Guitarist Nita Strauss has become the first woman in almost three decades to top the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart with her new track Dead Inside, featuring Davcid Draiman of Disturbed on vocals. The last time the chart was topped by a female solo artist was 1990, with Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet.
The chart ranks the week’s most popular mainstream rock songs, ranked by radio airplay detections on mainstream rock-formatted stations, as measured by Nielsen Music. While Strauss is the first woman since Alannah Myles to top the chart, there have been several frontwomen hitting the top of the chart as part of bands. Most recently, Halestorm’s track Back From The Dead topped the chart in November, and Only Love Can Save Me Now by The Pretty Reckless, featuring Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil topped it in October.
The chart achievement is significant for Strauss, as it’s her first standalone single release, and her first new music since her 2018 solo album Controlled Chaos.
The huge gap in time between two solo women topping the chart speaks to several things. Firstly, there’s the reality that solo artists are rarer than bands in rock – female solo artists more so. But it’s also important to consider how this chart in particular is calculated, and how that impacts the artists on it. As it is specifically a radio airplay chart, it is only measuring performance on mainstream rock-formatted stations, not streaming services or digital downloads.
For comparison, the Hot Rock And Alternative Songs chart takes streaming into account, and therefore displays a much different slice of the world of rock – one with much greater gender diversity. Right now, this chart shows the presence of pop-punk revival acts such as Gayle, Willow, Avril Lavigne, as well as the alt-pop of Billie Eilish and Halsey, none of whom are present on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart.
It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that rock radio stations tend to focus on more straight-ahead rock, rather than the genre-melding crossover acts that find success on TikTok and similar platforms. However, the complete absence of a female solo act from the number-one spot on the Rock Airplay chart for over 30 years is still surprising, although perhaps the streak being broken by Strauss is a sign of positive change to come.