Country music’s mainstream landscape has been dominated by male performers for the better part of the past few years and it doesn’t seem like that is gonna slow down anytime soon. And this is incredibly tragic for the numerous talented female performers the genre has to offer as they continually get passed over in favor of the latest male-performed track about drinking and jean shorts and trucks. Now, I’m a guy that likes variety in their music, and in my personal opinion, there should be room for both male and female performers on a radio platform. And as someone who’s enjoyed a significant number of tracks from female country singers over the years, I hope that the day comes when they will get their time in the spotlight on the radio again. I’ve actually been meaning to get this list out sooner; like, back when the whole “Tomoato-gate” controversy was still fresh in people’s minds. But better late than never, I always say. The point is that there are so many female country performers who deserve some shine; so many in fact that in a rare move, I’m gonna extend the list two more digits and make it a Top 12 countdown this time. Hey, the more recommendations, the better. So let’s get into this FearlessRiOT
Top 10 Top 12!
#12. Angeleena Presley
If I could compare country group Pistol Annies to R&B group Destiny’s Child, Miranda Lambert would be Beyonce due to her superstar status, Ashley Monroe (who’s coming up later on in the list) would be Kelly Rowland due to the notoriety of both her acclaimed solo work and collaborations, and Angeleena Presley would be Michelle Williams in that she’s the most overlooked member, but is also very talented in her own right. She released her debut album American Middle Class in 2014; while it charted on the Country Albums and Heatseekers chart on Billboard, none of the songs made an impact on country radio. But after checking the album out, I have to agree with Billboard’s review of it in how strong of a debut it is. Maybe one day, Presley will get the spotlight that her debut clearly demands.
SaraBeth is a country singer from Texas that most people probably haven’t heard of yet. Well, that’s exactly why this list got extended into a Top 12; someone needs to tell you about exciting artists such as her. She currently has a number of E.P.’s available on iTunes, along with a full length release entitled Anything is Possible, so we know she’s been putting in an impressive amount of work in the studio. Her music is straight-up country, but fans outside the genre can also appreciate the sounds that she brings to the table. She’s also very active on Twitter and has enough of an international following that she’s announced a two week tour of the UK. If your already a fan, this is great news. If you’re not a fan yet, go ahead and check her out.
#10. Kelleigh Bannen
Kelleigh Bannen would be a lot higher on this list if she had more songs to her name; to date, she only has four songs on iTunes and the only album she’s released to date is a rare independent release entitled Radio Skies. Normally, this would be grounds for relegating her to the honorable mentions section. However, I decided to grant her a spot on the list mainly due to the fact that I really enjoy the singles she’s released so far. The fun, catchy “You Are What You Love”, the forceful foot-stomper “Smoke When I Drink”, the modern-country feel of “Sorry On The Rocks”, the pop-country addictiveness of “Famous”. It’s a multi-dimensional buffet of tunes for sure. The enjoyment of those singles alone were enough to land her on the list; hopefully, she has more songs to offer us in the future that result in the materialization of a major album.
#9. Mickey Guyton
Country music doesn’t have many African-American performers; luckily, the ones who emerge usually display a wealth of potential and talent. Mickey Guyton is such an example. She has two E.P.’s on iTunes at the moment: Unbreakable and a self-titled release. Both releases contain tracks some soulfully catchy tracks. Her debut single is entitled “Better Than You Left Me” and it greatly spotlights how great a singer she is. Much like most of the girls on this list, the main thing that lands her on this list is her voice, and this song is a good one to present to show off her vocals. There’s another song that’s featured on both E.P.’s: it’s called “Pretty Little Mustang” and it’s available in both an acoustic and a non-acoustic form. Either song makes for an enjoyable listening experience, but I suggest checking out both E.P.’s and deciding for yourself.
#8. Cassadee Pope
Might as well mention this early: yes, Cassadee Pope was the lead singer for pop-punk band Hey Monday, best known for songs like “Homecoming”, “I Don’t Wanna Dance”, and “Candles”. “Homecoming” and “I Don’t Wanna Dance” both went Top 5 on my weekly Top 20 Countdown in 2009 and 2010, so obviously, I was digging their music. However, the group went their separate ways in the early 2010’s and Pope eventually transitioned to country after winning Season 3 of The Voice. And it’s understandable why she came out victorious: her voice was so wonderful, it fits just as well for country as it did for pop-rock. Her debut Frame by Frame gave us her CMT Award-winning “Wasting All These Tears” and she’s currently in the process of creating her second album. Meanwhile, she recently released a brand-new uplifting single entitled “I Am Invincible”.
#7. Kelsea Ballerini
One of the bigger country hits of the year is “Love Me Like You Mean It” by Kelsea Ballerini; in a time when males are dominant on country radio, it was nice to see a woman nab the #1 song on the format. However, does this mean that Kelsea’s other material is worth a listen? After hearing her debut album The First Time, I say she’s worth giving a chance. Chances are after looking at the tracklisting, you’ll come for intriguing song titles like “Dibs”, “Peter Pan”, “Secondhand Smoke”, and “Stilettos” and stay for the beautiful confection of pop-country songs that lyrically extends the tale of the standout titles. At 21, she has all the potential in the world to become one of country music’s next great female performers; let’s hope “Love Me Like You Mean It” is not the only hit she ends up having.
#6. Ashley Monroe
Seems a little weird to call Ashley Monroe an “on the rise” artist seeing as she released her first album, Satisfied, in 2006. The album failed to take off, though, and she wouldn’t release another full length album until 2013’s Like A Rose. This was when she got her real breakthrough; that album was so critically acclaimed that it appeared on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2013 list. And her most recent album, The Blade, is just as acclaimed. So yeah, she seems to have the critics on her side. As far as hits go, her most notable chart appearances to date are collaborations with other artists, whether it be her feature on “Bruises” with Train, her duet “Lonely Tonight” with Blake Shelton, or her work with Miranda Lambert and Angeleena Presly in Pistol Annies. Maybe it’s about time we all find out why the critics love Monroe so much by giving her music a listen.
#5. Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark may be familiar to most fans as a songwriter who has penned or co-penned hits performed by Kacey Musgraves (a frequent collaborator), Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, The Band Perry, and Reba McEntire. So she’s definitely no stranger to the game. But what about her own solo career? Much like Ashley Monroe, she seems to be more popular with critics than she does with commercial audiences. She landed a number of Grammy nominations from her debut album 12 Stories, including Best New Artist, pitting her against alternative bands HAIM and Bastille, pop-rapper Iggy Azalea, and soul singer Sam Smith. Clark’s music, however, should not be slept on, especially the singles like the lyrical cleverness “Stripes” and the wonderfulness of “Pray to Jesus”. Her songwriting credentials lend themselves well to her career as a legit musician and her album deserves to be heard.
#4. Danielle Bradbery
It seems like the best singers from reality singing shows now are always the females who sing country music; in fact, two of them are in the Top 4 here. We’ll get to the other one later, but let’s focus on Danielle Bradbery for now. After winning The Voice and keeping Blake Shelton’s streak alive, she released her single “The Heart of Dixie”, her highest charting single to date. Her self-titled debut also included a number of other gems such as her second single “Young in America”, “Daughter of a Workin’ Man”, “I Will Never Forget You”, and “Who I Am”. Bradbery seems to have a very dedicated fan following, and they’re undoubtedly anticipating the eventual release of another album from the 19-year old singer, especially after her brilliant covers series. Much like Ballerini, the young star has time on her side to become an even bigger star.
#3. Maddie & Tae
I debated whether or not to include Maddie & Tae here; should I only include female solo artists or can I go ahead and count an act that just happens to be a female duo? Obviously, I went with the latter and I feel like they’re worth making an exception for; they’re too good to ignore. Maddie Marlow (20) and Taylor Dye (19) are making some of my favorite country songs right now; they broke out with their #1 track “Girl in a Country Song” (a perfect satirical song if ever there was one) and followed it up with an amazing single titled “Fly”. Their E.P. also included a couple of other fun little songs called “Sierra” and “Your Side of Town” that I recommend. Their debut album Start Here is set for release later this year and I for one can’t wait for it; if their E.P. is any indication, it’ll be great to hear what else they have to offer.
#2. Lauren Alaina
By 2011, American Idol was not as popular as it once was and the list of actual stars they created was shrinking by the season. However, that doesn’t mean solid talent stopped appearing on the show. 2011 was one of my favorite seasons with a pretty talented crop of contestants. The runner-up that season was a young, blonde Georgia peach by the name of Lauren Alaina. I wanted her to win since heard her amazing voice during her audition; and even in defeat, she was the contestant I most wanted to hear more from. She released her debut album Wildflower in 2011, and with songs like “She’s A Wildflower”, “Tupelo”, and “Georgia Peaches”, I thought it was a solid enough effort that has replay value with me. She’s released an insanely catchy single titled “Barefoot & Buckwild” in 2013 and has been working on her second album since. The 20-year old has performed newer songs live; they all sound amazing and her second album could probably trump her debut.
#1. Kacey Musgraves
I’ve already given her album Pageant Material the FearlessRiOT Seal of Approval, and now it’s time to once again spotlight the brilliance that is Texas-born singer Kacey Musgraves. She’s one of the critical darlings of the list; she won two Grammy Awards, from her debut album Same Trailer Different Park and with singles like “Merry Go ‘Round” and “Follow Your Arrow”, they were definitely well deserved. Pageant Material recently debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200; as I’ve already said, it’s an amazing album. The main reason for this lies in the subject matter in which Kacey sings and the way she goes about it; she’s a talented songwriter with an elegant rebel spirit. Kacey’s so popular, she’s even gain the seal of approval from artists outside country music, such as Katy Perry, Hayley Williams, and Kelly Clarkson. The day she becomes one of the biggest stars in music – not just her genre, but music in general as well – will be a great one and she will definitely earned it.
The Pretty Little Liars star would make the list if I knew whether or not we’ll get another album from her after 2014’s Road Between. I mean, they still haven’t completely solved the A mystery yet.
This American Idol alum walks the line between country and rock and only has a couple of original songs out right now, “Done” and “Blue-Eyed Lie”. Her killer pipes were enough to land her an honorable mention.
Leah Turner has only five songs on iTunes, all a part of a self-titled E.P. The songs definitely catch the attention and, especially “Take The Keys”, which works as a very fine driving song.
I just recently heard about Cam, and while she was unable to work her way onto the list, you should still give her a listen if you can; personally I prefer the somber “Burning House” or the bouncy “Runaway Train”.
Yes, Britney’s little sister and the former Zoey Brooks has a country music career. And she’s good at it. Her E.P. The Journey is available on iTunes right now if your interested in hearing her country chops.
Yup, another singer from a reality singing show. While “God Made Girls” proved to be an understandably controversial song, she’s experienced quite a breakthrough with it. It was on the Billboard Hot 100 and got her two CMT Award noms. Gotta mention her for that.