This month, the Billboard Hot 100 charts celebrate a depressing anniversary: it’s been one year since a female-fronted track went No. 1.
The Hot 100, the industry-standard chart that tracks the country’s most popular songs, has seen some exciting achievements this year, from Kendrick Lamar and DJ Khaled earning their first proper No. 1 hits to the unparalleled success of the Spanish-language Despacito.
Yet, every artist to score a No. 1 hit in 2017 has been male. Zero female-fronted singles have reached No. 1 this year, and it’s been 51 weeks since any woman did, the last being Sia with Cheap Thrills on Aug. 27, 2016. You can cut the drought back to 39 weeks if you count the Chainsmokers’ Closer, which includes Halsey as a featured artist.
Since then, 11 all-male songs in a row have reached No. 1, the gender disparity reaching its peak on the April 29 charts, where there wasn’t one female artist in the top 10 for the first time in 33 years.
“We’re in a little bit of a down period right now,” David Bakula, Nielsen’s senior vice president of analytics and client development, told USA TODAY. “Rihanna is in between (albums), Beyoncé is in between, Taylor Swift is in between, Adele is in between.”
Swift is among the artists whose singles fell just short of topping the Hot 100 this year, with with I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker) reaching No. 2, as did DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts with Rihanna.
“Women may not be at No. 1, but that doesn’t mean they’re not on the charts,” Billboard’s associate charts manager Trevor Anderson told USA TODAY. “We’ve seen a solid number of hits from women this year. Taylor (went to) No. 2, Katy Perry was in the top five, and even a newcomer like Alessia Cara got to No. 7 with Stay, her collaboration with Zedd.”
Then there’s Bodak Yellow, Cardi B’s breakthrough single, which is currently the highest-charting track by a female rapper, without any male featured artists, since Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda in 2014.
“She’s No. 14 right now after only five weeks on the chart, so for a lesser-known artist that’s a huge jump,” Anderson said.
Despite these bright spots, women continue to struggle to be represented in genres on the rise, like hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM). If women can’t break through these genres today, then tomorrow’s charts may be plagued by the same representation issues.
“Hip-hop is really becoming the dominant genre for streaming, and if you do have any kind of difference in gender of performers, maybe that’s a place where you can look at it by genre,” Bakula said pointing out that EDM, another genre that has spawned many No. 1 hits, is also dominated by men. “There’s a lot of female vocalists who work with EDM artists, but for the most part, (the songs) are driven by male producers and artists, and rap is similar right now.”
And while a slow release schedule may play some part in 2017’s all-male run of No. 1s, Bakula doesn’t discount the impact of this boys-club mentality. “Most of it seems to be a timing thing right now … but it’s not just timing,” he said about the current drought. “It’s been a really long run without women.”