20 Best-Selling Female Artists Of All Time

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This article digs into the data to reveal the best-selling female artists of all time.

Using a combination of certifications from Billboard, Guinness World Records, and other reputable sources, this list pulls together singles sales and album sales to rank the best-selling female artists ever.

All the women on this list have made an enormous impact on music worldwide, each selling 10s of millions, and even 100s of millions of records.

20. Christina Aguilera

Estimated record sales: 90 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: Christina Aguilera (1999)

Christina Aguilera is one of the best-selling female artists ever. She is revered for her technical abilities, including her large vocal range, and powerful high notes.

Aguilera experienced a meteoric rise to stardom upon the release of her 1999 debut album Christina Aguilera. She has since released eight further albums.

Aguilera’s biggest hits came in the form of ‘Genie in a Bottle’ (1999), ‘What a Girl Wants’ (1999), ‘Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)’ (2000), ‘Lady Marmalade’ (2001), and a decade later on a feature on the Maroon 5 songs, ‘Moves like Jagger’ (2011). All five tracks peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

19. Diana Ross

Estimated record sales: 100 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 6
Best-selling album: Diana (1980)

The legendary Diana Ross first rose to fame thanks to her role as the lead singer in The Supremes in the 60s. The Supremes had an incredible twelve Billboard number one hits, including ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ and ‘Baby Love.’

After leaving The Supremes in 1970, Diana Ross found continued success as a solo artist as a soul and pop singer. Her number one hits included ‘Upside Down’ (1980), ‘Endless Love’ (1981), and ‘Chain Reaction’ (1986). As a solo artist, Ross has released an amazing 26 studio albums.

Aside from having one of the most successful music careers of any woman ever, Ross is also a successful actor, and won a Golden Globe Award for her role as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972).

In 1993, Guinness World Records named Ross the ‘most successful female artist in music history.’

18. Dolly Parton

Estimated record sales: 100 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 2
Best-selling album: Jolene (1974)

Dolly Parton is undoubtedly the most successful female country music artist of all time, and she is amongst the best-selling female artists ever. Since the start of her career in the late 60s, she has had 25 songs top the Billboard country music charts, and 44 top 10 country music albums.

As well as writing many of her best-known hits, including ‘Jolene’ and ‘9 to 5,’ Parton penned the Whitney Houston worldwide hit ‘I Will Always Love,’ and ‘Coat of Many Colours’ from the musical Joseph.

Parton has received eleven Grammy Awards, and aside from her illustrious music career, she is a Golden Globe-nominated actress, and a successful businesswoman.

17. Olivia Newton-John

Estimated record sales: 100 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: Grease (1978)

Olivia Newton-John is one of the most successful and best-selling female artists of all time. Her discography includes some twenty-six studio albums, and sixty-eight singles – including five number one singles and two number one albums.

Newton-John shot to success thanks to her role in the 1978 film Grease. The film’s soundtrack remains one of the best-selling albums of all time, and features the hits ‘You’re the One that I Want’ and ‘Summer Nights.’ The former is the fourth best-selling physical single from a female artist ever, with over 15 million sales.

Her other major hits include ‘I Honestly Love You’ (1974) and ‘Physical’ (1981). Before her death in August 2022, she was an environmental and animal rights activist, and an advocate of cancer research.

16. Nicki Minaj

Estimated record sales: 100 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 3
Best-selling album: Pink Friday (2010)

One of the most recent artists on this list, Nicki Minaj has achieved astronomical success since starting out in the 00s. As well as achieving eye-watering record sales in less than two decades, the Trinidadian-born rapper and singer has also become one of the most-streamed artists in the world.

Minaj has released four studio albums – a small number compared to many of the artists on this list and over 100 singles, although on the majority of these she appears as a featured artist. Her single ‘Super Freaky Girl’ was the first ever song by a female rapper to debut at number on the Billboard Hot 100.

15. Janet Jackson

Estimated record sales: 100 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 10
Best-selling album: Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

Janet Jackson is an innovative artist whose music has incorporated elements of R&B, hip-hop, funk, and dance music to create some of the most successful pop songs of her generation.

Her accolades include five Grammy Awards, eleven Billboard Awards, eight Guinness World Records, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With ten Billboard Hot 100 number one singles, she has amongst the most number one singles on this list.

Of her eleven studio albums, Rhythm Nation 1814 is the most-celebrated and best-selling. A concept album that deals with social issues, the record contained a staggering seven top five hits!

14. Cher

Estimated record sales: 100 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 4
Best-selling album: Believe (1998)

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Nicknamed ‘the Goddess of Pop,’ Cher’s incredible career has spanned six decades. She initially broke into the world of music as part of the duo Sonny & Cher, with the number one single ‘I Got You Babe.’ The iconic singer went on to release some 26 studio albums in her career.

A string of number one singles in the early 70s saw Cher break industry records, before she came heavily involved in live performances, Broadway shows, and films.

In 1998, Cher crashed back into the charts with her hit single ‘Believe.’ Although Cher’s singles have never topped the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Believe’ became the best-selling single by a female artist ever in the UK. With over 11 million total sales, it is amongst the best-selling physical singles of all time.

13. Adele

Estimated record sales: 120 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: 21 (2011)

Adele is the most successful and best-selling female artist from the UK ever. Her debut 2008 album, 19, is certified 17x platinum in the UK, which is the all-time highest for a solo artist. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, Adele’s second album, 21, topped the Billboard 200 album charts for 24 weeks. She was the first female artist to ever have three songs in the Billboard Hot 100 top ten simultaneously. The three tracks, ‘Rolling in the Deep,’ ‘Someone Like You,’ and ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ all topped the chart at one point.

She has recorded four studio albums, and each one is named after her age at the time of recording them. Her last three albums – 21, 25, and 30 – all reached the number one position in the album charts in the US, and in every major chart in Europe.

12. Lady Gaga

Estimated record sales: 124 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: The Fame (2008)

One of the youngest artists on this list, Lady Gaga has found incredible success in a career that is only a decade and a half long. With a reputation for her musical versatility and her ability to creatively reinvent herself, she has become an icon of pop music.

Her 2008 debut album The Fame peaked at number 2 in the Billboard 200 album chart, and her following four albums all debuted at number one. However, The Fame stands as her best-selling album, with over 15 million sales, including her The Fame Monster reissue.

Her number one singles include ‘Just Dance’ (2008), ‘Poker Face’ (2008), ‘Born This Way’ (2011), ‘Shallow’ (2018), and ‘Rain on Me’ (2020).  

11. P!nK

Estimated record sales: 135 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 4
Best-selling album: Missundaztood (2001)

P!nk broke into the world of music in 2000 with the release of her debut album Can’t Take Me Home, and her success grew steadily from there. Known for her raspy voice, her music blends elements of soft rock and R&B.

She achieved her first Billboard number one single with the 2001 ‘Lady Marmalade,’ along with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, and Mya. The same year, she released her second album, Missundaztood, selling a massive 13 million copies.

Her impressive discography include eight studio albums and fifty singles. Her US number one songs are ‘Lady Marmalade’ (2001), ‘So What’ (2008), ‘Raise Your Glass’ (2010), and ‘Just Give Me a Reason’ (2013).

10. Barbra Streisand

Estimated record sales: 150 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: Guilty (1980)

Known for her distinctive, velvety, semi-operatic voice, Barbra Streisand is a legendary singer. Barbra Streisand has released thirty-six studio albums and one hundred and seventeen singles to become one of the best-selling female artists ever.

With fourteen multi-platinum albums, she has the highest number of platinum albums of any female artist. With eleven of these albums reaching number one on the Billboard 200, she also has the most number one albums of any female artist.

Her number one singles are ‘The Way We Were’ (1973), ‘Evergreen’ (1976), ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ with Neil Diamond (1978), ‘No More Tears (Enough is Enough)’ with Donna Summer (1979), and ‘Woman in Love’ (1980).

Her 1980 album Guilty is her definitive record and her best-selling album, with around 12 million copies sold worldwide.

9. Katy Perry

Estimated record sales: 183 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 9
Best-selling album: One of the Boys (2009)

Katy Perry released an eponymous gospel album in 2001 under her real name, Katy Hudson, which failed to make any commercial impact. She finally broke at massive scale in 2008 with her single ‘I Kissed a Girl.’

Off the back of that smash hit, Katy Perry’s 2009 album One of the Boys peaked at position nine on the Billboard 200, selling over 7 million copies. Her next three albums all reached number one.

Perry has achieved a staggering nine Billboard Hot 100 number one hits, which are ‘I Kissed a Girl’ (2008), ‘California Gurls’ featuring Snoop Dogg (2010), ‘Teenage Dream’ (2010), ‘Firework’ (2010), ‘E.T.’ featuring Kanye West (2011), ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)’ (2011), ‘Part of Me’ (2012), ‘Roar’ (2012), and ‘Dark Horse’ (2013). She was the first woman to achieve five number ones from the same album.

8. Taylor Swift

Estimated record sales: 200 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 7
Best-selling album: Fearless (2008)

Singer, songwriter, and pop icon, Taylor Swift has become one of the greatest pop artists of our generation. Her style is influenced by country and folk music as well as pop. Since the release of her eponymous debut album in 2006, she has risen to become one of the best-selling female artists of all time.

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To date, Swift has released fifty three singles and nine albums. Aside from her debut album (which peaked at number five), each of her following eight albums reached number one on the Billboard 200 album chart. In addition to her personal success as a solo artist, Swift is respected as one of the industry’s best songwriters, having written numerous hits for other artists.

Her first number one hit was ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ (2012), and she has since achieved six more number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

7. Britney Spears

Estimated record sales: 200 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: …Baby One More Time (1999)

Britney Spears burst onto the music scene in 1998 with her single ‘…Baby One More Time.’ That infectious single sold a staggering 10 million copies, with the 1999 album by the same name selling 25 million copies. 

Along with Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears was one of the icons of teen pop in the 90s and 00s. Her second album, Oops!… I Did It Again did almost as well as her first, selling 20 million copies worldwide. Her success during her period saw her become the best-selling teenage artist of all time.

Britney Spears’ discography includes nine studio albums and forty-eight singles, with six of those albums reaching number one on the Billboard 200 album charts, and five singles reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

6. Beyoncé

Estimated record sales: 200 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 7
Best-selling album: Dangerously in Love (2003)

Beyoncé is one of the best-known, most-loved, and best-selling female artists of her generation, and indeed, of all time. She initially rose to fame as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, and has gone on to become one of the great icons of pop music.

Beyoncé’s career has seen her release seven studio albums since 2003. Every single one has topped the Billboard 200 album charts. Her third album, I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008) was awarded a record-breaking six Grammy Awards.

She has also achieved seven number one singles, including ‘Crazy in Love’ featuring Jay-Z (2003), ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ (2008), and, most recently, ‘Break My Soul’ (2022).

5. Rihanna

Estimated record sales: 250 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 11
Best-selling album: Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)

One of the youngest artists on this list, Barbadian singer Rhianna has achieved astonishing success in her career which spans only a decade and a half.

Rhianna has released eight studio albums and fifty-three singles. An incredible thirty-one of these singles have reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, and with a total of 360 weeks in the top ten, her music has spent longer there than any other artist.

Rhianna’s sterling record sale stats mostly come from her singles, and her ability to stay in the charts for such a long time. Her best-selling album is Good Girl Gone Bad (2007) with over 9 million sales worldwide.

Her biggest number one hits include ‘Umbrella’ featuring Jay-Z (2007), ‘We Found Love’ featuring Calvin Harris (2011), and ‘Work’ featuring Drake (2016).

4. Celine Dion

Estimated record sales: 250 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 4
Best-selling album: Falling into You (1996)

Canadian artist Celine Dion, sometimes referred to as the ‘Priestess of Pop,’ is the third best-selling female artist of all time. She has released twenty-seven albums and one hundred and thirty-seven singles.

Her first single to take off internationally was ‘The Power of Love’ (1993) which reached number one on charts around the world, including the Billboard Hot 100. She hit the number one spot again with ‘Because You Loved Me’ (1995), before releasing the smash hit ‘My Heart Will Go On’ in 1997. The track, which appeared in the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic sold over 18 million copies, making it the second best-selling physical single ever by a female artist.

Her best-selling album was her 1996 Falling into You which sold 32 million copies worldwide. This was shortly followed by the 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love which sold 31 million copies worldwide.

3. Whitney Houston

Estimated record sales: 250 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 11
Best-selling album: Whitney Houston (1985)

Whitney Houston, sometimes known as simply ‘The Voice’ was one of the most universally respected singers in the world. She released seven studio albums, and fifty seven singles. She is in the top three best-selling female artists of all time.

Her eponymous debut album was her best-selling album, with over 22 millions copies sold worldwide. However, The Bodyguard – which was technically a soundtrack – sold a stunning 45 million units.

Whitney is perhaps best known for her rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You.’ The song, which is off the Bodyguard soundtrack, is the all-time best-selling physical single from a female artist, with over 20 millions sales.

Her other number one hits include ‘Greatest Love Of All’ (1986) and the iconic ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ (1987).

2. Mariah Carey

Estimated record sales: 250 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 19
Best-selling album: Music Box (1993)

Mariah Carey, sometimes referred to as the ‘Songbird Supreme’ is renowned for her incredible range and dramatic vocal runs. Aside from a number of highly successful pop hits and albums, she is best known for the song ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ (1994). The single sold 16 million copies, making it the third best-selling song by a female artist ever.

Carey has released eighty-six singles, with an amazing nineteen of these reaching the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 – the most number one singles of all the artists on this list.

She has released fifteen studio albums, seven of which reached number one of the Billboard album chart. Her 1993 album Music Box sold over 28 million copies worldwide.

1. Madonna

Estimated record sales: 335 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 12
Best-selling album: True Blue (1986)

The undisputed ‘Queen of Pop,’ Madonna is the best-selling female artist of all time by some margin. According to Billboard, Madonna is the second most successful artist in history, behind only The Beatles.

Now in the fifth decade of her musical career, Madonna has released fourteen studio albums and ninety singles. Nine of her albums have topped the Billboard 200 album chart, and twelve of her singles have topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Madonna’s first number one single was ‘Like a Virgin’ (1984), which sold 6 million units. Her 1990 single ‘Vogue’ equalled the success of ‘Like a Virgin with 6 million units, and ‘Like a Prayer’ (1989) falls in just behind with 5 millions record sales.

Her best-selling album was True Blue (1986) with 25 million copies sold. The album built on the enormous success of the Like a Virgin album (1984) which sold 21 million copies worldwide.

Her success has been bolstered by the mystique and intrigue she has created around her persona, and propped up by her additional talents as a songwriter, dancer, actor and businesswoman.

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