Top 50 Female Music Artists of the Recorded Era - An Aussie perspective
This list has been a collaborative project by Contemporary Music staff and researchers at the Southern Cross University School of Arts and Social Sciences.
Making a ‘top 50 list’ of anything is always going to be controversial. Our appreciation of music is so subjective I hear you say, so commercialised!
At Southern Cross University we believe a list that acknowledges the profound contribution that women have made in creating the sounds we listen to on our music playlists is long overdue. And makes for an excellent celebration playlist choice for International World Music Day on October 1.
The list is based around a rationale that considers the following question: Who are the artists that have made a profound contribution to, and have been at the pioneering forefront of, global musical styles emerging in the 20th and 21st centuries?
We compiled the list by looking (and listening to!) the volumes of sonic evidence to be found in the archives of the global recorded music era, beginning with Mamie Smith’s pioneering 1920 vocal recording and million-seller ‘Crazy Blues’, considered to be the first ‘blues’ record in history.
From blues came jazz, rock, funk, punk, electro pop and hip hop and 100-odd years of global music making. Mamie Smith can therefore be seen to have had a profound musical influence on all of us.
Popular and contemporary music has always been a major international commercial industry as well as a global cultural paradigm; so, we developed the ranking of the list taking an equal consideration of the cultural and commercial significance of each of the artists included. Those at the very top of the rankings are either a founding pioneer of their style of music performance or a highly regarded and successful artist based on critical and commercial acclaim.
These rankings are an attempt to overcome subjective notions of importance and influence we make based on our own aesthetic judgement. We have constructed the rankings the same way we have always considered music making more generally within the Southern Cross University Contemporary Music Program: looking (and more importantly listening!) through the sonic lens of 21st century Australian contemporary and popular musical culture.
Yes, it’s a controversial list but one that clearly shows that over the last 100 years the creative practice of female artists has always been at the forefront of innovation and artistic excellence in all styles of global popular music.
The sonic diversity in the playlist highlights the sheer breadth of the world's music, whose sounds owe much to the collective creative practice of these culturally iconic and commercially successful artists who have been often overlooked but we hope will never be forgotten.
Enjoy the playlist and celebrate the musical genius of these truly great women.