Ingrid Andress’ single “More Hearts Than Mine” has reached the top spot on the country radio chart, supplanting Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” — marking a historic first, as never before have two debuting female artists’ first singles succeeded each other back-to-back at No. 1 in the format, according to statistician Jada E. Watson.
Moreover, songs by women account for three of the songs in the country top 10, as tabulated by Mediabase, a rarity in a format that came under fire last year for having some weeks in which there were no female artists in the top 10. Besides Andress on top and Barrett now at No. 4, Carly Pearce is in the top 10 with “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” a duet with Lee Brice that sits at No. 8.
“Two new female country artists just had their first number one on country radio in the same month,” tweeted Mickey Guyton, an acclaimed artist with her eyes on that same price. “I had to rub my eyes to make sure I read that right. Are the tides changing? It sure looks like it. This is very, very encouraging!”
(To read Variety‘s recent interview with Andress, click here.)
There’s yet another male-female duet in the top 10: “Nobody But You,” by Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, at No. 2. Many chartwatchers wouldn’t count that toward a tally, since Shelton is the main artist and pop singer Stefani (his wife, of course) receives a featured credit.
The top 20 has two more up-and-comers, with superstar Carrie Underwood possibly poised to have her biggest hit in a while with the accidental pandemic anthem “Drinking Alone,” up two spots to No. 12, and Miranda Lambert’s ballad “Bluebird,” up three to No. 20. Also gathering chart momentum a bit further down are Maddie & Tae’s long-simmering “Die from a Broken Heart” at No. 21 and Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards” at No. 25.
This positive trend for women in the format follows the recent news that Maren Morris’ “The Bones” was the first song by a female artist to be No. 1 for two weeks in a row since 2012. (“The Bones” would still be on the chart if it hadn’t been moved to recurrent status as of this week, after a highly impressive 18 weeks in the top 10. A new single from Morris, “To Hell & Back,” is just starting to be pushed to country radio.)
Exultation over these developments might seem curious outside of the country music community. But the genre offers a unique place to look at conversations about gender parity — somewhere between pop, where divas rule the roost as often as not, and rock and hip-hop, historically macho-leaning genres where women have always faced tougher odds for success. For many proponents of female artist, advocating for greater representation isn’t looking to set a new standard so much as reclaim the stronghold that women claimed in an era like the late ’90s.
“Nobody wants women played for the sake of playing women,” said Watson, who’s become a go-to for advocates of greater airplay for women for her data-driven analyses of gender trends in country. “We are all advocating for equal opportunity and access for the fantastically talented women in the industry.”
Watson is excited about these developments… but says don’t get too used to them. Although she’s not to look at a rare statistic of 33% songs by women in the top 10 and 25% in the top 20 in the mouth, a comparative lack of women on the lower rungs of the charts could mean a return to some all-male top 10s later in the year.
“A concentration of songs by women at the top of the chart with fewer songs in the bottom is a concern,” Watson says. “It’s also important that these songs reach the top positions and continue to receive airplay once exiting the chart, because there needs to be a view toward building gold catalogues that include songs by women as well. And in order for any of this to actually happen and stabilize, songs by women need to receive more spins throughout the day, especially in the critical dayparts (morning, midday, afternoon) when a higher percentage of audiences are listening. There may be a cluster of songs by women at the top, but collectively women are still vastly underrepresented throughout daytime programming.”
Still, there’s no doubt that the succession of women at the top may put at least a temporary stop to the stereotype — or recent reality, depending on who you listen to — that country radio will only keep a spot on the playlist reserved for one female artist at a time. (How many stations would play Andress’ back-to-back No. 1s back-to-back on the air is still a good question.)
Bulleted songs with some potential bubbling under the top 30 right now include Lauren Alaina’s “Getting Good” (No. 36), Runaway June’s “Head Over Heels” (No. 39) and Tenille Arts’ “Somebody Like That” (No. 50).