Top 10 Most Difficult Songs for Female Singers
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Top 10 Most Difficult Songs for Female Singers

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Sarah O'Sullivan
Only the best female singers can pull off these difficult songs. For this list, we'll be looking at tunes that are not just difficult, but seem impossible for all but a few people to sing well! Our countdown includes "Rolling in the Deep," "Chandelier," "Listen," and more!

Top 10 Most Difficult Songs for Female Singers

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Difficult Songs for Female Singers.

For this list, we’ll be looking at tunes that are not just difficult, but seem impossible for all but a few people to sing well!

There are a lot of challenging songs out there. If you think we missed one that is a real show-stopper, please write about it in the comments!

#10: “Rolling in the Deep”

“Rolling in the Deep'' was the song that first brought English singer Adele to international stardom, and for good reason. Written in response to a heated breakup she once had, the lyrics tell a personal story: it’s a song about a lover telling her ex that he is too foolish to see how much he could have had with her. It’s an angry, passionate tune: there are no whispers of despair in this brassy number, and only a strong singer with both low- and high-range vocal power can pull it off. Adele beautifully communicates the anger in the track without sacrificing the purity of her sound.

#9: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”
Jennifer Holliday

When Jennifer Holliday originated the role of Effie White in “Dreamgirls” on Broadway in 1981, this number brought down the house; Holliday won a Tony Award and was set on the path to pop and R&B fame. This song takes place after a stormy scene where Effie finds out she has been thrown out of her singing group; she adamantly insists to the manager that she is staying, no matter what, because she loves him. Strong, high belting and convincing drama are essential to the musical number, which makes it effective only when sung by a very talented singer and actress.

#8: “Lovin’ You”
Minnie Riperton

Though she performed with Stevie Wonder and Rotary Connection, Minnie Riperton spent most of her career struggling to be noticed–she died tragically young, succumbing to cancer when she was only thirty-one years old. However, she did have one smash hit single, and this is it. “Lovin’ You” is a soothing, repetitive track, seemingly simple, but by no means easy to pull off; some of the notes are so high, they have been mistaken for bird whistles! There actually are some bird twitters in the background, but those sweet fluting notes are all Riperton, who makes them sound amazingly effortless.

#7: “Don’t Rain on My Parade”
Barbra Streisand

Notoriously difficult, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is from the musical “Funny Girl”, which was based on the life of Fanny Brice. Barbra Streisand, who played the lead role on Broadway in 1964 and won an Oscar for her performance in the movie adaptation, makes it sound quite natural; however, the song’s tricky rhythms, frequent leaps, and consistent high energy have daunted many aspiring vocalists. Although a few professionals like Bea Arthur and Idina Menzel have covered the song, the musical wasn’t revived on Broadway for decades - possibly because of the challenge of finding someone for that dynamic leading role. Though there is a revival production set for March 2022.

#6: “Wuthering Heights”
Kate Bush

Inspired by Emily Brontë’s tale of tempestuous romance, the song “Wuthering Heights” focuses on the part of the story where Catherine’s ghost returns to Heathcliff after their many years of anger and misunderstanding in life. The song took the world by storm in 1978, topping charts throughout the UK. Kate Bush has a style that is extremely difficult to imitate, and while her voice sounds natural and sweet in the single’s high falsetto runs, they are extremely difficult for most singers to achieve. And as if that weren’t enough, the backing track gives almost no support–as many karaoke performers have discovered, to their dismay.

#5: “Chandelier”

Sia has made a successful career writing songs for other singers, and originally, she intended “Chandelier” to be sung by Rihanna, with some sources also adding Beyoncé. But as she crafted the track, she realized it was one she needed to sing herself. Although it is somewhat gritty and raw, describing the effects of hard partying and addiction, “Chandelier” still requires an accomplished singer; from low, rapid mutters, to high leaps and strong held notes, it’s a wild ride. Sia’s voice blends pain and lyricism in a way that makes this song uniquely hers–and because of both her talents and her personal connection with the song, it’s doubtful whether anyone else could perform it so effectively.

#4: “All by Myself”
Celine Dion

Céline Dion has won acclaim for many dramatic and challenging songs, but this one stretched even her impressive powers: a quiet, introspective beginning leads to a swelling key change, and finally, a passionate outpouring of sorrow that demands strong, sustained high notes relentlessly. As with all deeply emotional pieces, the singer must be expressive without losing the beauty of the sound; not an easy task at any time, but particularly hard when you are belting very high and very loud in front of a large audience. “All By Myself” has become one of Dion’s most iconic songs - despite being a cover of an Eric Carmen original - and there’s a good reason you rarely hear someone else attempt it.

#3: “Listen”

While this song is also technically from “Dreamgirls”, it did not appear in the original musical; it was specially written for the 2006 movie adaptation. “Listen” is sung by a character who has felt stifled and uncertain throughout, until she finally breaks out into this show-stopping number and demands that people listen to what she has to say. It is a fierce and dynamic tour de force, with big leaps, florid riffs, and long runs that require a strong, powerful voice to perform well; Beyoncé does an amazing job of keeping up the passion and volume without sacrificing any of that gorgeous flexibility.

#2: “I Will Always Love You”
Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston had a voice unlike anyone else’s. She won fame singing not just original songs, but covers, and classics that had been done a hundred times, like “The Star-Spangled Banner.” However, this tune–originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton–is probably Houston’s most famous. The stamina and versatility required to sing “I Will Always Love You” are just the beginning. Because of the single’s wide range of notes and dynamics, the singer must be able to adopt many different vocal characters, from sweetly quiet to powerfully low and finally to triumphantly (but gorgeously) high. Or, at least, that is the way Houston sang it–and nearly everyone else has been too daunted to tackle it since!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions!

“Un-Break My Heart”, Toni Braxton
Amazingly Low Builds to Amazingly High!

“Hurt”, Christina Aguilera
High Belting That Just Doesn’t Let Up

“Imagine”, Ariana Grande
Fast Patter & Blunt Staccato, Done Beautifully

“Total Eclipse of the Heart”, Bonnie Tyler
The Single Version Is Four & a Half Minutes of Power Ballad Passion!

“How Can I Ease the Pain”, Lisa Fischer
Incredible Leaps, Runs, & High Notes!

#1: “Emotions”
Mariah Carey

Many of our audience members probably guessed that a vocal performance by Mariah Carey was coming, they just didn’t know which. Like Whitney Houston, Carey seems to be capable of performing vocal feats that are beyond those of regular mortals, and this one is a perfect example. “Emotions” is an upbeat R&B, post-disco hit with no room for rest–one cannot help but wonder at Carey’s constant high-energy belting, seemingly effortless runs, and of course, those incredible high notes soaring up into the stratosphere. A good operatic soprano could probably hit them, but rarely are notes so high heard with such pure and beautiful clarity. It all adds up to make this a fitting choice for our top most difficult song.