As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Billboard‘s Alternative Songs chart, we take a look back at the top performing women in the chart’s archive, dating back to its inception on September 10, 1988.
Although the Alternative Songs chart tends to be heavily male-dominated (Alice Merton became only the ninth solo female to hit No. 1 in February), women and female-fronted artists have a long history. in ranking.
Thanks to her eight entries on the chart, including a pair of No. 1s as lead singer of The Cranberries, the late Dolores O’Riordan reigns as the chart’s all-time top female artist (comprising soloists, singers group and women in duet) . The band also landed both of their No. 1s in the weekly survey of the Top 300 Alternative Songs of All Time recap: “Zombie,” at No. 39, thanks to its six-week run at No. 1 in 1994, and ‘Hi’, at No. 280, after reigning the chart for four weeks in 1996. O’Riordan died suddenly in January at the age of 46.
Meg White, one half of The White Stripes, along with Jack White, charts at No. 2, with the duo’s biggest hit “Seven Nation Army” charting at No. 71 on the all-time song chart.
Alanis Morissette is the top female soloist on the list, at No. 5. She has two all-time top 300 tracks, “You Oughta Know” (#111) and “Ironic” (#164), and recorded the most No. 1s on the Alternative Songs Weekly Chart (three) of any female soloist, bandleader, or duo member. The Cranberries, Sinead O’Connor, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The White Stripes follow with two each.
(Again, it’s worth noting that we’ve only included female solos, female-fronted groups, and female duos in the ranking below, so apologies to the ever-vital members of the group, including Gillian Gilbert of New Order, Neyla Pekarek of the Lumineers, Nikki of Silversun Pickups Monninger and Kim Deal of the Pixies, among others.)
Here’s a look at the top performing female artists from the first 30 years on the Alternative Songs chart.
30. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
29. Meriel Barham, Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson (Lush)
28. Florence Welch (Florench + The Machine)
27. Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)
26. Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins)
25. Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies)
24. Tanya Donelly & Gail Greenwood (Belly)
23. Tori Amos
22. Suzanne Vega
21. Amy Lee (Evanescence)
20. Bjork (The sugar cubes)
19. Sheryl Raven
18. Harriet Wheeler (Sundays)
17. Sinéad O’Connor
16. Sarah McLachlan
14. Kate Bush
13. Hayley Williams (Paramore)
12. Noelle Scaggs (Fitz and the Tantrums)
11. Courtney Love (Hole)
10. Hannah Hooper (group love)
9. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men)
8. Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs) (Note: Mary Ramsey replaced Merchant in 1993, although all of the band’s alternate song entries were in the Merchant era)
7. Gwen Stefani (without a doubt)
6. Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (The B-52s)
5. Alanis Morissette
4. Shirley Manson (Waste)
3. Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees)
2. Meg White (The White Stripes)
1. Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries)
The Top 30 Female Alternative Songs Artists ranking is based on the weekly performances of the Alternative Songs Ranking since its inception on September 10, 1988 through September 8, 2018. Songs are ranked on an inverse point system, with cumulative weeks at No. 1. 1 earning the greatest value and the weeks at the lower points earning the least. Due to changes in charting methodology over the years, epochs are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates over different time periods. Artists are then ranked based on a formula combining the performances, as shown above, of all of their entries in the Alternative Songs chart.