(December 3, 2021). On Thursday (Dec. 2), Billboard announced its annual recap of the year’s biggest chart hits and posted the rankings on its website. The 2021 lists cover a period from their charts dated November 21, 2020 through November 13, 2021.
There were very few surprises. As predicted here months ago, Dua Lipa snagged the year’s top Hot 100 single with “Levitating,” the on-again, off-again No. 2 smash duet with maligned rapper DaBaby that never reached No. 1 on the weekly charts but hung around long enough to accumulate more points throughout the year than any other song, No. 1 or otherwise. “Levitating,” which is still on the weekly chart today, spent an incredible 41 weeks in the top ten, which is second only to the 57 weeks that The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” which was 2020’s biggest Hot 100 hit (and, also predictably, the biggest hit of all time on the Hot 100), spent in 2020-21.
But what’s gone unnoticed is the unprecedented chart feat that Dua Lipa and The Weeknd combine to create with their high placements on the Hot 100 year-end charts in successive years.
Right behind “Levitating” on this year’s recap is The Weeknd’s most recent chart topper, “Save Your Tears” (with Ariana Grande dueting on the remix), which ranks No. 2 overall for 2021. In doing so, it is the highest-ranked song by a male solo lead artist on the list.
In 2020, as mentioned earlier, the Canadian superstar’s “Blinding Lights” was the top song of that year. And at No. 4 on the 2020 list? It was none other than Dua Lipa and the predecessor to “Levatating,” the smash “Don’t Start Now.”
Just as “Levitating” is this year, “Don’t Start Now” was the highest ranking song by a female lead solo artist on the 2020 recap (in addition to The Weeknd, it placed behind songs by Post Malone and Roddy Ricch), thus making this the first time in the Hot 100’s 63-year history that the same two solo artists have ended the year with the biggest hits by a male and female solo lead in consecutive years. Dua Lipa and The Weeknd are the first artists to pull off this feat as her “Don’t Stop Now” and “Levitating” are the biggest hits by a female in 2020 and 2021, respectively, while his “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears,” respectively, are the biggest hits by a male in these last two years. For good measure, “Blinding Lights” is ranked No. 3 on the 2021 recap, the first time a previous year’s top song has ranked so high on the subsequent year’s recap.
What’s even more impressive for both artists is that the songs were culled from the same albums. Both “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears” are from The Weeknd’s After Hours album, while “Don’t Stop Now” and “Levitating” came from Lipa’s Future Nostalgia.
While both The Weeknd and Dua Lipa have scaled the charts with other entries between their big smashes, the songs noted above are largely considered the follow-up singles to their big predecessors, making this year-to-year accomplishment even more astounding. The fact that both “Save Your Tears” and “Levitating” have remained on the chart for so long (after “Blinding Lights” and “Don’t Start Now” did the same earlier) has made it difficult for later releases by each artist to gain any real traction.
Notably, Lipa’s “We’re Good,” released in February 2021 as a single from the deluxe version of Future Nostalgia, only peaked at No. 31 on the Hot 100. With “Levitating” finally relenting, Lipa’s duet with Elton John, “Cold Heart,” is at No. 11 and bracing for a top-10 entry (once the holidays subside).
The Weeknd’s “Take My Breath,” itself meant to kickoff a post-After Hours era, peaked at No. 6 this past summer and continues to rank lower than “Save Your Tears” on the weekly list. “Breath” finished at a moderate No. 89 on the 2021 year-end recap.
All of this goes to show that there are hits and then there are juggernauts! And these days, or at least over the past two years, the top juggernauts have been by the same two lead solo artists.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will have the top song by a male and female soloist on next year’s annual recap? It doesn’t appear currently that either The Weeknd or Dua Lipa have the inside track to make it three years in a row.
But the new chart year (November 20, 2021 – November 12, 2022) is still young. And, as has been proven the past two years, almost anything could happen.
Stay tuned (and congrats to both The Weeknd and Dua Lipa on their amazing chart accomplishments)!
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast 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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