International Women’s Month is upon us once again, which means there is no better time to celebrate the mark female artists have left on music. And what better way to honor these singers than to do so with a list of some of the best albums made by women? Ranging from impeccable songwriting to heart-stopping vocals, here is a compiled list of seven of the best female albums made!
“Back the Black” by Amy Winehouse
The seminal album “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse was as bold and influential as an album can be. Released in 2006 by Winehouse, a relatively new artist from England at the time, with her immediately identifiable voice and unapologetic demeanor, “Back to Black” went on to become a universal album filled with heartache, grief and drugs. Winehouse was nominated for six Grammys at the 50th Grammy Awards and won five of them, including Song and Record of the Year for the Mark Ronson-produced lead single, “Rehab.” The album as a whole is embedded with several expressions of Winehouse’s dark and dangerous lifestyle and her own infidelity affecting her relationships, as told in “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab.” These themes of Winehouse’s struggles with her brazen existence occasionally turn into complete honesty over her own loneliness and loss, as told in the album’s raw ballad, “Love Is a Losing Game.”
“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill
In 1998, singer and rapper Lauryn Hill released her debut album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” After discovering she was pregnant, Hill left touring with her band and found herself in a creative supernova, which resulted in her writing this album. “Miseducation” stands as a neo-soul album with hip-hop and R&B roots featuring Hill’s ability to move between rapping and singing effortlessly. The album contains elements of God and motherhood, love and heartbreak, liberation and career. From the heartbreak-driven duet with Mary J. Blidge on “I Used to Love Him” to the sympathy over resentment on “Forgive Them Father,” Hill stands tall on top of the soulful mountain she created in 16 tracks. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is renowned as one of the best albums of all time and the only solo studio album Lauryn Hill ever made.
“21” by Adele
If there is any album that dominated the early 2010s the most, Adele’s “21” stands front-and-center. The soulful pop sophomore album from the British singer-songwriter topped just about every international music chart there is. Recorded in the aftermath of a horrible breakup, 21-year-old Adele Adkins created a work of art so timeless and profound that it is renowned as one of the greatest albums ever made. Adele won six Grammys at the 54th Grammy Awards for “21,” most notably for Song, Record and Album of the Year. “21” extended the Motown style prevalent in her debut album “19” but embraced Southern blues and folk combined with her heart-wrenching lyrics and once-in-a-lifetime voice. “21” is an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. One minute listening to the confident, revenge anthem called “Rolling in the Deep” to the next minute hearing the tragic piano ballad that is “Someone Like You.” Between the gossip-filled friends on Rumour Has It to the show-stopping vulnerability of “Take It All,” “21” continues to earn its place in the lives of listeners everywhere.
“1989” by Taylor Swift
Anybody who is a fan of Taylor Swift has their own opinion on which of her albums is her best. A case can be made for every one of them, but it’s impossible to look over how “1989” redefined not only pop music itself but Swift’s entire musical direction. “1989” came at the climax of Swift’s career, as she had been slowly slipping away from outright country into pop music. “1989” was her first official pop album and served as a new start for Swift, who had cut her hair, moved to New York and found happiness in a world where she was not in love. Beginning with the release of “Shake It Off” in August of 2014, the album was perfectly set-up for a new sound of pop music. From the satire and sarcasm of “Blank Space,” the perfect pop masterpiece of “Style” and the feud-instilled anthem of “Bad Blood,” Swift created some of the most formative pop hits of the 2010s. She received ten nominations at the 57th and 58th Grammy Awards for “1989,” including her second win for Album of the Year, which made her the first woman ever to win this award twice.
“Jagged Little Pill” by Alanis Morissette
The pop-punk, smash hit album from 1995, “Jagged Little Pill,” showed the departure of Alanis Morissette’s dance-pop sound from her two previous albums to a new alternative-rock masterpiece. “Jagged Little Pill” was renowned at the time for its unabashed, unapologetic anger and hurt from Morissette after her failed relationship. The album won four Grammys in 1996, including Album of the Year, and even resulted in a Broadway musical based on the album being made in 2018 and resulted in 15 Tony Awards nominations. “Jagged Little Pill” goes from the life-lessons and fullest potential of “You Learn” to the unfortunate irony of situations on “Ironic.” Morissette’s upfront, unashamed persona echoes through in the confrontational angst on “All I Really Want” to the understandable acceptance of “Hand in My Pocket.” “Jagged Little Pill” remains the epitome of boldness and post-grunge aggression told through the distinctive rasp of Alanis Morissette’s iconic voice.
“Lemonade” by Beyonce
In the Spring of 2016, Beyonce Knowles released her sixth studio album, “Lemonade.” “Lemonade” deals with the feelings and aching surrounding her husband’s known infidelity in a racial and cultural context. Beyonce, who was beloved for her empowering hits and killer vocals, presented unbelievable vulnerability within the tracks of “Lemonade.” This concept album consists of Beyonce’s emotional journey from frustration to sadness to forgiveness that made it a universal connection to all who heard it. “Lemonade” went on to debut at the top of the Billboard 200, win two Grammys and is critically acclaimed as the best album of Beyonce’s career as it is featured on many ‘best albums of all time’ lists. The opening track, “Pray You Catch Me,” begins the album with such a raw, emotional expression of suspicion over her husband’s infidelity and lets the listener know just exactly what she was feeling while singing, “Pray to catch you whispering/I pray you catch me listening.” “Lemonade” also consists of effortless transitions between genres from the country-bluegrass sound of “Daddy Lessons” to the empowering, hip-hop anthem of “Freedom” feat. Kendrick Lamar. “Lemonade” made its mark as a formidable concept album from one of the world’s greatest superstars.
“Tapestry” by Carole King
The 1971 singer-songwriter classic “Tapestry” by Carole King remains one of the most prolific, honest albums of all time. With this album, King made a name for herself with her unfettered truthfulness in her own self-discovery. “Tapestry” won four Grammys in 1972, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year “You’ve Got A Friend” and Record of the Year “It’s Too Late.” Her songs “So Far Away” and “Where You Lead” (what many know as Gilmore Girls’ theme song) emphasize a soulful simplicity. From the confident love song “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman” that King wrote for Aretha Franklin, to the life-long journey depicted in the title track “Tapestry,” the album as a whole remains a perfect deliverance of escapism and simple truths that are understood by all.
Spend this International Women’s Month celebrating your favorite things made by women, whether that be films, works of art, books or even more of your personal favorite female music artists. Take this time and opportunity to expand your horizons and honor the women in your life who make things better!