Ask Billboard: In 2015, the Top of the Hot 100 Is Where the Boys Are
Men dominate the chart's top eight ranks this week. But, thanks to Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Elle King & others, women can't be counted out.
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This week's Billboard Hot 100 (dated Oct. 24) features not one ... not two ... but the top eight songs all by males. More specifically, in order: The Weeknd, Drake, Justin Bieber, Silento, Fetty Wap (featuring Remy Boyz), The Weeknd again, R. City (featuring Adam Levine) and Shawn Mendes. The highest-ranking woman doesn't appear until No. 9: Taylor Swift, with "Wildest Dreams."
In the history of the chart, has the top eight ever been monopolized by one gender before? If so, when was the last time that occurred? And what, if any, factors are contributing to this male dominance, especially considering that only a year ago this week, it was almost the opposite, with women claiming all of the top six spots?
Male artists are certainly not at their most chivalrous at the moment, when it comes to holding the door open for women in the Hot 100's upper ranks.
How long had it been since men blocked women from the chart's top eight spots before this week? More than 11 years. Here's how the top of the Hot 100 looked the last time that men cornered the top eight, on the chart dated March 27, 2004:
No. 1, "Yeah!," Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris
No. 2, "One Call Away," Chingy feat. J. Weav
No. 3, "Tipsy," J-Kwon
No. 4, "Hotel," Cassidy feat. R. Kelly
No. 5, "Slow Jamz," Twista feat. Kanye West & Jamie Foxx
No. 6, "Splash Waterfalls," Ludacris
No. 7, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," Jay Z
No. 8, "The Way You Move," OutKast feat. Sleepy Brown
(Who played the role of Swift that week? Britney Spears, who was peaking at No. 9 with "Toxic.")
What's notable about that week is not just men's domination, but hip-hop's, too. It would be another year until pop began to erode hip-hop's early '00s reign, with women at the forefront of turning the tide. Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," co-written by Max Martin, especially helped lead to pure pop's reemergence, and the breakthroughs of Rihanna, Katy Perry, Swift and Lady Gaga would soon follow (as well as Spears' own revival).
It's not just this week, however, that illustrates the gender imbalance among hits of late. Since January, just one song by a woman has risen to No. 1 on the Hot 100: Swift's "Bad Blood" (and with the assistance of male featured rapper Kendrick Lamar; although her squad is out in full force in the song's video) (June 6). Compare that with 2014, when six singles by solo females roared to No. 1; and, as you point out, Jesse, women began a record-tying run of 19 weeks in-a-row blocking male artists from the summit when Swift's "Shake It Off" debuted at No. 1 on Sept. 6, 2014.
Similarly, in 2013, five songs by women ruled.
Where does this year rank historically? If no more songs by women reign through December, 2015 will tie 1982 and 1994 for the fewest Hot 100 No. 1s by female soloists since 1969, when none led.
Of course, women in addition to Swift have scored chart victories in 2015, including Selena Gomez, who netted her highest Hot 100 rank (No. 5) with "Good for You" (featuring A$AP Rocky), and Elle King, who cracks the top 20 with her breakthrough hit "Ex's & Oh's" (22-20). Ellie Goulding, meanwhile, crowned the Radio Songs chart in May with "Love Me Like You Do," which soared to No. 3 on the Hot 100.
What's behind the swing to mostly men atop the Hot 100? Sharon Dastur, iHeartMedia senior vp of programming integration, says it's more timing than a trend. "It comes down to when music and albums are released. Last year, we didn't see a lot of the guys. We went a lot of years without alternative songs crossing to pop, too. It's all just cyclical."
Joel Whitburn, founder of Record Research, which has been chronicling Billboard chart history for nearly a half-century, concurs. He even made his claim a year ago, when women were in control of the Hot 100. "It's a trend," he said. "There was a time when the Beatles had the top five [April 4, 1964]. Men dominated the charts in the mid-'60s. Groups, too. You can go back and find all kinds of trends. This is happening now, but it'll change. But, right now, it's the trend of today."
A year ago, it was "similar to the '90s," Whitburn added, "when Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston, all those big divas, were controlling the charts."
Whitburn could also look back to the '80s: on Oct. 9, 1982, no women appeared at all in the top 10 … other than in the title at No. 1: "Jack & Diane," by the then-monikered John Cougar. (Again, that was a year in which just one song by a solo female rose to the top: Toni Basil's "Mickey," for a week that December.)
"It's all cyclical," Whitburn asserted. "It's the way it goes. It's amazing, isn't it?"
Dastur likewise backs up why such a male chart dynasty is a good bet to crumble. 2015 isn't over yet. And, 2016 seems promising for more singles by female acts.
"We have some big projects to come," she says. "Adele … Goulding … Ariana Grande; I've heard her [upcoming] single, it's a smash …
"It'll bring back a balance."