As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Billboard‘s Alternative Songs chart, we’re looking back at the top-performing women in the chart’s archives, dating to its Sept. 10, 1988 inception.
Although the Alternative Songs chart tends to be heavily male-dominated (Alice Merton became just the ninth lead solo woman to hit No. 1 in February), women and female-fronted acts have a storied history on the ranking.
Thanks to her eight entries on the chart, including a pair of No. 1s as the frontwoman for The Cranberries, the late Dolores O’Riordan rules as the chart’s all-time top female artist (encompassing soloists, group frontwomen and women in duos). The band also lands both of its No. 1s on the weekly survey on the all-time top 300 Alternative Songs recap: “Zombie,” at No. 39, thanks to its six-week run at No. 1 in 1994, and “Salvation,” at No. 280, after ruling the chart for four weeks in 1996. O’Riordan died unexpectedly in January at age 46.
Meg White, half of The White Stripes, with Jack White, ranks at No. 2, with the duo’s biggest hit “Seven Nation Army” showing at No. 71 on the all-time songs list.
Alanis Morissette is the top solo woman on the list, at No. 5. She boasts two tracks on the all-time top 300, “You Oughta Know” (No. 111) and “Ironic” (No. 164), and has logged the most No. 1s on the weekly Alternative Songs chart (three) among any female soloist, group leader or duo member. The Cranberries, Sinead O’Connor, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The White Stripes follow with two each.
(Again, it’s worth noting that we only included solo women, female-fronted groups and women in duos in the ranking below, so apologies to still-vital band members including New Order’s Gillian Gilbert, The Lumineers’ Neyla Pekarek, Silversun Pickups’ Nikki Monninger and Pixies’ Kim Deal, among others.)
Here is a look at the top-performing women artists over the Alternative Songs chart’s first 30 years.
30. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
29. Meriel Barham, Miki Berenyi & Emma Anderson (Lush)
28. Florence Welch (Florench + The Machine)
27. Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)
26. Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins)
25. Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies)
24. Tanya Donelly & Gail Greenwood (Belly)
23. Tori Amos
22. Suzanne Vega
21. Amy Lee (Evanescence)
20. Björk (The Sugarcubes)
19. Sheryl Crow
18. Harriet Wheeler (The Sundays)
17. Sinéad O’Connor
16. Sarah McLachlan
14. Kate Bush
13. Hayley Williams (Paramore)
12. Noelle Scaggs (Fitz and the Tantrums)
11. Courtney Love (Hole)
10. Hannah Hooper (Grouplove)
9. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men)
8. Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs) (Note: Mary Ramsey replaced Merchant in 1993, though all of the band’s Alternative Songs entries were in the Merchant era)
7. Gwen Stefani (No Doubt)
6. Kate Pierson & Cindy Wilson (The B-52s)
5. Alanis Morissette
4. Shirley Manson (Garbage)
3. Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie & the Banshees)
2. Meg White (The White Stripes)
1. Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries)
The Top 30 Female Alternative Songs Artists ranking is based on weekly performance on the Alternative Songs chart from its Sept. 10, 1988, inception through Sept. 8, 2018. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with cumulative weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates over various periods. Artists are then ranked based on a formula blending performance, as outlined above, of all their Alternative Songs chart entries.