Top 10 British Female Singers of the 21st Century


in my opinion at least.

Now I am aware that it can get annoying when people group so many different female artists together simply because they are women. As Adele herself has said, female singer is not a genre, and neither for that matter is British singer.

However having said that I think it is important to acknowledge how successful both female and British singers are nowadays. We are currently in the middle of what is being called a “Third British Invasion”,  and though there are many boybands that are enjoying international success such as One Direction. I think its fair to say that the most successful and influential British artists of the past 20 years have been female such as Adele, Susan Boyle and the late great Amy Winehouse, who is often credited with kick starting the third British invasion, (much like how the Beatles kick started the first British invasion back in the 1960s.)

In many ways we are living in a golden age of British female singers, and so I have decided to compile a list of my ten favourite contemporary British female artists. All opinions are of course my own and as always tell me what you think in the comments below.

10/ Dionne Bromfield

Not many people have a lot of time for Dionne Bromfield. Sadly she is often dismissed as having only been signed due to being the god daughter of the late soul singer, Amy Winehouse. However whilst it is true that she obviously did have an advantage through Amy, do not think that means she is not talented. Her two albums “Introducing Dionne Bromfield” and “Good for the soul” are both excellent, and she has demonstrated a remarkable talent as both a singer and a songwriter. One of her latest efforts “Black Butterfly” (scheduled for release on her next album) is a truly moving and beautiful tribute to her late god mother.

Sadly whilst Dionne does have a loyal following whom she has christened her “Dionettes”, none of her albums have been successful. I think her age has been her biggest problem, even more so than the claims of nepotism. Dionne’s music is different to that of your typical teenage pop stars like Justin Bieber, Willow Smith and Cher Lloyd. Its less mainstream, more old fashioned. Not many teenagers are going to be interested in hearing covers of Aretha Franklin sadly .

However at the same time the older crowd probably are not going to take her seriously either, as the idea of a thirteen year old soul singer does sound a bit daft at first, even though Dionne has as strong a voice as any one. Dionne is more talented than Cher Lloyd, Justin Bieber, The Wanted and Willow Smith combined as far as I’m concerned. She just hasn’t found the right audience yet. Hopefully as she gets older this wont be a problem.  Dionne Bromfield definitely deserves more recognition. She is a very special talent and its not hard to see why Amy thought so much of her.

Best songs

9/ Duffy

Sadly as of the writing of this article Duffy appears to have vanished off the radar. Her second album “Endlessley” was a critical and commercial flop. Still her first album “Rockferry” is definitely a modern day classic. There’s not a bad track on the album and the best tunes are instantly recognizable like “Mercy”, “Rockferry” and “Warwick Avenue”. Whilst the sexy, upbeat “Mercy” is definitely Duffy’s most famous song. I find her more sombre efforts to be the most effective. I think there is a real genuine sorrow in Duffy’s voice that is greater than many of her contemporaries, as she has had a somewhat more difficult life.

I think Duffy from the beginning suffered from comparisons to others particularly Amy Winehouse. To be fair every female singer of the past almost ten years has been compared to Amy Winehouse, but I think it hurt Duffy more than say Adele or Paloma Faith, as Duffy seemingly was unable to escape from under Amy’s shadow. Hopefully she’ll stage a comeback soon. Even though her second album was a failure she is still very young. She just needs more songs like “Warwick Avenue” and less like “Well, Well, Well”.

Best Songs

8/ V V Brown

V V Brown is a very overlooked artist in my opinion. Both of her albums have been very different from one another, and very fresh and original overall. She has her own unique style and her lyrics are both very imaginative and fun. I just can’t figure out why she hasn’t made it really big yet. She has everything going for her. She has a wonderful voice, is a brilliant live performer, and she writes her own material too. Whatever the future holds for V.V. Brown however she has at the very least developed a very strong and loyal following.

Best Songs

7/ Emeli Sande

Scottish singer Emeli Sande has proven to be one of the most successful British artists of recent times. Just as famous for her songwriting as her singing. Sande begun her career penning hits for other artists before launching a career of her own. Though her talents as a songwriter are undeniable, what really scores her so highly on my list is her talent as a live performer. Her performance at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony in particular was remarkable and stole the entire show for me.

Best Songs

6/ Lily Allen

Lily Allen doesn’t seem to be too popular these days. I think she was always quite a polarizing figure, as she was often quite bitchy about other celebrities like Cheryl Cole (though anyone who rips on Cheryl Cole is fine by me). On top of that much like Dionne Bromfield, many people I think often assume that she has only made it because of her famous relative, her father Keith Allen. (Though ironically now I think more people would tend to think of Keith Allen as Lily’s dad.)

Still for me Lily Allen is truly one of the best artists of her generation and she is probably the most influential after Amy Winehouse. Lily’s songs may not be quite as deep and meaningful as say Adele, but one can’t help but be won over by her wicked, cheeky sense of humour.

She is able to write songs about the most unlikely things like premature ejaculation, and still make them catchy. Lily’s voice is very sweet and innocent sounding which often contrasts wonderfully with her lyrics, though she lacks the range of some of the other artists on this list.

Still whilst Lily is somewhat limited there is a lot of milleage in what she does. Personally I have enjoyed all 3 of her albums and whilst there may be something of a backlash against Lily right now, her latest album “Sheezus” still made it to the top of the charts.  I think she has a strong enough fanbase to enjoy a successful career for many more years to come.

Best Songs

5/ Adele

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Okay now I must admit I am very much a latecomer to Adele’s music. Hipster that I am, I avoided her for so long because of how overhyped and overplayed she was. I must admit even today I do still find Adele to be horribly overrated.  I feel that people often give her credit for things that she doesn’t deserve. For instance everyone gives her credit for being a female performer who didn’t use her looks to sell music, but she is not the only, and certainly not the first female performer of even her generation to do that.

Amy Winehouse alone never did and she received far worse abuse for her looks than Adele ever did (not that its a competition, but its worth remembering all of these people who go nuts every time Adele’s weight is made fun of, were curiously silent whenever Amy was called much worse.)

Still despite this it cannot be denied that Adele is a very special talent. She has demonstrated an incredible maturity for someone so young in both her lyrics and voice and has written songs that so many people can relate too. Whilst she doesn’t have the widest range as a vocalist, she more than makes up for it with the power her voice has. She is probably the best torch singer of the past 30 years and has enjoyed unbelievable commercial and critical success having broken records set by Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and even the Beatles themselves.

Best Songs

4/ Florence Welch

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Florence Welch of the band Florence and the Machine is a strikingly beautiful, alluring one in 7 billion performer. Her voice has a somewhat more operatic quality to it when compared to many of her contemporaries. He songs meanwhile tend to cover unusual topics ranging from disembowelment, to drowning, to madness, to domestic abuse, to werewolves killing people.

One of her songs “the Bird Song” is about a woman who commits a murder only for a parrot to see it, and then repeat the dying man’s screams. The women then takes the parrot inside and breaks its neck, but ends up repeating her victims screams herself everywhere she goes, eventually leading to her being caught.

It reads like an Edgar Allan Poe story. I could easily imagine Vincent Price playing the role of the murderer in the bird song. The fact that Florence sings about such unusual, disturbing subjects is what makes her stand out so much. Many have compared her to Kate Bush, and whilst its obvious that Bush is a huge influence on her, Florence’s material is ultimately far darker. Though there has been some controversy over the darker content of many of her songs with some accusing “Kiss with a Fist” of promting domestic abuse. Ultimately Florence Welch has proven herself as one of Britain’s most successful artists around the world.

Best Songs

3/ Shingai Shoniwa

Shingai Shoniwa is the lead singer of the Noisettes. Her voice is strong, but sweet at the same time much like Dina Washington. She is a very eccentric, offbeat and charismatic performer. So far the Noisettes have had an inconsistent career. Their first album was a commercial flop, but their second was a monster hit and produced a number of hit singles including the masterpiece “Don’t Upset the Rhythm” Sadly however their latest album “Contact” was another flop, which was a shame as not ony was it a great album, but it felt like the Noisettes’s career was ready to go into the stratosphere. You should definitely check out the Noisettes three albums. There is a lot of variety among them indeed you’ actually be hard pushed to find 3 more different albums.

Best Songs

I’ve always loved That Girl in particular because it has a real Beatles vibe to it. Everything about it, its lyrics, its style, even the way its sung, makes it feel like a 21st Century Beatles track.

2/ Paloma Faith

Paloma Faith narrowly misses out on being my favorite female performer of the 21st century. I could spend days and days going on about how much I love Paloma, but I’ll try and keep this short. What makes Paloma such a favourite of mine is how imaginative her work is. Her lyrics often conjor up beautiful, vivid, fantastical imagery. Her massive, eccentric imagination encompasses everything she does, particularly how she dresses. There truly is no one like Paloma and her star has only continued to rise over the past few years. With three hugely successful albums under her belt, the future looks very good for ms Faith indeed.

Best Songs

1/ Amy Winehouse

Yeah I know a fairly obvious choice considering my other article “10 reasons to admire Amy Winehouse”, but still for me Amy has to stand head and beehive above the rest. Amy is really the British female artist of the 21st century. All of the others in this list look up to her and credit her with paving the way for them.

Amy was among the first of her generation to make it big abroad, particularly in America. She also helped to revitalize soul music and the stagnated British music scene.

Though she only released two albums before her tragic and untimely death, the impact she made with those two albums was immense and the quality of those two albums is enough to propel her to the status of legend easy.

Winehouse had the greatest range of any vocalist or songwriter on this list. She could sing songs that were light hearted, fun, and sexy, like “Amy Amy Amy”, or songs that were scathing and funny like “Stronger Than Me”, or that were darker like You Know I’m No Good”. Finally she was also able sing songs that were genuinely heartbreaking and moving like Love is a Losing Game.

Forget “Rolling in the Deep”: “Love is a Losing Game” is the greatest break up song ever made for me. It sums up the awful feelings of regret you have when your heart is broken to the point where you wished you had never fallen in love in the first place.

As I have said before “Love is a Losing Game” is a song that you can imagine, had it been released in the 1960’s everyone from Nat King Cole to Billie Holiday to Frank Sinatra would have covered it, and they all would have been able to do a really good version of it too because it is just such a fantastic song lyrically.

Sadly Winehouse is no longer with us, but her legacy lives on in virtually every major British female singer from Adele, to Jessie J, to Paloma Faith and many other female singers around the world, including Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, who have both cited her as a huge influence. She will never be forgotten and will always be one of my all time favourite artists.

Best Songs

9 thoughts on “Top 10 British Female Singers of the 21st Century

  1. Great choices, especially for Amy and Paloma.
    I think these deserve an honorable mention: Laura Mvula, Beth Gibbons, Anna Calvi, Karima Francis, Lianne La Havas


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