Leading Ladies: A Look at Women’s No. 1 Success in the Hot 100’s History by Trevor Anderson

Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey & Katy Perry

to nearly half today.

Since Connie Francis first broke the No. 1 gender barrier in 1960 with “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” women have returned to the Hot 100’s summit at an increasingly regular rate.

How did we analyze nearly 60 years of Hot 100 data? Women’s shares of No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 by decade, as presented below, was calculated by adding the total number of No. 1s by female soloists, all-female collaborations (such as Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine”) and all-female groups (such as Destiny’s Child) in lead roles. Among mixed-gender groups, only those with designated and well-known female leads (such as Gladys Knight & The Pips) were included, with editorial discretion.

1960s Leaderboard: The Supremes (12 No. 1s during the decade), Connie Francis (3)

Key StatThe Supremes leap to 12 career No. 1s (in 1964-69), still the best mark all-time for a female group – or any American group, for that matter.

Percentage of No. 1s by women: 22 percent

After Francis’ triumph, women lodged more than 40 further claims to the Hot 100’s throne in the ’60s, earning 22 percent of all Hot 100 No. 1s for the decade. The Supremes led the class among female acts, having achieved a staggering dozen chart-toppers, a mark tied for the fifth-best total in the chart’s history. Along with the Motown headliners, girl groups continued to supplement the ranks, with The MarvelettesThe Shangri-Las and The Shirelles just some of the collectives who climbed to the top.

 

1970s LeaderboardDiana RossBarbra StreisandDonna Summer (4 No. 1s each during the decade)

Key StatsSummer and Streisand earn the first-ever collaborative No. 1 by solo females, 1979’s “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).”

Debby Boone‘s “You Light Up My Life” becomes the first No. 1 to spend 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, in 1977.

Percentage of No. 1s by women: 22 percent

The ’70s brought a decline of girl groups in popular music and a rising crop of rockers, instrumentalists and singer-songwriters such as Elton John and Stevie Wonder, as well as the emergence of solo Beatles‘ recordings following the band’s 1970 breakup.

One key development, though, was the rise of superstar divas that paralleled the growth of male pop/rock icons. Diana Ross maintained her Supremes momentum in her solo career, spinning off four No. 1 hits on her own. Barbra Streisand and disco pioneer Donna Summer likewise scored a quartet of leaders, including the Hot 100’s first solo female collaborative No. 1, “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).”

All that combined, women held steady from the ’60’s to the ’70s, repeating with a 22 percent share of Hot 100 No. 1s in the latter decade.

 

1980s LeaderboardWhitney HoustonMadonna (7 No. 1s each during the decade), Paula AbdulBlondie (3 each)

Key StatsWhitney Houston links seven consecutive Hot 100 No. 1 hits, still the chart record.

1988’s “Foolish Beat” made Debbie Gibson the first woman to write, produce and record a No. 1 hit.

Percentage of No. 1s by women: 29 percent

The stature of female icons increased in the ’80s, and while the years began with a parade of familiar faces atop the Hot 100 – Streisand, Ross, Olivia Newton-John – the decade’s midpoint changed the female pop world order. Madonna welcomed in New Years’ Day 1985 with “Like a Virgin” steady at No. 1 and by Halloween, Whitney Houston had claimed her first of seven straight leaders, still a record Hot 100 streak, with “Saving All My Love for You.” Their seven No. 1s each in the decade, second only to Michael Jackson among all acts, helped boost women to 29 percent of the decade’s share of leaders.

 

1990s LeaderboardMariah Carey (14 No. 1s during the decade), Janet Jackson (6)

Key StatMariah Carey’s 12th No. 1, “Honey” sets the record for leaders among solo women (since extended to 18), passing Houston and Madonna, then with 11 apiece.

Percentage of No. 1s by women: 49 percent

A new decade birthed a new pop sensation in Mariah Carey, who stormed to the most Hot 100 No. 1s among women all-time in just seven years and, armed with 14 chart-toppers by the century’s end, helped women capture just shy of 49 percent of the decade’s total No. 1s. 

Madonna, Houston and Janet Jackson, who all began their No. 1 collections in the ’80s, seamlessly crossed decades to continue padding their totals. Jackson, in particular, gained further prominence on the strength of six ’90s No. 1s, which helped her rank as the decade’s second-biggest pop artist, trailing only Carey. Led by these superstars, women wrapped the decade with unprecedented success, with female soloists or groups (Carey, Jackson, Celine Dion, Madonna, Houston, TLC and Toni Braxton) capturing seven spots among Billboard’s top 10 pop artists of the decade.

 

2000s LeaderboardBeyonceRihanna (5 No. 1s each during the decade), Mariah Carey (4)

Key StatKelly Clarkson makes the biggest leap to No. 1 in Hot 100 history, vaulting 97-1 with “My Life Would Suck Without You” in 2009.

Percentage of No. 1s by women: 40 percent

With a new millennium came a fresh wave of female pop and R&B superstars, who combined to lead the Hot 100 with 40 percent of all No. 1s in the century’s opening frame (down from 49 percent for the ’90s, but still nearly double women’s showings in the ’60s and ’70s).

Beyonce – like Diana Ross decades before – stepped out from her group for a blockbuster solo career, as the former Destiny Child‘s frontwoman turned in five No. 1s throughout the decade, with each logging at least one month atop the Hot 100.

As three of Beyonce’s No. 1s (“Crazy in Love,” featuring Jay Z; “Baby Boy,” featuring Sean Paul; and “Check On It,” featuring Slim Thug) proved, the popularity of rap/sung collaborations also aided women in reaching the top of the Hot 100. Besides Beyonce, the likes of Jennifer LopezAlicia Keys and Nelly Furtado topped the Hot 100 with accompanied rappers.

In addition, certified legends defied previous expectations of career longevity, with Janet Jackson, Madonna and Mariah Carey plugging additional No. 1 hits more than 15 years into their careers. Just weeks after one another in 2000, Jackson and Madonna became the first artists to score No. 1 hits in the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s.

Plus, the 2002 arrival of American Idol proved a new showcase for female talent, especially. Led by original queen Kelly Clarkson and 2005 winner Carrie Underwood, six songs by Idol champs or finalists topped the Hot 100 in the ’00s, four of them by women.

 

2010s Leaderboard: Rihanna (9 No. 1s during the decade), Katy Perry (8), AdeleTaylor Swift (4 each)

Key StatsKaty Perry’s Teenage Dream ties Michael Jackson’s Bad as the only albums to generate five Hot 100 No. 1 hits each.

Taylor Swift becomes the first woman to replace herself at No. 1, when “Blank Space” dethrones “Shake It Off.”

Percentage of No. 1s by women: 47 percent

Female pop artists have been front and center in music in the current decade, particularly by penning and performing songs about empowerment, inner strength and living life to the fullest, helping women to own 47 percent of all Hot 100 No. 1s in the ’10s thus far (through Sia‘s “Cheap Thrills” in September, the most recent No. 1 by a lead female artist.

Rihanna has bolted to nine No. 1s in the ’10s (joining her five earned in the prior decade) and, in 2016, eclipsed Michael Jackson’s total of 13 to claim the third-most No. 1s in the Hot 100’s history.

Katy Perry, meanwhile, is directly behind (among women and overall) with eight No. 1s in the current decade, including such inspirational anthems as “Firework” and “Roar.” Like Rihanna, Perry also staked out a Jackson record in her quest, joining the late King of Pop as the only artists with five No. 1s each from a single album; her Teenage Dream LP in 2010-11 equated the No. 1 output of his Bad in 1987-88.

Plus, the album-centric power of Adele and Taylor Swift has fueled each superstar to four Hot 100 No. 1s to date (including a No. 1 debut) apiece. Fittingly, in an era known for declining album sales, the two stalwarts have rallied to lengthy Hot 100 stays by bucking trends: Adele for reawakening the public’s appreciation for big ballads, and Swift for finding her niche in bringing country appeal to an unrealized mainstream youth-centered audience and seamlessly transforming it into a full pop makeover (and takeover).

With three years left in the ’10s, could this become the first decade in which women boast 50 percent of all Hot 100 No. 1 hits? Rebounding to 47 percent through 2016, they look to have a good shot, with a diverse cast of superstars whose appeal crosses far and wide into pop, country, R&B and hip-hop.

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