done so through poor technique – which aided in her vocal decline, amongst other things.

2) Aretha Franklin


Type: Dramatic mezzo

Whitney’s godmother, Aretha was just as amazing in almost every way and it was from singing in church and Aretha (and her mother Cissy), where Whitney learnt her skills. And Aretha’s skills are pretty much the same as the ones I have listed for Whitney, but her range is wider, she could belt higher and her technique was better; it’s just Whitney’s timbre that I prefer over Aretha’s that pushes her into second place.

3) Mariah Carey


Type: Lyric coloratura soprano

Out of all twenty singers, Mariah is probably the best when it comes to technical ability (perhaps only bettered in some parts by Céline), having almost no flaws whatsoever, except for some pitch issues in live performances and scratchier upper belts (in recent years anyway). Many singers very rarely reach the same peak as their own idol, but like hers, Minnie Ripperton, Mariah has earned her place alongside her as a true master of the whistle register, even if she does overuse far too much. What is astounding about Mariah is is the way she manipulates her timbre in different registers – deep and husky in the lower register (which is actually more like her natural voice), full and powerful in the middle, and light and airy in the upper registers.

4) Christina Aguilera


Type: (Light) lyric mezzo

First of all, let’s get Christina’s negatives out of the way – she employs poor techniques to reach many of her higher belts that are beyond her comfortable range and limits, which results in a scratchy and shouty sound and produces pitch issues, and sometimes she does go overboard on the riffs and runs, but when she keeps it clean, straight and reined in and within her comfort zone, she reigns supreme and is definitely more of an emotive singer than a technical one.

Of course, her main strengths are: her unique and gorgeous timbre (which she can also manipulate to sound different in different registers like Mariah) – based on tonal quality alone, this is the main reason why she’s known as ‘the voice of this generation’; great vocal power and range – and although she has proven to be able to hit whistle notes she unfortunately rarely does; and she is extremely versatile, having covered or touched upon countless different genres (although that’s more about her artistry). Also, while like some singers (such as Charice), Christina grew up listening to and emulating her idols, she still managed to develop her own sound and style of singing that the likes of Charice haven’t done.

5) Donna Summer

Type: Lyric mezzo

The Queen of Disco, Donna Summer was a underrated vocalist but those who were fans of her music would know she had an incredible voice. A great, soulful tone which could sound sultry and sexy and some of her songs and smooth and warm on others, she had excellent technique too that helped keep her voice in good shape even in her later years.

6) Kelly Clarkson


Type: Full lyric soprano?

Probably one of the best technical singers out there right now and excels in what the type of music she does best – soulful, rocky and country-tinged pop, a sound which reminds me a lot of Anastacia. Except Kelly has a far more pleasant and less gravelly tone.

7) Toni Braxton


Type: (Low) lyric mezzo

Toni Braxton is one of my favourite traditional R&B divas from the 90s; I love her deep, rich tone, which is hella sexy, heavenly and soulful. Another singer who I am saddened by the fact that she hasn’t made any new music in such a long time.

9) Nicole Scherzinger


Type: Full lyric soprano

Why people call Nicole ‘Shitsinger’ is beyond me when this lady has a very solid voice with great technique – probably because she has had classical training as an opera singer with incredible power, range and control. To me, she sounds better singing opera, when her slight nasal tone she normally has is absent, as she is unfortunately underrated as a vocalist in the pop industry.

9) Beyoncé


Type: Coloratura mezzo

Along with Kelly and Nicole, Beyoncé is also one of the best technical singers out there today with really good control over and knowledge of her own voice, and if it weren’t for Christina’s greater power, versatility and nicer tone, Bey would probably beat her to the pole position as ‘the voice of this generation’. However the best parts of her voice are her warm and smooth lower register and clear and bright head voice. Out of all them though, I am personally not a huge fan of her and the hype that surrounds her, but acknowledge her entertainment value at least.

10) Jennifer Hudson


Type: Spinto soprano?

J-Hud’s power is unmatched by nearly all the ladies in this list, except Patti Labelle, and like Patti is able to belt ridiculously high, even though some notes can sometimes sound shouty or screechy. She has a singing style that is deeply rooted in gospel – and is the genre she excels in the best, which means she sings with an immense amount of soul , and a very strong mid-range that today is probably the closest to that of Whitney Houston in her prime. It’s just a shame she is so highly underrated.

14 Responses to “Top Twenty Favourite Female Vocalists (1 to 10)”

  1. samuel eki Says:

    Kelly Clarkson is classified as a soprano. Christina’s range is debated and has been classed as a dramatic soprano by some sources and by others as a dramatic mezzo. Toni Braxton is a contralto, you got it right. Jennifer Hudson’s voice is also debated being called dramatic mezzo by some and dramatic soprano by others. Spinto doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic. It refers to sopranos with light voices that can be pushed to dramatic climaxes. Any soprano that can do this can sing a spinto role. Nowadays though, it’s ised to refer to so many things…

    • I wouldn’t class Christina as a dramatic anything really, I’m not sure what she’d be if she was a soprano (I think she was more of one in her earlier years from 1999-2001) but since her voice has deteriorated and also deepened, I guess she’s more of a mezzo but one who is or at least could still sing like a soprano. I’m not sure J-Hud is a dramatic mezzo though, as I heard they have really strong lower registers, which she doesn’t have.

  2. samuel eki Says:

    Your fach does not change with age. That your voice has deepened does not mean you have changed faches. It’s simple, if I’m a lyric tenor when I’m goung, as I grow older I don’t become a baritone. Rather because I am unable to hit high notes as before, I will most likely sing in a more dramatic,deeper style than before.

    • Are you referring to Whitney here? If so, Whitney’s fach idn’t change due to age, it was because of smoking and drugs. Her voice and range naturally deepened as well but the deterioration is more obvious than in other singers because of her lifestyle. She was a spinto in her earlier years, not entirely sure about later.

    • Oh actually, if you mean Christina then, like I said, I guess she was more like a soprano in her earlier years but looking back I think she’s always been a lyric mezzo.

  3. kevin harmotto Says:

    Whitney was one spinto soprano until the mid 90s when she developed vocal cord nodules during the tour Bodyguard. Moreover, it was a drug user and smoked a lot since 17 years. Aretha is a soprano falcon, a type of hybrid voice that has ease and strength in both registers: low and high. Christina Aguilera is a lyric mezzo untrained with poor technique. Her voice is nothing dramatic. It darkens the tone artificially by pulling the larynx down and tensing the tongue making it appear that she has a voice more powerful than it really is. But his natural tone is warm and smaller. Kelly is a light lyric soprano. Toni is a lyric mezzo dark. The contralto has an androgynous timbre. Toni’s voice is clear and womanly in the middle register, but has a deep bass register, which may confuse some. Compare with Cher, who is a true contralto and see the difference. Nicole is a full lyric soprano. Jennifer is a spinto soprano. A dramatic soprano has a metallic timbre and weight heroic in the upper register as Patti Labelle and Monica Naranjo.

    • Yeah, I already explained about Whitney at the top. And I think Aretha is a dramatic mezzo because she has a really strong lower register, but falcon could work, but I’ve kept it simple as I don’t really care about exact voice fachs, just thought I’d add them in. Also I never said Christina’s (I don’t know why you say “his” tone, she’s a woman?) was dramatic. And when singing pop Nicole is clearly more of a mezzo but a soprano in opera. Also, Jennifer does have a very metallic timbre to her voice and a powerful upper register, maybe not on the same level as Patti but still.

      • kevin harmotto Says:

        I’m sorry about the grammatical error involving Christina. I know she is a woman, hehe. Actually, what I said was to corroborate what you already had explained to Samuel eki. The media has propagated erroneous information over the voice of Christina. I’ve heard spinto soprano, coloratura soprano dramatic and believe it or not, even assoluta. It was the first time I saw someone classifying it according to what it really is: one lyric mezzo. Indeed, it is a shame that she has not taken some singing lessons to learn how to better use her voice. Now, it shows signs of wear and damage. Don’t you think? As for Nicole, she has strong middle belts, but her vocal color is a full lyric soprano. The dramatic mezzo has a heavy voice cavernous quality. A good example is the pop Anastacia, Tina Turner and Shirley Bassey. For me Jennifer Hudson has a richer timbre than metallic, like Whitney. And you’re right, she has a powerful upper register, but does not have the same resistance and volume of Patty and Monica. However, young spinto sopranos can become dramatic sopranos with time. But I agree with you that vocal fachs are not relevant to us, we’re just fans. Do you know a singer named Vanessa Amorosi? She has an amazing voice and she is an authentic falcon. I think you’ll like it!

    • mike mccarty Says:

      Houston was never a spinto; spinto’s are very rare, and she lost control and sounded shrill when she climbed into the fifth octave. Her mid-range is where a spino’s bottom range would start. The reality of it, is that she couldn’t produce squillo ,which is the dominating trait of a spinto ‘s voice.

      • I’m not definitively saying any of these singers do fit these specific vocal types as they are of course operatic terms, but I believe these terms are the closest ones that apply to them. Whitney would be the pop equivalent of spinto for these reasons: her power and volume output was comparable to one and was larger than a full lyric but not on the level of a dramatic; her timbre was similar to a spinto – rich and dark that is not typical of a normal soprano but not as heavy as a dramatic and more like a mezzo tonal-wise; and her approach to singing combined that of a lyric and a dramatic.

        I believe her chest-dominant technique and lack of proper mixing meant her upper belting from F5 and above was harder for her – particularly as she got older and her vocal health declined – more so than the limits of her actual voice. With proper training she could have improved on this area and fit the bill almost perfectly. There’s a YouTube video that talks about good pop equivalents to different voice types and labels her as a spinto – again, not definitively but it is believed by several experts that she was one more than any other voice type.

  4. donna summer was an awsome singer right up their with the best all the singers are great on here its a matter of tone and style and of course range.

  5. no one is better than Tina Turner but Toni Braxton is Contralto

  6. […] and dramatic delivery all made her one of the greatest pop and R&B singers – if not the greatest – of all time. She is also one of the most imitated yet inimitable vocalists. Very few […]

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