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2023 proves a record-breaking triumph for female pop stars: Time for further progress?

Miley Cyrus (L) and RAYE (R)
Miley Cyrus (L) and RAYE (R) Copyright Credit: AP Photo
Copyright Credit: AP Photo
By Theo Farrant
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Despite female pop stars celebrating a record-breaking year on the UK singles chart, 2023 was still a mixed year for recognising the talent and achievements of women in the industry.

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2023 was a record-breaking year for female pop stars. 

Seven out of the top 10 UK singles of the year were performed by women, featuring hits like SZA's 'Kill Bill', Miley Cyrus' 'Flowers', and Taylor Swift's 'Anti-Hero'.

This marks a stark contrast with 2022, where only two female musicians (Cat Burns and Kate Bush) secured spots in the top 10 songs, 

British talents such as UK dance music phenom PinkPantheress, and RAYE, whose album 'My 21st Century Blues' secured a place on our best albums of 2023 list, spent an unprecedented 31 out of 52 weeks at No. 1 on the Official Singles Chart in 2023. 

This year also saw another notable milestone, with women, whether as solo artists or collaborators, contributing to 48.5% of all songs that reached the top 10 - the highest annual share of top 10 hits by female musicians in this century.

Dr. Jo Twist, the CEO of BPI (British Phonographic Industry), acknowledged that it was a fantastic year for women in music. 

"There is a more diverse range of recording artists than ever achieving great success with the backing of their labels. Women spent more weeks at No 1 on the Official Singles Chart than in any previous year, while seven of the 10 biggest tracks were by women," Twist explained. 

She added: "This should be celebrated, but without complacency, and our work in the music industry continues to ensure that this becomes the norm."

Does more need to be done for female representation in music?

Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine performs "My Love" at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, May 15, 2022.
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine performs "My Love" at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, May 15, 2022.Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Despite the progress, 2023 was still a mixed year for recognising the talent and achievements of female artists, emphasising an ongoing need for efforts to enhance inclusivity and representation.

In January, the Brit Awards faced criticism for failing to nominate a single female artist in the Artist of the Year category, after opting for a gender-neutral approach adopted in 2022. 

The resulting all-male shortlist included the likes of Harry Styles, Fred Again..., Stormzy, and Central Cee - snubbing potential candidates like Charlie XCX, Florence + The Machine and Mabel. 

However, the BPI responded by announcing it was "carrying out a major study to identify barriers that may inhibit more women becoming successful in music, so that there can be solutions that result in meaningful change".

SZA, winner of the award for best pop duo/group performance for "Kiss Me More," poses in the press room at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on April 3, 2022.
SZA, winner of the award for best pop duo/group performance for "Kiss Me More," poses in the press room at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on April 3, 2022.Credit: John Locher/John Locher/Invision/AP

Simultaneously, the Glastonbury Festival drew its share of backlash for unveiling a very male, pale and stale headliner lineup featuring Arctic Monkeys, Guns N' Roses, and Elton John

The festival's co-organizer, Emily Eavis, attributed this to a "pipeline" issue, suggesting the industry struggled to produce enough viable female headliners.

We, at Euronews Culture, strongly disagreed with this.Cough Lana Del Rey. Cough Taylor Swift. Cough Dua Lipa. Cough Adele. 

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Paul Williams, the BPI's strategic communications consults has expressed caution that the industry shouldn't grow complacent following the standout commercial success of female artists in 2023. 

We know that doesn’t represent the norm and we’re working hard to make sure it does become [the case].
Paul Williams
Strategic Communications Consultant

“We know that doesn’t represent the norm and we’re working hard to make sure it does become [the case],” he said.

“However, we do hope this shows that we’re all heading in the right direction and there’s a lot more investment in talented women artists, and more diverse artists across the board.”

While anticipation builds for the announcement of the Glastonbury 2024 lineup, Eavis has revealed that the festival will feature two female headliners, following last year's controversy.

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