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.”
Every artist who has had success at country radio has 1 thing in common: they hustled their ass off to get it there. Radio tour, free shows, M&G giveaways, radio remotes. It’s more than a great song… it’s hard work. @KelseaBallerini , you EARNED DAT SHIT. So proud of you. 👏🏼👏🏼 https://t.co/MqEVHE3KUK
— MAREN MORRIS (@MarenMorris) June 9, 2019
“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.
“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.