There Are More Lukes Than Women in the Billboard Country Airplay Top 20
Credit Billboard's Jim Asker for pointing out the historical nature of the dubious accomplishment. "Ever" in this case means since the radio-based Country Airplay chart survey, which launched in January 1990 he writes. There's not even a female in a group or duo or as a featured performer!
The closest a woman gets to Top 20 is at No. 22. Carrie Underwood's "Love Wins" holds that spot, and she's followed by women as the primary performer at No. 32 ("Miss Me More" by Kelsea Ballerini) and then Maddie & Tae (No. 41), Runaway June (No. 44), Lauren Alaina (No. 47) and Carly Pearce (No. 53). Mindy Smith and Hillary Lindsey are featured performers on songs by Kenny Chesney ("Better Boat" is at No. 27) and Randy Houser ("What Whiskey Does" hit No. 40).
Asker's historical look finds no fewer than three women inside the Top 20 during this week across a sampling of the last two-plus decades. Currently Kane Brown sits at No. 1 with his song "Lose It." Luke Combs is at No. 3 and Luke Bryan at No. 15. So, with respect to the headline, there are technically more Kips, Kanes, Jordans, Jimmies and Midlands than women in the Top 20, as well.
The issue of women on the radio has been a hotly-debated conversation since a radio consultant's 2015 comments that women were like tomatoes in a salad, and that the men are lettuce — meaning a programmer should play way more men then women to be successful. Those remarks came at a time people were first starting to notice the lack of women on the radio. From late 2012 to mid-2015, no female solo artist reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, and women remain a minority on major festival lineups and on popular streaming playlists.
Over the last three years, the percentage of songs from women on the radio has declined, according to Country Aircheck. The Boot points out that the first woman as a primary vocalist listed on the year-end list of country music's most played songs of 2018 sits at No. 35. That's Maren Morris and her song "Rich."
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