Adele has the number one song in the country. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift dominate the cultural conversation, making hit after hit. But a look at the data reveals that overwhelmingly, those who are writing, creating, and performing American pop music are men.
This week’s Billboard Top 40 chart is no exception: Only 22.5% of songs were performed by women.
Things are no no better than they were last month.
Do I sound like a broken record? Because I feel like one.
Every month, when I sit down to do this count, there's a moment where I think that something might have changed—that maybe women will be represented at 50%—since we make up half of society. This month that moment was in the Top 20. In the spots numbered 8-15, there is only one male performer—and one mixed gender performance. The female performers are as follows: Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend, Elle King, Alessia Cara, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding. It's encouraging to see that many different women in the Top 20.
This week, women make up 8 of the Top 20 spots. That's 40%. Not equality, but close. For a moment I let myself get excited. But in spots 21-40, there are only 2 female performers. The trend continues.
After six months of doing these counts, you would think that this reality would set in. You would think that I could acknowledge that women are consistently less than 1/3 of the artists represented in the Top 40 songs in America. But I can't. I want us to be better than this.
Again this month, songwriters who are women are barely represented in Top 40. Of the 157 writing credits this month, only 18 belonged to women.
The only positive jump for women in the Top 40 this month was among female producers—a statistically significant leap from 1.2% (in October) to 3.8%.
3.8% is not even close to 50%, which would be ideal in a world that's half female. 3.8% is not even close to the 22.5% of women who performed songs in the Top 40 this month. 3.8% is not a statistic we should be okay with in any way. But there it is.
Pop music is often criticized as being girly. Yet overwhelmingly, time after time, it is produced, written, and performed by men.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.