Ten female singers you should know about

Charli XCX performs on stage at Irving Plaza on November 13, 2013 in New York, New York.

Charli XCX performs on stage at Irving Plaza on November 13, 2013 in New York, New York. Photo: Gaelle Beri

In a world where Adele can sell thirty million albums, and Katy Perry and Taylor Swift dominate the charts, it's tempting to think that women have achieved something approaching equality in popular music. 

But not everything is Gagas and Mileys. On radio, female voices are decidedly the minority. Whilst some Australian stations play P!nk on the hour every hour, less established singers struggle to gain a foothold. 

Indie music is arguably an even more male dominated domain. Only about one in four acts in January's Hottest 100 were female soloists or female fronted acts. 

Bolstered by the huge success of Haim, London Grammar and, of course, Lorde, this was a major improvement on the two- yes, two - women who sang in 2009's Hottest 100 of All Time. A step forward, yes, but roughly on par with the number of females in parliament in Sudan. Or, you know, Australia. 


Fortunately, there's no shortage of women waiting in the wings take your ears by storm, whether your tastes are poppier or you're more indie inclined. Many of them are defying this divide – singer songwriters who aren't shy of a big hook are emerging across the globe. So why not pause that copy of I'm Not Dead give some of these songstresses a whirl? 

Tove Lo

First cab off the rank is Sweden's Tove Elsa Nilsson, known to her admirers as Tove Lo. With the ever amazing Robyn having just announced a new mini album with Röyksopp, you might think your cup runneth over with sardonic Scandi-pop. But make some time for Tove, a darling of record industry insiders.  

Her debut EP Truth Serum showcases the songwriting chops she's previously leant out to artists like Icona Pop. On 'Habits', she sings with peculiar panache about self-medicating with sex, drugs and twinkies after a relationship gone sour.

Charli XCX

Another singer associated with Icona Pop, for whom she wrote the smash 'I Love It', Charli XCX is due to release her second album this year. The follow up to last year's magnificent Nuclear Seasons, the new set will feature the punchy 'SuperLove', which featured recently on TV series Shameless. She’s been described as ‘Lorde on ecstasy,’ a description that neatly captures her effortless Gen Y cool and radiant charm.

VV Brown

In the mad post-Winehouse rush to find British female soul singers, VV Brown's debut Travelling Like the Light was a little lost in the crowd. On her second album, she's playing on her own terms.

If Kate Bush and Janelle Monae formed a mythology book club, they might write a set like Samson and Delilah. If that sounds a tad inaccessible, fear not. Singles like 'Faith' and 'The Apple' pulse with vibrant abandon.


Betty Who

New York based but Sydney born, the artist known to her mum as Jessica Newham was named by TIME as one of ‘14 Musical Acts to Watch in 2014’. 

Trained as a classical cellist but self taught on guitar and piano, Betty’s pop career was boosted when a video of a marriage proposal in a Home Depot store choreographed to her song 'Somebody Loves You' went viral. Latest release 'Heartbreak Dream' is an unabashed pop belter that puts Katy Perry on notice.


She's not affiliated with Volkswagen, but this Liverpool lass' rock-tinged tunes should get your motor running regardless. Her debut EP Start a Riot packs a vocal punch honed by singing back up for the likes of Paloma Faith and Cee Lo Brown. An album is expected in the near future.



Apparently not content with Lorde's world domination, our neighbours cross the Tasman are responsible for this sibling duo. Blending male and female vocals in a manner not unlike fellow Kiwis The Naked and Famous, their self-titled debut EP recalls Imogen Heap's side project Frou Frou. A full album of their minimal electro pop tunes is due later in the year, and with Lorde producer Joel Little on board you can expect big things.

Chlöe Howl

"I'm just trying to work out how to be like myself," sings 19 year old Chlöe Howl on 'Rumour'. Judging by her musical efforts to date, the person she's discovering has a candy heart with a defiant streak. Debut single 'No Strings', featured on the Kick Ass 2 Soundtrack, gave us snappy lines like 'No strings, kinda hope I have twins'. Fresh from support slots for Ellie Goulding, she's gearing up for the release of her first album in June.

Jhené Aiko

After a few false starts label-wise and having worked with the likes of Big Sean and Drake, California’s Jhené Aiko is poised to release her full length debut Souled Out in May. In the meantime, EP Sail Away attracted guest spots from hip-hop darlings Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino.

Aiko has been described as a ‘female Frank Ocean’ because of her sparse, sultry blend of hip-hop and electro, but her influences are as complex as her fantastically diverse ethnic heritage. I thought of Sade and Missy Elliot, but you can choose your own adventure.

Ashley Monroe

At the other end of the musical spectrum, if you're tired of Tay Tay's goody goody antics and fancy your country with a side of grit, you could do a whole lot worse than Ashley Monroe.

Don't be fooled by the innocuous title: her recent album Like a Rose isn't for debutantes. Break out single 'Weed Instead of Roses' reveals a woman with some clear priorities.



We might not yet be clear on what exactly the fox says, but we do know that when Foxes sang on Zedd’s ‘Clarity’ a hit was born.

Taking her stage name from a dream her mother described to her, Louisa Allen promises that her debut album Glorious will have a ‘dark streak’. That streak is not immediately apparent on the energetic single ‘Let’s Go For Tonight’, which has the serious flash mob potential, but if she’s willing to bring the pain I’m happy to hear that too.


5 comments so far

  • Anna Calvi ..........seek her music out.

    Date and time
    May 15, 2014, 8:08AM
    • Music is truly one of the most beautiful gifts shared among all human beings all over our world that rises above earthly matters. It's spiritual and communicates to us on a level beyond words and language. If you connect with a song or a genre gender is irrelevant. Race is irrelevant. Religion is irrelevant. I wonder where the writer would place Conchita Wurst?

      Date and time
      May 15, 2014, 10:18AM
      • I feel like the "only four females" label applied to last year's hottest 100 is a bit misleading - there were female singers in other bands that seem to get forgotten when we think about it. Along with Lorde, London Grammar and Haim were Lana Del Rey at #7, The Preatures (9), Rudimental ft. Ella Eyre (24), CHVRCHES (28), Grouplove (33) and The Jezabels (83). While some of those bands feature both male and female vocalists, I'm sure we can count it as a win. After all, women deserve equal representation and appreciation of talent, not necessarily superior. We're getting there.

        Date and time
        May 15, 2014, 11:29AM
        • "Indie music is arguably an even more male dominated domain"
          Arguably indeed. One could argue that given male musicians would outnumber female ones by a ratio of over 10 to 1 in any genre you care to pick, that 1 in 4 acts in the Hottest 100 were female or female-led would suggest the pathways for talented women to make it to the top in indie music are substantially better than those for men.

          Date and time
          May 15, 2014, 12:39PM
          • A wonderful and talented alt-rock singer I've been getting into recently is Jihae Kim, known on stage by her first name only. Her song "Illusion of You", "The Model" and "Fig Leaves" are all very evocative and beautiful. She reminds me a little of David Bowie.

            Wandering Sylph
            Date and time
            May 15, 2014, 2:25PM

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