If you have checked the Billboard Hot 100 chart recently, you might have noticed that the top five spots belong exclusively to female artists. You might not have known it’s an unprecedented phenomenon.
“For the first time in the 56-year history of the Billboard Hot 100, solo female artists have occupied the top five positions on the chart for six consecutive weeks,” according to a Billboard article by Melinda Newman.
Two of those songs include guest spots by other female artists, so there are eight women who have been running the show. Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” leads the pack, followed by Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” featuring Rita Ora, Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High)” and “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj.
It isn’t until you get to the sixth position that you find a male artist — in this case, R&B singer Jeremih, with “Don’t Tell ‘Em” featuring YG.
While uncommon (and less common than male lockouts), a female lockout of Billboard’s top five has occurred as recently as March 2012 when Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” led a top five consisting of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” and “Rolling in the Deep,” Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” according to Billboard.
Looking outside of the Hot 100 list, the top-three selling albums of 2014 have been by or led by female artists: Disney’s Frozen soundtrack, featuring Idina Menzel’s “Let it Go,” Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.”
With women seemingly dominating the charts, Newman posed a question: “Is it a movement or just a moment?”
It’s a legitimate question. How is it that female artists have locked male artists out of the top five for a record-breaking six weeks? Is it in retialition for male artists dominated 2013, including a point in June when the top five were controlled by Robin Thicke’s polarizing “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell Williams and T.I., Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (with Pharrell Williams making another guest spot appearance), Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors”?
Is it because big names like Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars and Timberlake are between album cycles, with Mars and Timberlake recently finishing up their worldwide tours?
Or is it because of the girl anthems that make up the current top five? Meghan Trainor has come under recent criticism for “All About That Bass” for it possibly having skinny-shaming implications, but for the most part, women have embraced the song for its uplifting message of loving their bodies because “every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” as Trainor sings.
Maybe it’s the “pop formula” that dictates almost every song Taylor Swift puts out will be an instant hit. That proved true with the release of “Shake it Off.” Even though the song’s video caught fire for Swift’s peculiar interactions with her black dancers, the song has more than prepared Swift’s fans for her upcoming album “1989.”
And we can’t forget about the bad girl anthem that rounds out the top-five. “Bang Bang,” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, has already been referred to as this generation’s “Lady Marmalade,” a Labelle hit remade by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink that held the top spot on the chart for five weeks in 2001, according to Billboard. The star power behind these three artists’ names might have led to its massive success, with Grande and Minaj both having singles that broke into Billboard’s top five in 2014 — Grande’s “Problem” debuted at No. 3 and Minaj’s “Anaconda” peaked at No. 2.
Speaking of “Problem,” the featured artist on Grande’s hit also found success in 2014. Iggy Azalea, whose “Black Widow” is currently No. 3 on Billboard, tied a Beatles record when “Fancy” and “Problem” held, respectively, the No. 1 and 2 spots on Billboard’s Hot 100. Azalea holds the record for a female rapper’s reign at the top with six weeks, beating out Lil’ Kim and her “Lady Marmalade” collaboration.
So many female artists garnering so much attention in 2014 reflects a shift in the music culture. In an industry seemingly dominated by male artists and producers, it seems that more female artists are taking charge of their image and their music. Female empowerment anthems appear to be an untapped reservoir of success, especially with the feminist movement really making progress in the entertainment industry — Beyoncé and Emma Watson being only two examples of stars promoting feminism.
Of course, music tends to go through cycles, so this movement might only end up being a “moment” in music history, but the female artists of this “moment” might end up inspiring the future female artists of the next in this never-ending cycle.
The female domination of Billboard’s top five proves that the world is, in fact, about that bass.