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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 askbb@billboard.com. 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.”

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. 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


Hi Gary,

How about some Hot 100 trivia regarding Drake? Especially, his and other artists’ endurance in appearing in the top 10. It’s a category that I’ve long been intrigued by: acts that have peaked at each position of the Hot 100’s top 10.

Of the numerous artists to have scored a dozen or more top 10s, e.g., the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Rihanna (who ups her Top 10 status this week), etc., only four had accomplished the peculiar feat of having peaked at each of Nos. 1-10: Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Madonna and Ludacris (the latter three also having peaked at No. 11). Now, Canadian rapper/singer Drake has joined the ranks, assuming that “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (featuring Majid Jordan) doesn’t reverse course and rise higher than No. 4.

Allow me to run down each artist’s top 10 accomplishments.
Beginning with the 1963 No. 10 peak of “Pride and Joy,” Gaye tallied his 18th and final top 10 with his sole No. 3, perhaps the only consolation that 1982’s “Sexual Healing” didn’t go to No. 1. Same for the No. 2 peak of the classic “What’s Going On.” That is to say, I wish “What’s Going On” had gone to No. 1, but by it having peaked at the runner-up position, its peak helped Gaye achieve the “occupy-all-10” feat.

Franklin became the second member of the club between 1967 and 1974, from the No. 9-peaking of “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” through “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do).” She totals 17 top 10 hits, capping with the No. 1 George Michael duet “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” in 1987. “Respect” was her first No. 1, 20 years earlier.

Madonna’s top 10 history started with 1984’s No. 10 “Borderline.” In 1995, she filled out her top 10 resume’s lone vacant spot, No. 6, with “You’ll See.” It’s her only No 6 hit, just as 1991’s “Rescue Me” is her only No. 9-peaking song. Her 38 top 10s are the most among all artists.

More about Madonna: 1998’s “The Power of Good-Bye” became her sole No. 11, akin to Aretha’s sole – soul? – No. 11, 1970’s “Don’t Play That Song” (with the Dixie Flyers). Regarding Madonna’s first visit to the top tier resulting in a No. 10 peak, so did her most recent one, last year’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.

Meanwhile, Ludacris managed to peak at each top 10 position, from 2002’s “Move B***h,” featuring Mystikal and Infamous 2.0 (No. 10) through his featured turn on Jason Aldean’s No. 7 hit “Dirt Road Anthem” in 2011 (Luda’s most recent top 10). The rapper has 18 top career top 10s.

Now, another rap artist, Drake, has gained admittance to this notable crew. In fact, whether as a lead, co-billed or featured artist, he’s even set a record for the fastest amount of time in which an act has peaked at each top 10 rank. Besting Franklin, who did so in six years, nine months and three weeks, Drake accomplished the honor in just four years, three months and one week. He first reached the top 10 with the No. 2 hit “Best I Ever Had” in 2009.

Other notes about acts familiar with the Hot 100’s top tier: the Beatles lack a No. 9 peak, although John Lennon peaked at No. 9 with the perfectly titled “#9 Dream” and Ringo Starr did so with “Back Off Boogaloo.” Stevie Wonder is missing only a No. 6 hit; Elton John lacks a No. 10; the Beach Boys haven’t peaked at Nos. 4 and 10; Chicago, Nos. 2 and 8; Elvis Presley, Nos. 7 and 10; Michael Jackson, Nos. 8 and 9 (including chart entries with his brothers in the Jackson 5); and, the Rolling Stones can say “miss you” only to a No. 4 peak.

In terms of artists which could be most likely to achieve an all-top 10 peak performance, perhaps Taylor Swift, who’s missing only a No. 5 hit; Rihanna (Nos. 4 and 10); Lil Wayne (Nos. 2 and 4); or Jay Z (No. 9).

Or, some other consis-TEN-t charter.

Pablo Nelson
Oakland, California

Thanks as always, Pablo, for your at-TEN-tion to chart details.

Ultimately, the feats of Drake and the other artists who’ve peaked at each position in the Hot 100’s top 10 point to incredible catalogs of hits. That Drake has joined the list (with the aid of featured turns, a byproduct of the modern rap era) and so quickly puts his place among Hot 100 hitmakers in notable perspective.

In addition to your guesses as to who might go on to boast hits that peak at each rank in the Hot top 10, Mariah Carey has, amazingly, peaked in the top five with all but one of her 27 top 10s. Her most recent, 2009’s “Obsessed,” reached No. 7. And, a full two-thirds of those (18 of 27) hit No. 1.

Janet Jackson’s top 10 record is incredibly similar, with all but three of her 27 top 10s having reached top five (with 10 having hit No. 1). Jackson peaked at No. 8 with “You Want This”/”70’s Love Groove” (1994) and No. 10 with the Luther Vandross duet “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” with BBD and Ralph Tresvant (1992), and “Because of Love” (1994).

Meanwhile, with 12 top 10s, Lady Gaga has yet to peak at only Nos. 7, 8 and 9, with her new “Applause” having become her first No. 4 hit. Perhaps further songs from “ARTPOP” – due tomorrow (Nov. 11) – can add her to the list of acts with peaks at every spot in the Hot 100’s top 10.

And, as noted in this week’s “Chart Moves” recap, Gaga’s “Applause” spends its 12th week in the Hot 100’s top 10 (7-10), encompassing its entire chart life. That marks her longest such streak for a top 10-debuting song; 2011’s “Born This Way” spent its first nine frames in the top 10.

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. 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


@gthot20 Gary, with Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album debuting this past week, would you mind putting in your column how her past albums have sold?

HE Pennypacker (?@HEPennypacker23)

“Seinfeld” fan that I am, I can’t resist responding to Kramer’s wealthy industrialist alter ego.

(Related tangent: in seeing the Eagles at Madison Square Garden Friday night, I actually thought how, for a few minutes, I had something in common with Elaine’s boyfriend “Brett”: neither one of us wanted to be interrupted while hearing “Desperado” in NYC.

And, now, back to reality. I actually live-Tweeted during the incredible three-hour show, which New Jersey’s Joe Walsh essentially took over in the second half, his guitarwork reinforcing just how much the band’s sound evolved from gentle country-rock to arena rock by the late ’70s. Check out some observations of the night that I thought were interesting here.)

As for Clarkson, “Wrapped in Red” enters this week’s Billboard 200 at No. 3 with 70,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It’s her sixth top 10, encompassing all her studio albums.

Let’s recap the career U.S. album sales of the original “American Idol,” according to SoundScan:

Sales, Title (Billboard 200 Peak, Year)
6,296,000, “Breakaway” (No. 3, 2004)
2,776,000, “Thankful” (No. 1, 2003)
1,085,000, “Stronger” (No. 2, 2011)
974,000, “All I Ever Wanted” (No. 1, 2009)
848,000, “My December” (No. 2, 2007)
519,000, “Greatest Hits: Chapter One” (No. 11, 2012)
70,000, “Wrapped in Red” (No. 3, 2013)
17,000, “iTunes Session” (EP) (No. 85, 2012)

Reflecting the success of “Stronger” and its singles “Mr. Know It All,” which hit No. 10 on the Hot 100, and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (No. 1, three weeks), making the set her first with multiple top 10s since “Breakaway” in 2004-05, the album is Clarkson’s third-best-seller, despite being only two years old.

And, for “Idol” fans who like to compare, Clarkson’s career U.S. album sales through the week ending Nov. 3 stand at 12,608,000. The bow of “Red” pushes her closer to Carrie Underwood, whose four studio albums have totaled 14,468,000, making her the best-selling “Idol” in the show’s 11-year history.

As teased during Fox’s broadcast of the World Series (editor’s note: yay, Red Sox!), the new season of “Idol” begins on Jan. 15.