A Dash of Data

Fun-sized bites of data analysis

Today’s Top Female Pop Artists (In Charts)


A couple weeks ago, I read an article on Billboard about how female artists have been ruling the charts. I took a moment to think about this phenomenon (as I paused Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” on my phone) and realized that I really had been listening to a lot of female artists lately. It seemed like ages ago when I was telling the DJ at my wedding that she absolutely HAD to play “All of Me” by John Legend and “Happy” by Pharrell.

So I decided if female artists are ruling the Billboard charts, I might as well create some of my own charts about them too. I used Billboard as my inspiration and looked at female artists with #1 singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 list within the past six years.

The first thing I wanted to do was figure out a way to map these 15 women onto one chart. I decided to look at the number of Hot 100 songs and #1 singles that they’ve had during their careers.

B Female Artists

I found a couple clusters of artists on the chart. On the bottom left you have the ladies that are new to the scene, such as Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen and Meghan Trainor. In the middle you have the artists that are well-established, having three or four #1 singles and around twenty songs reach the Hot 100 list. These are women such as Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Ke$ha and Lady Gaga.

B Female Artists Labels

Out of all these female singers, there are two that really stand out from the crowd – Taylor Swift and Rihanna. Since Taylor Swift’s debut single “Tim McGraw” made it onto the Hot 100 list back in 2006, she has had a whopping 67 Hot 100 songs. During Rihanna’s nine year career, she has had 13 #1 singles, tying her with Michael Jackson.

Let’s take a closer look at Taylor Swift. How is it possible that she’s had so many Hot 100 songs?

B Taylor Swift

It turns out that two-thirds of the songs on her five albums have made the Hot 100 list, with 100% of the songs on her 2010 “Speak Now” album making it onto the charts.

How about Rihanna? Just how significant are her 13 #1 singles?

B Rihanna

While it doesn’t look like much spread over nine years, if you total up all of her weeks at number one, she has spent almost a full year as the top artist in the U.S.

After doing all of this digging, I thought to myself, I can’t believe Taylor and Rihanna are so successful – they seem so young! So, I took a look at the age of all 15 women when their first song reached #1 on the Billboard charts, and I confirmed my theory – they are so young.

B Age

To my surprise, Carly Rae Jepsen was the oldest at 26! Most of today’s female pop stars make it to the top of the charts around 20 – 23 years old. After this analysis, I’ve learned that my chances of making it to the top of the Billboard charts are pretty slim, given my age (…and okay, my singing abilities too). It’s okay though, I’m just gonna shake it off (I shake it off, I, I, I shake it off). And then make some charts of my own.

Photo Credits (images were cropped and used in graphics)
CC BY 2.0: Taylor Swift (photo by Jana Zills on Flickr), Rihanna (photo by liammendez on Flickr), Britney Spears (photo by rhysadams on Flickr), Miley Cyrus (photo by MelissaRose14 on Flickr), Pink (photo by blumonkey14 on Flickr), Katy Perry (photo by ellasportfolio on Flickr), Lady Gaga (photo by aphrodite-in-nyc on Flickr), Ke$ha (photo by minglemediatv on Flickr), Adele (photo by Christopher Macsurak on Flickr), Iggy Azalea (photo by rarvesen on Flickr), Lorde (photo by Annette Geneva on Flickr)
Public Domain: Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson
Fair Use: Carly Rae Jepsen (“Kiss” album cover), Meghan Trainor (“Title” album cover), Taylor Swift (“Taylor Swift” album cover, “Fearless” album cover, “Speak Now” album cover, “Red” album cover, “1989” album cover)


  1. Hi Alice, looks like the beginnings of a really cute blog! What software are you using to create these great visualizations? Thanks!

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