The 24-year-old German-Canadian-English singer-songwriter becomes one of just nine women in lead roles to reach No. 1 on the chart, which began in 1988, and the first since Elle King, whose “Ex’s & Oh’s” ruled for three weeks beginning Sept. 19, 2015.
Merton is only the third lead woman to top the chart since 1996, joining the aptly named King and Lorde, whose “Royals” reigned in 2013; all three women have led in their first chart visit. (Lead women’s 17-year absence from the chart’s top spot is owed in part to the format’s crunchier lean in the late ’90s and throughout the 2000s, as harder, male-fronted rock constituted the format’s core sound, which has given way to more synths and Americana this decade.)
Solo Lead Women to Hit No. 1 on Alternative Songs
Title, Artist, Chart Date Reached No. 1, Weeks at No. 1
“No Roots,” Alice Merton, Feb. 24, 2018 (one to date)
“Ex’s & Oh’s,” Elle King, Sept. 19, 2015 (three)
“Royals,” Lorde, Aug. 24, 2013 (seven)
“Mother Mother,” Tracy Bonham, June 8, 1996 (three)
“Ironic,” Alanis Morissette, March 16, 1996 (three)
“Hand in My Pocket,” Alanis Morissette, Oct. 14, 1995 (one)
“You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette, July 22, 1995 (five)
“God,” Tori Amos, March 19, 1994 (two)
“Blood Makes Noise,” Suzanne Vega, Oct. 10, 1992 (one)
“The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Sinead O’Connor, May 12, 1990 (one)
“Nothing Compares 2 U,” Sinead O’Connor, March 31, 1990 (one)
“Love and Anger,” Kate Bush, Dec. 9, 1989 (three)
While nine solo women in lead roles have topped Alternative Songs (encompassing 12 No. 1s), 18 lead solo men (covering 23 No. 1s) have ruled the chart; 341 of the chart’s 358 total No. 1s belong to groups. In all, 33 songs featuring vocals by women in a lead or featured capacity, including featured artists and bands with a woman on lead or co-lead vocals (such as 10,000 Maniacs, The Cranberries and Garbage), have topped Alternative Songs, accounting for just under 10 percent of all No. 1s; 325 of the chart’s 358 No. 1s, or about 90 percent, sport all-male lead vocals.
“Roots” is the first Alternative Songs No. 1 with lead vocals by a woman overall since King’s “Ex’s,” as no songs by groups featuring lead female vocals ruled in between.
Merton is the first act of 2018 to score a first No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart (and only the second act to ascend to the top of the ranking this year, following Walk the Moon with “One Foot” on Jan. 27). In 2017, four acts scored first No. 1s: Portugal. The Man (“Feel It Still,” July 8), The Revivalists (“Wish I Knew You,” May 20), Rag’n’Bone Man (“Human,” March 25) and Judah & the Lion (“Take It All Back,” Jan. 7). Of those, all but Portugal. The Man led with their first charted songs, like Merton.
“Roots” already has No. 1 airplay chart ranks to its name, as it led Adult Alternative Songs four weeks beginning Dec. 30 (and now places at No. 10) and this week spends its second week atop the all-rock-format Rock Airplay chart, earning 10 million audience impressions in the week ending Feb. 18, according to Nielsen Music. Concurrently, the track bullets with a new high in weekly plays on Adult Pop Songs (No. 18) and debuts on Pop Songs (No. 39).