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For decades—literally since Woodstock—female musicians had battled music-industry perceptions that amassing too many of them, on the radio or on the road, was bad for business. And yet, by the ’90s, women were vital to the rise of alt-rock and hip-hop on the charts: from Suzanne Vega to Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman to Sheryl Crow, Natalie Merchant to Missy Elliott.
Sarah McLachlan harnessed this energy into an all-woman tour she dubbed Lilith Fair. Its string of sellouts from 1997 to ’99 affirmed women’s clout in the decade of grunge-and-gangsta. But the festival was also criticized for its narrow focus and for branding “women’s music” as a genre. More than two decades later, Hit Parade assesses the legacy of Lilith on the charts and on the road—how its performers, attendees and musical descendants are helping to ensure the future is female.
Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.