Up until recently, Billboard’s two major charts, the Hot 100 singles and Top 200 albums, had gone more than half a year without a woman leading either one. Halsey broke that drought in early June, when her sophomore album hopeless fountain kingdom became the first No. 1 album by a woman since Lady Gaga’s Joanne last November. The following week, Katy Perry also snagged that spot, posting the highest numbers for an album by a woman so far this year (and also since Joanne.) On this week’s chart, Lorde has continued the lady-led streak, notching her first-ever No. 1 album with Melodrama. It’s the first time women have topped the charts back-to-back-to-back since Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna did it in 2012. But with new albums by DJ Khaled and Jay-Z set to enter the charts in the coming weeks, this even rarer female takeover is likely to end.
However, there’s also the Hot 100: This week, Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” featuring Rihanna, gives that chart its first woman in the top five since Taylor Swift’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” peaked at No. 3 12 weeks ago. That’s as bad as it looks: There hasn’t been a longer lack of women at the top of the singles chart in 45 years, since 1972 when it happened for 13 weeks. Even worse, this disappearance of women comes during a year that saw one week in April where there wasn’t a single woman in the top ten at all; that hadn’t occurred since 1984. It doesn’t bode well for the industry that this latest 12-week drought was bookended by songs where a woman shared the credit with men. (“Wild Thoughts” is technically DJ Khaled’s song, and features Bryson Tiller; “Live Forever” also featured Zayn.) But as is the case with most things, Rihanna seems to be the remedy. She’s the only woman this year to have two songs reach the top five — just two among her nearly 20 — and was instrumental in that previous three-week album streak years ago. And, as we’ve seen, she loves to snatch titles held by men.