Over the weekend, thanks presumably to the powers steering Gay Twitter, Dua Lipa's "New Rules" became the number 1 single in the UK. This is very much deserved, because it has probably the best pre-chorus of 2017 (the chorus itself, however, is what stops the song being a 10/10 – I'd have preferred something less droppy and obviously zeitgeist-y that won't sound like the aural equivalent of clunky, old CGI this time next year), and a flawlessly choreographed music video. Its ascent makes total sense.
However, what doesn't actually make any sense at all is the revelation that having achieved topped the singles chart, Dua Lipa is the first female solo artist to have done so since Adele released "Hello" in October 2015. Fucking "Hello." I feel like I have lived seven different lives since I first heard "Hello." "Hello" was released over a year before Donald Trump was elected President. A woman solo artist has not had a UK number one since basically just after Brexit was voted for, and haven't we all aged considerably since then? I am compelled to ask: what in sweet fuck has gone on?
I think that first of all, we haven't noticed the problem sooner because it's not like no acts with women in them have achieved number 1s: Little Mix snagged one with "Shout Out to My Ex" last October, and Clean Bandit, bland as they are, hit number 1 at the beginning of 2017, for example. But the lack of woman solo artists making it far enough to crack the top of the singles chart speaks to a great deal of homogeneity in UK mainstream music, which seems to elevate boring lads with acoustic guitars or songs with loads of featured artists to its very upper echelons constantly. Moreover from this, it doesn't help woman artists (or indeed, anyone) that the behemoth that is Ed Sheeran released an album this year, because it has meant that he has totally dominated everything for months.
But I'd also hazard that there's something going on with female solo artists in general. The world over, there just simply aren't that many solo women artists whose exciting work seems to catch the attention of the casual music listener who seems to power UK singles. These tend to be the sorts of people who haven't heard of Ray BLK or Mabel or Stefflon Don or any number of acts making great work. And some of those women are still in the EP or mixtape stage, before Radio 1 audiences might have them on their radars. The exception is possibly Kesha, who, with the right promo, could have a lot of success the singles off recent album Rainbow (which has already gone to number 1 in the US). When you think about the big female solo campaigns we've had this year, only one really stands out – that is, Katy Perry's Witness – and it was so borderline embarrassing, the songs weak, that none of the singles ever stood a chance of doing well in this country (though Witness in general did do better in the US).
For me, nobody makes pop music better than women, and it's actually pretty heartbreaking to see the female pop star pushed off her throne by whinging men and soulless radio dance remixes. But if women are going to do well, they need to hit the sweet spot between sound marketing, killer songs and the ability to elevate themselves above the clamour of so much music made available all the time, on so many platforms online. To say it's not an easy job is an understatement – and we've already written about what can happen when talented musicians never *quite* seem to crack a mainstream audience. In any case, there's a long history of female solo artists, when worked with properly, being the most exciting, inspiring people in music. Let's have more.
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