We recently took VH1 to task for including some fairly undeserving — and a few just plain awful — acts on their countdown of the “100 Greatest Women in Music.” So, who do we think would have been more deserving? We’re so glad you asked! Although it’s lacking in many categories, female rockers were especially slighted. We’ve attempted to point out some of the most egregious snubs, keeping two rules in mind: 1. VH1 has limited itself to the past 20 years, so it’s only fair to follow suit. 2. It’s not realistic to expect a mainstream TV network to acknowledge the existence of performers as obscure as, say, Carla Bozulich — so, while we certainly think she’s great, she’s not on this list. See who we would have included after the jump.
Along with bands like The Strokes and Liars, Karen O’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs rose to the top of the indie heap in the early aughts, renewing New York’s status as the global capitol of rock ‘n’ roll. The albums and three EPs later, the band hasn’t disappointed us yet — and an enormous part of their success and appeal can be chalked up to O’s magnetic, daredevil stage presence and slithery vocals. She isn’t just a frontwoman, though; she also collaborated with Carter Burwell on soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, co-created an opera called Stop the Virgens, and has contributed to tracks by everyone from Trent Reznor and David Lynch to Johnny Knoxville. Can Miley Cyrus (#82) say that?
She co-founded riot grrrl, a historic feminist punk movement that helped pave the way for everything from Hole to the Spice Girls, and has fronted two of the most influential independent acts of the past two decades, Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. She launched a solo project, Julie Ruin, around the turn of the millennium and is reviving it as we speak with a full band. For 20 years, Kathleen Hanna has been one of the smartest, coolest, and most inspiring voices in rock. But, you know, whatever. We’re sure the Pussycat Dolls (#100) have done just about as much for women in music.
With only one full-length album under her belt (and apparently two more on the way this year), Monáe is the kind of musician that you can’t help but love, whether you’re a mainstream pop fan or an indie snob. Her high-concept sci-fi aesthetic has won co-signs from of Montreal and Big Boi alike, and she proved capable of pleasing even mass audiences in a performance with Bruno Mars at last year’s Grammys. Her career may be just beginning, but it seems safe to say that Monáe will be a major force in music for years to come. You know, like Dido (#73)…
During their roughly decade-long reign, from the mid-’90s through the mid-’00s, Sleater-Kinney may well have been the best straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band in the world. They were certainly the most consistent, constantly living up to the challenge of their famous “Show us your riffs” T-shirt and never releasing a single disappointing album. Several years after breaking up, each member of the trio rediscovered music, with Corin Tucker going solo and Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss joining some new band mates in the thrilling supergroup Wild Flag. (Mary Timony, who’s also in that band, may well deserve a spot on VH1’s list, too.) But hey, they’re no Fergie (#27), right?
Before riot grrrl, there was the all-female L7, led by Donita Sparks — one of rock’s greatest badasses, a prodigious shredder with a killer whisper-growl voice. Although they never really got their due, they were one of the most influential bands of their generation, both for ’90s grunge and for the new wave of punk-rock women that rose up around the same time. And yet, how could they possibly compare with Colbie Caillat (#94)?
A major force in music since she and stepsister Tanya Donelly (who may also deserve a spot on this list) founded alt-rock forerunners Throwing Muses as teenagers in the ’80s, Kristin Hersh is one of those rare musicians who’s fierce and intelligent and vulnerable at the same time. Hugely prolific, she’s put out classic albums both with the Muses and as a folkier solo act and even explored hard, fast rock with 50 Foot Wave. Hersh’s duet with Michael Stipe, “Your Ghost” (above), is one of our favorite collaborations of all time. Well, you know, besides Jordin Sparks (#92) and Chris Brown’s “No Air.”
A decade ago, Gossip were a little indie band from Olympia, Washington with a small but loyal following. These days, they’re a gospel-tinged dance-punk powerhouse, releasing endless dance floor liberation anthems and recording with the likes of Rick Rubin. Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto is the primary catalyst behind this meteoric rise, her powerful voice and brave outspokenness making her an icon that unites everyone from queer teenagers to plus-size women to the fashion industry. Like any great pop star, Ditto isn’t just a singer; she’s now a brand, modeling in runway shows, designing her own clothing line, and collaborating on a collection with MAC cosmetics. Still, as a lesbian icon, how could she possibly compare to Katy Perry (#17)?
Linn Berggren and Jenny Berggren
Oh, sure, you don’t remember their names — but you can’t possibly have forgotten Ace of Base, the sister-fronted Swedish pop group that dominated our Walkman as elementary schoolers in the early ’90s. Resign them to the kitsch pile all you like, but their catchy songs hold up after all these years, as anyone who’s ever put “The Sign” on a party playlist or enjoyed The Mountain Goats’ cover of same can attest. We’re still waiting to hear John Darnielle record a J. Lo (#16) song.
In a decade and a half, she’s basically done it all: fronted Neko Case and Her Boyfriends, contributed her powerful pipes to Canadian indie supergroup The New Pornographers, paired up with Carolyn Mark to form The Corn Sisters, released a string of gorgeous solo albums that straddle the line between folk-rock and alt-country, and collaborated with everyone from The Sadies to Andrew Bird to Nick Cave. Case is a captivating performer whose Americana bent never feels artificial, and she seems to expand her audience with each new release. Still, she’s apparently no match for the arm socks-pioneering Avril Lavigne (#84).
All right, all right. We admit she’s only released a few songs so far, but they’ve all been fantastic. Meanwhile, Faith Evans (#85) has been around for almost two decades, and how many life-changing singles has she released?