When a No. 1 Hit Isn’t Really a Hit…Nicki’s and Taylor’s No. 1s fail to make year-end Top 100

(December 4, 2020).  Two of the biggest female acts of the past decade – and in history – have added yet another distinction to their long lists of accomplishments on the Billboard charts…and this is the kind for which neither artist may want to be remembered.

Both pop legend Taylor Swift and rap queen Nicki Minaj (the latter by way of features on two songs by Doja Cat and 6ix9ine) had No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 during 2020.  

Yet neither artist finished with a song among the year’s 100 biggest hits on Billboard’s newly released tally.

Taylor Swift (left) and Nicki Minaj

On December 3, Billboard unveiled its annual recap of the year’s biggest hit singles, based on data compiled from the 52 weekly charts dated November 23, 2019, through November 14, 2020.

The number one tune of the year, as expected, is The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” the Grammy-snubbed, long-running smash that entered the top ten in March and has yet to leave as of this writing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, neither “Trollz” by 6ix9ine featuring Nicki Minaj nor “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift – both No. 1 songs this past summer – are anywhere to be found on the list.  And the song that did make the list by Doja Cat, on which Nicki Minaj was given a temporary feature credit, is listed without Minaj’s name attached (more on that at the bottom of this article).

For context, it’s not unheard-of for a No. 1 song to miss out on a year-end, top-100 tally in Billboard.  But that typically only occurs when a song is released so late in a year that it doesn’t have enough accumulated points to reach the year-end chart’s minimum threshold.  In such cases, a song that is released, say, after September and reaches No. 1 in November, may only have so many points to count towards the year-end wrap-up.  

In those situations, the songs are usually still on the charts well past December and they rack up enough points the following year to make that year’s annual recap of the biggest hits.

A case in point: Ariana Grande’s latest No. 1 single “Positions” topped the chart last month and didn’t make the 2020 year-end list, but it’s currently still in the top five of the weekly chart and is likely to stick around long enough to make the 2021 recap a year from now.  

Similarly, Selena Gomez’ “Love You To Love Me” eked out a week at No. 1 on the very last chart of the 2019 eligibility period and, therefore, failed to make the 2019 top 100 ranking.  However, it hung around long enough in 2020 to make this year’s roundup at No. 30.

No such luck existed for either “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift or “Trollz” by 6ix9ine featuring Nicki Minaj, both of which were released early enough in the year to not be affected by a truncated end-of-year chart run.  They’re likely the first No. 1 songs in history to have their entire chart runs fit into an eligibility period and not make the year’s biggest hits list. 

Instead, both songs suffered from just plain not being substantial hits, either with radio or long-term streaming.

In the case of “Trollz,” the song entered the Hot 100 at No. 1 in late June and tumbled all the way down to No. 34 in its second week…a historic plummet from the No. 1 position for a song debuting at No. 1 or for any non-holiday No. 1 record. 

It got worse from there: “Trollz” fell from No. 34 to 54 in its third week, and from No. 54 to 83 the next week.  

And then, just like that, the song exited the chart – never to be heard from again.  Its four total Hot 100 weeks were the fewest for any No. 1 song in Hot 100 history.  Even 6ix9ine’s just-as-forgettable “Gooba,” released more than a month earlier, outlasted “Trollz.”  “Gooba” was still listed at the anchor position of No. 100 the week “Trollz” left the chart.

Taylor Swift’s No. 1 “Cardigan” had its entire chart run in the 2020 eligibility window, but missed the year-end chart altogether.

Swift’s “Cardigan” fared a little better than “Trollz.”

Taylor’s sixth chart-topping single entered the Hot 100 at No. 1 on the list dated August 8, and the following week dropped to No. 8.

Its total chart run looked like this: 1-8-24-33-36-45-52-52-49-53-77-85-88-94-off.

That’s 14 weeks on the Hot 100 with eleven of those spent below No. 30 and seven spent in the bottom half of the chart.  In a soft part of the year where a song’s cumulative points were already lower than in the first half of 2020, that showing just wasn’t enough to get “Cardigan” on the year-end top 100.

To further drive this point home, every other eligible No. 1 song that peaked before October of this year made the year-end top 100…or a total of 23 former No. 1s.  Even Mariah Carey’s perennial holiday juggernaut, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” found its way to No. 67 on the year’s recap after only managing seven weeks on the Hot 100 chart during the eligibility period. 

The difference between Mariah’s Christmas classic and the songs by 6ix9ine/Minaj and Swift was simple: their points performance. “All I Want” spent four weeks at No. 3 or higher and accumulated far more points at its peak than either “Trollz” or “Cardigan” did.

Taylor’s statistical anomaly becomes even more astonishing when considering that none of the fifteen other songs from her No. 1 album folklore came anywhere close to even approaching “Cardigan’s” performance.  All fifteen other folklore tunes entered the chart the same week “Cardigan” did and, by mid-September, poof…they were all gone!

Never in Taylor’s nearly fifteen years of charting had any of her albums’ singles collectively performed so poorly on the Hot 100, despite “Cardigan” becoming her sixth No. 1 song there.  Before now, she’s had at least one song appear on a Hot 100 year-end list every year since 2007, when “Teardrops on My Guitar” finished at No. 89 for the year.

Nicki Minaj

As for Minaj, who is now in a back-and-forth battle with Taylor for the woman with the most Hot 100 entries in chart history (both women passed Aretha Franklin years ago and Swift currently leads the race), the chart gods were even more unforgiving.

Minaj’s first No. 1 single of 2020 was when she was added to a remix of fellow rapper Doja Cat’s single “Say So.”  The song was immediately bumped to No. 1 in May and gave Minaj her career-first chart-topper.  

But in subsequent weeks after its lone week at the top, Billboard removed the Minaj feature from its listings as the original version (without Minaj) overtook the remix in weekly points. 

Ultimately, it was the original version that out-ranked the Minaj remix in points for the year-end tally and, per Billboard policy, Minaj is not afforded a credit on the 2020 listing.  

That makes 2020 the first year in which Minaj doesn’t have a song on the year-end rankings since 2010, when her first hit – “My Chick Bad” (as a feature on Ludacris’ song) – ranked at No. 56 for the year.  Her first solo single – “Your Love” – also finished at No. 66 on the 2010 tally. 

All of this highlights the fact that Minaj still hasn’t had her own No. 1 as a lead artist after 110 chart entries (currently trailing Swift by three).  It’s an asterisk that caveats an otherwise stellar chart career, and one her pundits no doubt like to highlight.

But it also highlights how increasingly arbitrary a metric that a No. 1 debut on the Hot 100 has become this year, particularly as artists “front-load” their hits by deeply discounting singles in their first week of digital download availability or bundle them with other merchandise (Billboard has since revised its policy to eliminate the double-counting of physical singles with digital downloads if the physical product isn’t delivered in the same week as the download purchase).

A record eleven songs have debuted at No. 1 this year – and all of those since April.

“Trollz” by 6ix9ine and Minaj debuted at No. 1 on the strength of deeply discounted digital downloads in stores like iTunes, but didn’t have radio or streaming numbers to back it up once their fans had swiped up their copies in the first week.  

When the song suffered the natural second-week erosion in sales, its lack of streaming and radio support became a glaring factor as the song made its historic fall down the chart. 

But none of that probably mattered to 6ix9ine or Minaj, both of whom finally got the No. 1 song they had long craved.

Or, as the rainbow-haired rapper likes to point out, at least he got his.  Like all good trolls, 6ix9ine would be one of the first to point out that Minaj still hasn’t had her own No. 1.

Talk about adding salt to a wound.

Nicki Minaj and 6ix9ine

DJRob

DJRob is a freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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