After a brief cosmic rupture in which the universe pondered a parallel reality ruled by Post Malone, things have returned to normal: Drake is Number One.
After ceding the throne to Post Malone in 2019, Drake is once again the most-streamed artist of the year, topping Rolling Stone’s Year-End Artists 500 Chart. Things have been this way for a while now: Apart from 2019, a year in which he didn’t release an album and fell to Number Two, Drake has been the most-streamed artist since 2015, according to Alpha Data.
This year, with the help of his compilation mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes, Drake pulled in more than 5.8 billion on-demand audio streams.
Considering it was a collection of previously released or leaked material, Dark Lane Demo Tapes didn’t have the oomph of a proper studio album — it failed to reach Number One on the RS 200 because of Kenny Chesney’s Here and Now — but it wasn’t without its hits: “Toosie Slide” topped the RS 100 for three straight weeks in April. “Toosie Slide” was his most popular song of the year, with 370 million on-demand audio streams. His second was “Laugh Now Cry Later,” the Lil Durk–featuring lead single off his upcoming sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, which pulled in 336 million on-demand audio streams in 2020. “Chicago Freestyle” was next, with 198 million. Overall, Drake topped the Artists 500 for 14 weeks in 2020, more weeks at Number One than any other artist.
There was, as there tends to be, a sizable gap between Drake and any other artist in 2020 — 370 million streams, to be exact. Juice WRLD came the closest, posthumously taking second on the chart, just over a year after he died at the age of 21. Juice WRLD, who took sixth in last year’s ranking, pulled in close to 5.5 billion on-demand audio streams in 2020, and his posthumous debut album, Legends Never Die, finished at Number Five on the year-end RS 200. Youngboy Never Broke Again moves up two spots from last year to take third, with 4.7 billion on-demand audio streams. Lil Baby and Lil Uzi Vert round out the Top Five.
Post Malone falls to Number Six on the year-end chart, followed by Taylor Swift, who takes seventh. As the world shut down, Swift went to work in the studio and came out with not one but two albums, Folklore and Evermore. While this is a common pace for a rapper, it’s pretty speedy for a pop artist. As a result, Swift saw streaming numbers that only rappers tend to reach, with over 4.1 billion on-demand audio streams in 2020, more than any other pop artist. That’s 1 billion more than she saw in 2019.
The Rolling Stone Artists 500 chart ranks the most-streamed artists of the week in the United States, taking into account audio streams across an artist’s entire catalog during the tracking period. The chart does not include passive listening such as terrestrial radio or digital radio. The Year-End Artists 500 covers streams from January 3rd through December 31st, 2020.
While things returned to normal at the top of the chart, there was no shortage of shakeups outside the Top 10.
Bad Bunny entered the Top 20 for the first time after seeing a 78-percent increase in streams year on year. With his sophomore studio album YHLQMDLG, which featured a street reggaeton style called reggaeton a la marquee, Rolling Stone declared that Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio was “asking the world to crossover to him” and it seemed the world did: Bad Bunny pulled in just under 3 billion on-demand audio streams in 2020, more than the likes of Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and the Beatles.
Making another notable entrance in the Top 20 this year is Rod Wave, who just last year came in at Number 179 on our year-end tally. But in 2020, the St. Petersburg, Florida, rapper increased his streams by nearly fivefold. After releasing his debut studio album Ghetto Gospel in November 2019, he followed it up just five months later with Pray 4 Love, which debuted at Number Two on the RS 200. All told, Rod Wave pulled in 2.8 billion audio streams in 2020.
Other hip-hop disruptors include Don Toliver (Number 97), the Kid Laroi (Number 123), and J.I. the Prince of NY (Number 281).
And while country hasn’t historically been a high-streaming genre, there were more country acts in the upper ranks of the Year-End Artists 500 Chart than there were in 2019, reflecting an upward trend in country streams that outpaced those of hip-hop, pop, and rock in 2020. Parker McCollum, Gabby Barrett, Hardy, Maddie and Tae, and Koe Wetzel all entered the year-end tally for the first time, while established streaming stars Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen made climbs up the chart, up to Numbers 17 and 29, respectively.
As Regional Mexican music saw more stateside streams than ever in 2020, six new Regional Mexican acts enter the year-end Artists 500 Chart. Natanael Cano, a leader in the style of corridos tumbados — a hip-hop take on corridos — leads at Number 159 after more than quadrupling his streams year on year. Armed Link, a trio that formed in California but play traditional Mexican sierreña music, finish at Number 300. In 2020, the group reached Number 24 on the RS 200 with Night vibes, the highest ranking for a Regional Mexican group. Junior H, singer-songwriter-guitarist Carin Leon, Marca MP, and norteño duo Los Dos Carnales also debut, at Numbers 371, 422, 459, and 466, respectively.
There are also a number of TikTok artists who managed to break into the top 500. Trevor Daniel debuts at Number 253 after his TikTok smash “Falling” helped him see a 224-percent increase in streams year on year. New Zealand singer BENEE, who vent viral on TikTok with “Supalonely,” enters at Number 457, and “Party Girl” rapper and singer StaySolidRocky enters at Number 415.
See the full year-end Artists 500 Chart here.