The 1990s was the era the riot grrrl, the rapper and the Lilith Fair, reshaping traditional ideas of feminism and traditionally male-dominated areas of the music industry. Women have arguably become the leading voices of the industry, standing -- army-booted, bare-footed, or high-heeled stiletto -- toe to toe with any artist of today. Highlighted artists will include Bikini Kill, Meg White, Queen Latifah and Lady Gaga.
Evergreen College students Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox formed Bikini Kill in Olympia, Washington in 1990. The band enlisted former Go Team guitarist Billy Boredom. The band wrote songs together as a group and encouraged a female-centric environment at their shows, urging women to come to the front of the stage and female audience members were often invited to take control of the microphone to speak their minds. In 1991, Bikini Kill issued its first recording, Revolution Girl Style Now, an independently distributed demo cassette. The group later signed with the independent Olympia-based label Kill Rock Stars for its first official release, the Bikini Kill EP. In 1993, the band issued Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, a split album with the British group Huggy Bear after which they started working with Joan Jett who produced the group's next single, "New Radio"/"Rebel Girl." In 1994, Bikini Kill released Pussy Whipped followed by Reject All American in 1996. The group disbanded in 1997.
Alicia Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook in 1981. She started playing classical piano at age seven. She released her debut album, Songs in A Minor in 2001, which sold 12 million copies worldwide and garnered five Grammys. Her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003) won four Grammys. Her third As I Am (2007) earned three Grammys. The Element of Freedom, released in 2009, debuted at #2 and earned her a Grammy for the single “Superwoman.” Keys collaborated with Jay-Z on the song "Empire State of Mind" in 2009. The song topped the chart and became her fourth #1 single. Keys has also appeared in films, including 2007’s Smokin’ Aces and 2008’s The Secret Life of Bees. She has headed the Keep a Child Alive charity since 2002.
Born in Mississippi in 1967, Faith Hill moved to Nashville at the age of 19. In 1993, her debut single, “Wild One,” spent four weeks at #1. Since then, she has sold more than 30 million records worldwide and has had 13 #1 singles. Her 1999 album Breathe, 2002’s Cry and 2005’s Fireflies all debuted at #1 on Billboard’s pop and country charts, making her the only female artist ever to have consecutively topped both charts three times. Hill is a five-time Grammy winner. She has also won three Country Music Association Awards, 12 Academy of Country Music Awards, four American Music Awards and four People’s Choice Awards.
Carrie Underwood’s career took off in 2005, when she won the fourth season of American Idol. Since then, the Oklahoma native, who was born in 1983, has become a multi-platinum-selling recording artist, a multiple Grammy Award winner, a Grand Ole Opry inductee, a Golden Globe Award nominee and a three-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association best-female-vocalist winner. She is also the first female artist to win back-to-back Academy of Country Music Awards for Entertainer of the Year, in 2009 and 2010.
Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986, in New York City. She began performing on New York City's Lower East Side in 2003 and enrolled at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She soon signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records. She worked as a songwriter for fellow label artists and captured the attention of the rap artist Akon, who recognized her vocal abilities and signed her to his own label, Kon Live Distribution.In her short career, Lady Gaga has garnered numerous awards, including two Grammys and eight MTV Video Music Awards. She has sold more than 15 million albums and 51 million singles worldwide. Billboard magazine named her Artist of the Year in 2010. She has also been included on Time magazine's list of the most influential people in the world and on Forbes magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful and influential celebrities in the world.
Liz Phair was born in 1967 and was raised in Winnetka, Illinois. She settled in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago and began releasing self-produced tapes under the name Girly Sound in the early Nineties. Her debut album, 1993’s Exile in Guyville, was conceived as a song-by-song response to the Rolling Stones’ 1972 album Exile on Main Street. Guyville was ranked by both Spin and Rolling Stone magazines as one of the greatest albums of all time, and it broke new ground in frankly addressing relationships and female sexuality in a musical context. Phair describes "Guyville," the place, as a universe populated by young men wearing b
lack leather jackets and wallets clipped to their belt buckles.
Meg White was born in the Detroit area in 1974. She formed the White Stripes in 1997 with her former husband, singer and guitarist Jack White. The duo, with Meg on drums, identified themselves as a brother-and-sister act and styled themselves, their instruments, stage and record packaging in red, white and black, exclusively. Their earthy, simple-on-the-surface takes on the blues struck a powerful chord with audiences and critics alike. Their breakthrough album, 2003’s Elephant, went platinum and included the hit “Seven Nation Army.” Elephant won the 2004 Grammy for Best Alternative Album, while “Seven Nation Army” won for Best Rock Song.
One of the first female hip-hop artists to rise to international fame, Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens in Newark, New Jersey, in 1970. She got her start in the music industry as a rapper/human beat-box with the all-female ensemble Ladies Fresh and at age 18, she went solo and released the single “Wrath of My Madness,” followed the next year by the album All Hail the Queen. She released her followup, Nature of a Sista, in 1991 and later appeared in the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever. In 1993, she debuted in the television sitcom Living Single. Her next album release, 1993’s Black Reign, yielded several hit singles and earned her a Grammy for the song “U.N.I.T.Y.” Latifah established her own label and management company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, the same year. Latifah has earned a total of seven Grammy nominations and earned an Academy Award nomination for Chicago.
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados in 1988, Rihanna signed with the Def Jam label at age 16. In 2005, Rihanna r
eleased her debut album, Music of the Sun, which synthesized Caribbean rhythms and urban-pop songwriting. Thanks to the hit single "Pon de Replay" and a promotional tour with Gwen Stefani, the album sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide. Less than a year later, Rihanna released A Girl Like Me, which included her first #1 single. In 2006, Rihanna won the Teen Choice Award for Female Breakout Artist. In 2007, she released Good Girl Gone Bad, which included the #1 single "Umbrella," featuring Jay-Z. Rihanna’s fifth studio album, 2010’s Loud, included the singles “The Only Girl in the World” and “What’s My Name.”
Born in December 1989 in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, Taylor Swift went to Nashville to try to get a record deal when she was only 11 years old. She failed, but when she returned home she performed the national anthem at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which captured the attention of Big Machine Records and, at age 14, she became the youngest per
son ever hired as a staff songwriter at Sony/ATV publishing. Swift released her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in mid-2006. Her debut album, Taylor Swift, also came out in 2006 and spent eight weeks at the top of the country chart, reaching #5 on the pop chart. The album went multi-platinum, and Swift was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy. Her second album, Fearless, came out in November 2008. It won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
Janelle Monáe was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1985 and moved moved to New York after high school to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy with the intention of pursuing musical theater. In 2004, she moved to Atlanta and soon joined a band, touring the local college circuit, where she eventually met OutKast's Big Boi. The rapper was so impressed by what he heard that he put two of her songs on his 2005 compilation, Got Purp?, Vol. 2. Monáe also appeared on OutKast's 2006 soundtrack, Idlewild, and appeared in the video for "Morris Brown." In August 2007 she released The Chase, a concept piece revolving around a character named Cindi Mayweather and the year 2719. The album - which melded cabaret, hip-hop, rock and soul - was well received, which helped bring the singer to the attention of Sean "Diddy" Combs.