Ask Billboard: They Are Women, Hear Them 'Roar'

A look at eras in which female vocals have dominated the Hot 100, plus Drake's latest achievement and Kelly Clarkson's career sales

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

The last "Ask Billboard" and this Wednesday's Billboard Hot 100 news story recapped how women in lead roles, shutting out men – Lorde ("Royals"), Katy Perry ("Roar") and Miley Cyrus ("Wrecking Ball") – locked up the Hot 100's top three for seven weeks until Eminem crashed the all-female party with "The Monster" this week. Let's keep it ladies' choice in this week's Q&A, with a look at other times that girls have ruled the musical world. Plus, Drake appears to have joined an exclusive club among acts with multiple Hot 100 top 10s and Kelly Clarkson is back with new holiday music.


Hi Gary,

On the topic of women dominating the top tier of the Hot 100: I recall at least one week in the spring of 1990 when women held the entire top five on the Hot 100. I believe songs by Sinead O'Connor, Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Wilson Phillips were in the mix, and possibly Jane Child? Was that the case? If so, I think it was for just one week.

Also, an honorable mention for your list of Hot 100 hits with the name "Annie" in their titles should certainly go to "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson … with its refrain of "Annie, are you ok?" ;)

Thanks for an informative column. I've been a Chart Beat fan for more than 25 years, since my college radio days.

Bill Olver

Thanks so much, Bill!

While all those artists spent time in the Hot 100's top five in spring 1990, they didn't quite line up to occupy the region simultaneously. Still, female vocals monopolized the top five the week of May 26, 1990. That week, the tier looked like this:

1, "Vogue," Madonna

2, "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You," Heart
3, "Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O'Connor (long before she offered free online advice to Miley Cyrus, who wouldn't be born until two years later …)
4, "Hold On," Wilson Phillips
5, "Alright," Janet Jackson

By then, Jane Child had fallen to No. 23 with her former No. 2 hit "Don't Wanna Fall in Love."

1990 was a great year for women overall on the Hot 100 (and one of my favorite years of music ever, with it coinciding, unsurprisingly, with my sophomore and junior years of high school, given that those years are generally accepted as among music fans' most impressionable eras, as many of us retain a strong bond with the songs we like early in our musical histories. It's also when songs serve as intense soundtracks to crushes, which surely helps those songs linger in our ears, and hearts, years later.)

Oh right … 1990. From Feb. 10 through June 16, 1990, female voices led the Hot 100 for 19 of 20 weeks:

"Opposites Attract," Paula Abdul (duet with the Wild Pair) (3 weeks)
"Escape," Janet Jackson (3)
"Black Velvet," Alannah Myles (2)
"Love Will Lead You Back," Taylor Dayne (1)
"Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O'Connor (4)
"Vogue," Madonna (3)
"Hold On," Wilson Phillips (1)
"It Must Have Been Love," Roxette (2)

The lone male to ignore the "no boys allowed" sign during that frame? Tommy Page (who was, until recently, Billboard's publisher, led the week of April 14, 1990, with "I'll Be Your Everything." Reflecting how big New Kids on the Block were that year, the boy band's Jordan Knight and Danny Wood co-wrote, and Knight and Donny Wahlberg co-produced, Page's hit, while the group ended the almost all-female domination with "Step by Step," which began a three-week command the week of June 30.

During that stretch, on June 2, 1990, the female artist with the most Hot 100 No. 1s all-time would make her arrival: Mariah Carey bowed that week at No. 73 with "Vision of Love." The song would reach No. 1 for the first of four frames on Aug. 4, 1990, marking the first of her 18 toppers to date.


Hi Gary,

Thanks for mentioning the Hot 100's top three spots filled by Donna Summer and Anita Ward during the summer of 1979. I vividly remember Casey Kasem telling listeners on "American Top 40" that that had never happened before.

But, I think it's even more interesting to note that in one of those summer '79 weeks, the top five positions were all held by females: Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell," two Donna Summer songs ("Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls"), "Chuck E.'s in Love" by Rickie Lee Jones and "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge. (I realize Sister Sledge isn't a solo female, but it's a female vocal on that hit!)

These five female acts held sway for just one week, as Kenny Rogers' "She Believes in Me" moved into the No. 5 position the following week (and he's obviously not a female).

Andy Ray
Carmel, Indiana

Good memory, Andy. A look back at charts that summer reveals that one you note was for the week dated June 30, 1979.

You know who also deserves a mention in this discussion? The first women ever to lead the Hot 100. After the chart launched the week of Aug. 4, 1958, the seventh No. 1 belonged to the Teddy Bears (of which Phil Spector was a member). Reaching the summit for the first of three weeks on top on Dec. 1, 1958, "To Know Him Is to Love Him" was sung by the act's Annette Kleinbard (who'll celebrate her 73rd birthday on Wednesday, Nov. 13.)

It wasn't until the Hot 100's 30th No. 1 that a solo female first ruled: Connie Francis began a two-week reign with "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" the week of June 27, 1960. (She'll turn 75 years young on Dec. 12.)

And, two No. 1s after Francis' hit, Brenda Lee began a three-week domination with "I'm Sorry."