The CHR/Top 40 airwaves were starting to rebuild their identity by the end of 1996, after a tumultuous few years of ratings slides, faceless new acts and lost songs. Before the Spice Girls swept the nation with “girl power”, and Lillith Fair ruled the summer tour season, a number of female singers began to perform well at the format. During that year, Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion and Donna Lewis (and others) had a super run at the top, leaving only two published charts with a #1 song by a male soloist. Then, as the hits kept piling up, the inevitable result occurred: just as 1997 began, the top ten songs on the pop chart were all sung by female soloists or female-led bands. It’s the only time this kind of event took place on the format, pre-PPW (plays per week) or PPW era.
Now, just because it’s been two decades since this historic chart week, that doesn’t mean that female-led top threes, fours and fives are going away anytime soon. An all-female top seven occurred on the pop chart as recently as September 2014, which included big hits by acts like Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift. So, keep that dream of a top ten led by the ladies alive. It may just happen again when you least expect it…
Let’s get into those sensational songs that gave the top ten a special feminine touch for a little Throwback Thursday action:
(Stats taken from: Radio & Records – issue dated January 10, 1997, airplay period of December 30, 1996 – January 5, 1997)
10. CELINE DION, “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (down 3)
Album: Falling Into You
Label: 550 Music/Epic
1996 was a year of sevens for Dion on the pop chart. “Because You Loved Me” spent seven weeks at #1, and “All” spent seven at #2.
09. JEWEL, “You Were Meant For Me” (up 10)
Album: Pieces Of You
Though 1996 was her breakout year, 1997 was even more successful for this singer. Her two #1 songs totaled nine weeks at the top.
08. GINA G, “Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit” (up 6)
Label: Eternal/Warner Bros.
The number of U.S. hits that originated at Eurovision is quite small, but “Ooh” connected with pop radio’s audience, peaking at #5.
07. THE CARDIGANS, “Lovefool” (up 9)
Album: First Band On The Moon
Nina Persson led this Swedish group to a huge smash in early 1997, spending six weeks at #1. They never made the pop chart again.
06. ALANIS MORISSETTE, “Head Over Feet” (=)
Album: Jagged Little Pill
With her third in a run of five consecutive #1 singles on the pop chart, Morissette dominated the airwaves across multiple formats.
05. SHERYL CROW, “If It Makes You Happy” (=)
Album: Sheryl Crow
Crow was likely “Happy” to reach the top five again after a couple of misses. “If” also went top ten at Alternative and Hot AC radio.
04. MERRIL BAINBRIDGE, “Mouth” (=)
Album: The Garden
This Australian singer’s biggest U.S. hit held at #2 for four weeks in late 1996. Her two other chart singles stalled below the top 40.
03. TONI BRAXTON, “Un-Break My Heart” (=)
This iconic ballad became Braxton’s penultimate top ten hit on the pop listing, later making it there with “He Wasn’t Man Enough”.
02. EN VOGUE, “Don’t Let Go (Love)” (=)
Shortly before the messy circumstances that made them a trio, this soundtrack cut gave the girls their biggest pop hit in four years.
01. NO DOUBT, “Don’t Speak” (=)
Album: Tragic Kingdom
With a giant 11 (two frozen) weeks at #1, “Don’t” became the group’s signature song and one of the biggest radio hits of the decade.
Listen to Ooh Aah… A #TBT List on Spotify, featuring these songs and more top tunes from this week in 1996!