9 Female Artists Who Redefined Coachella: Including Rihanna and Lady Gaga
From Madonna to Solange, the women have deserved headline spots all along…
With the 20th Coachella Valley and Music Arts Festival taking place this month, music lovers around the world - ticket-holders and not - are anticipating big things for the famous festival’s big anniversary.
Over two decades, Coachella has become of the most popular music festivals in the world for its extraordinary line-ups, one-off performances, unpredictable special guests, and the mass numbers of celebrities in the audience.
While one might want to argue that Vanessa Hudgens single-handedly transformed the appeal and aesthetic of this desert festival, we’re here to talk about the female performers who are continually changing the face of the once rock-and-rap-heavy festival to make space for the ladies in charge.
When the 2019 line-up dropped, all eyes were on the third headliner: Ariana Grande.
Besides being the most talked-about artist in the world right now, she makes history as the youngest headliner in the history of the festival. An impressive feat, which becomes all the more astounding when you also find out that she is only the fourth female headliner in Coachella history. The ‘7 Rings’ superstar will take her massive new tour to the desert with some extra special additions. She’s already spoken about doing ‘Break Your Heart Right Back’ with Childish Gambino, so we know she’s about to blow our minds.
Ariana’s pop star status has been pointed to as reasons why her headline slot may be a surprise, although her predecessors have been paving the way for her special moment.
Björk first broke the barrier in the festival’s third year, in 2002, when she became the first female headliner. She went on to headline the festival for the second time (the only woman to do so) five years later in 2007, when she was still the only woman to ever headline.
It took another ten years for another woman to headline the festival, although before Lady Gaga slayed the stage, there were many other women who proved their worth in non-headline sets that have, thankfully, got us to where we are today.
In one of the most shocking festival decisions ever, Madonna performed a full set during her Confessions on a Dancefloor era in 2006 but did not headline. Although, if the Queen of Pop is at your festival, people will manage to squeeze in. In her first ever festival appearance - over twenty years into her career! - Madonna played to a packed Sahara Tent, which has famously been recalled as overflowing and hailed as one of the best Coachella performances of all time. Well, duh.
Madonna did later return to the festival in 2015 during Drake’s headline set to perform a brief medley of her hits ‘Human Nature’ and ‘Hung Up’, and subsequently made headlines around the world when she kissed the rapper. What a time!
One of the most prominent female acts of Coachella is Florence + the Machine. The band, led by frontwoman Florence Welch, have performed memorable sets in 2010, 2012 and 2015 (!), with their most recent even being described as superior to actual headliner Drake’s at the time. Queen.
2014 ushered in a new wave of female performers as Lana Del Rey, Solange and Lorde all made their desert debuts that year, with the latter returning to the festival for a late-night set in 2017. Prior to Lady Gaga’s life-affirming headline set in 2017 and Beyoncé’s festival-changing, Destiny’s Child-reuniting showcase last year, there is one final queen who has subtly shaken the table over the years to create demand for female headliners.
Rihanna has yet to perform her own full set at Coachella - whether it be a personal decision or not, we don’t know - but she has stole the show twice over the years during Calvin Harris’ sets. She first took to the stage in 2012 when she jumped over the fence from the audience and grabbed a mic to sing ‘Where Have You Been’ (classic badgalriri move) then made a more rehearsed appearance in 2016 when Calvin headlined, performing their legendary hit ‘We Found Love’.
Lady Gaga brought straight-up (ART)pop to the festival when she headlined in 2017, proving it does indeed have a headline-worthy place, and Beyoncé simply proved nobody can do it like a woman can with her unbelievable two-hour set in 2018.
Eight years after she joined husband Jay-Z during his own legendary set (the first rapper to headline), Queen Bey became the first black woman to headline the festival… ‘cause she slay. She also renamed the entire festival to Beychella because that’s just how life works.
Recent years have brought us unforgettable sets from Cardi B, Ellie Goulding and more, leading us to this year’s billing that is undeniably Coachella’s most inclusive of women to date.
With Janelle Monae, Billie Eilish, BLACKPINK, Solange, Kacey Musgraves, Lizzo, Christine and the Queens, SOPHIE, Ella Mai and H.E.R just some of the badass names on the line-up, we cannot wait to see the magic that goes down.