This week, Kelsea Ballerini’s latest single “Miss Me More” danced its way into the Number One spot on both the Mediabase and Billboard Country Airplay charts, marking the first solo woman to reach the top in nearly 15 months.
The accomplishment was met with a round of praise and congratulations from many of Ballerini’s contemporaries, who remarked on the Grand Ole Opry member’s hard work and talent in various ways.
“Every artist who has had success at country radio has 1 thing in common: they hustled their ass off to get it there,” wrote Maren Morris, whose latest single “Girl” may give her an additional country Number One. “It’s more than a great song… it’s hard work.”
“She continues to break down doors for every girl in Nashville,” added Carly Pearce.
“You are breaking barriers! So much hard work, perseverance, talent… and you do it with class!!!” said the band Runaway June, whose “Buy My Own Drinks” just climbed inside the Top 20 and made them the first all-women country trio to achieve as much in 14 years.
Reading between the lines, it was more than just a friendly show of solidarity among the women of country music: it was a quiet acknowledgement that such occasions are increasingly rare. Even as discussions about the scarcity of women have been at the forefront of country music reporting in the past few years (and the last year in particular), the trend doesn’t seem to be abating from its downward slide.
Singer-songwriter Cam, who hit the top with her single “Burning House” in 2015, made all the connections clear in a lengthy Instagram post that both congratulated Ballerini on her success and condemned the industry — particularly men who enjoy a privileged place within it — for not doing more. She also gave no quarter to the notion that things have in any way improved for women or minorities, despite a handful of outliers in the last year.
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Congratulations to this badass going #1. I’ve watched her work harder than anyone over the years. That’s not some nice compliment I’m giving her for insta likes while she’s on top this week – I’m being transparent and honest. I know the guys work hard, but I’m telling you from being in the thick of it- it doesn’t come close to how hard the top echelon of talented women & minorities HAVE to work for significantly less opportunity and less money (@garthbrooks has publicly confirmed this- don’t know what else we need to hear). I wonder if all the silent men in this industry feel guilty? Or if they even understand that they are participating in a system that refuses to give women and minorities their due, and instead hands our hard earned share back to them? Some country music “family” 😉 If you are tired of this topic, all I can say is it must be nice to be financially secure enough to turn a blind eye. I just can’t stomach anyone saying that this is a sign the tides are changing. It’s literally worse than it’s ever been and nothing is being done about it. If one more person names the TINY number of overly-qualified women & two Black men on the charts and calls this a “Renaissance” I will live stream myself puking 🤮 Sending gratitude to all the hardworking folks that keep going in this mess and a heartfelt apology & understanding to the ones who just can’t do it anymore (in this industry and so many others). I see you, and all the talented people who work with/for you whose livelihoods are affected by association. And to @kelseaballerini : for the time, talent and care you’ve poured into this, you deserve more. 🥊🎂💕 #missmemore
“I just can’t stomach anyone saying that this is a sign the tides are changing,” she said. “It’s literally worse than it’s ever been and nothing is being done about it. If one more person names the TINY number of overly-qualified women & two Black men on the charts and calls this a ‘Renaissance’ I will live stream myself puking.”
Cam’s not wrong: The previous person to reach the top spot on the country airplay charts was also Ballerini, whose “Legends” reached Number One the week of February 20th, 2018. “Legends” was part of micro-cluster of songs by women that reached the top around that time: preceding it on the January 16th chart was Maren Morris’ first Number One, “I Could Use a Love Song,” and in mid-November 2017, Carly Pearce scored her first (and to date only) Number One with “Every Little Thing.”
Rewind back to two years ago in mid-June, 2017, and there are no other solo women — only a handful of collaborations with men, such as Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert’s “Drowns the Whiskey,” and Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina’s “What Ifs,” that been able to loft a woman to the Number One spot.
In the meantime, women have continued to excel: Ballerini joined the Grand Ole Opry; Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour won the Grammy for Album of the Year; and Morris scored a world-conquering dance-pop hit with “The Middle.”
They’ve all developed the survival skills necessary to make it in an industry that expects more of them. Still, it’d be nice to celebrate Number Ones for reasons other than being the first in a long, long time.
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