Few Country Women Have Scored a Top 10 Hit in 2008

When Heidi Newfield recently hit the Top 10 with her debut single "Johnny & June," she became just the fourth female artist to get inside the Top 10 of country radio's hits.  Just 10 years ago, 15 female artists had scored Top 10 hits.  What does this mean for country?

In this week’s "Country Aircheck," the Lon Helton and his editors discussed the lack of Top 10 female chart success.  They discussed it as a top 10 “Glass Ceiling.” A place where only 4 solo female or all female groups managed to score a Top 10 hit. Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are the obvious ones and in late June, Miranda Lambert joined them with “Gunpowder & Lead” and a couple of weeks ago were joined by Heidi Newfield and her hit “Johnny & June.”   There were 5 if you include (and we should) the Jennifer Nettles-voiced Sugarland.

They then went on and discussed with radio programmers about the phenomenon.  Most said that they didn’t understand how a format that has more female listeners than male listeners (55% to 45%) would be that way.   One looked at research numbers and it was particularly interesting.  Regardless of the gender singing the song, if there was positive feedback the results were the same.  However, when negative feedback came in about songs, female singers were disliked a whole 10-15% more than male singers.

With only 5 (counting Sugarland) female acts scoring Top 10 hits, the last time there was fewer than that was 2003, when the Dixie Chicks, Terri Clark, Martina McBride and Shania Twain managed the feat.  In the the last 10 years the number of females with Top 10 hits were; 13 in 1999, 10 in 2000, 15 in 2001, 10, in 2002, 8 in 2004, 10 in 2005, 6 in 2006 and 2007.  So, it’s interesting to see how over the last five years, when radio playlists really got tighter, how the numbers were single digits. 

Is the lack of female Top 10 hits because of a lack of trying? No, 27 other females (or female lead vocalized) released singles during the past year and none of them have scored the elusive Top 10.  So, What are the answers to this. Is the lack of Top 10 hits due to radio programmers assuming females want more male voices to ‘romanticize’ them? Is it because female singles crash and burn more readily than male-voiced singles?  Or is it just the age old lack of truly compelling singles for the average radio listener?