Year in Review: Every No. 1 Hot 100 song in 2020 made chart history! Here are the facts and figures on each one…

(December 21, 2020). Twenty-twenty was an extraordinary year for many (obvious) reasons, some good but most of which we’d like to forget.

The music business wasn’t immune to 2020’s merciless wrath.  The Covid-19 pandemic led to hundreds if not thousands of cancelled tours and festivals, and many venue closures.  Artists had to fend for themselves and come up with innovative ways of marketing their product, much of which involved the use of virtual technology and live-streaming platforms.  Some smaller acts likely struggled just to make ends meet.

It has no doubt been a year musicians will be talking about for decades to come, for all the above reasons and more. 

Yet, despite the difficulties the music industry faced in 2020, a bright spot has emerged in what has been one of the most phenomenal years in recent memory on the Billboard singles charts – specifically the weekly Hot 100 tally – where seemingly week after week one history-making feat was outdone by another. 

The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” topped the chart in April and was named 2020’s top Hot 100 single.

The history making extended to all the songs collectively as well as each song’s individual feats.

For starters, collectively, twenty songs secured their first weeks at No. 1 in 2020, a record-high during the “Nielsen SoundScan/Nielsen Media era,” or the current period beginning in 1991 when Billboard switched to a digital monitoring technology that provides far more accurate accounting of airplay, sales, downloads and now streaming information than the previous method (phoned-in, man-made sales and airplay rankings) did.

One of the effects of that 1991 switch to the current chart calculation method had been a slower No. 1 turnover rate that for nearly 30 years has resulted in fewer songs topping the charts on an annual basis. Before now, the highest number of new No. 1 songs in a calendar year since 1991 was eighteen, which happened in 2006.

From 1992-2019, the average number of new No. 1 songs per year was 11.85 – far fewer than the average-per-year for the chart’s first 33 years under the old methodology from 1958-91, which was nearly doubled at 23.2 new No. 1 songs annually.

There were 22 different songs altogether that occupied the No. 1 position during 2020, but two of those were No. 1 holdovers from 2019 (including one that repeated at the top in a separate chart run near the end of 2020…more on that below).

Remarkably, during one stretch this spring, the turnover rate of No. 1 tunes – a new No. 1 every week for six weeks – was the fastest it had been in 30 years!

By year’s end, there were twelve different songs that debuted at No. 1, triple the previous record (four songs did this in both 1995 and 2018).

The collective number of songs topping the chart was indeed historic, but the history-making extended to each song’s individual accomplishments as well. Every No. 1 song of 2020 – all 22 of them – made some kind of individual chart history, with some records being established and later broken by other songs later in this same year.

Rarely, if ever, has there been a year where so many individual record-breaking feats were accomplished by so many songs as was the case in 2020.  

The crack research team at DJROBBLOG – yours truly – was able to compile the history-making facts and figures for all 22 of the songs that occupied the top spot on this year’s Hot 100 charts between the year’s first chart dated January 4 and the last dated December 26.

Rather than drag it out any further, let’s go through each No. 1 song in chronological order and quickly recap their history-making, chart-busting accomplishments…

One. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey (January 4).

Mariah Carey

The year kicked off with some 2019 (or, more accurately, 1994) holiday cheer.

As if Mariah needed to prove anything else on the Hot 100 charts during her illustrious career, the superstar chanteuse became the first artist to span four distinct decades of No. 1s with chart-toppers in the ‘90s, the ‘00s, the ‘10s and now the ‘20s.  It happened when “All I Want” squeaked in time at No. 1 during the last two weeks of 2019 and held on during the very beginning of 2020.  

Also, by becoming Mariah’s 19th No. 1, it moved her just one behind the Beatles and extended her record among solo women.  It also broke her out of the tie she had held with Diana Ross (whose total number is 18 when you include her twelve No. 1s with The Supremes).

“All I Want” also gave Mariah Carey the personal distinction of having the longest gap between her first and most recent No. 1s with 29 years and four months separating her debut hit “Vision of Love” in 1990 and the crowning of “All I Want” in December 2019/January 2020.  It broke the previous record by Cher who had 27 years and five months between “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” in November 1971 and “Believe” in April 1999.  Mariah’s gap would be extended by year’s end (more on that at the end of the article).

“All I Want” was also the first Christmas-themed No. 1 song in six decades and only the second overall after David Seville’s “The Chipmunk Song” in 1958.

It was that last fact that led to one of its ultimate chart firsts.  With the 2019 Christmas holiday’s inevitable end, “All I Want” became the first song ever to fall from No. 1 completely off the chart the following week.  A dubious distinction for Mariah, yes, but one that has to be counted along with all her other amazing chart facts and figures!

There’s more on Mariah later, but let’s move on to the next No. 1…also a repeat from 2019.

Two. “Circles” – Post Malone (January 11).

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24, 2019: Post Malone performs during the 2019 American Music Awards (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for dcp)

When Post Malone performed the 14-month-old “Circles” at the Billboard Music Awards in October 2020, it was a not-too-subtle reminder of just how enduring the song had been. 

It had entered the top ten in its debut week of September 14, 2019, and first reached No. 1 in November of that year and held for a week in December.  It returned to No. 1 for a third week in January 2020, making it one of those rare songs to spend a lone week at the top during each of three successive months. 

Most impressively, “Circles” set a new record for longest time spent in the top ten of the Hot 100 with 39 weeks (a record that has since already been eclipsed by another song on this list…as discussed further below). 

“Circles” finally exited the Hot 100 altogether in mid-November nearly a year after first reaching No. 1 (and after 61 total weeks on the chart).  Its departure marked the first time since January 2017 that Posty was absent from the Hot 100, making his consecutive three-year-and-ten-month charting streak one of the longest in Hot 100 history (second only to Drake’s eight year run from 2009-2017).  

“Circles” wound up being the second-biggest hit of 2020 in Billboard’s year-end recap.  

Three. “The Box” – Roddy Ricch (January 18).

Roddy Ricch

Newcomer Roddy Ricch’s accomplishments are more tied to the current year than any longstanding history.  Aside from being the first “official” No. 1 song of the new decade (both of its predecessors were holdovers from 2019), “The Box” was also the longest running No. 1 of 2020 with eleven weeks at the top, not to mention the song that was No. 1 when the Covid-19 pandemic claimed its first known U. S. victim (Feb. 6) – a dubious distinction in what has been one of the most tumultuous, news-filled years in modern history.

Combined with his second No. 1 single (see DaBaby’s “Rockstar” below), Roddy Ricch had the most cumulative weeks at No. 1 in 2020 with eighteen.  No one else had more than seven total weeks at the top.

“The Box” wound up ranking as the year’s most streamed song and the No. 3 Hot 100 single overall.

Stellar finish: Roddy Ricch named Billboard’s Top New Act of 2020

Four. “Blinding Lights” – The Weeknd (April 4).

The Weeknd in the “Blinding Lights” video

The Weekend is known for having longevity on the singles charts.  In his breakout year of 2015, for example, his three big hits ruled the Hot R&B charts for so long that they wound up occupying the three top spots on that chart’s year-end recap – a first by any single artist on a year-end chart.

This year he established a record on the all-encompassing Hot 100 list with just one song.  “Blinding Lights” remained in the top five for 28 consecutive weeks – or, as one publication put it, a “pandemic eternity” (at the time).  By late December, the song had padded that total, spending 33 non-consecutive weeks in the top five, and an amazing 42 non-consecutive weeks in the top ten, eclipsing the record set by Post Malone earlier in 2020 (see No. 2 above).

No Grammy love: All the year-end No. 1 songs…and their Grammy snubs

“Blinding Lights,” which was famously snubbed at this year’s Grammy nominations, has also spent a record 38 weeks at No. 1 and counting on the Hot R&B Songs chart.  Incredible!

Five. “Toosie Slide” – Drake (April 18).

Drake

Technically speaking, every time Drake hits the charts these days is just padding his already established record of having the most Hot 100 entries of any artist in the chart’s 62-year history.  He now has 227 Hot 100 entries (20 more than the next highest act – the Glee Club Cast).

But simply using that stat for this article would be somewhat of a cop out, especially since I’m not really sure where “Toosie Slide” falls in that tally given all of his features.  Instead, I’ll just point out that when “Slide” entered the chart at No. 1 back in April, it made Drake the first male artist (and second overall after Mariah Carey) to have three different songs debut at No. 1, a record that has since been matched by Justin Bieber and one of the rappers who is a namesake on the next No. 1 song below…

Six. “The Scotts” – The Scotts (Travis Scott & Kid Cudi) (May 9).

The Scotts: Kid Cudi (left) and Travis Scott

When rappers Travis Scott and Kid Cudi (real name Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi) teamed up under the moniker bearing their common name, it marked the first time that an artist and song title that were one and the same topped the Hot 100 in its 62-year history.  The closest before that might have been “Human” by Human League in November 1986.

Incredibly, “The Scotts” by The Scotts also became the first of a record-setting seven consecutive No. 1s involving collaborations between two solo artists.  Keep reading to learn more about the next six cases…

Seven. “Say So” – Doja Cat ft. Nicki Minaj (May 16).

”Say So” by Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj

Some accomplishments are of the dubious type – you know, the kind that people don’t like to have linked to their names.  In this case, Nicki Minaj set such a record when she added her rhymes to Doja Cat’s already popular “Say So,” giving it the push it needed to rise to the top.  

In doing so, Minaj instantly became the artist who needed the most Hot 100 hits before finally getting her first No. 1, with “Say So” being her 109th chart entry.  Granted, many of those 109 were as a featured guest on someone else’s song (like this one), but if you’re taking credit for having so many hits, then you’ve gotta take the bad stats with the good, right?

Before Minaj’s feat, the artist who needed the most chart entries before getting his first No. 1 was Justin Bieber, who had 47 charted hits before finally reaching the top in late 2015 with “What Do You Mean.”

But some artists go an entire lifetime without ever hitting No. 1, so Minaj’s feat can be filed in the better-late-than-never category.  Besides, she has another one coming up on this list – so keep reading!

Eight. “Stuck With U” – Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber (May 23).

Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande

Six credit cards did not buy “Stuck With U” a No. 1 ranking, despite “Gooba” rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine’s accusation to the contrary.  

But the allegation itself was part of a historic controversy in which the previously jailed 6ix9ine accused Billboard and Grande/Bieber of manipulating the charts in favor of the duet, at the expense of his own heavily streamed, post-prison comeback single, “Gooba,” which debuted at No. 3.

Billboard and the Grande/Bieber team each posted statements defending themselves and denying such shenanigans, which in itself had to be a first in the magazine’s history.

Billboard explains. See Billboard explanation of how it arrived at No. 1 in wake of 6ix9ine’s allegations.

But instead of relying on that bit of drama for this post, we’ll simply note that the No. 1 debut for “Stuck With U” marked the third such entry for both Bieber and Grande, tying them with Mariah Carey and Drake for having the most songs debut at the top (a record Grande would break just two weeks later and extend again in November, more on both below).  

And by debuting at No. 1 on the Digital Songs chart with 108,000 downloads, it moved Justin Bieber to first place among males with twelve such digital download toppers (one ahead of Drake).  

Nine. “Savage” – Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé (May 30).

Megan Thee Stallion (right) and Beyoncé

Besides making Beyoncé only the second artist after Mariah Carey to reach No. 1 in the ‘90s (as part of Destiny’s Child), the ‘00s, the ‘10s and the ‘20s, “Savage” also made 2020 the first time two songs by different female rappers topped the Hot 100 in the same year (see “Say So” by Doja Cat & Nicki Minaj above).

To say this was Megan’s year would be a huge understatement. Not only did she top the charts, but the rapper appeared on SNL, she overcame gunshot wounds to her feet, and she even became the subject of this Jeopardy! clue:

Correct response: What is “Savage”?

Of course, Megan would join forces with Cardi B a few months later to add to this historic year for No. 1 female MCs (see “WAP” below).  But first…

Ten. “Rain On Me” – Lady Gaga ft. Ariana Grande (June 6).

Ariana Grande (left) and Lady Gaga perform “Rain On Me.”

Both of these ladies established records when they debuted at No. 1 with “Rain On Me” in June.  

First, Lady Gaga became the artist with the longest span of No. 1 debuts with nine years, three months and one week between 2011’s “Born This Way” and 2020’s “Rain.”  Secondly, Ariana Grande became the first artist to have her first four No. 1 songs all debut at the top, plus she stands alone as the artist with the most No. 1 debuts with those same four songs…and she still wasn’t done yet in 2020 (more below)!

The fact that it was also the third duet between female soloists in just four weeks – besting the entire previous total of two that existed before 2020 (“No More Tears” and “The Boy Is Mine”) – was just the cherry on top.

When the game show Jeopardy! ran a “Duet Partners” category in the December 4 episode, you just knew that one of this year’s chart-toppers would be included. And sure enough, it was.

Correct response: Who is Lady Gaga?

Eleven. “Rockstar” – DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch (June 13).

DaBaby and Roddy Ricch deal with demons in “Rockstar.”

As mentioned earlier (see “The Scotts” by The Scotts above), 2020 was the year of the twosome, with seven consecutive duets between solo stars topping the Hot 100.  “Rockstar” by DaBaby and Roddy Ricch was the sixth of those seven.  It was also the sixth different song to top the Hot 100 in six consecutive weeks, the first time that had happened since Billboard began using Soundscan data in November 1991 (and the first time it ever happened involving all duets).

“Rockstar” was also the song that ended that rapid turnover streak when it remained at No. 1 for a second week (and ultimately seven non-consecutive weeks total).  Roddy Ricch thus became the artist with the two longest-running No. 1 hits of 2020 (see “The Box” above) at eleven and seven weeks, respectively, for each of his first two chart-toppers.

The song also became the subject of this Jeopardy! clue on the episode that aired October 9, signaling that lead artist DaBaby had truly arrived (despite none of the three contestants knowing the correct response):

Correct response: Who is DaBaby?


That may have marked the first time in history that three consecutive No. 1 songs would be the subject of Jeopardy! clues in the same season.

Twelve. “Trollz” – 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj (June 27).

Nicki Minaj (left) and 6ix9ine

Minaj became part of yet another dubious distinction (see “Say So” above) when she teamed with 6ix9ine on this instantly viral – and just as forgettable – No. 1 song “Trollz.”  

After debuting at its No. 1 peak on June 27, the song took the largest tumble from the top spot down to No. 34 the following week (a chart record for a non-holiday tune).  Only Mariah Carey’s post-Christmas Hot 100 exit from No. 1 in January 2020 (see above) was worse, but hers was understandable given the conclusion of the previous holiday season.

Tekashi 6ix9ine trolls Nicki Minaj: She “still doesn’t have her own No. 1.”

But back to “Trollz.” Not only did it suffer a steep fall from the top, its duration on the entire Hot 100 was a mere four weeks!  That’s the shortest run for a Hot 100 No. 1 song in the chart’s 62-year history.  Before that, the distinction belonged to former American Idol Taylor Hicks, whose crowning No. 1 song “Do I Make You Proud” spent only eight weeks on the Hot 100 in 2006.

Still, “Trollz” did extend Minaj’s record total of Hot 100 entries for females to 110, with those last two being her first (and so far only) chart-toppers, so there’s that.  

But even that record was made to be broken, and now the next artist on this list has the receipts to show how she did just that…

Thirteen. “Cardigan” – Taylor Swift (August 8).

Taylor Swift

So just how many chart firsts did Taylor Swift establish in “Cardigan’s” debut week?

First, each of the new album folklore’s sixteen tracks entered the Hot 100 on August 8, thus giving Taylor Swift the overall lead among women (topping Nicki Minaj) for most Hot 100 entries with 113 songs.

“Cardigan,” at No. 1, gave Swift her sixth chart-topper.  But more importantly, the song’s debut made Swift the first artist to simultaneously debut at No. 1 on both the singles and the album chart when her folklore entered atop the latter in the same week.  

Also, with the debut of “Cardigan” and folklore’s other tracks, Swift became the first artist to simultaneously debut two songs in the top four, three songs in the top six, and the first woman to debut sixteen on the Hot 100 – all in the same week!

Song solved: Taylor’s fans finally figure out meaning behind “Cardigan.”

I’m sure Swifties sleuths can come up with even more amazing chart firsts if given the time, just don’t ask them about “Cardigan” only lasting an unheard-of (for Taylor) three weeks in the top 30, and the other tracks exiting the Hot 100 chart altogether in the album’s first month and a half of release.  

Just like “Trollz” before it, “Cardigan” failed to make the year-end Top 100 list – firsts for No. 1 songs whose entire chart runs were captured during the eligibility period. Ouch!

Fourteen. “Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles (August 15).

Harry Styles

When former OneDirection member Styles took this song to No. 1 in August, he became the first British male in eleven years to top the American charts with a song that didn’t top the UK singles charts.  It happened when “Watermelon Sugar” peaked at No. 4 on the UK side.  

The last British male to do that was Jay Sean, whose “Down” topped the Hot 100 in 2009 but peaked at No. 3 in his native land (Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” was the last time it happened before that in 1995).  Styles was the first British artist overall to do it since Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain” in 2012.  

Okay, so maybe Styles’ achievement wasn’t a chart first given all those earlier cases (and many others before them), but he was the first to do it this decade.  Plus, perhaps the thinly veiled sexual innuendo to which the song’s title reportedly referred – and which Styles neither confirms nor denies – is a chart-topping first?

Still, even that wasn’t the most crass reference to reach No. 1 this year, look at what dripping wet song is next…

Fifteen. “WAP” – Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion (August 22).

Cardi B (right) and Megan Thee Stallion

No veiled references here, this song was about as brash as it gets, lyrically speaking.  “WAP” broke so many records – and not just for its lewdness – when it debuted at No. 1 in August, that they’re hard to count.  But let’s do it!

First, its 93 million first-week streams were the highest ever for a song’s debut week.  Secondly, it was the fourth duet between solo women to top the chart in 2020 – easily a record (the most in any year before this was one).  Next, Cardi B extended her record as the female rapper with the most No. 1 Hot 100 songs with four.  The next highest total belongs to Nicki Minaj (two – both also this year).

“WAP” was also the fourth No. 1 song this year by a female rapper, which is also the highest ever.  Perhaps most impressively, however, “WAP” made history when it became the first song to top Billboard’s new Global 200 chart when that list was launched in September.  The song led for three of the worldwide tally’s first four weeks.

And for the cherry on top, “WAP” was named by the dating app Tinder as the Top Dating Anthem of 2020.   I guess there are more “certified freaks” out there than we knew.

WAP’ explained: See this explanation of all the clever metaphors used in “WAP.”

Sixteen. “Dynamite” – BTS (September 5).

BTS

The international K-pop megastars BTS have been topping charts worldwide for years, and their albums have been hitting No. 1 here in the U.S. since 2018.  Still,  “Dynamite” became their first No. 1 single in America and, in the process, the first No. 1 song by an all-South Korean group to lead the Hot 100 in the chart’s 62-year history.  

The fact that it was also BTS’ first all-English-language single didn’t hurt matters (but even the language barrier didn’t stop them from topping the chart…see their third No. 1 entry further down this list).

What was more important was that the group was finally validated – or, perhaps more accurately, vindicated – here on the American singles chart after years of chart and social media domination everywhere else in the world.

“Dynamite” earned the group their first Grammy nomination in November.  

Seventeen. “Franchise” – Travis Scott ft. Young Thug & M.I.A (October 10).

Travis Scott (left) with Young Thug (center ) and M.I.A.

Not only did this song’s debut at No. 1 extend the record by making 2020 the year with the most songs (nine and counting) that began their chart lives at the top spot, but it made Travis Scott the first artist to have three songs debut at No. 1 within a year.  His “Highest in the Room” launched atop the Oct. 19, 2019 chart and “The Scotts” (billed as by The Scotts, Travis Scott & Kid Cudi) began at No. 1 on the May 9, 2020 tally.  “Franchise” entered at No. 1 on Oct. 10, 2020 (and took a huge collapse in falling to No. 25 the following week).

Of course, all records are made to be broken, and Scott’s was no exception.  Ariana Grande’s last No. 1 of 2020 made mince meat of his accomplishment (see further below).

Eighteen.  “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” – Jawsh 685 x Jason Derulo x BTS (October 17).

From left: Members of BTS, Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685

When South Korean K-pop phenoms BTS joined forces with 17-year-old New Zealand music producer Jawsh 685 and American pop-and-B crooner Jason Derulo in October, it catapulted the 17-week-old, seemingly out-of-gas “Savage Love” to No. 1, marking a number of milestones in the process.  

First, aside from the merger of the three separate acts of different nationalities on a number one tune, it made BTS the first K-pop act to score two No. 1 hits. Secondly, with their first No. 1 “Dynamite” still at No. 2, it marked the first time in eleven years that a group held down the top two positions simultaneously (since the Black Eyed Peas did it in 2009 with “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow”).  

BTS is now one of only five groups to do that in the chart’s 62-year history (along with Black Eyed Peas, OutKast, Bee Gees, and Beatles).  Fittingly, OutKast is the only act among them whose name doesn’t begin with a “B.”  Several solo artists have also accomplished this feat.  

It’s also worth noting that a completely different “Savage” ruled the Billboard 200 album chart in the same week that “Savage Love” dominated the Hot 100 (also a first).  21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ debuted atop the album list with Savage Mode 2.  

Not only that, but all of this came on the heels of Megan Thee Stallion performing her own former No. 1 “Savage” on SNL the prior weekend.  Before this year, the only time I can recall the word “savage” even appearing in a No. 1 song lyric was when “Lady Marmalade” hit No. 1 in 1975 (LaBelle) and again in 2001 (Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya & Pink).  

A “savage” year indeed was 2020.  

Nineteen.  “Mood” – 24kGoldn ft. iann dior (October 24).

”Mood” by 24kGoldn ft. iann dior

Despite having one of the lowest point totals for a chart-topping song all year (only 20 million streams, 7,000 downloads and 63 million airplay audience impressions in its first week at the top), “Mood” was a multi-format hit.  It topped both the Hot Rap Songs and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts – as well as the Hot Alternative Songs (minus the “rock”) – making it the first song ever to top all three of those charts plus the Hot 100.

Notwithstanding the Hot 100 crowning, “Mood” was the first song to crown both the Hot Rock/Alternative and Hot Rap charts.  Those two charts have been around since 2009 and 1989, respectively, so that’s a pretty long time before the first such crossover hit occurred.

Rapping rockers 24kGoldn & iann dior also became the record-extending ninth duo to reach No. 1 in 2020.  They’re also the duo with the smallest number of Hot 100 hits between them (one) before reaching No. 1.  Prior to “Mood,” only 24kGoldn had reached the Hot 100 with 2019’s “Valentino.”  Dior had never reached the chart.  

And finally, “Mood” is the first song to preside over a top ten that concurrently included at least six other former No. 1 songs.  “WAP,” “Blinding Lights,” “Dynamite,” “Savage Love,” “Rockstar,” and “Watermelon Sugar” were all still listed in that upper tier the week “Mood” took the chart crown.

Ultimately, “Mood” yo-yo’d in and out of No. 1 three different times for a total of six weeks at the top, making it 2020’s third-longest running No. 1 behind “The Box” (11 weeks) and “Rockstar” (7 weeks).

Twenty. “positions” – Ariana Grande (November 7).

Ariana Grande gets her third No. 1 debut of 2020 with “Positions.”

In this year of plenty when it comes to No. 1 songs, Ariana Grande – already one of a record-breaking six artists to have two No. 1s in the same calendar year (2020, of course) – became the first this year to have three, and all three of hers debuted there, making her the first artist to have three songs debut at No. 1 in the same calendar year.

“Positions” also made Grande the first artist to have all five of her first five No. 1s debut at the top spot.  Her five are also the most No. 1 songs that any artist has had in the past two years.

And finally, “positions” was the record-extending tenth song to debut in the No. 1 position in 2020.  I think it’s safe to say Ariana definitely knows a few things about top positions.  

Twenty-One. “Life Goes On” – BTS (December 5).

BTS gets their third No. 1 of 2020 with the reaffirming single “Life Goes On.”

It’s only fitting that one of the most record-breaking songs of a record-breaking year would come near the end of said year.  Superstar K-pop group BTS is easily the most popular group in the world today, and their three-time No. 1 status on America’s singles chart (as well as their five No 1 albums) is just a late validation of that fact. 

Here’s a list of all the first or greatest accomplishments the group achieved with their third No. 1 single, “Life Goes On”:

  • First song sung primarily in Korean to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100
  • It’s the septet’s third No. 1 in exactly three months (see Nos. 16 and 18 above), which is the fastest accumulation of three chart-toppers since The Bee Gees acquired three from December 24, 1977, to March 18, 1978, with “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” – all from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
  • It’s the eleventh song to debut at No. 1 in 2020, which is nearly three times the previous record (four each shared by 1995 and 2018). 
  • They join Ariana Grande in being the only two artists to have three different No. 1 songs this year.
  • BTS is the only group to have two songs debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100.  All the other acts that have done it at least twice are solo artists.

For all the talk about the international K-pop superstars BTS not getting their due recognition here in America, the year 2020 went a long way towards squelching all of that noise. 

Their “Life Goes On” also allowed 2020 to break a tie with 2006 for the Nielsen Media-era record for most new No. 1 songs in a calendar year, with nineteen.  The Nielsen sales barcode and radio fingerprint data began powering the chart back in November 1991.  That year there were 27 different number one songs.

For all of its accolades, there was one dubious distinction the song has. In its second week on the chart, it tumbled from No. 1 to No. 28 – the second-largest drop for a song debuting in the top position in Hot 100 chart history behind 6ix9ine’s “Trollz” (see item twelve above). In its third week, “Life Goes On” fell to No. 93, and by its fourth week – the last chart of 2020 – it was already off the Hot 100, making its three weeks the shortest chart run for a No. 1 song in Hot 100 history, barring a post-holiday comeback in January.

When considering all No. 1 songs, only one has made a bigger plummet from the top than either “Trollz” or “Life Goes On,” and it happens to be the next song on this list…

Twenty-two. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey (December 19).

She’s back: Mariah Carey repeats at No. 1 in December 2020 with “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

So Mariah Carey – the pop music icon whose career began more than three decades ago and who’s had more No. 1s than anyone but the Beatles – brings us full circle, right back to where we started this extraordinary year!

When Mariah made history in January by falling completely off the chart from its No. 1 perch the week prior, her Lambs hardly lamented, for they knew she’d be back at the end of the year with the next holiday season.

By virtue of its previous appearance at the top in the beginning of January 2020, and its return to the top in December 2020, “All I Want For Christmas” is the first song ever to top the chart in two separate chart runs in the same calendar year, and it is also the first record since Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” (1960, ‘62) to reach No. 1 in two different chart runs, period.

The new standard: How Mariah Carey turned Christmas classic into a juggernaut.

I think it’s safe to say that Mimi now owns Christmas, musically speaking.  Not only is her festive No. 1 holiday tune the perennial favorite, but it’s also now the first Christmas tune to top the recently launched Global 200 chart, making it the No. 1 holiday song in the world, ahead of such beloved international standards as “Last Christmas” by Wham!.

Also, by returning to the top, “All I Want” pads Mariah’s total number of weeks spent at No. 1 on the Hot 100 – already a record – at 83 weeks (as of this writing) and counting.

But something tells me that, as Carey’s name and her brand become more and more synonymous with the holiday, she’ll be padding that total for Christmases to come with more return trips to the top for “All I Want.” That would place Mimi ahead of Chubby for multiple No. 1 chart runs for the same song and place the not so elusive chanteuse in a category all her own… yet again.

Twenty-three. “Willow” – Taylor Swift (December 26).

Taylor Swift

As if Taylor Swift needed anymore records to break, she went and surprised us with a new album in the middle of December – a companion to her earlier 2020 release and one that, just like it’s predecessor, rewrote the history books as only she could.

Aside from putting a pause on all things Christmas by interrupting Mariah’s historic No. 1 run, here are a few of Taylor’s record-breaking accomplishments:

  • “Willow” debuted at No. 1 in the same week its parent album, evermore, entered at No. 1 on the album chart.  That made her the first artist to twice have an album and single simultaneously debut at No. 1.  She first did it earlier in 2020 with “Cardigan” and folklore (see entry above).
  • “Willow” is the 12th No. 1 debut song of 2020 – all occurring since April – which tripled the previous record of four established in 2005 and tied in 2018.  More than a quarter of the 47 songs that have debuted at No. 1 in the Hot 100’s 62-year history occurred in 2020.
  • Swift extended her record among women for the most debuts in the Hot 100’s top 10, as “Willow” lifted her total to 19. Among all acts, only Drake has more: 27.
  • Swift became the seventh act to have multiple No. 1 tunes in 2020, further extending a record. The other six: BTS and Ariana Grande with three each, plus four rappers: Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Roddy Ricch, and Travis Scott – each with two.
  • Thanks to a bevy of remixes released throughout the week, “Willow” topped the digital song sales chart with a margin that proved to be the difference in her topping the Hot 100 (it trailed Mariah’s “All I Want For Christmas” in streaming and radio metrics).  It is her 21st No. 1 on Hot Digital Song Sales, extending her record (Rihanna ranks second with 14).
  • Fittingly, the last No. 1 song of 2020 was the year’s 20th new No. 1 (with “All I Want For Christmas” and “Circles” both having first topped the chart in 2019).  Twenty marked the highest total of songs earning their first weeks on top in a given year since Nielsen Music/MRC Data-based information began fueling the chart in November 1991 (and the most in a year since 27 songs ascended to No. 1 in all of 1991).

There’s one more quick note:

This year’s 22 different No. 1 songs (23 counting the return of Mimi) moved in and out of No. 1 a total of 29 times, also the highest changeover of No. 1 songs during a calendar year since 1989.

A record-breaking year indeed was 2020…a chart geek’s dream! 

So those are all the songs and artists that spent time atop the Hot 100 during 2020, and the history-making accomplishments that each one achieved while doing so.  Will 2021 be as eventful on the Billboard charts as the past year was?

Who knows?  But I think we’re all hoping that the new year is not as eventful as 2020 away from the charts. 

For your listening pleasure, here’s a Spotify playlist of all of 2020’s No. 1 hits, in chronological order.

Here’s to a safer and happier 2021!  And congratulations to all the musicians who helped make 2020 so memorable…in a good way…historically speaking.

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 at @djrobblog.

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