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Thread started 07/14/12 6:59pm


Women Who Rock Greatest Breakthrough Moments

The century-long history of pop music is full of breakthrough moments for female performers. Sometimes it’s a moment in the spotlight, like the emergence of mighty voices like Aretha Franklin or Joni Mitchell. Sometimes it’s in the shadows, as in Mo Tucker drumming with the Velvet Underground or the Chantels getting it together in high school. Here’s a timeline of some of these breakthroughs, from Bessie Smith to Adele.

85. 2012 Adele Sweeps The Grammys: She's the kind of mass success story that isn't supposed to happen anymore: girl gets her heart broken, girl writes a bunch of pissed-off songs about it, girl makes a brilliant record that speaks to every corner of the pop audience, girl sells a gazillion copies. When she sang "Rolling in the Deep" on the 2012 Grammy Awards, it was like a coronation of a new pop queen--not to mention a confirmation that where music is concerned, heart and soul never go out of style

84. 2012 Blue Ivy Carter Is Born

Her first Number One hit is due in approximately 8 years. Her first presidential term begins in 2048.

83. 2011 Wild Flag take charge

The four-woman indie rock supergroup, led by Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Helium's Mary Timony, prove that hardcore will never die.

82. 2010 Nicki Minaj blows up

The pelican-fly Queens rapper goes from mixtape star to mainstream favorite, getting even weirder the more successful she gets. With her crossover pop hit "Super Bass," she lets the world know who the eff she is

81. 2010 Sleigh Bells crush eardrums

The girl-boy duo from Brooklyn break out with "Ring Ring," a song full of brutally overamped guitars, a Funkadelic sample, and Alexis Krauss chanting, "Wonder what your boyfriend thinks about your braces?"

80. 2009 Ke$ha brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels

God's gift to karaoke bars arrives, complete with her perfect trash-disco apocalypse, "Tik Tok."

79. 2008 Lady Gaga causes a commotion

Lady Gaga, meet the fame. Fame, Gaga. A passionate love story begins, as Stefani Germanotta dominates the radio, refuses to wear pants, and invites the whole world to her Monster Ball.

78. 2008 Katy Perry kisses a girl

And she likes it. After years of scuffling around in the business, the onetime Christian singer-songwriter goes to Number One with a cherry-chapstick-flavored makeout song. Perry takes up permanent residence at the top of the charts.

77. 2008 Feist visits Sesame Street

The Canadian folkie crackpot brings her left-field hit "1, 2, 3, 4" to the Muppets, where she sounds right at home.

76. 2008 M.I.A. takes your money

To everybody’s shock, the Sri Lanka-via-London art guerrilla flukes into a massive hit single when "Paper Planes" gets attention in the TV ads for a James Franco stoner comedy. Duuuuude! The song inspires hip-hop answer records from Kanye, Diddy, and T.I.

75. 2007 Rihanna opens her umbrella

The Barbados-born Ri dominates the radio all summer, showing off her new wave haircut and her "ella ella ella, ay ay ya" chant

74. 2007 Amy Winehouse says no, no, no

The British lass scores a U.S. hit with her retro-Sixties soul homage "Rehab." Hipster girls rock the beehive hairstyle, but Winehouse, already plagued by drug problems, is dead within a few years.

73. 2006 Taylor Swift plays guitar hero

Once the country ingenue arrives, nothing is quite the same. For a generation of girls, Taylor Swift is the first time they’ve ever laid eyes on a guitar. Your niece wants one for Christmas. Future generations of rock goddesses will bond over her songs the way their moms bonded over the Annie soundtrack.

72. 2006 The Gossip take a stand

Punk rocker Beth Ditto belts "Standing In The Way Of Control," a passionate protest against homophobia. American radio is too prissy to play it, but it becomes a top ten smash in the UK.

71. 2006 Cat Power gets a grip

Already a revered indie songwriter, but dismissed as a flaky headcase, Chan Marshall finally makes her soul-power breakout with The Greatest, cut with a band of Memphis R&B legends

70. 2006 Gwen Stefani yodels

The No Doubt singer, in the middle of a surprising run of solo hits, becomes the first bare-bellied pop star to try making people dance to "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music. Yodelcore!

69. 2005 Fiona Apple completes Extraordinary Machine

She spent years laboring over her third album -- changing producers, scrapping finished versions -- as bootleg demos kept leaking out. But it was worth the wait, as Apple delivered on all the promises her voice had always made.

68. 2005 Robyn hits the floor

Nobody expected this 1990s Swedish teen-pop washout to keep making music as a grown-up -- let alone to rebuild her career as an electro-disco weirdo with songs like "Konichiwa Bitches." But with her self-titled debut, she refuses to go out like a "Crash and Burn Girl." She’s kept making amazing records ever since.

67. 2004 Joanna Newsom reinvents the harp solo

The pride of the then-bustling freak-folk scene, Newsom scores with The Milk-Eyed Mender, complete with a song about bean sprouts. More mead, sire?

66.2003 Alicia Keys opens her diary

With The Diary of Alicia Keys, the Hell's Kitchen pianist shows off the newfound maturity of her voice, even in teen-romance concerns like "You Don't Know My Name."

65. 2003 Meg White Sings

The hard-hitting but soft-spoken drummer of the White Stripes finally answers the prayers of fans by crooning "In The Cold Cold Night," just one of the classics on the Stripes' breakthrough hit Elephant.

64. 2003 Beyonce gets crazy

She was already a mega-blam-blam with Destiny’s Child, but "Crazy In Love" announces her solo ascendancy with that Chi-Lites-sampling horn fanfare and a guest rap from Jay-Z. Has anyone begun a solo career with a louder pop blast? In a word, no-oh-uh-oh-uh-oh.

63. 2002 Yeah Yeah Yeahs become an international word-of-mouth sensation

With punk goddess Karen O, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs revitalize eighty years of female rock & roll tradition in punky gems such as "Bang," "Our Time" and "Mystery Girl." Somewhere, Bessie Smith is smiling -- and playing air guitar.

62. 2001 Mary J.Blige brings that beat back

The queen of hip-hop soul hits Number One with "Family Affair," denouncing holleration and hateration.

61. 2001 Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott drops "Get Ur Freak On"

It's a hip-hop tantrum catchy enough to turn the entire American people into blithering idiots yelling "Holla!" at one another all summer long. Her episode of Cribs is dope, too.

60. 1999 Aimee Mann inspires the film 'Magnolia'

the movie's most memorable scene, all the characters sing her ballad "Save Me."

59. 1999 Britney Spears debuts with the video for "... Baby One More Time"

What do you know: Pop music really can still piss off your parents!

58. 1998 Aaliyah trips out with "Are You That Somebody?"

Even though she was gone too soon -- killed in a 2001 plane crash after a video shoot -- Aaliyah still defined herself as one of the era's prime hitmakers, especially in collaboration with Missy Elliott and Timbaland.

57. 1997 Sarah McLachlan organizes Lilith Fair

The tour brings together a host of female artists and proves the commercial clout of female audiences. Musicians on the original tour include Jewel, Tracy Chapman and Joan Osborne. Throughout the next two years, Lilith Fair presents artists including Bonnie Raitt, the Pretenders, Erykah Badu, Liz Phair, Luscious Jackson and Missy Elliott.

56. 1996 Sheryl Crow comes of age

Her self-produced, self-written, self-titled second album spawns the hits "If It Makes You Happy" and "A Change Would Do You Good."

55. 1996 Lauryn Hill settles the score

There were lots of great female rappers before Lauryn Hill: Here's a toast to Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante, LeShaun and Sequence. But when the Fugees blow up in 1996 with The Score, the biggest star in the hip-hop universe is a woman. Hill can do it all: rap, sing and write like a cross between Al Capone and Nina Simone. She launches her solo career in 1998 with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

54. 1995 Alanis Morissette arrives with "You Oughta Know"

Supposed former infatuation junkie and Canadian kiddie-TV star Alanis Morissette has the best-selling debut album of the era with Jagged Little Pill. The catchphrase "Isn't it ironic? Don'tcha think?" becomes the "For shizzle my nizzle" of the day

53. 1994 Courtney Love makes a grunge classic

With her band, Hole, Love releases the searing Live Through This, just days after Kurt Cobain's body is found. She launches a chaotic, cathartic tour after just a few months off and turns her grief into the unforgettable "Doll Parts" video.

52. 1993 Björk drops her solo debut, 'Debut'

The Icelandic muse and former Sugarcube begins her swan-tastic reign as the Nineties' weirdest superstar.

51. 1993 Janet Jackson grows up on 'Janet'

Celebrating her most personal music to date, she also models her expertly shielded upper torso on the cover of Rolling Stone. The rumor that Janet and Michael are the same person dies overnight.

50. 1992 Whitney Houston stars in 'The Bodyguard'

includes her biggest and best hit, a tear-crankingly soulful cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

49. 1992 TLC debut with "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg"

They raise eyebrows with their baggy pants, sassy talk and Left Eye's patch. They go on to become the decade's premier pop group: crazy, sexy, cool.

48. 1992 k.d. lang comes out

The swank country crooner abandons the closet the same year that she becomes a star with herbreakthrough hit album, Ingénue.

47. 1992 Punk rockers L7 break ultimate rock taboo

When the audience at the Reading Festival, in England, won't stop throwing mud at the band, guitarist Donita Sparks adds a new chapter to the art of crowd control by tossing her tampon into the pit.

46. 1990 Bonnie Raitt becomes a star after twenty years

Raitt unexpectedly wins four Grammy Awards in one night, including Album of the Year for Nick of Time. She has been making records for two decades, including classics such as 1972's Give It Up, but her folk-blues raunch was too unconventional for pop success. Nick of Time changes all that, and Bonnie Raitt has never been far from the spotlight since.

45. 1990 Ani DiFranco founds her own indie label

With her Righteous Babe label, she exemplifies the do-it-yourself route to success and control.

44. 1990 Bikini Kill proclaim, "Revolution Grrrl Style, Now!"

The pioneering riot grrrls start a pop-culture takeover, getting together to play politically charged punk rock in Olympia, Washington. They make a ferocious noise with anthems such as "Rebel Girl" and "Suck My Left One." Bikini Kill are a key inspiration for Nirvana and all that follows. Today, lead singer Kathleen Hanna continues to rock with her great new band, Le Tigre.

43. 1987 Sinéad O'Connor shaves her head

Marking her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, as a personal act of defiance, O'Connor shocks her record company with her newly shorn pate.

42. 1986 The Bangles walk like an Egyptian

Way-oh, way-oh, waaaay-ooooh.

41. 1985 Roxanne Shanté, a fourteen-year-old homegirl from the Queens projects, writes the hip-hop hit "Roxanne's An answer record to UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne," it introduces one of the toughest voices hip-hop has ever heard.

40. 1984 Madonna scandalizes world at MTV Awards

To sing her new hit "Like a Virgin," Ms. Ciccone decides to writhe on the floor, flashing her underwear beneath her wedding dress. Catholicism hasn't been the same since.

39. 1984 Tina Turner: Free at last

With her album Private Dancer,Turner pulls off the most famous comeback in rock history. After quitting her abusive marriage to Ike Turner in 1976, she began her career over from scratch. In 1984, Private Dancer makes her a solo star, as she denounces secondhand emotions in "What's Love Got to Do With It" and demands "Better Be Good to Me." She also sings a memorable "It's Only Rock & Roll," with Mick Jagger, at Live Aid in 1985

38. 1983 Annie Lennox redefines gender-bending

The Eurythmics singer even shows up at the 1984 Grammy Awards in drag – as Elvis. In her "Who's That Girl" video, the male Annie shares a passionate smooch with the female Annie.

37. 1983 Cyndi Lauper has fun

The unlikely starlet becomes American's sweetheart, hiccuping her way through the femme-bonding pink-haired New Wave slumber party "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and the album She's So Unusual. Which she was, and still is.

36. 1982 Kim Gordon plugs in

The Sonic Youth bassist becomes one of the most distinctive voices in rock with songs like "Halloween," "Flower" and "'Cross The Breeze." On the band's 2006 tour, she even started to dance.

35. 1982 Bananarama invent the New Wave girl-group archetype

Their hits include "Shy Boy," "I Heard a Rumour" and the immortal "Robert De Niro's Waiting." Somehow, they manage to go through their entire career looking hot and bored at the same time.

34. 1982 The Go-Go's crash the Top Forty with "Our Lips Are Sealed"

Girl power will never be the same. The Go-Go's started out as hardcore L.A. punkers, hanging out with the Germs. But when they learn to sing, play and write songs, they discover that they are actually a great rock & roll band. Beauty and the Beat defines a new kind of California teen cool, and Gina Schock is one of the toughest drummers in rock history

33. 1980 Blondie's Debbie Harry hosts 'The Muppet Show'

Singing "One Way or Another," she brings punk rock and Miss Piggy together and shows the mainstream clout of New Wave.

32. 1979 Laurie Anderson first performs her art-rock theater piece 'United States'

Superman" later becomes a freak hit, reaching Number Two in the U.K

31. 1979 Joan Jett quits the Runaways to go solo

She loves rock & roll, and rock & roll definitely loves her back. She's worn the same black leather jacket ever since.

30. 1978 Poly Styrene, a London kid with braces, rocks out with X-Ray Spex

The classic single "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" is a raw punk anthem featuring Styrene's scream and her high school pal Lora Logic on saxophone. Styrene is definitely a weirdo in the rock world – young, clumsy, half-Somalian, with funky clothes and a big mess of curly hair – but she sums up the eternal appeal of punk to outsiders and underdogs everywhere.

29. 1978 Kate Bush debuts with 'The Kick Inside'

She brings her eccentric art-rock voice to songs such as "Wuthering Heights."

28. 1975 Patti Smith's first show at CBGB

Fusing avant-garde poetry and garage rock, she kick-starts the punk revolution

27. 1975 Stevie Nicks joins Fleetwood Mac

With Nicks singing hits including "Rhiannon" and "Landslide," the Mac become the world's most popular band.

26. 1974 Donna Summer scores with "Love to Love You Baby"

The seventeen-minute Giorgio Moroder production puts disco – and simulated orgasms – on the map.

25. 1974 Labelle explore outer limits of fashion insanity

Dressed up as disco Martians, the three nightbirds hit Number One with the gitchy-gitchy classic "Lady Marmalade."

24. 1974 Linda Ronstadt takes off with 'Heart Like a Wheel'

The album, featuring "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved," perfects the L.A. mellow sound.

23. 1972 Bette Midler invents a whole new style of rock & roll cool

Reaching back to the Andrews Sisters, Bessie Smith and Sophie Tucker, she opens up rock's emotional repertoire.

22. 1971 Carole King's 'Tapestry' defines the singer-songwriter movement

King is already a veteran when she makes her first hit album, Tapestry. As one of the legendary Brill Building songwriters, she co-wrote hits such as "The Locomotion," "Up on the Roof" and "One Fine Day." But after her marriage ends, she moves out West and makes the grown-up soft-rock autobiography Tapestry. It becomes one of the Seventies' longest-running hits, eventually selling 22 million copies and spawning the hits "I Feel the Earth Move," "So Far Away" and "It's Too Late."

21. 1970 Diana Ross leaves the Supremes

It's the end of an era for girl groups and the Motown empire.

20. 1968 Joni Mitchell Releases Her First Album

Song to a Seagull introduces a new style of poetic songwriting that continues to be hugely influential on artists from Cat Power to Prince.

19. 1968 Dusty Springfield goes to Memphis

The London beehive diva makes her American pilgrimage for the torch-pop masterpiece Dusty in Memphis.

18. 1967 Janis Joplin takes a piece of our heart

Janis Joplin becomes the reigning goddess of the new hippie love generation at the Monterey Pop Festival, belting the blues epic "Ball and Chain" with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. A Texas girl relocated to San Francisco, Joplin is a nobody before she comes to Monterey, but she steals the show. In the Monterey Pop movie, you can see Mama Cass in the audience shake her head and say, " Wooow " – and that says it all.

17. 1967: Bobbie Gentry Writes and Sings 'Ode to Billie Joe'

The mysterious acoustic Southern-gothic hit holds a nation spellbound – what did they throw off that bridge, anyway?

16. 1966 Aretha goes to Muscle Shoals

When Aretha Franklin heads down to the Alabama studio to cut I Never Loved a Man, she truly becomes the queen of soul. After growing up on gospel, she made her first records in the early Sixties for Columbia – mostly tame lounge jazz. But producer Jerry Wexler lets Franklin cut loose with the immortal Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, and the results earn her the name Lady Soul.

15. 1966 Yoko Ono meets John Lennon at a London art gallery

The great rock & roll love story begins.

14. 1966: Maureen Tucker Joins Velvet Underground as the Drummer

Her backbeat in "I'm Waiting for the Man" becomes the definitive punk rhythm.

13. 1966 Grace Slick joins Jefferson Airplane

The band turns from mellow folkies into the hard-driving psychedelic rockers of "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit

12. 1964 The Honeycombs hit big on both sides of the Atlantic

They're the first band ever named after a girl drummer – and Honey's bouffant was even bigger than her bass drum

11. 1964: The Ronettes Tour With Opening Act the Rolling Stones

Be My Baby" bombshell Ronnie Spector belts her way into history as one of the sultriest, grittiest rock singers ever. Her great collaboration with Joey Ramone, She Talks to Rainbows, comes out in 1999.

10. 1963: Cher Meets Sonny

He's got Cher to kiss good night, she's got Sonny to hold her tight, and thus begins Cher's lifelong reign as America's most-beloved drama queen.

9. 1963: The Brill Building Songwriters create a Timeless Soundtrack to American Adolescence

Working behind the scenes at 1619 Broadway, in New York, songwriters such as Carole King, Ellie Greenwich and Cynthia Weil bang out rock & roll classics including "Da Doo Ron Ron"and "Leader of the Pack."

8. 1957: Virginia Rock & Roll Hellion Janis Martin Comes Out of the Hills to Sing 'My Boy Elvis'

Her country-fried rockabilly sound earns her fame as the "female Elvis."

7. 1956: The Chantels Get Together in Parochial School

They meet singing in the school choir at St. Anthony of Padua, in the Bronx, and launch the girl-group sound that still rocks us today. None of these five black Catholic schoolgirls was older than 17, but lead singer Arlene Smith had a voice that could – and still can – raise the roof. Classics such as "Maybe" (written by Smith) paved the way for immortal girl gangs like the Shangri-Las, the Crystals and the Chiffons.

6. 1955: Wanda Jackson Meets Elvis and Decides to Make Her Own Records

Her rockabilly classics include "Mean Mean Man," "Fujiyama Mama" and "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad."

5. 1955: Etta James Cuts 'Roll With Me, Henry'

One of the most notoriously obscene early rock hits, it's a nasty answer record to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie."

4. 1953: Big Mama Thornton Introduces 'Hound Dog'

songwriter, drummer and harmonica player, this blueswoman is best known for composing "Ball and Chain," later covered by Janis Joplin, and for originating Elvis' breakthrough hit, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

3. 1939: Billie Holiday Sings 'Strange Fruit'

Holiday first performs the song during her stand at New York's Cafe Society club. It isn't exactly standard jazz-singer fare: Lewis Allan's ballad is about lynching in the Deep South, with "strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees." But, as Holiday tells her band-leader, "Some guy's brought me a hell of a damn song that I'm going to do." Her record company, Columbia, refuses to touch it, so she cuts it for the indie label Commodore – and winds up with a Top 20 hit. "Strange Fruit" remains one of Holiday's signature songs

2. 1928: Sarah and Mother Maybelle Sing on the Carter Family's 'Wildwood Flower'

goes on to sell a million copies and lay the foundation of country music.

1. 1923: Bessie Smith Releases 'Gulf Coast Blues'

Her biggest hit sells 780,000 copies in six months and puts the blues on the map.

Read more: Women Who Rock: Greatest ...ling Stone

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Reply #1 posted 07/15/12 12:37pm



They forgot someone...

2012: The Queen Returns
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Reply #2 posted 07/16/12 8:18am


RKJCNE said:

They forgot someone...

I heart it, but I don't understand it. What is going on with that masterpiece GIF? Why ask and block the blessing you say?

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Reply #3 posted 07/16/12 11:00am



they forgot several people.

"It's not nice to fuck with K.B.! All you haters will see!" - Kitbradley
"The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." - Socrates
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Reply #4 posted 07/16/12 2:05pm



Blue Ivy?


Can she even talk yet??

Glad Whitney made the list.

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Reply #5 posted 07/16/12 3:30pm



You can take a black guy to Nashville from right out of the cotton fields with bib overalls, and they will call him R&B. You can take a white guy in a pin-stripe suit who’s never seen a cotton field, and they will call him country. ~ O. B. McClinton
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Reply #6 posted 07/17/12 3:54am


Why is Blue Ivy on this list. Neither her, nor her parents, are particulary significant to music.

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Reply #7 posted 07/17/12 3:58am



Blue Ivy makes it but Christina doesn't? At least the latter can wipe her ass by herself.

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