14 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Canadian Female Singers

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Canada is known worldwide for its vast countryside, hospitable people, and maple syrup, but we must also credit its singers. There is a surprisingly high number of singers that you probably didn’t know were Canadian!

These singers have stormed the charts time and time again, so it is about time we honor them by talking a little about their lives and careers.

In this post, we’ve selected 14 of the greatest and most famous Canadian female singers who have captivated audiences with their powerful voices. Read on to learn who they are!

1. Celine Dion

Of course, we would begin with the bestselling Canadian recording artist of all time. Born in Charlemagne, Quebec, Celine Dion started recording French-language albums in the 1980s and won several accolades at different festivals.

After learning English, her albums exploded worldwide, with her albums Falling Into You and Let’s Talk About Love getting a Diamond certification in the US. Her albums D’eux, S’il suffisait d’aimer, Sans attendre, and Encore un soir were all certified Diamond in France.

Dion has sold over 200 million albums worldwide and even holds the highest-grossing concert residency of all time in the Las Vegas Strip.

Related: Check out our list of the greatest singers from Canada here.

2. Shania Twain

You might have thought country singer Shania Twain was from the southern United States, but you’d be wrong! While she may have been born in Canada, she is still the best-selling female country music artist of all time.

Born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, her self-titled debut album commercially bombed in 1993. However, a collaboration with Robert John Lange produced the studio album The Women in Me. This album brought Twain worldwide recognition, selling over 20 million albums.

Her third album, Come On Over, produced even better results, selling 40 million albums and giving the world singles like “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

Related: Next, read our list of Canadian country singers here.

3. Alanis Morissette

Singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette began her career with two slightly successful dance-pop albums but really stepped into her own with Jagged Little Pill in 1995, which combined elements of alt rock and post-grunge.

The album sold over 33 million copies worldwide and remains her most acclaimed work to this day, becoming the basis for a Tony-nominated 2017 rock musical. Rolling Stone listed it in two different editions of their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time Guide.

Morissette holds the record for most #1 hits on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart for any female recording artist, sold over 75 million records, and won 7 Grammys.

4. Sarah McLachlan

“In the arms of the angel….” Those haunting lyrics are the first thing most people think of with Sarah McLachlan‘s name. This singer from Nova Scotia has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, with her first album, Surfacing (on which “Angel” first appeared), becoming her most commercially successful album to date.

McLachlan has been producing music since the 1980s, beginning with albums like Touch and Solace. She also helped create the Lilith Fair tour, which featured herself, Paula Cole, Lisa Leob, and Michelle McAdorey, breaking industry conventions by featuring two female artists in a row.

The tour grossed $16 million, becoming the most successful all-female music festival ever.

5. Avril Lavigne

Hailing from Ontario, Avril Lavigne broke ground when she was only 16, and her debut album, Let Go, was released. It became the best-selling Canadian artist album of the 21st century and produced hits like “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi.”

These songs helped create a punk-pop movement in music and continued with Under My Skin, which sold 10 million copies worldwide and reached the top of the Billboard 200 chart in the US.

The Best Damn Thing came out in 2007, and its lead single, “Girlfriend,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Her subsequent albums have also seen commercial and critical success, including two Gold certifications in Canada and the US.

6. Carly Rae Jepsen

Before her smash worldwide success with “Call Me Maybe” in 2012, Carly Rae Jepsen competed on the fifth season of Canadian Idol, where she placed third in 2007.

Call Me Maybe” was the bestselling single of 2012, becoming the #1 hit in 18 countries. Her other albums, Kiss and Emotion, saw critical success with their unique blends of music, such as Emotion‘s blend of ’80s music, synth-pop, and dance-pop.

In 2013, Jepsen made her Broadway debut portraying the titular character in Cinderella. To this day, she continues to showcase her talent in both singing, songwriting, and acting.

7. Nelly Furtado

In 2000, Nelly Furtado hit it big with her first album, Whoa, Nelly! “I’m Like a Bird” (which won her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance) and “Turn Off the Light” both became top-10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Her 2006 album Loose is her bestselling album, selling more than 12 million copies worldwide. The album explores her Portuguese heritage with a touch of hip-hop thrown in.

Similarly, her Spanish-language album Mi Plan won her a Latin Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Album in 2009. In all, she has sold over 40 million albums worldwide.

8. Jully Black

Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, Jully Black began her music career in the late 1990s, gaining recognition through her collaborations with other Canadian artists, like Destiny’s Child, Nas, Sean Paul, and many others.

She released her debut album, This Is Me, in 2005, which spawned the hit singles “Sweat of Your Brow” and “5x Love.” The album introduced her impressive vocal range and soulful delivery to the world, earning her critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base.

One of Jully Black’s notable achievements is her performance of “Recalculate” at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This opportunity introduced her to a global audience and further solidified her reputation as a talented artist.

9. Joni Mitchell

The music of Joni Mitchell draws from folk, jazz, rock, pop, and even classical. Many music critics have acclaimed her storytelling prowess, with her songs detailing her thoughts on social events and her own life.

Mitchell has been touring the US since 1965, though her debut album, Song to a Seagull, came out in 1968.

Her 1971 album Blue is her most famous album, with many critics calling it one of the best albums of all time and one of the most defining albums of the 21st century. NPR has even ranked the album as the number one greatest woman-made album. 

10. Anne Murray

Born Morna Anne Murray in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Anne Murray‘s albums have sold 55 million albums worldwide, combining elements of country, adult contemporary, and pop music.

She was the first Canadian female singer to reach the number-one spot on the U.S. charts and sometimes gets credited as the artist that paved the way for other famous Canadian singers, including Shania Twain and Celine Dion.

Murray holds a record of 24 Juno Awards, plus four Grammys, three Canadian Country Music Association Awards, three American Music Awards, and many more. Billboard ranked her #10 on their list of 50 Biggest Adult Contemporary Artists Ever.

11. K.D. Lang

From Edmonton, Alberta, we have k.d. lang. She is best known for her collaborations with other musicians, including Elton John, Anne Murray, The Killers, and others, though she has produced a few hit songs of her own, including “Miss Chatelaine” and “Constant Craving.”

K.d. lang came to prominence when she performed for the 1988 Winter Olympics’ closing ceremonies, on top of being selected as the 1988 Woman of the Year. She also performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Her album Shadowland won the Album of the Year award, and her collaborations with Jennifer Warnes, Bonnie Raitt, and Owen Bradley continued to win her praise and accolades.

Related: For more on k.d lang, check out our list of female lesbian singers here.

12. Tamia

Tamia Marilyn Washington Hill, simply known as Tamia, knew she wanted to perform from a young age, partaking in several singing and dancing competitions.

At age 19, she collaborated with Quincy Jones, and she got a Grammy nomination for the songs “You Put a Move on My Heart” and “Slow Jams.”

She eventually signed on with Elektra Records to produce several successful pop and R&B albums, with singles like “Imagination,” “Into You,” and “Spend My Life With You” becoming hit singles.

Tamia has since departed from Elektra to produce music through her own label and has received six Grammy nominations, among other accolades.

13. Alessia Cara

Alessia Caracciolo (known professionally as Alessia Cara) started by uploading her own covers of songs online before she signed with a commercial label and released her debut single, “Here,” in 2014. “Here” came out at #19 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart.

She released her debut studio album, Know-It-All, in 2015, which included the hit single “Scars to Your Beautiful.” The song eventually reached #8 on the Billboard 200 in 2016.

Cara won the Best New Artist award in 2018, and her second studio album, The Pains of Growing, won the Juno Award for Album of the Year and Pop Album of the Year.

14. Alannah Myles

Like Alessia Cara, Alannah Myles also started her career by performing cover versions of blues or rock songs and appearing in TV commercials. She was even featured on an episode of The Kids of Degrassi Street in 1984.

Myles signed her first record contract in 1987 with Atlantic Records and toured internationally for 18 months to showcase her eponymous debut album.

The album won the Diamond Award for selling over a million units (Myles is the only Canadian debut artist to achieve that) and would sell about 6 million albums worldwide.

Summing Up Our List Of Great Canadian Female Singers

Canada has produced a bumper crop of female singers, all of which we cannot fit on this list.

The ones featured here have paved the way for several other talented female artists, with their music-making history and changing lives worldwide.

We encourage you to look up these singers and experience their music for yourself. You may find some new favorites among them to excite you or make you think a little harder.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.