These Iconic ’90s Frontwomen Changed How We Rock

Angry, creative, dialled-in, no-holds-barred. We can’t think of a more accurate way to describe the music of women rockers in the ’90s, and we can’t think of any genre since then that’s had as much influence on the music scene of their time.

In a decade that exploded with rock talent, these are our top women rocker influencers of the ’90s.

The Breeders

When ’80s band the Pixies were on hiatus, the band’s frontwoman, Kim Deal, started exploring other pastures with twin sister, Kelley. That exploration gave us The Breeders, one of the most iconic bands of the decade, touring with the likes of Nirvana and even having Kurt Cobain’s stamp of approval after he named their album Podas having changed his life.

Listen to: “Cannonball”

Luscious Jackson

The NYC-based band formed in the early part of the decade and quickly became known for their infectious blend of rock, hip hop and funk. With Jill Cunniff’s buttery vocals, singles like “Ladyfingers,” “Why Do I Lie,” and “Here” made their way to the soundtracks ofBuffy the Vampire Slayer, Good Will Hunting, and Clueless, respectively.

Listen to: “Naked Eye”


The musical contributions of the otherworldly, swan-dress-wearing Icelandic singer/songwriter/DJ are impossible to forget. Björk’s blend of electronic, pop, experimental, classical, trip hop, IDM, and avant-garde music styles has never been duplicated. A creative firestorm, the artist released four solo albums (Debut, Post, Homogenic, and Dancer in the Dark) between 1993 and 1999 and created a surreal musical odyssey we still crave.

Listen to: “Big Time Sensuality”

PJ Harvey

Polly Jean (PJ) Harvey might have had a sugary-sounding name, but her music was anything but sweet. Harvey combined her huge, deep vocal range and dark soundscapes with dramatically shifting aesthetics, creating a totally new experience with each new album. Harvey deservedly received accolade after accolade throughout the decade.

Listen to: “Sheela-Na-Gig”

The Cranberries with Dolores O’Riordan

While the alt-rock band formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989 but their iconic frontwoman, the late Dolores O-Riordan, didn’t join the band until 1990. We can only imagine the response the band members must have had when O’Riordan showed up after responding to their advertisement for a female vocalist. When she came back with lyrics to what would later become their second single, “Linger”, she was given her spot at the mic. Shockingly, neither their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, Why Can’t We?, nor their first two singles received much attention. It was their sophomore album, No Need to Argueand their hit single “Zombie” that made the world take notice. Their combination of alternative rock, Irish folk, and pop sounds, and O’Riordan’s ethereal vocals that earned the band, and O’Riordan, their places as some of the most influential musicians of the decade.

Listen to: “Linger”

Liz Phair

Phair taped her own first recordings under the name Girly Sounds, and they were exactly what got her signed to Matador Records, who released her critically acclaimed first studio album, Exile in Guyville. Her sophomore album,Whip-smart, proved an even bigger success, garnering Phair a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Listen to: “Supernova”

No Doubt with Gwen Stefani

The band’s initial two ska-pop albums hit a flat note in a world dominated by grunge, and Stefani’s distaste for that style meant the band had to find another way to break through. It took three years to develop the sound that eventually became their third and most-loved album, Tragic Kingdom. Five hit singles later, No Doubt had left an indelible impression on the ’90s music scene – much like Stefani’s unforgettable personal style. No one’s ever made braces look cooler than Stefani did in the ’90s.

Listen to: “Don’t Speak”

Garbage with Shirley Manson

Four million copies and double platinum status in the UK, the US, and Australia skyrocketed Garbage and their self-titled album to fame, making Scottish frontwoman Shirley Manson recognizable almost instantly. Their subsequent music may have its place, but there’s nothing like the debut album.

Listen to: “I’m Only Happy When It Rains”

Hole with Courtney Love

The undisputed Queen of Grunge, Courtney Love, fronted her band, Hole, while husband Kurt Cobain ruled the airwaves with Nirvana.While they were considered the first couple of grunge, it was Love’s raw, loud, intentionally shocking sound that finally made the world sit up and listen to what a bunch of girls with guitars had to say.

Listen to: “Celebrity Skin”

Did we leave out your favourite woman of ’90s rock? Who would you include, and which of their songs will you always remember?