Top 10 Female R&B Singers

Script written by George Pacheco. These are the R&B voices that defined generations. Join MsMojo as we count down our definitive pics for the Top 10 Female R&B singers, including Etta James, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston and more! We will be looking at the most popular and influential female vocalists within the R&B genre, like Lauryn Hill, Patti LaBelle, Maria Carey, etc. We'll be omitting Tina Turner from this list, as she's often referred to as "The Queen of Rock 'n Roll," as well as music artists who tend to specialize primarily in jazz, such as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, as they all deserve mentioning on a different list. Didn't see your favourite artist? Be sure to checkout our ranking of the Top 10 Female Musicians Who Fell Off the Map: MsMojo's Social Media: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Snapchat: Special thanks to King Paul the Critic, Jonathan Adams and Philip Folta for submitting this idea on our interactive suggestion tool at

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Script written by George Pacheco.

Top 10 Female RnB Singers

They're the voices that defined their respective genres and generations. Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Female RnB Singers.

For this list, we're ranking the most popular and influential female vocalists who performed within the R&B genre. We'll be omitting Tina Turner from this list, as she's often referred to as "The Queen of Rock 'n Roll," as well as artists who tend to specialize primarily in jazz, such as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, as they all deserve mentioning on a different list.

#10: Etta James

The first lady on our list had a voice so powerful that she could induce tears from the very moment it hit the ears. Etta James started her career in the early Sixties with her smash hit "At Last" from the album of the same name, and continued to work within a variety of genres, from soul, blues and gospel to her beloved R&B. In fact, James is credited as an important uniting force between R&B and the primal roots of rock 'n roll, thanks to her confident and charismatic presence behind the microphone. Etta James may be gone, but her talent and influence will never be forgotten.

#9: Janet Jackson

Her name is Janet, but you can call her Miss Jackson if you're nasty. This youngest child of the famous Jackson family broke out on her own as a bona fide musical sensation after initially setting her creative sights on the world of acting. Janet did appear on such popular programs as "Good Times" and "Fame" during the early days of her music career, but it would be her third album, Control that firmly established the singer as a major player in 1986. The album incorporated a diverse array of funky R&B influences into her musical mix, while in the process establishing the singer as the most successful Jackson sibling next to her brother Michael.

#8: Chaka Khan

If there's one theme that runs consistently throughout the artists on this list, it's their collective ability to move effortlessly between musical styles, while always remaining true to their R&B roots. One singer which exemplifies this notion perfectly is Chaka Khan, a Chicago native who first rose to prominence fronting the 70s funk band known as Rufus. Since then, Chaka Khan stayed continually relevant as a singer unafraid to change with the times, whether that might be utilizing a rapper on her song "I Feel For You" to collaborations with artists influenced by her work throughout the years, such as Mary J. Blige.

#7: Mary J. Blige

Speaking of Ms. Mary J., she appears next on our list as one of R&B's most respected and in demand singers of all time. Very few performers are able to connect with their audience in quite the same way as Mary J. Blige, thanks to the raw emotion and transparent passion which seem to be ever-present within her music. Mary J.'s discography ranges from smooth R&B jams to heart-wrenching, plaintive ballad tracks, all delivered with that classic Blige charisma and style. This New Yorker speaks the truth and offers comfort to those in need, making her easily one of the true R&B greats.

#6: Alicia Keys

It's a fact that all of the women on our list are incredibly talented singers and performers, but this next artist also brings to the table a virtuoso amount of instrumental chops. Alicia Keys seems to do it all: singing, writing, producing and even acting, all the while thrilling her loyal fans with her jaw-dropping piano skills every night while on tour. An Alicia Keys performance always seems to promise intensity, and it's that palpable energy which had made Keys an enduring force in the world of R&B. This girl is on fire, and that flame doesn't look to be extinguished any time soon.

#5: Beyoncé

Who runs the world? Well, if you're asking her millions of fans from around the world, that person is most likely the Queen Bey herself, Beyoncé Knowles. It's been a meteoric rise to the top for this former member of 90s R&B group Destiny's Child, and one that's been achieved largely due to Beyoncé’s tireless work ethic and dedication to breaking the R&B mold. Knowles has consistently seemed to give her audience what they want before they know it themselves, including the 2013 release of her self-titled fifth album to ITunes without any prior announcement. The singer hasn't stopped, however, releasing her sixth album Lemonade in 2016 to immense critical and commercial acclaim.

#4: Diana Ross

The world of women within R&B music owes a massive debt to the career of Diana Ross, which has been going strong since her days fronting the definitive girl group of Motown, The Supremes. Ross has always had an ear for a great song, whether it's her work on film soundtracks or from any number of the singer's solid gold studio efforts. The odds are probably pretty good that you know a bunch of them, too, whether it's her theme from the 1975 film "Mahogany" to her number one hit duet with Lionel Richie, "Endless Love." Simply put? Ms. Diana Ross is R&B royalty.

#3: Mariah Carey

She has a voice that scaled heights previously unknown to human ears, and she's been a mainstay on R&B radio for over twenty years. Her name is Mariah Carey, and she's inspired legions of young singers in her creative wake, thanks to her propensity for intense vocal acrobatics, which were unheard of back when her self-titled debut for Columbia Records dropped in 1990. Carey didn't disappoint her fans in the years following her breakthrough, either, with albums such as Emotions and Butterfly positioning the determined singer straight in the crosshairs of commercial stardom and pop crossover appeal.

#2: Whitney Houston

Power, grace and passion. These are just a few words that describe the voice and performance of Whitney Houston during the prime of her career in the 1980s and 90s. A cousin to R&B soul sensation Dionne Warwick, Whitney carved a formidable career of her own, thanks to a 1985 debut album which has sold over thirty million copies across the world. Houston's stellar vocal control lead the charge on such singles as "Saving All My Love for You" and a cover of "The Greatest Love of All" would create the blueprint for the further success on yet another cover, this time of the Dolly Parton penned "I Will Always Love You" for the hit 1992 film "The Bodyguard."

Before we name our number one member of R&B royalty, here are a few honorable mentions!

Patti LaBelle

Erykah Badu

Lauryn Hill

Toni Braxton

Gladys Knight

Minnie Ripperton

#1: Aretha Franklin

She's the "Queen of Soul," a singer whose humble beginnings singing in her father's gospel choir eventually led to a career as one of the defining female voices of all time. Aretha Franklin may have bolted out of the gate with the smash hits "Respect" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," but the singer also went on to score 20 number one R&B singles for Billboard. She even wowed audiences at the 1998 Grammy Awards when she filled in for an ill Luciano Pavarotti with her stunning take on the classic opera piece "Nessun Dorma," despite it being out of her vocal range. Truly, Aretha Franklin can do it all, so it's no wonder why she takes our top spot.

Do you agree with our list? Which female R&B singer do you feel belongs at the top? For more soulful top ten lists, published every day, please subscribe to MsMojo!

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