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High Five: Female vocalists who have made their mark on our culture

Mariah Carey, Ariana Granda, Jazmine Sullivan, Beyonce, Whitney Houston
Illustration by Muhammad Jallow

In 2019, singers Billie Eilish and Lizzo took the music industry by storm. With just two years of fame under their belts, they have won five and three Grammy Awards respectively. The introduction of these newly-appointed pop icons has called the hierarchy of the best female vocalists into question.

Recently, there has been a trend on the social media app TikTok where users publish their “Top 5 List of Female Vocalists” and others on the platform react. I have yet to encounter a list I agree with, so I have decided to make my own. The criteria used to compile my list is that of pop culture relevance and impact, vocal range and ability and sales.

Whitney Houston 
Best Album: “Whitney Houston”
Whitney Houston was a singer, songwriter and actress. She is known by many as the best singer of all time, mostly credited to her iconic song “I Will Always Love You.” Growing up, my brother and I knew it was cleaning day when we woke up to Houston’s music belting through the halls. Her voice reminds me of the nights when my mother and I would lay in her room falling asleep to The Bodyguard, only to wake up in my bed the next morning. While Houston deserves the number one spot for her impact on my own life alone, her accomplishments definitely don’t hurt her ranking.

Her self-titled album, “Whitney Houston,” introduces her iconic song “Greatest Love of All.” The album received four Grammy nominations and resulted in her first Grammy win in 1986. Whitney Houston has set the path for how I rank women in the music industry. Her influence on pop culture and her critically acclaimed discography is admirable, as many celebrities have yet to achieve what she had. Not only was Houston an icon and leader in music, she continues to serve as an inspiration for me in my daily life.

Best Album: “B’Day”
Beyoncé is arguably the most famous female musician of all time. She is a singer, actress, dancer, songwriter, and film producer, among other things. Beyoncé has won 22 Grammys, more than any other woman, except for Alison Krauss.

Beyoncé is the voice behind several iconic songs, such as “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Drunk In Love,” featuring JAY-Z and “Halo.” While naming Queen Bey’s best album might be difficult, I would have to give it to her second studio album, “B’Day.” This album received several accolades, including the Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B album and produced my personal favorite Beyoncé song “Listen.” Beyoncé continues to set the standard for females in music. 

Mariah Carey
Best Album: “The Emancipation of Mimi”

Mariah Carey is a singer-songwriter known for her whistle notes and smooth vocals. While she is socially recognized as one of the best female vocalists of all time, The Recording Academy has been very stingy to her over the span of her career. Out of 34 Grammy nominations, she has only won five. Despite this, her legacy continues to inspire other female artists, including Ariana Grande, who is also mentioned on this list. 

Choosing Carey’s best album was easy, as it is one of her highest-selling releases in almost a decade and was noted by critics as her “comeback album.” “The Emancipation of Mimi” was Carey’s 10th studio album and includes her most iconic song “We Belong Together.” 

Ariana Grande 
Best Album: “Sweetener”
Ariana Grande began her career in 2008 in the Broadway musical “13.” She is best known for her extensive vocal range and her whistle tones, which often results in her being compared to fellow vocalist Mariah Carey. 

I would say her best album is one of her more recent ones, “Sweetener,” released in 2018. The album’s pop and R&B mixtures allowed audiences to get a full range of Grande’s voice, which cannot be said about her previous albums. 

Ariana Grande is my favorite musician. I have been a fan of her since I was about nine years old when she was introduced to me as Cat Valentine, from the hit Nickelodeon show “Victorious.” In 2019 I had the pleasure of seeing her in concert at the American Airlines Center. It baffled me that she sounds almost the exact same live as she does in her studio recordings. This alone makes her deserving of a spot on this list.

Jazmine Sullivan 
Best Album: “Fearless”
Jazmine Sullivan is an R&B singer-songwriter who rose to fame with her first studio album “Fearless,” which is considered to be her best composition. Based on her debut album, Sullivan was compared to popular artists such as Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. Her debut album alone earned her seven Grammy nominations in 2009 and was certified gold in the United States. Sullivan is recognized for a vocal range and depth that not many other artists have showcased.

I consider Jazmine Sullivan to be one of the more underrated vocalists of today. The “Fearless” album is one of the best compositions of music I have ever heard and is something I hold dear to my heart. “Bust Your Windows,” the first track on the album, is a song my family and I scream out the window of our car when we drive anywhere. The way Sullivan carries herself is admirable, and this, along with her powerful voice, has earned her a spot on my list.

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