The United Kingdom has been the starting place for so many of the world’s biggest musical stars. Despite being stereotyped as a culture of button-down propriety, Great Britain has produced some incredibly groundbreaking, sensual, outspoken, and interesting artists.
Today, we’ll focus on the feminine side of British musical talents, exploring the origins and success of some of the region’s most popular female vocalists. They span various musical genres and styles, representing the eclectic culture of the United Kingdom.
Let’s jump right in as we take a look at 17 of the most famous British female singers.
1. Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews is one of the best-known British female singers of all time.
Born into a family of performers, Andrews was on stage from an early age which got her to start on TV as a teenager. Her clear soprano voice and perfect pitch wowed audiences from day one, and her sweet personality endeared her to her fans.
Andrews was a talented actress as well, starring in stage productions and eventually films. Most people know her from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and later, The Princess Diaries.
Andrews’ list of musical and film credits is too long to list here, and she is also a children’s book author.
Adele is one of the most popular British singers to ever live, as well as one of the biggest stars in the world.
This London-born artist’s list of accolades is too long to list, but they include 15 Grammy Awards as well as dozens of awards for singing and songwriting.
Growing up, Adele attended the BRIT School For The Performing Arts and Technologies, a school that produced several other British megastars like Leona Lewis and Amy Winehouse. As a young performer, she sounded wise beyond her years thanks to her mature, emotive voice.
In 2008, Adele released her first album, 19, which was named after the age she was when she wrote most of the material that was on it. It was the beginning of an incredible career.
3. Amy Winehouse
Londoner Amy Winehouse embodied a style of jazz singing that harkened back to the days of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn.
To a generation of younger fans, this was a new and fascinating sound. Winehouse paired her vocal prowess with an edgy retro look that included a tall bouffant hairdo and winged black eyeliner.
She amassed 60 nominations for awards and collected 23 awards including Grammys and Brit Awards.
Unfortunately, Winehouse suffered from drug and alcohol addiction throughout her career and succumbed to alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.
Related: More musicians and singers who died aged 27.
4. Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey was born in Cardiff, Wales to a Nigerian father and English mother. The adults in Shirley’s life recognized her powerful voice at an early age but were not particularly supportive of the talented little girl’s potential.
As years went by, Bassey performed in traveling stage shows, and eventually recorded successful singles.
She became a well-known recording artist in the UK, but her claim to international fame was in 1965 when she recorded the theme for the James Bond movie Goldfinger.
She later went on to sing two more Bond themes: “Diamonds are Forever” and “Moonraker.”
5. Olivia Newton-John
With sweet girl-next-door looks and an angelic voice to match, Olivia Newton-John charmed audiences in the musical film Grease, and in the ensuing years went on to have a successful recording career with hits like “Physical” and “Magic.”
Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England but later moved to Australia. She comes from an academic family of scientists, jurists, and educators but followed her talents and pursued music and acting.
Although Grease was her breakout acting role, Newton-John has also starred in Xanadu as well as other movies.
She is also a breast cancer survivor and an advocate for breast cancer awareness.
6. Kate Bush
Progressive rock began in England and had a big influence on the international music scene in the 1970s and 80s.
This was good news for Bexleyheath-born singer-songwriter Kate Bush, who since her pre-teen years had been writing music that didn’t quite fit into the pop genre.
With an impressive vocal range and a background in dance, Bush had a lot to offer the world of music, especially at the dawn of the popularity of music videos.
At the tender age of 19, her single “Wuthering Heights” topped the charts in the UK and Australia. Over the last 40 years, she has produced many successful artistic albums that have received critical acclaim.
7. Annie Lennox
Born in Scotland, Annie Lennox Is best known for her 80’s hit “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This).” Fewer people know that she began her musical career as a flute player in the band Dragon’s Playground.
It was a big leap from being a flute player in an obscure band to being one of Britain’s most treasured musicians, but Lennox’s hard work and talent earned her that place.
In addition to music, the Aberdeen-born singer is also an activist for HIV/AIDS awareness.
Related: Read about the most famous Scottish singers here.
8. Florence Welch
This talented musician is known for her powerful vocals and cool bohemian clothing style. Florence Welch, who hails from Camberwell in London, emerged on the music scene at a fairly young age and has displayed impressive staying power within the realm of indie rock.
Initially, she was part of the group Florence and the Machine, then later went solo and pursued artistic, alternative projects.
She is the recipient of a Brit Award (Critic’s choice, 2009) and a Silver Clef Award (Best Female 2017) and has been nominated for many more.
9. Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa is one of the most popular pop stars of the last 5 years. She’s best known for her pop hits “New Rules,” “Levitating,” IDGAF,” and many more. Lipa was born in London, England to Kosovo-Albanian parents.
Her father, who played in a rock band, was a major inspiration for her, and she eventually began trying out her own musical wings, posting clips of her singing to SoundCloud and Youtube.
Lipa’s sultry voice and striking beauty eventually won her the attention of an agency that helped her focus her talents and advance her career. Lipa’s debut album was a massive success and the next few years saw her career take off even more.
In 2019, she received a Brit Award for Song of the Year and a Grammy for Best New Artist.
10. Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield was one of Britain’s first and most widely renowned iconic pop singers.
With hits like “I Only Wanna Be With You” and “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” Hampstead-born Springfield was part of the “British invasion” of the American music charts and was a consistent hitmaker throughout the 1960s.
With her deep smoky voice and emotional delivery, she was able to navigate easily between upbeat pop songs and tear-jerking emotional ballads.
If you’ve listened to popular music in the last ten years, you’ve likely heard Rita Ora. Her 2012 debut “Hot Right Now,” was the first of many dance-pop bangers to come from this Albanian-born, London-raised artist.
She has collaborated with many other famous musicians like Iggy Azalea, Tiesto, and Calvin Harris. She’s also done promotions for Rimmel, Adidas, and more.
Ora was a coach on the fourth season of the UK version of The Voice and has hosted several awards shows and competitions.
12. Petula Clark
Petula Clark, best known for her 1964 hit “Downtown,” was born in Ewell, Surrey to parents who worked in the medical industry. Clark showed musical talent from early childhood.
She went on to have a career as a child performer, appearing on BBC radio spots during the Second World War, and entertaining the troops, earning herself the label of “The British Shirley Temple.”
It was only natural that Clark would go on to have a successful singing career. Clark’s flair for languages allowed her to record music in French, German, Spanish, and Italian as well as English.
Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, known professionally as M.I.A., is a London-born rapper and singer. MIA’s music embraces an international sound and is woven with social commentary inspired by her Tamil Sri Lankan heritage and experience as a Londoner of color.
At the age of six, MIA’s family moved from England to Sri Lanka and ended up displaced by the war that broke out there. As a result, her family had to move back to the UK as refugees. The family struggled with poverty for many years.
As a teenager, MIA was attracted to the sounds of rap and dancehall music that she would hear coming from the other apartments in the complex where she lived.
Eventually, she would take those early inspirations and create the unique sound that would make her an international star.
14. Leona Lewis
The third season of The X Factor was the big break for Leona Lewis. The Londoner was only 21 years old at the time, yet had already run into many setbacks in her recording career.
Despite having an undeniable vocal talent, Lewis had been struggling to get a record contract since she was a teen.
Finally, on The X-Factor, with the support and coaching of Simon Cowell, Lewis was able to win the show and launch a successful career. Her single “Bleeding Love” was the number one selling single of 2007.
Lewis went on to record several more albums and even dipped her toes into the acting waters in the film Walking on Sunshine. She has been involved in activism for animal rights and HIV prevention.
15. Jessie J
Jessica Cornish, known professionally as Jesse J, is a Redbridge, London-born R&B singer. Her single “Price Tag” (2011) topped the charts in the UK as well as in 18 other countries. She also had 4 other top 10 singles off that album.
Jesse J was a child performer who appeared in West End musicals and attended the BRIT school. Later, she was an opening act for Cyndi Lauper and also wrote lyrics for Miley Cyrus as other major pop stars before breaking out on her own.
She has been a strong advocate for women’s rights and has done many charity concerts.
16. Lily Allen
Lily Allen was born in Hammersmith, London into a family that was steeped in the performing arts. Her mother was a film producer and her father was a comedic actor. Despite a career on stage being an obvious choice for Lily, she didn’t find her niche right away.
As a teenager, Allen pursued a recording contract but was turned down more than once, so she began promoting herself and her music on the then-popular social media site MySpace.
This grassroots promotion, and the positive response to it, finally got Allen the attention of the right people, and she was signed to a record label.
Her first single, “Smile,” made it to number 1 on the UK charts. This led to a healthy pop/electro-dance career for the next several years.
17. Bonnie Tyler
Most people remember Bonnie Tyler best for her chart-topping 80’s songs “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Tyler, who is from Skewen, Wales, got her start singing in church and eventually formed a soul band.
Tyler stood out from other female singers thanks to her unique deep husky voice. It gave her an unforgettable sound that caught the ear of a talent scout and led to her scoring a recording contract in the mid-70s. Since then, Tyler has continued to work steadily and released her seventeenth studio album in 2019.
Related: Read more about the most famous welsh singers here.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Female Singers From Britain
The United Kingdom has produced countless female virtuosos, and many went on to enjoy international success.
These are just a few of the most beloved by critics and fans.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this list of female stars from across the pond. Who are some of your favorites? Are there any that you think we missed?