Being great: Lizzo (finally) reaches No. 1 with historic “Truth Hurts,” but highlights a sad stat for the ‘10s…

(September 2, 2019).  This week, alternative hip-hop singer Lizzo completes her amazing ride up the charts with the ultimate peak: a No. 1 ranking on Billboard’s main singles chart, the Hot 100.

Lizzo tops the Hot 100 this week!

She gets there (finally) after a big week that saw her shut down the MTV VMAs with a big booty-shaking performance of “Truth Hurts” (and “Good as Hell”).  

No, literally, it was a really big-booty as the singer was backed onstage by a huge inflatable set of butt cheeks while she and her dancers showed off their own, umm, considerable assets with rear-end-revealing short-shorts that would have made the late Prince and the eternally-alive Cher very proud.

And whatever viewers may have thought about all of that unapologetic big girl swag onstage, it was an unforgettable performance…and now it’s paid off!

Lizzo and her derrière-shaking entourage ride that VMA momentum all the way to the top this week as her already major hit single “Truth Hurts” – the in-your-face, boy-bye diss that was resurrected from its 2017 ashes this spring – gives the singer/rapper her first No. 1 single. (A new remix of the track featuring rapper DaBaby and a performance during the tracking week on NBC’s Today didn’t hurt, either.)  

Rising from the ashes…

“Truth Hurts” is a two-year-old tune that’s mainly been in the public consciousness since May 2019, when it began its sleeper-hit journey at No. 50 on the chart – the lowest position it was eligible to enter due to a Billboard rule that only allows oldies to chart when they have enough points for the top half of the list. 

“Truth” then began a slow, old-school chart climb of 50-42-38-26-21-17-14-11-6-7-6-5-4-4-4-3- and finally this week, No. 1.

Lizzo’s fans – or Lizzbians as they’re known – likely didn’t need a No. 1 Billboard ranking to validate their (s)hero’s rising star status.  They’ve been riding with the hilariously outrageous, Detroit-born, Minneapolis-based singer for years, not just months like the rest of America.  

But having the most popular song in the country (according to Billboard) is still a big deal in the music industry – and one that the artist herself is clearly enjoying.  

It’s also a measure that top industry brass still uses to gauge their marketing strategies and it’s one that creates instant bragging rights and credibility points for both the artist and her label, Nice Life Recording Company (distributed by Atlantic Records)…particularly when it comes to negotiating contract extensions and tour bookings in the future.

In that sense, Lizzo’s latest victory would appear to be setting her up for a bright future in the industry as the talented singer becomes the third artist in a row to get their first No. 1 hit (following Shawn Mendes last week and Billie Eilish the week before).

Lizzo joins a very short list of African-American women to top the Hot 100 this decade.

And now the ugly truth…

But Lizzo’s rise to the pinnacle also highlights a sad statistic that would have been unbelievable if someone had predicted it ten years earlier.

By getting her first No. 1 single this week, Lizzo becomes the first new African-American woman in a lead role to achieve that milestone this decade – a decade with just three months left in it!

She also joins two veteran black women who have also reached No. 1 this decade, but who, unlike Lizzo, had No. 1 hits before the 2010s started: Beyoncé and Rihanna.  

Rihanna has had seven No. 1 singles in the 2010s as a lead artist (plus two more in a featured role…both with Eminem; she also had five in the 2000s).  Beyoncé has had only one in the 2010s – her duet with Ed Sheeran on his song “Perfect” (she also had five in the ‘00s, plus three with Destiny’s Child that decade and one more in the ‘90s).

And the statistics for Beyoncé require an asterisk for the ‘10s as she was only added as a vocalist to Sheeran’s ballad after it was already a hit in 2017, and she only remained credited as a co-lead for just over a month while the song finished its No. 1 run and stations stopped playing her version. 

But even if you include Beyoncé, Lizzo being only the third black female overall to top the Hot 100 as an artist with lead billing – and the first new artist to join the list this late in the decade – is remarkable to say the least.  It is also the lowest number for a whole decade in either category (new or established acts) since the chart began in August 1958.  

Here’s the chart history…

Table 1:  Black female lead artists credited w/ No. 1 songs in the decade (whether it was their first or not; including all-female groups)

 Decade# and names of black female lead acts credited w/ No. 1 songs in the decade
1950s0  (note: the chart began August 4, 1958)
1960s6:  The Shirelles, Little Eva, Ruby Nash (of Ruby & the Romantics), Mary Wells, (Diana Ross &) The Supremes, Aretha Franklin 
1970s18:  Diana Ross, the Honey Cone, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, the Three Degrees, Dionne Warwick, LaBelle, Minnie Riperton, Marilyn McCoo, Thelma Houston, the Emotions, Deniece Williams, A Taste Of Honey, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Amii Stewart, Peaches (of Peaches & Herb), Anita Ward 
1980s10:  Diana Ross, Patti Austin, Irene Cara, Deniece Williams, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Patti Labelle, Janet Jackson, Aretha Franklin 
1990s15:  Janet, Mariah Carey, Whitney, Karyn White, Vanessa Williams, Regina Belle, SWV, TLC, Toni Braxton, Faith Evans, Brandy, Monica, Lauryn Hill, Divine, Destiny’s Child
2000s12:  Mariah, Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah, Janet, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Beyoncé, Fantasia, Ciara, Rihanna, Leona Lewis
2010s3:  Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lizzo

Table 2:  Black female artists in lead roles getting their first No. 1 songs and the decade in which they occurred (including all-female groups)

 Decade# and names of new black female lead acts credited w/ No. 1 songs in the decade
1958-590
1960s6:  The Shirelles, Little Eva, Ruby Nash (of Ruby & the Romantics), Mary Wells, (Diana Ross &) The Supremes, Aretha Franklin 
1970s18:  Diana Ross (solo), the Honey Cone, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, the Three Degrees, Dionne Warwick, LaBelle (group), Minnie Riperton, Marilyn McCoo (in duet), Thelma Houston, the Emotions, Deniece Williams, A Taste Of Honey, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Amii Stewart, Peaches (of Peaches & Herb), Anita Ward 
1980s6:  Patti Austin, Irene Cara, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Patti Labelle (solo), Janet Jackson
1990s13:  Mariah Carey, Karyn White, Vanessa Williams, Regina Belle, SWV, TLC, Toni Braxton, Faith Evans, Brandy, Monica, Lauryn Hill, Divine, Destiny’s Child
2000s9:  Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Beyoncé (solo), Fantasia, Ciara, Rihanna, Leona Lewis
2010s1: Lizzo

There may be several issues contributing to the lack of black women at the top of the all-genre Hot 100 in the current decade, including the virtual disappearance of traditional R&B music from mainstream playlists (both at pop radio and on lists curated in digital and streaming services).

Also, women in general haven’t had nearly the amount of presence in hip-hop as their male counterparts during the genre’s domination of the charts in recent years.  The only female rappers with No. 1 songs in lead roles this decade – aside from Lizzo – have been Iggy Azalea and Cardi B, neither of whom are African-American; Azalea is caucasian (and from Australia) while Cardi B is of Dominican and (non-Afro) Trinidadian descent.

The last time a new woman with black lineage was added to the list with her first No. 1 – before Lizzo – was Leona Lewis back in 2008. 

Lizzo thus leads the new school of women who aim to pick up the baton and continue the legacy left by Rihanna, Beyoncé and so many others (before the 2010s, at least).

They include such chart No. 1 aspirants as Normani, Megan Thee Stallion, H.E.R., Ella Mai, and Solange, as well as others who haven’t quite dented the upper reaches of the charts but are artists to look for, like Teyana Taylor, Jhene Aiko, and Saweetie.

Oh, and then there’s the other rapper of Trinidadian heritage, Nicki Minaj, who is still shooting for her first No. 1 Hot 100 hit after charting for eleven years (she’s peaked at No. 2 a couple times in that span).

With just over three months left in the ‘10s, any of these artists still have time to add one or two or even three new names to this highly exclusive list of chart-toppers before the ‘20s get here.

We’ll see.  But for now, it’s Lizzo’s time to be great, and she saves the day for a decade that could easily have ended a few months from now without any new black female names added to the No. 1 list!

Here’s hoping we’ll see more progress in the 2020s.  For now, we’ll take what we can get.

Congrats to Lizzo!

DJRob 

Lizzo

DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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