The music industry is still very much a man’s world, but women’s voices are getting louder and louder.
From Joni Mitchell to MIA, there have always been trailblazers determined to make music on their own terms – and their influence has been huge.
Here’s our round up of the most seminal albums made by women.
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Often voted one of the greatest albums ever made, Joni Mitchell’s Blue is a beautiful and pensive dissection of the various emotions experienced during a relationship, from infatuation on ‘A Case of You’ to insecurity on ‘This Flight Tonight’.
Her songwriting is sparse and simple, with poetic lyrics accompanied by just a piano, guitar, Appalachian dulcimer and a pervasive sense of tender despair.
Missy Elliott – Miss E… So Addictive
Missy Elliott has never sounded as assured and confident as she does on her third album Miss E… So Addictive. Released in 2001, she reunited with long-term collaborator Timbaland.
It’s the best one of her career so far, a thrillingly inventive tour de force that sees her switching up genres, featuring hit after hit including ‘Get Ur Freak On’, ‘4 My People’ and ‘One Minute Man’.
MIA – Kala
MIA first burst onto the scene with her debut album Arular, but it was Kala, named after the rapper’s mother, that established her as a major player on the hip hop scene.
Combining a kaleidoscope of international sounds, from dancehall, hip hop and world music to beatbox riddims, the album experiments with its many global influences while tracks like ‘Boyz’, ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Bird Flu’ are fierce and playful.
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Amy Winehouse’s second and final album, Back to Black, saw her move her sound away from jazz towards vintage girl groups.
The result is a powerful collection of soulful R’n’B as the singer weaves contemporary tales of heartbreak, drugs and depression.
It won her comparisons to the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald.
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Already a huge star as part of hip hop group Fugees, Lauryn Hill’s one and only solo album was a massive hit.
The singer was showered with awards, including five Grammys, for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
The modern classic bounces around from R’n’B, hip hop and soul to reggae as she explored her pregnancy at the time and tensions within Fugees alongside themes of love and religion.
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
Alanis Morissette’s angst-ridden debut album Jagged Little Pill was phenomenally successful around the world, topping the charts in 10 countries and selling over 33 million copies.
It remains one of the best-selling albums of all time featuring monster hits ‘Ironic’ and ‘You Oughta Know’, the latter which has become the anthem for all scorned women.
Madonna – Like a Virgin
It was met with mixed reviews when it was first released, but Madonna’s Like a Virgin has gone on to become one of the biggest-selling albums ever.
Featuring pop classics like ‘Material Girl’, ‘Into the Groove’ and, of course, ‘Like a Virgin’, it was the album that propelled her career into the stratosphere and made her an icon to young women in the 1980s.
Beyonce – Lemonade
Beyonce has produced many incredible albums during her career, but Lemonade was by far her most personal – and political.
After taking a stance on feminism on 2013’s Beyonce, she pushed things further on her follow-up visual album, taking on police brutality and what it means to be black woman.
Adele – 21
Adele’s second album hasn’t just become the ultimate soundtrack for all lovelorn people out there, but a mega hit that smashed record after record.
It topped the charts in more than 30 countries and became the world’s best-selling album of the year for 2011 and 2012. It’s also the best-selling album of the 21st century in the UK.
Nina Simone – I Put a Spell on You
Considered one of Nina Simone’s best albums, I Put a Spell on You is a jazz masterpiece, with the singer at the top of her game.
It features some of her best-known songs including her spine-tingling version of ‘Feeling Good’.
Björk – Post
Icelandic singer Björk’s second album Post was a reflection of her life in London at the time and British underground club culture.
Throwing together techno, trip hop, IDM, house ambient, jazz and industrial music, it was a genre-bending experimental affair and boldly avant garde.
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