15 Best Female Punk Singers Of All Time
Female Punk singers range from legends like Debbie Harry and Patti Smith to young bloods like Willow Smith and Phoebe Bridgers.
The ladies are a unique respite in the male-dominated genre.
Women have always been integral in rock and roll and punk is no different. However, the genre has not always respected women as its ethos of freedom ought to make so, but despite the bigotry and misogyny, many women have thrived in the genre from its beginnings to now.
In the modern age, female punk rockers have found a new lease on life and see a hitherto unknown level of acceptance and celebrity. In fact, many of them find fame and acclaim that previous generations usually could only dream of.
This list is made up of some prominent Female Punk Rock singers, ranked from newcomers to immortal legends.
Female Punk Singers Ranked by Age:
|15. Bela Salazer||18|
|14. Willow Smith||22|
|13. Suzuka Nakamoto||25|
|12. Heather Baron-Gracie||28|
|11. Phoebe Bridgers||28|
|10. Taylor Momsen||29|
|9. Hailey Williams||34|
|8. Avril Lavigne||38|
|7. Karen O||44|
|6. Carrie Brownstein||48|
|5. Kathleen Hanna||54|
|4. Courtney Love||58|
|3. Kim Gordon||69|
|2. Patti Smith||76|
|1. Debbie Harry||77|
15. Bela Salazer
Bela Salazer is the main singer of the all-girl punk band, The Linda Lindas. She is 18 years old and was born on September 16, 2004.
The singer and the rest of her band formed when one of the members, Eloise Wong's father, Martin Wong, asked her to play with the rest of the members for a music festival called Girlschool LA. Originally meant to be a one-off project, the band has stuck together since.
Bela and the rest of the girls continued playing music and even did gigs with bands like Best Coast, Alice Bag, and Bleached to name a few. They got their big break a year later in 2019 when actress and producer Amy Poehler saw them open for Bikini Kill and had them record songs for her movie, Moxie.
They gained a lot of fame for being a group of young girls who sing about socially conscious topics like their most popular song, "Racist, Sexist Boy." Though all members of the band sing, Bela is known to be the main singer and leader and is also the oldest member of the band while her bandmates are 15, 16, and 12 respectively.
14. Willow Smith
Willow Smith is the daughter of Will Smith and has gained fame as an actress and singer. She is 22 years old and was born on October 31, 2000.
Willow has been making music since she was seven years old and even had a hit song when she was only ten years old with her 2010 single, Whip My Hair, which reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
She has continued releasing music since then but only recently regained the mainstream relevance she received in the early 2010s but with a genre change. Her earlier music was rooted in bubblegum pop, but she has now started making pop-punk music which has been called a throwback to 2000s-era pop punk in the same flavor as bands like Blink 182, Good Charlotte, and Fall Out Boy.
Her use of pop-punk and emo has been welcomed by many and has been controversial among some as people think that she, as a child of immense wealth, cannot uphold the DIY attitude of punk rock. Some have even thrown racist tantrums at her, but Willow has continued making music to much success, regardless of what people have been saying about her.
13. Suzuka Nakamoto
Suzuka Nakamoto is the leader and main singer of the Japanese punk/metal band, Baby Metal. She is 25 years old and was born on December 20, 1997.
Known as Su-metal to her fans, Suzuka has been active in music since 2007 and was originally part of a J-Pop girl group called Karen Girls. Then, she became a member of an idol group called Sakura Gakuin in April 2010.
Babymetal first came out as a sub-unit of Sakura Gakuin, which is a famous practice amongst idol groups in Japan and Korea, and Baby Metal initially worked as the Heavy Music sub-until of the main group. However, through the success of Babymetal, the group soon became independent of Sakura Gakuin, and a fully formed group of their own accord.
The group originally consisted of Sakura as Su-Metal, Moa Kikuchi as Moametal, and Yui Mizuno as Yuimetal, who left the band in 2018, leaving Sakura and Moa to be the only singers left in the band. All three singers, and Sakura in particular, made the band famous due to their bubbly voices and personality clashing with the intense background music of their backing band, the Kami band.
12. Heather Baron-Gracie
Heather Baron-Gracie is the singer and frontwoman of the indie/punk band, Pale Waves. She is 28 years old and was born on January 17, 1995.
Heather is instantly recognizable for her iconic stage persona which includes her curly, white hair (which is now black), and pale skin, from where the band gets its name from. She formed the band in 2014 alongside her friend and drummer Ciara Doran.
The band initially gained fame through the success of their 2017 sophomore single, Television Romance which introduced the world to their mellow sound and Heather's iconic looks, which instantly brought both the band and Heather many fans. They have continued their ascent in rock stardom since they released their debut EP, All The Things I Never Said in February 2018.
Heather can be seen as the latest icon in a long line of punk singers who have adopted an aesthetic style that resembles gothic punk. The singer has dubbed her style a moody vampire, and is very proud of how she looks, despite many critics and detractors stating that she was goth-baiting as her band dress normally compared to her.
11. Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter known for her unique brand of punk, indie-folk, and electronica. She is 28 years old and was born on August 17, 1994.
She gained fame at the turn of the decade for her sophomore album, Punisher, but has been making music since 2014, when she was 20 years old. The singer released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps in 2017, three years after she started her professional career.
Her early career saw a bit of controversy due to her relationship with the much older Ryan Adams. It harmed his career and helped hers due to her allegations of abuse stalled the older singer's career, while Phoebe's ability to draw inspiration from her plight led to one of her most popular songs, Motion Sickness.
Phoebe is currently seeing a previously un-thought of level of success as her album Punisher has quickly become one of the most well-regarded albums of the 2020s. It not only sold well but was critically acclaimed and earned the singer four Grammy Award nominations, including one for Best New Artist, though she failed to win any of them.
10. Taylor Momsen
Taylor Momsen is an actress and singer known for fronting the band, The Pretty Reckless. She s 29 years old and was born on July 26, 1993.
Momsen first gained national fame for her role as Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey-led 2000 live-action adaptation of Dr. Seus's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. She continued her on-screen success with her role as Jenny Humphrey on the teen drama series, Gossip Girl.
However, around the time she was filming Gossip Girl, Momsen formed an alternative/ punk band named The Pretty Reckless which was a sharp departure from the wholesome image that had been crafted of her in public due to her role as Cindy Lou. The band's music was dirty and grimy, and Momsen played up the debauchery through the music videos where she presented lewdly.
The band saw so much success right out of the gate that Momsen decided to put acting on pause so she could focus on her band instead. They have gone on to become the first female-led rock band to have five number-one hits on the US rock charts, which has only made Momsen more of a critical and commercial darling for rock fans.
9. Hailey Williams
Hayley Williams is the singer and frontwoman of the punk band, Paramore. She is 34 years old and was born on December 27, 1988.
One of the most important figures in 2000s emo and pop punk, Williams started her career in 2003 at the age of 15. Since then, Williams has gone on to have a successful career in both her band, Paramore, and as a solo and featured artist.
She is known especially for her powerful voice with which she has sung some of the most cutting and abrasive songs and some of the most heart-wrenching ballads in the entire genre. The singer was also the poster child for the scene movement of the mid-to-late 2000s that saw men and women straighten their hair, wear makeup, and tight but not revealing clothing.
Both Williams and her band, Paramore, are one of the few acts from the 2000s that survived their era and moved on to succeeding ones by evolving their sound but not completely divorcing from it. Their ability to do so has given the band as a whole, but especially Hailey, a level of respect, adoration, and an iconic status that is unrivaled in all pop-punk and female-fronted bands in general.
8. Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne is a Canadian singer and pop-punk icon. She is 38 years old and was born on September 27, 1984.
Like Hayley Williams, Avril has long been immortalized in the annals of pop-punk as an icon. However, while Hailey appeared during the heyday of pop-punk, Avril can be credited with single-handedly popularizing the genre and taking it from garages and college radio to stadiums and mainstream radio stations.
Having already signed a major label deal at the young age of 16, Avril went on to release her debut album, the seminal record, Let Go, in 2002, and it is not only the best-selling album by a Canadian artist in the 21st century but responsible for kicking down the doors for pop-punk to rule the 2000s as it did with all bands, like Paramore, who came and followed her lead.
Avril's skate-punk persona, good looks, nonchalant attitude, and heart-wrenching lyrics made her one of the biggest stars of the decade, and she not only laid down the blueprint for pop-punk's mainstream success but was its leader in many regards.. Though her mainstream success has waned with the years, owing to pop-punk's decline in popularity and relevancy, Avril remains one of the most beloved figures of that era of music.
7. Karen O
Karen O is the lead singer and frontwoman of the indie rock band, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She is 44 years old and was born on November 22, 1978.
Karen is a leading figure of the 2000s alternative rock and punk movement which ran side-by-side with the pop-punk music that Hayley and Avril signified. Though less successful in the mainstream than the other two, Karen, her band, and many like her, influenced and continue to influence many groups to this day.
As the lead singer of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen became a key figure in the underground and alternative rock scene of the 2000s, especially the one centered in New York, and appeared as one of the elite figures of the post-punk revival movement. Some of their songs like Maps, and Heads Will Roll also saw commercial success.
Aside from her work with her band, Karen has also collaborated with many other prominent artists which has gone a long way in helping her gain more cultural and critical relevancy. Some of her biggest collaborations have been with prominent alternative and punk bands like the Flaming Lips, Swans, and the Smashing Pumpkins guitarist, James Iha.
6. Carrie Brownstein
Carrie Brownstein is an actress and singer known for leading the band, Sleater Kinney. She is 48 years old and was born on September 27, 1974.
Brownstein is best known for singing in, writing lyrics for, and playing the guitars in Sleater Kinney, who are one of the most underrated and criminally underappreciated punk bands of the 90s. Alongside co-singer Corin Tucker, and former drummer Janet Weiss, Brownstein created some of the most visceral and cathartic music of the 90s.
Routinely ignored by the misogynistic rock media of the 1990s, Brownstein and co nonetheless persevered and have created ten amazing punk albums through a career that has lasted almost thirty years. She and Corin have decided to continue the band despite Janet's departure in 2019.
Aside from music, Carrie is equally as popular, and perhaps more so for mainstream audiences for starring in the satire comedy show Portlandia, which she writes and stars with co-creator and friend, Fred Armisen. The series has gone on to win both Emmy and Peabody Awards and helped Carrie shine a greater light on the music of Sleater Kinney, which still remains underrated in mainstream circles.
5. Kathleen Hanna
Kathleen Hanna is a singer and seminal figure in 90s punk music. She is 54 years old and was born on November 12, 1968.
Hanna is known for not only her singing but her feminist activism as well. She mixed the two early in her career when she pioneered the feminist punk music movement, riot grrrl, which existed alongside Grunge music.
Frustrated by the male chauvinism of Grunge and much of rock and roll, Hannah pioneered riot grrrl as a genre where women can create music for women by women. She was in one of the most important bands in the genre, Bikini Kill, which also featured other prominent members of 90s punk rock like Tobi Vail, and made abrasive and loud music.
Despite the gradual decline of riot grrrl, Hannah has continued making music, first in Bikini Kill throughout the 1990s, then in Le Tigre through the late 90s and 2000s. Currently, she has started recording in her newest band, the Julie Ruin, and remains one of the most pivotal figures in female-led rock and punk music despite being over 30 years into her career.
4. Courtney Love
Courtney Love is perhaps the most famous female punk rocker of the 90s. She is 58 years old and was born on July 9, 1964.
Love is best known for her non-music-related antics rather than her music. Most people know her as the wife of the ill-fated Grunge legend, Kurt Cobain, and many even blame her for his passing, despite no evidence that leads to that conclusion.
What's sad about that public condemnation is the fact that Love was the frontwoman of one of the most exciting punk bands of the entire decade, Hole. With Hole, the singer made some of the most daring, forward-thinking, abrasive, and cathartic music not only in female-led punk but punk in general.
Courtney continued to make music after Kurt's passing and Hole's disbanding, and her ill-received solo album, and Hole's last album that she made by herself contained some of her best music. Sadly, the music and her musical endeavors as a whole still continue to be overshadowed by Cobain's legacy, with as many fans still blaming her for Cobain as there are those who defend her against them.
3. Kim Gordon
Kim Gordon is the singer and guitarist for the punk band, Sonic Youth. She is 69 years old and was born on April 28, 1953.
With Sonic Youth, Kim created some of the most well-regarded and influential music of the 80s and 90s and influenced almost every preceding person on this list.
Though not a powerful singer, or much of a singer at all, Gordon instead sang to her strengths and focused on a monotone singing voice. This gave her band members the ability to concentrate on going loud to complement her voice which gave rise to their style.
Gordon continues to influence punk and rock well into her 60s and still remains one of the best-regarded figures of her era and punk. She is seen as a pioneer, and deservedly so.
2. Patti Smith
Patti Smith is to punk what Bob Dylan is to rock. She is 76 years old and was born on December 30, 1946.
With the release of her debut album, Horses, Patti helped usher in punk, not any sub-genre, but punk itself, and quickly became one of the pivotal figures in her genre. Her debut album is still seen as one of the most important punk albums in existence.
She has continued her career well into her 70s and has released over 8 albums as a solo act, and three more albums with her band, the Patti Smith Group.
The singer is also a poet and a writer and has earned an equal amount of respect in that field with the release of her memoir, Just Kids. It has been immortalized in the annals of rock memoirs.
1. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry was one of the first popular female punk singers alongside Patti Smith. She is 77 years old and was born on July 1, 1945.
Known as the lead singer of the prominent punk and New Wave band, Blondie, Harry can be seen as the mainstream equivalent of Patti Smith. While one is more critically lauded, the other was more commercially successful.
However, Harry and her work with Blondie is as seminal to punk and its development as a genre as anything Patti Smith did. Harry's influence on punk and pop continues to reverberate to this day, and she is seen by many as the prototype.
Curiously, she is also the first rapper to hit number 1 as one of the band's singles, Rapture, was the first song with a rap verse to hit number 1. Of course, Harry was the one who rapped the verse.
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