Ask Billboard: It's All About Women In The Hot 100's Top Five
Women control the chart's top five this week, led by Meghan Trainor's 'All About That Bass.' How uncommon is a top-five male lockout?
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IT'S ALL ABOUT WOMEN IN THE HOT 100'S TOP FIVE
On the Billboard Hot 100 this week, Iggy Azalea and featured artist Rita Ora's "Black Widow" (6-5) overtakes Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" (5-6) to secure a place in the top five. So, the top five is now composed of: Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Azalea and Ora. Seven women!
This week's top five:
1, Meghan Trainor, "All About That Bass"
2, Taylor Swift, "Shake It Off"
3, Nicki Minaj, "Anaconda"
4, Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, "Bang Bang"
5, Iggy Azalea featuring Rita Ora, "Black Widow"
When was the last time that the Hot 100's top five included only women? Also, is this a new record for the most women in the top five at once?
Your first question is THE question this week, as reader Eric Goldhorn of Philadelphia also asked.
So did "fellow chartophile and chartifacts writer" Gavin Ryan from Australia. Ryan notes that "this almost happened in Oz recently, when we had Meghan, Taylor, G.R.L. and Paloma Faith all in the top five at the same time." [Ed. note: I love "chartifacts" as a term for valued nuggets dug up from chart history!]
Women last dominated the Hot 100's entire top five … actually not that long ago.
Here's how the top five looked the week of March 3, 2012:
1, Katy Perry, "Part of Me"
2, Adele, "Set Fire to the Rain"
3, Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"
4, Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
5, Adele, "Rolling in the Deep"
That week followed a span of nearly 13 years since the prior instance of women locking up the top five. Here's a look at the March, 20, 1999, Hot 100's top five:
1, Cher, "Believe"
2, Whitney Houston featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price, "Heartbreak Hotel"
3, Monica, "Angel of Mine"
4, Mariah Carey, "I Still Believe"
5, Sarah McLachlan, "Angel"
So, to answer the second question, seven women inhabited the region that week, just as they do this week.
Late 1998-early 1999 stands as the golden era of women controlling the Hot 100's top five. I wrote about that domination in 2012 when Perry led that all-female top five above. To recap (and, thanks, 2012 me, for saving current me the research):
In December 1998, the Hot 100's top five featured women or female groups the entire month, courtesy of Celine Dion, Deborah Cox, Divine, Lauryn Hill, Shania Twain and then-newcomer Britney Spears. R. Kelly, however, joined Dion on the No. 1 song all that month, "I'm Your Angel." With Brandy in the mix ("Have You Ever?"), women – with Kelly – added three more weeks of top five control in January 1999.
Finally, we get to Feb. 13, 1999, which goes down in Hot 100 history as the first week that only solo women ruled the entire top five:
1, "Angel of Mine," Monica
2, "…Baby One More Time," Britney Spears
3, "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here," Deborah Cox
4, "Believe," Cher
5, "Have You Ever?," Brandy
Such girl power, in fact, continued for three more weeks, which included Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" having entered the top five. That can't be considered a coincidence, as McLachlan's creation of the Lilith Fair tour encompassed more than just a series of concerts: it surely helped create an historic feat in the Hot 100's, and music, history.
"Women still don't have job equality. We still don't have equal pay," McLachlan has said. "There's discrimination everywhere. I was trying to uphold what I thought feminism was as best I could by supporting women, by trying to create an opportunity to get women to get together, play music together and celebrate the fact that we are having great success making music on our own and together."
In all, then, just seven weeks have seen only solo women monopolize the Hot 100's top five: Feb. 13, 20, 27 and March 6 and 20, 1999; March 3, 2012; and the latest chart dated Sept. 20, 2014.
Put in further context, those seven weeks are out of the Hot 100's 56-year history.
And, notably, Houston plays into five of those seven weeks, covering four in 1999 and the one in 2012, when "Always" bolted 7-3 following her passing. Plus, Perry, in addition to performing and co-writing "Part of Me," is a co-writer of "Black Widow."
(Fun fact: songs called "Bang Bang" apparently tie into female chart supremacy. Cher, part of 1999's class, rose to No. 2 in 1966 with "Bang Bang [My Baby Shot Me Down]." Jessie J, Grande and Minaj hold at their No. 4 peak with their own "Bang Bang" this week.)
Meanwhile, other weeks deserve honorable mentions, including the frames in which R. Kelly crashed the all-women's party as Celine Dion's musical date. In fact, the week of March 27, 1999, the top six belonged to female voices, as hits by Cher, Houston (featuring Evans and Price), Monica and Carey, at Nos. 1-4, respectively, were followed by Sixpence None the Richer ("Kiss Me") at No. 5 and TLC ("No Scrubs") at No. 6.
The week of Feb. 27, 1999 is also a milestone, as it's the only one in which solo women have held the top six spots. That week, Monica, Cher, Houston (featuring Evans and Price), Spears, McLachlan and Cox ranked at Nos. 1-6, respectively.
Other weeks of interest to the topic: 13 years ago (Sept. 8, 2001), lead solo women commanded the top five, although with one male interloper:
1, Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule, "I'm Real"
2, Alicia Keys, "Fallin' "
3, Janet, "Someone to Call My Lover"
4, Blu Cantrell, "Hit 'Em Up Style"
5, Eve featuring Gwen Stefani, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"
(That week, even with Ja Rule as a guest, six women still placed in the top five, thanks to Stefani's featured turn with Eve.)
Also, as previously noted in "Ask Billboard," three other chart weeks stand out for women's voices, including groups, infusing the entire top five (and, again, thanks, 2012 me. Present me really should get you a gift. As soon as future me figures out how to build a time machine):
The week of June 30, 1979, the top five looked like this:
1, "Ring My Bell," Anita Ward
2, "Hot Stuff," Donna Summer
3, "Bad Girls," Donna Summer
4, "We Are Family," Sister Sledge
5, "Chuck E.s in Love," Rickie Lee Jones
Such a female domination didn't recur until the week of May 26, 1990:
1, "Vogue," Madonna
2, "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You," Heart
3, "Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O'Connor
4, "Hold On," Wilson Phillips
5, "Alright," Janet Jackson
… and again on March 5, 1994:
1, "The Power of Love," Celine Dion
2, "The Sign," Ace of Base
3, "Whatta Man," Salt 'N' Pepa with En Vogue
4, "Without You"/"Never Forget You," Mariah Carey
5, "Breathe Again," Toni Braxton
In looking at any potential trends as to why women rule the top five this week, part of it is simply timing. If Smith is still at No. 5, instead of No. 6, you're reading a different item instead of this one (hopefully another Billboard.com post, of course). Sometimes, the (female pop) stars just align.
Still, since Minaj is on two tracks, and Azalea and Grande are both coming off concurrent top five hits, their current mass appeal is helping drive women's lockout of men in the top five.
That recent male hitmakers like Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars currently aren't challenging to make the region is also a factor. Timing, again, is key, too, as "Happy" reigned for 10 weeks earlier this year, Smith just rose to No. 2 and all-male quartet MAGIC! just spent six weeks on top with "Rude."
And, of course, women are experiencing almost as much exclusion from country and rock formats as they are adulation at pop. As well-documented, country has essentially become bro-country, while Lorde last year landed the first Alternative Songs No. 1 by a woman since just before she was born in 1996.
(The last week, by the way, that women were shut out from the Hot 100's top five? June 29, 2013. The top five that frame, from Nos. 1 to 5, respectively: Robin Thicke, featuring T.I. + Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"; Daft Punk, featuring Pharrell, "Get Lucky"; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, featuring Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"; Imagine Dragons, "Radioactive"; and Timberlake, "Mirrors")
Ultimately, regardless of any potential reasons or trends, women are now simply providing the most well-received songs among all genres, per this week's Hot 100 top five.
Perhaps best of all, the present reign of women in the top five reveals a focus on self-empowerment and positive body image, thanks to Trainor, Swift and Minaj, especially. "Every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top," Trainor sings triumphantly in "Bass."
"I wrote it for me, as well [as other women], because I've struggled with [body image] since I was very young," Trainor told Billboard in July, as "Bass" began scaling the Hot 100. "And, my best friend is a beautiful goddess, but she'll pick on herself in the mirror. 'My forehead's too big,' or, 'My shoulders go out too far ...'
"So, if other girls can relate to the song, it makes me feel even better. It's unreal that I'm kind of helping people.
"I saw a feature on The Ellen DeGeneres Show about that model who was Photoshopped to have extra-long arms," Trainor recalled. "I was like, this is getting out of control. Someone needs to say something.
"So, when I got my record deal, and with this song, I was like, perfect, I have the opportunity to say something to the world. I'll take it. This is the best message I could say."