The history of rock includes a myriad of collectives in which a strong female voice provides the group’s identity while being supported by male backing musicians — and thank the heavens for it, because a new generation of these acts have made women all the more present in modern rock, country, pop and electronica.
And although there’s no rule that bands made up of all men, all women or a mix of genders are any less cool, there’s just something magical about watching a female artist lead the charge with a group of guys standing behind her onstage. From Garbage’s Shirley Manson to Evanescence’s Amy Lee, an ever-growing list of women rockers have spent decades proving that their talents are just as deserving of respect and notoriety, even in testosterone-dominated genres — and if you don’t agree, their supporting male bandmates probably have a thing or two to say to you.
That’s not to say these women aren’t perfectly capable of sticking up for themselves, however. Just take a look at Paramore’s Hayley Williams, who’s called out the music industry’s sexism on several occasions. “I remember playing North Star Bar [in Philadelphia] and this guy yelled ‘take off your shirt!” probably 10 times,” she once recalled to Rolling Stone. “By the fifth or sixth time, I realized that I’m the one with the microphone. I’ve got power here. I don’t have to be quiet.”
“There’s enough women that are rad and have great points of view and great things to say who can start encouraging that in one another and the people who are coming to shows; instill something else in them that is not being told to them through society and magazine covers,” she added. “Tell them that having a voice and going against the grain is good.”
Here are 28 of our favorite bands fronted by inspiring female artists.