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Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

I was wondering if you could run a sales and chart analysis of the solo careers of Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. In my opinion, these three women are currently the top female artists in the industry.

Thank you,

Deandre Williams
Detroit, Michigan

Hi Deandre,

Having first appeared as a solo act on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2002, Beyonce has a big head start over Rihanna, who arrived in 2005, and Lady Gaga (2008). Still, all three stars have enjoyed enormous success, so let's see how they rank against each other in various categories.

Album sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan
11,282,000, Beyonce
5,482,000, Rihanna
4,457,000, Lady Gaga

Digital track sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan
28 million, Rihanna
24.4 million, Lady Gaga
23.6 million, Beyonce

Hot 100 No. 1s
6, Rihanna
5, Beyonce
2, Lady Gaga

Hot 100 top 10s
14, Beyonce
14, Rihanna
7, Lady Gaga

Pop Songs No. 1s
6, Beyonce*
6, Lady Gaga*
5, Rihanna
*tied, with Mariah Carey, for most in chart's 17-year history

As in any multi-layered chart and sales comparison among artists, there is no definitive choice as to which artist can be dubbed the most successful.

Clearly, each artist has enjoyed numerous honors. In December, Beyonce was crowned Billboard's top female artist of the 2000s. She has won 13 Grammy Awards as a solo artist (and three with Destiny's Child).

Lady Gaga was named Billboard's top new artist and top Hot 100 artist of 2009; she boasts the two top-selling digital tracks by female artists, according to SoundScan: "Just Dance," featuring Colby O'Donis (5,084,000), and "Poker Face" (4,928,000); and, even the "Glee" cast went Gaga this week).

And, Rihanna has been such a presence on top 40 radio that from her first week on the Pop Songs survey on June 25, 2005, through Feb. 28, 2009, she placed at least one title on the list in 190 of 193 weeks.

No matter their rankings in the categories above, it's indisputable that Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Rihanna have all secured their places among the most celebrated women in pop music history.