Where are all the solo female country stars?

Kellie-Pickler

Image Credit: Michael Hickey/WireImage.com

Want to hear a staggering statistic?

In the last four weeks, there has been only one song by a female solo artist in the Top 30 of Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart: “Sparks Fly” by Taylor Swift, which currently sits at number 23.

Meanwhile, on the pop charts, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Adele, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj continue to dominate.

Country music in 2011 is apparently a man’s world. But it shouldn’t have to be!

Where is the love for Kellie Pickler’s rough-and-tumble new single, “Tough?” Why did Sunny Sweeney’s latest track, the heartfelt “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” stall at number 41? Why won’t Sara Evans’ “My Heart Can’t Tell You No” take off at radio? Does Nashville have a problem with female singers right now?

Before you all jump down my throat—Listen, I know that Lady Antebellum includes singer Hillary Scott. I know that Kimberly Perry provides the vocals for The Band Perry. I know Carrie Underwood is a guest on Brad Paisley’s “Remind Me.” I know Thompson Square is one-half female. I know that Kelly Clarkson sings on Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay” and that Grace Potter is featured on Kenny Chesney’s “You and Tequila” But all these ladies are successful alongside men—where are the solo country females?!

Currently, male solo singers like Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, and Chris Young, take up 22 spots of the Top 30, and while those singers make good music and deserve their success, it would be fantastic to see a little more diversity on the charts.

Country listeners can’t be blamed exclusively for the scarcity of solo women. Some of the blame belongs to country radio, too. Unless that format embraces ladies who aren’t part of a band or guesting on a man’s track, it will be tough for listeners to follow suit, and that’s not serving anyone. Solo women deserve a voice, so get on it, country radio! (Billboard recently wrote a report about women on country radio)

Of course, Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim” will likely break this trend next week. It debuted at number 33 yesterday, and it should rocket up the chart in the weeks to come. Still, country audiences deserve more superstar women than just Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift. Those gals are great, but there’s room at the top for a few more, right?

More country on EW.com:
Taylor Swift’s ‘Sparks Fly’ video reminds you that her tour is super massive: Watch it here!
Miranda Lambert releases ‘Baggage Claim’, the first single off ‘Four the Record’
Scotty McCreery releases ‘I Love You This Big’ video: Watch it here!

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Comments (79 total) Add your comment
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  • Jay

    Who cares…? Country SUCKS

    • Sonya

      They are trying to figure out how to write their own songs maybe?

      • ryna12

        Sonya: 75 percent of the MEN on that list do not write their own songs (or the singles that get released to radio).

      • Tom

        How many of them are women songwriters? lol

      • AcaseofGeo

        Dolly Parton, an uncontested WORLD WIDE SUPERSTAR, country music’s AMBASSADOR TO THE WORLD, recently released an adorable little ditty called “Together You & I” and just like anything else she’s done the last 15 years, has been totally IGNORED by country. (Except her #1 duet with MALE star Brad Paisley, a song on which she sang in the background). This song should’ve at least made the chart but its nowhere to be found.

    • LOL

      Country is still mostly a sexist, male run format. Sure, some women break through, but for the most part, it’s still a good ol’ boy network. Very much like the Republican party, I might add. That’s why the GOP embraces country more than the left.

      • PN

        I think they like the same male country singers in the cowboy hats, the torn up or pressed up jeans and the shiny boots, whether brown, black, red or tan. They don’t like to get away from that one dimensional side of the genre instead of accepting some female country stars in the mix.

    • Mocwe

      I’m with Jay.

  • pwt

    Those women better be in the kitchen making dinner and getting their men a beer

    • person

      Someday you will lose your virginity. Maybe, someday. Keep trying buddy.

      • pwt

        already did pal, with your mom, sister, and grandmother

      • Hmm

        @pwt so you’re an equal opportunity pig and anything but fussy.

      • person2

        Well that had to be awkward for you seeing as my grandmother is dead. But okay.

      • Tom

        I wrote you guys song, and it’s called:

        You Can Get Your Own Damn Beer Out of the Frigidaire

      • Tajah

        @Tom

        You are my hero! LOL!

  • Kevin

    Hopefully Lauren Alaina’s carreer takes off, along with Kellie Pickler.

  • Christina

    Carrie Underwood is releasing her album in the fall

  • Polly

    Is this really all that different from any other time? Country has certainly had it’s femail hitmakers and legends, but it has always been a male dominated genre. I think what’s more depressing to me is how uniformly dull so many of the male country singers are. Few of them really stand out. Most seem interchangeable. At least the females that do make their mark lately do so with unique sounds and perspectives.

    • JD

      It’s always been male dominated, but there was a time when it was somewhat equal. when shania twain, faith hill, martina mcbride, lee ann womack,and the dixie chicks were being played as much as the guys. It seemed like when they stopped playing the dixie chicks, they started playing less women in general.

      • AcaseofGeo

        LOL. @ JD. You’re referring back to 10 years ago. How about 30-40 years ago when you had the TRUE LEGENDS, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, the start of Tanya Tucker & Reba, plus other great stars like Barbara Mandrell, Dottie West, Janie Fricke, Crystal Gayle. In those days, once Loretta Lynn almost single-handedly “liberated” country radio, there was from about 1965 to the early 1990’s when it was TRULY EQUAL.

  • Jamie

    Country music tends to work in cycles. You have a span of years where pop-country is more popular, then it’s replaced by more traditional country. Then it switches again. It’s the same with the male/female dynamic. In the late 90’s/early 2000’s you would be asking where all the men were. Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba, The Dixie Chicks – they dominated the charts. Country music is also ready for some new female breakout stars. Lauren Alaina could lead the pack if her album lives up to her potential. McBride and Underwood are releasing new albums this year. The Dixie Chicks and Hill are working on new albums, and Sara Evans has more singles ready to go from her CD. The lack of women on the charts is only temporary.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Jamie, there NEVER was a time in country music when someone asked “Where are all the men on the radio”. You listed 5 acts, not 22 like the article referred to. I get what you’re saying but your basic point isn’t historically accurate. If you can show me a legitimate industry-related article on this, I’d say I’m wrong.

      • sonaya

        But those five women all had at least three singles in the Top 20 at the same time.

      • Abhishek

        Loved this article: I’ve been pryanig for 2 weeks about how to use a “catchy opener” that would keep perspective client’s attention right from the beginning found this to be very helpful! Thank you!!Mare/memoriesfromashes.com

  • Well

    Lauren Alaina is destined to flare and burn out. She has voice problems, health problems, is accident prone and insecure, To be a success she’ll have to tour and she’s barely limping through the Idol dates now.

  • Zach

    Isn’t it enough to have three or four superstar singers of the same sex in a particularly narrow genre? How many Carrie Underwoods do you expect to have? As it stands, country remains the easiest genre for someone to break into. R&B isn’t so easy to have a longstanding career in, and who else besides Beyonce, Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys is that successful?

    • Kim

      Kellie Pickler’s songs are great so I expect to hear them on the radio more.

  • Nathan

    Country is not a “narrow” genre – it’s a broad field made up of a number of talented singers and songwriters. And I think it’s too early to say that Jennifer Hudson has had a “long-standing” career (actually, it’s too early to say that about Rhianna as well…..)

    Country needs the strong female point of view that it had in the ’90s with singers like Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Tanya Tucker, Suzy Bogguss, KT Oslin, Pam Tillis, and Reba.

    • Meg

      Country is narrow indeed. Where are the edgy,non-Christian, non-schmaltzy, non-traditional-values country stars? Where are the NON-WHITE country superstars? And yes, there are non-caucasian country singers that toil away in bars, dives, and honky tonks across the USA. Just last year I went to the Chicago country music fest and saw a Filipino-American singer who happened to be a country music lover and a struggling country singer. I have also listened to full-fledged Native Americans and Latinos who pursue a career in country music. And we all know that there have been some black singers who have actually broken into the Nashville system and succeeded on the charts. But those are few and far between because radio will not play them…

      • Well

        Isn’t Eminem one of the few successful white rappers? That’s the mirror image of black country singers. It balances out.

      • alrighty then

        There have been only two successful black country artists, Charlie Pride and Darius Rucker. Cowboy Troy has just done ok, and there’s Neal McCoy who looks black, but says he’s Native American. Neal has done very well. The only Latino who was successful in Country was Freddie Fender, and that was in the seventies. There was another black man in the nineties-I can’t recall his name- who was very good, but country radio refused to play his records. There’s never been a successful minority female country singer. They only let in a few. @Well- Black people have always bent over backwards to share with whites. Eminem has been welcomed with open arms by the black music community, and so have whites like Jon B., Tina Marie, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, ect. Whites have taken the black sound, profited from it , and edged out black singers with the help of black people because white people appeal to a broader audience and that means more money. When it’s the other way around, whites feel threatened. Whites don’t like blacks to sing rock and roll, but the first rock and roll artists were black. There will never be a lot of minority country artists. Anyway, today’s country is just pop.

    • Zach

      The bottom line is that most genres don’t have more than few people of each gender who are THAT successful. And the country music that we see today all runs together. Instead of a bunch of different singers with distinct voices, looks, and songs, we mostly have a bunch of blondes of comparable talent. I don’t see this as primarily a gender problem but as a function of the music industry in general.

  • Blonde South

    It is true that right now there are not that many big name country female solo stars making it big on the country charts. But almost all the successful country crossover hits lately have been by those female stars and the bands with female leads. I might hear Taylor Swift or The Band Perry on pop radio, but I don’t usually hear Brad Paisley or Jason Aldean. And it’s been like that for a long time. The female country stars do better at crossover hits then the males. So they’ve got that going for them.

    • ryna12

      I agree. But that makes it harder for Country radio formats to wanna push the female hits once they’ve crossed over to Pop. You could almost feel a hint of abandonment radiating with cntry Radio and Swift right now; they don’t wanna play her songs. They feel slighted when artists remix their songs for new broader formats.

  • Leah

    Country radio is and has always been a boys club. It sucks. If they don’t like your message, they will not play you. Remember it took Miranda 5 years to get a #1. Radio didn’t support her until 3 years into her career and that was just b/c so many people demanded Gunpowder and Lead to be played. Radio though that it “was to violent a song to be sung by a woman in country format”.

    • Sara

      I was going to post this same thing…country music is a good ol’ boy network. And sure the Rebas and Martina McBrides are still putting out music, but they’re no where as huge as they once were. If you’re a female trying to make it country music now, you’d better be an “all-american” girl. Blonde. Blue-eyed. Pretty.

    • LOL

      Everything you say is right, Leah, but please stop using “b/c.” It just looks lazy, especially when you type out longer words in the same post.

  • Jessica

    I think this is because right now so many female solo acts sound the same. There’s no one doing anything different. No one has the distinctive voice or choice of songs. That’s why Hillary Scott and Jennifer Nettles are successful–they’re doing something different to separate themselves from other female acts.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Oh Jessica. Unlike all the men who sound the same? I swear beyond the 3 or 4 biggest male stars I can’t tell ANY of them apart, and MOST of their song titles sound like the same song. I’d say Carrie is definitely different than Taylor, Martina and Reba are in classes all their own, Dolly Parton is instantly recognized worldwide, has her own unique sound and has new IGNORED music out. I’m not feeling the “so many female solo acts sound the same” argument. Not when that statement more accurately describe the men.

      • Chet

        Yeah thats definitely a weak argument. There are at least 30 to 40 solo men a year that manage to have top 10 country hits, none of which by the way have crossover appeal. At least 4 or 5 solo men break out each year and go to #1 with their first charting single. The only women to do that are Carrie and Gretchen Wilson, at least in the past decade. It seems nearly impossible for newcoming solo women to break through, for some reason when they are part of a group or duo its more accepted. You take someone like the Band Perry, Kimberly could easily have gone the solo route but I wonder if she’d be having the same success on the singles chart.

    • PN

      I think that Carrie Underwood has continued to score more hits with the songs she has co-written, especially on her third album, Play On. When it’s coming from the artist that wrote the songs, the realness of the singer stands out rather than some outside songwriters flooding most of the album.

  • pat

    You are right on about radio not playing Miranda, but it did’nt slow her down one bit. She still worked her butt off and it paid off. Radio could not wait to play this new single. Moving up the charts so fast that the fans are having a time keeping up. We have some great female country singers. Kellie pickler is a wonderful person, but not a great singer. She needs to find a place in tv. Tough was not her song. We have one Miranda out here and there will never be another. They need not try to be her. She is who she is and thats all we can make of it. As far as Sunny Sweeney I really did not know who she was until recently after one brought my attention to some of her weekend snap shots. She does have an album coming out ,infact the day Miranda Lambert’s Pistol Annie’s “HELL on HEELS” comes out. I never hear anyone speak of it. You would think her label would get behind it!! I’m proud of our female singers. Carrie, Miranda. Reba, Taylor, Martina and there are more. Faith have a song with George on his new album. This Pistol Annies Trio is just getting started. We will be hearing from them soon. Great album you can look for august 23rd

    • Kim

      Kellie Pickler is just as great of a singer as Miranda Lambert and Tough is her song. Like Grady said radio needs to play Kellie more.

      • Well

        Miranda’s big edge is that she’s a songwriter as well as a performer. This is a big advantage as it was with, Dolly and Loretta.

      • Kim

        True and Kellie is also a songwriter and performer. She co-wrote many of her songs and won ASCAP awards for writing radio hits, in fact every song she wrote and released to radio hit top 10 – 15. She co-wrote most of her hits, same as Miranda. Both are great writers and singers so both have a big edge. However many #1 songs were not written by the performers, for example Miranda didn’t write her first #1 The House That Built Me and many of the men didn’t write their #1 songs. So no matter who the writers are radio should play Kellie’s songs more, same as Miranda. The bottom line is Kellie is the most talented solo female that hasn’t hit #1 yet so in all fairness she should be next and she’s had to wait years just like Miranda.

      • Heather

        The House that Built me was Miranda’a ONLY single that she didn’t write. Kellie is a good singer and writer but Miranda is one of the best songwriters in Nashville. I do hope that Kellie gets played more just to help the girls in the format.

    • Erin

      What an odd rant Pat, were you drinking when you wrote it? Kellie is an amazing singer with great songs and it’s very odd that you included Taylor on your list of female singers you’re proud of since Kellie is a far better singer. Relax, no one is trying to be Miranda and no kidding there is only one Miranda, one Carrie, one Kellie, one Taylor, one Reba and so on.

  • jfms777

    And to think. 30 years ago, “country Olivia” went pop, and recorded “Physical” the biggest record of her career (and the entire year). How things have changed.

    • PN

      I love Olivia Newton John’s country songs of her early ’70s career, but she really exploded between 1978 and 1981 when she shifted to pop songs. She did do a few country songs within those later albums, so she didn’t drift away from what she started. Artists tend to switch a lot with the music and genres that they sing.

  • Justin C.

    In order to tackle the gender question, we might also have to untangle the direction of influences: are radio stations just playing what people want to hear, are they dictating what people want to hear, or are these two groups influencing each other in a cyclical manner? Or is the source even higher up in the chain – records labels not sending female singles out to radio? Or record labels not even signing females? If it’s the record labels, it might really be that people don’t want to hear the females, because I think record labels would be more likely to do market research on that kind of stuff than the radio stations. Who knows.

    • LOL

      Radio in general is a dirty whorish business. It’s a wonder anything of worth gets played anymore.

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