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Fewer of Country Music’s Females Successful on Regular Basis

Miranda Lambert (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Miranda Lambert is, arguably, the hottest female in country music right now. Taylor Swift wore that crown recently and sits right behind Miranda. And, as soon as the next new Carrie Underwood single is released, it will likely march right up the charts in short order as well. But after Miranda, Taylor, and Carrie, the list of female country solo artists who achieve top ten success on a regular basis kind of ends. Yes, Martina McBride–who seems top 10 bound with her new song “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”–still has the chops to have a hit song. And Reba was at #1 with “Turn on the Radio” within the last 12 months. But Martina hasn’t had a top 10 hit in 5 years (“Anyway”) and Reba’s three follow-ups to “Radio” haven’t even cracked the top 20. I find this all very interesting because it is in stark contrast to what was happening on the radio and the music charts in the 1990s. 

Faith Hill will try to recapture chart magic with the release of her new single "Come Home" this Tuesday. (faithhill.com)

By my count, and with information provided by Joel Whitburn’s invaluable “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits,” there were 19 different solo women who hit #1 in that decade. Patty Loveless, Lorrie Morgan, Reba, Holly Dunn, K.T. Oslin, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna, Faith Hill, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Pam Tillis, Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Mindy McCready, Deana Carter, LeAnn Rimes, Jo Dee Messina, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, and Chely Wright all hit the top. And then you had big #1 duets led by Anita Cochran and Dolly Parton. And, of course, there were the Dixie Chicks. So the 90s were very good to country music’s female artists. But taking a look back at the last 10 years, we find that only 9 female soloists have hit the top in that time span (2002-2011). They are Faith Hill, Gretchen Wilson, Reba, Sara Evans, Jo Dee Messina, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, and Terri Clark. Plus, there are four  duos/groups featuring female leads or vocalists–The Dixie Chicks, Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry–who have also hit number one.

Reba has hit #1 in four different decades, but her last three singles have fallen flat. (reba.com)

That’s a total of 13. And of those 13, only 8 have hit #1 since 2005–Faith and Jo Dee are still looking for their first number ones in six years, Gretchen and Terri have gone wanting for seven, the Chicks have been missing for eight. So there is considerably less success these days for female country stars than there was in the 1990s. I did a recent poll on the WBKR Facebook page and asked our listeners to share their opinions. They varied. And they made sense. I know that the country music cycle was one of the suggestions. And maybe that will play out. Maybe we’ll be cycling back into a period where the country chart is flush with female soloists at the top. Time will certainly tell.

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