(January 23, 2024).  In modern music history, the four-year point of any new decade has traditionally been the time when the previous decade’s biggest hitmakers have taken a backseat to a newer slate of popular artists.

But don’t try telling that to reigning pop culture queen Taylor Swift and rap music royalty Drake. 

When it comes to No. 1 records during the 2020s, no one tops those two, who were the acts Billboard named the two most successful of the 2010s, but whose momentum has certainly not slowed since the calendar was flipped four years ago. 

Between Swift and Drake, they’ve crowned the main Billboard charts a total of 24 times since January 2020, more than any other two acts combined in that timeframe when factoring in both albums and singles.  

Taylor Swift has 13 total No. 1s — 7 albums and 6 singles — while Drake has eleven chart-toppers — 4 albums and 7 singles — during the past four years.  Drake’s seven No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 are the most by any act during this timeframe (Taylor’s six are tied for second with BTS and Ariana Grande).  

Meanwhile, Swift’s seven No. 1 albums are tops among all artists this decade, while Drake’s four Billboard 200 chart-toppers tie him with K-pop act Stray Kids for second-place since 2020 began.

Both Swift and Drake are still scorching hot as they have each padded their No. 1 totals within the past three months and both have had at least one No. 1 album and single in each of the decade’s first four years.

To put this kind of longevity in perspective, the top two artists of previous decades rarely, if ever, continued to be the two most dominant acts the following decade — four or more years into it — the way Drake and Taylor Swift have during the ‘20s.

Starting with the beginning of the rock-and-roll era in 1955, that decade’s top two artists were arguably Elvis Presley and Pat Boone.  Yet by the time the 1960s rolled around, only Elvis was having chart-topping success at the clip he’d enjoyed during the 1950s, while Boone’s style of easy-listening music had fallen out of favor.

Elvis Presley and Pat Boone had radically different styles, but both dominated at various times during the second half of the 1950s.

Even if you considered other 1950s super acts like Fats Domino, Little Richard, Nat King Cole or Ricky Nelson to be “runner-up” to Elvis, none of them continued to be leading hitmakers in the early going of the 1960s.

Largely due to his continued success during that decade’s first half, Elvis could legitimately be considered the second-most successful act of the 1960s (behind the Beatles) when combining singles and albums, although fans of the Supremes, the Stones, the Four Seasons and others might beg to differ about who occupied that No. 2 slot.

Either way, the one-two punch of Presley/Boone — or Presley and any one of those other previously mentioned ‘50s artists — was clearly a non-factor four years into the subsequent decade. 

The 1960s-to-‘70s transformation was even more dramatic.

The ‘60s top two singles acts, the Beatles and the Supremes, were non-factors halfway through the 1970s

With the exception of the Stones, none of the aforementioned ‘60s acts even came close to their earlier success four years into the 1970s.

Just months into the decade starting, The Beatles had broken up and the Supremes had lost lead singer Diana Ross.  Neither group — easily the top two singles acts of the ‘60s — would have another No. 1 single (they combined for 32 between 1964-70).

The Stones continued amassing No. 1 albums and singles well into the ‘70s and were arguably the top act of the decade’s first half (or a close second to then-newcomer Elton John).

But by decade’s end it was John and The Bee Gees who’d lay claim to being the ‘70s top two acts, with the Brothers Gibb amassing nine No. 1 singles and Elton claiming seven No. 1 albums (to go with six No. 1 singles), both tops in their respective categories that decade.

The shift from the ‘70s to the 1980s marked another dramatic makeover as neither The Bee Gees nor Elton John were as prominent in the new decade’s first four years as they had been the previous ten.

The Bee Gees and Elton John dominated the 1970s, but only Elton was able to sustain success — albeit more modest — in the ‘80s.

Elton was a consistent hitmaker whose songs did respectably well on the charts between 1980-84, but the No. 1 position eluded him during that decade.  Meanwhile, the disco backlash had all but halted The Bee Gees’ career, even though they were no longer making disco music.

By January 1984, the top two acts of the decade were arguably Daryl Hall & John Oates, who by that point had collected four No. 1 singles between 1981-83 and a host of other big chart hits while becoming the biggest duo of the rock era, and Michael Jackson, whose Thriller album was still No. 1 and generating top-10 hits to go along with those he had amassed from Off The Wall earlier in the decade.

By the eighties’ end, however, it was Jackson and a new upstart named Madonna who’d be crowned the decade’s two biggest acts. Jackson’s nine No. 1 singles between 1980-89 were most among all artists, while Madonna’s 17 top-10s (including twelve that reached the top-3 and seven No. 1s) tied her in the top-10 category with the King of Pop for most during the ‘80s.

The 1990s were good to Michael Jackson and Madonna, but not nearly as much as the ‘80s, which they dominated.

But even as MJ and Madge continued to thrive in the 1990s, they could hardly be considered the top two acts of the new decade by the time it reached 1994. 

By then, several newer acts were jockeying for position as the ‘90s top two hitmakers, including Mariah Carey, who by January 1994 had already amassed eight No. 1s (on her way to 19), and Janet Jackson, who’d scored five No. 1s between 1990-93, along with six other top-10 hits. 

Other acts in the race for the top two included Whitney Houston, whose Bodyguard album had just become the biggest selling soundtrack of all time, and Garth Brooks who’d racked up three consecutive No. 1 albums between 1991-93.

By decade’s end, it was Brooks and Mariah Carey who were considered to be the decade’s most successful, with the country superstar achieving that distinction despite rarely releasing commercially available singles.  He and Carey were the two highest certified sales artists of the ‘90s, albums and singles combined.

There was no question who the 1990s belonged to: Garth Brooks and Mariah Carey. Not so much afterwards.

But the new millennium saw a huge shift in musical tastes as hip-hop oriented R&B came into more prominence.

By 2004, Carey had suffered a Glitter-infused backlash while Brooks’ album releases were more sporadic.  Carey would enjoy a comeback later in the decade, but it was rap superstar Eminem and former Destiny’s Child leader Beyoncé who would be named the decade’s top two acts in Billboard’s decennial recap (issue dated December 16, 2009).

The transition from the aughts to the 2010s wasn’t as dramatic as it had been in previous decades, as both Beyoncé and Eminem continued to rack up hits in the newer decade.

Billboard named Eminem and Beyoncé the top two artists of the ‘00s. Their chart dropoff since then hasn’t been as drastic as other decades’ top two acts, but evident nonetheless.

But by ‘2014, it was becoming clear that another rapper and singer would be taking the chart crowns from Eminem and Beyoncé, respectively.

In the decade’s first four years, Drake achieved the first three (of a career thirteen, to-date) No. 1 albums, while Swift added two (also of thirteen total so far) to her repertoire.  Both artists would eventually tally more Hot 100 entries (over 200 songs apiece) during the decade, thanks to streaming’s popularity and how Billboard calculates its charts today.

In December 2019, Billboard named Drake its No. 1 act of the 2010s with Taylor Swift finishing a close second. 

And they’ve shown no slowdown of momentum in the 2020s.

Both Drizzy and T-Swizzle have finished as the year’s top artist at least once during this decade (Swift in 2023, Drake in 2021).  Both artists have ranked among the top-10 acts every year so far in the’20s (only The Weeknd joins them with that distinction), with Drake having placed among the top-5 for all four year-end recaps (the only act who’s done that).

Drake and Taylor Swift were Billboard’s top two acts of the 2010s and are making a strong case for continuing that accolade in the 2020s.

The only artists with as much consistency during the 2020s as Taylor and Drake and who could possibly vie for the decade’s top two posts, so far, are superstars The Weeknd, Ariana Grande and Morgan Wallen.

And even if one or more of those acts legitimately displaced Taylor and/or Drake from the top, the fact that they’re even in the hunt for being this decade’s two biggest acts — four years in — is more than any previous decade’s top twosome could ever claim.

Naysayers could argue that musical styles and tastes really haven’t changed much since the 2010s ended as Drake and Swift continue to rehash old proven formulas (or in Swift’s case re-record older albums with from-the-vault tracks supplementing them).

But whatever the reason, consider it just another feather in the caps for the two artists whose success seemingly knows no bounds. 


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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By DJ Rob

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