Who’s been dominating your playlists this year? If it’s any of the powerful womxn listed below, you’re doing things right. 2019 was a triumphant year for womxn in music, from Grammy wins to chart-topping singles to working hard every day to break the mold and raise hell. This is, of course, a condensed list of the most influential womxn in music this year. Check out our top 11, but make sure to do your own research and discover the innumerable artists breaking barriers and creating art that transcends just music. We’re not here to compare womxn to each other, so this list is in no particular order.
If Melissa Jefferson, professionally known as Lizzo, proved anything in 2019, it’s that she is without a doubt “100% that bitch.” Serving up hit singles one after the other, Lizzo’s “good as hell” talent took far too many years for the entertainment industry to recognize. Touching on crucial subjects like sexuality, body positivity and race in her music, Lizzo dominated 2019’s airwaves. You can blame it on more than the juice — it’s her dedication to the craft and undeniable talent that stand out the most.
This 17-year-old alternative pop icon may have risen to popularity before this year, but 2019 was really the season that catapulted Miss Eilish into the limelight — and we’re not talking about her hair color. When “bad guy” dropped in March, it seemed as though Billie Eilish’s career finally hit the road sprinting. With countless sold-out tours, media appearances and even the title of Billboard’s 2019 Woman of the Year, Billie is set up to get everything she’s wanted much sooner than later.
All respects to the queen — Brittany Howard, that is. Known as the frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, Howard spent her 2019 releasing a solo album and touring the country to audiences’ delight. Naming her new album Jaime after her sister who died of cancer when she was a teenager, Howard brought attention to the delicate nature of life. A record of her personal journey, Howard is firm in her beliefs; the solo album was thus her way of conveying that power in her own voice. Reviving that old-soul grit and passionate rasp, Brittany Howard is sure to keep informing taste for years to come.
Megan Thee Stallion
Hot girl summer lasted more than a few months with Megan Thee Stallion. Born Megan Pete, the Houston rapper claimed the song of the summer, working alongside Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign all while chasing a college degree at Texas Southern University. Signed as the first woman on the label 300 Entertainment, Megan’s newest album Fever defined how to be a true hustler in 2019’s rap game.
When Kacey Musgraves won the Grammy for 2019 Album of the Year, people across the world were saying “Who is she?” Well, damned if she didn’t show us just who she was after winning hearts over and giving us butterflies all year long. Redefining the country music genre through her progressive lyrics, addressing sexuality, experimentation and religion through a lens of acceptance, Musgraves is making sure people stop saying they listen to everything but country.
Tahliah Debrett Barnett, known in the music world as FKA twigs, is a sonic gift that keeps on giving. Raised in England, she commands attention with her skills as a musician, dancer and songwriter in the avant-garde pop genre. She’s been working her career since at least 2012, but her release of Magdalene in November changed the game of live music experiences. Incorporating pole dance and elaborate costuming, FKA twigs has created a character for herself that translates onstage through her confidence.
Never performing under the shadow of her sister, Solange Knowles has been releasing music and playing the energy game since she was 16. Now 33, Solange’s experience has refined her music to be full of informed wisdom and perfected maturity. Known for her expectation-defying sound and anti-entertainment art installations, Solange spent the year sharing her newest records, When I Get Home and the Solo Star karaoke re-release. Dropping two albums in one year is no small feat, but for a capable artist like Solange, this is just another crane in the sky.
It would have been a crime for us to not include an artist with a song called “Pussy Is God.” Releasing her first album, Cheap Queen, this year, it has truly been a time of accomplishment for Mikaela Straus, better known to listeners as King Princess. After leaving USC to pursue a music career, the songstress went on to advocate as a LGBTQ+ voice in music at only 20 years old. Appearing on her album cover with classic drag queen makeup and armpit hair galore, King Princess is challenging conceptions of femininity with a flair of badass grace.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen has come a long way since her “Call Me Maybe” days. Many people still hold those outdated, contrived conceptions of her as a mainstream pop artist, but Jepsen has traversed many stages since then. After a stint on Broadway and various musical roles on television, her newest album Dedicated is an homage to her growth and the muses who inspired her to reach global fame.
We have to send a “thank u” to Ariana Grande for the blessing she dropped on the pop genre with her 2019 release, thank u, next. With anthems like “imagine” and “7 rings,” Grande channeled her emotions following the death of her late former partner Mac Miller and breakup with comedian Pete Davidson. But her success is nowhere near reliant on the romantic partners she’s had — if anything, her rise this year was reflective of her grounding within herself as an artist. Her ever-present confidence and otherworldly vocal abilities have skyrocketed her onto top charts all over the world, and we can only wait to see what she’s hiding in her high ponytail for next year.
One of the more under-the-radar artists on our list, Malaysia’s Yuna has been quietly making waves in the universal music scene every year since she started back in the mid-2000s. After finishing her law degree and getting married, Yuna proved that there’s always time to produce a killer pop album. With her release of Rouge over the summer, Yuna worked with high-profile artists and rocked every photoshoot in her hijab — constantly working to improve representation for Muslim womxn in the entertainment industry.