(May 4, 2024).  Yeah, we know, we know.  Taylor Swift did the unimaginable and occupied the top 14 positions (and 32 songs in all) on this week’s Hot 100, making the Beatles’ 1964 feats seem like child’s play to the current generation of chart watchers. 

And we know that Swift and Drake are now locked in a two-person race for the most chart entries in Hot 100 history, with both now in 300-song territory — 200 more than any artist from the last century even dreamed was achievable.

But the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and a host of other 20th century musicians accomplished some chart firsts that will likely never be matched or exceeded, despite the ease with which today’s streaming artists seem to knock down old records like pins in a bowling alley.

And while nothing is impossible and the old adages “never say never” and “records were made to be broken” still ring true, there are clearly some milestones that are harder than others to achieve, even in the streaming era or, in some cases, because of it.

For that reason, this blogger believes that some record achievements will remain sacred, even as we lament others that fall all around them — or as we rush to provide technological context to the millennials we accuse of lacking discernment.

Here then are some 20th century accomplishments that today’s streaming artists will likely never match… and why.

Most consecutive years of multiple No. 1 songs: The Beatles (seven, 1964-70)

The Beatles were unbeatable in the 1960s, with seven consecutive years of multiple No. 1 hits

From the time they made their American debut in 1964 until they broke up in 1970, the Beatles were an unstoppable force on the Billboard Hot 100.  Not only did they rack up 20 No. 1s in about six-and-a-half years, but they had multiple songs occupy the top spot in every calendar year from their first No. 1 to their last.

Beginning in 1964, the Fab Four topped the Hot 100 six times – “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “I Feel Fine.”

When ‘65 began, “I Feel Fine” was still No. 1, followed in short order by “Eight Days a Week,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Help” and “Yesterday.”

The Beatles made two appearances at No. 1 in 1966, both times with songs that yo-yo’d in and out of the top spot twice: “We Can Work it Out” and “Paperback Writer.”

The following year saw the Liverpool lads score with “Penny Lane,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Hello Goodbye.”

And with “Hello Goodbye” spending the first two weeks of 1968 at No. 1, the Beatles continued the streak when “Hey Jude” topped the chart for nine weeks beginning that September.

They added 1969 to their multiple-No. 1 years when “Get Back” (with Billy Preston) topped the Hot 100, followed by “Come Together”/“Something.”

And finally, 1970 saw the band culminate their No. 1 hits with “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

That’s seven straight years where multiple songs by the Beatles occupied the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart.  

No other act has even come close to that feat since the beginning of the rock era.  

The second-most consecutive years that an act has had multiple chart toppers is four, and that distinction is held by the Supremes who had at least two No. 1 singles every year from 1964-67 with the first ten of their twelve chart toppers.

The third most is three, and that mark is tied by several artists: Elvis Presley (1956-58), Rihanna (2010-12), and Drake (2021-23).  Only Drake’s streak is active, but he’d have to add at least two more No. 1s in 2024 to keep it going. 

Why it’s unlikely to be tied or broken:

As one might imagine, it’s not easy for an artist to get one chart-topper in a year, much less multiple ones.  And to do that over multiple consecutive years has been shown to be highly improbable.

Most artists release one new album per year, and in the streaming era it’s become increasingly difficult for any act — Taylor Swift and Drake included — to achieve multiple No. 1s from the same album.

None of Taylor’s albums since the original 1989 in 2014-15 has generated more than one No. 1 on the Hot 100.  Taylor has achieved multiple chart toppers in subsequent years (2020 and 2023), but she’s done so with one song each from different LPs.

Drake’s streak was kept alive in 2023 by pre-releasing a track from his most recent set, For All The Dogs, and then impacting the Hot 100 again with the full album’s release a few weeks later (a strategy also employed by Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana Grande, and Travis Scott in recent years).

So it seems the key to achieving multiple No. 1 songs in a single year is through a singles pre-album-release strategy or by releasing multiple albums in a year — or by being added as a feature on someone else’s track — all of which Drake has shown he’s willing to do.

And with the Canadian superstar currently locked in a heated diss-rap battle with fellow MC Kendrick Lamar, the 6-God seems primed to issue a few more contenders for No. 1 in the months to come.

But even with all of that as a backdrop Drake has yet to reach the top in 2024, something he must do at least twice between now and December, and then twice more each year from 2025-27, to match the Beatles’ seven-year/multiple No. 1s streak.

It’s possible, but he hasn’t done it before now, and he’ll reach that elder statesman milestone of 40 years old in 2026 — an age above which no rapper has been able to string together two No. 1s in a calendar year. 

Most No. 1 singles in a calendar year: Beatles (six, 1964)

“I Feel Fine” was the sixth No. 1 of 1964 for the Beatles!

As noted above, The Fab Four accomplished this feat in 1964 with their first six No. 1s: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “I Feel Fine.”

Why it’s unlikely to be tied or broken:

Since 1964, several artists have had as many as four No. 1s in a single year, including the Supremes (1965), Jackson 5 (1970), George Michael (1988), Usher (2004), and Rihanna (2010).

But none have come close to having as many as six toppers between January and December of any year since ‘64.  It’s become even more difficult in the streaming era as labels move away from marketing multiple singles over a longer period and instead go for immediate chart impact upon an album’s release.

There’ve been a few notable exceptions where labels and artists have played the long game with single release strategies, such as on The Weeknd’s most recent No. 1 singles “Save Your Tears” and “Die For You,” both of which received late remixes featuring Ariana Grande, which propelled them to the top.

Similarly, Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” was re-released as a single in 2023 — four years after its parent album, Lover, came out.

But those examples are too few and far between for today’s artists to have a shot at approaching the Beatles’ remarkable feat. 

Most No. 1 songs (five each) from one album: Michael Jackson (Bad, 1987-88) and Katy Perry (Teenage Dream, 2010-11)

Michael Jackson’s Bad (1987) and Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream (2010) each generated five No. 1 hits

The King of Pop was the first artist to get five No. 1s from an album (Bad) with the following singles: “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man In The Mirror,” and “Dirty Diana.”

Katy Perry followed suit 23 years later with the first five singles from her 2010 set (Teenage Dream): “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “E.T.,” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).”

Why it’s unlikely to be tied or broken:

The argument for why this feat will likely go unmatched is pretty similar to the other points made above about the difficulty artists have achieving multiple chart toppers from one album.  It’s not impossible, but the way labels market singles these days does not bode well for any artist accomplishing what MJ and Katy did many years ago.

Most consecutive No. 1 chart hits: Whitney Houston (seven, 1985-88)

Whitney Houston’s second album Whitney (1987) gave her four No. 1 singles (and seven consecutive overall)

You can also throw “Most consecutive No. 1s to begin a career” (Mariah Carey; five, 1990-91) in this category.

The late Whitney Houston scored a remarkable seven-straight No. 1s with consecutive chart entries from 1985-88 with “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”

Mariah Carey began her chart career with a record five-straight No. 1s in 1990-91: “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time,” “Someday,” “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” and “Emotions.”

Why neither record is likely to be tied or broken:

Any artist popular enough to have five or seven No. 1 songs in the streaming era is bound to have multiple other chart entries — many simultaneously — that simply cannot occupy the top spot at the same time.  It’s how artists like Drake and Taylor Swift (and their contemporaries) have amassed so many Hot 100 entries in the past 15 years.  It’s the double-edged sword that pads their chart totals but with songs that occupy (and peak at) lower positions while one of their tunes usually dominates. 

In order for Drake or Taylor (or anyone else) to match Whitney’s or Mariah’s feat in the streaming era, they would have to release multiple one-off singles (and no albums) and hope those songs all top the Hot 100 chart.

That ain’t happening anytime soon, folks. 

Most top-five singles from one album: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (seven, 1989-91)

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) is still the only LP to generate seven top-five singles

Janet Jackson accomplished this feat in 1991 when the seventh and final official single from Rhythm Nation 1814 — “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” — reached the top five, making it the album’s seventh such hit (joining “Miss You Much,” “Rhythm Nation,” “Escapade,” “Alright,” “Come Back to Me,” and “Black Cat”).

Why it’s unlikely to be tied or broken:

While superstars Taylor Swift and Drake regularly knock down multiple top-five and top-10 hits from the same album and often within the same week, it’s that same week part that makes it unlikely they’ll ever match Janet’s impressive performance from 1989-91 with Rhythm Nation 1814.

Taylor, Drake and their contemporaries make most of their chart impacts these days during album release week, and then watch as those songs descend from their lofty debuts before ultimately exiting the charts. 

In fact, of the twelve albums that have generated at least five top-10s in the past ten years, only two of them reached that milestone after their debut weeks.

Swift’s 1989 (the original version) only had one top-ten hit at the time the album debuted in November 2014: first single “Shake it Off.”  The other four top tens — “Blank Space,” “Style,” “Bad Blood” and “Wildest Dreams” — all debuted in much lower positions and later climbed to the chart’s upper tier while they were being separately marketed as singles (at a time when labels still did that).

Similarly, SZA’s SOS had yielded just four top tens upon its debut in December 2022, including two top-10 tracks that had been released roughly a year before the album impacted.  Its fifth top-10 single, the smash “Snooze,” entered the chart at a modest No. 29 during the album’s debut week and didn’t reach the upper decile until August 2023.

Of the remaining ten albums that have generated at least five top tens, only four of those sets have yielded as many as five top-five singles, and those LPs — two by Drake (Certified Lover Boy and For All The Dogs) and two by Taylor Swift (Midnights and The Tortured Poets Department) — did so during their debut weeks by having their songs occupy multiple top-five positions simultaneously. Only one of the albums — Swift’s Midnights — later added a sixth top-five single when a remix of her “Karma” featuring Ice Spice was released.

With albums achieving their maximum streaming and chart impacts during release weeks, labels no longer seem interested in treating LPs as long-term investments by promoting multiple hit singles months into a parent album’s release.  As a result, songs that didn’t crack the top five during debut week rarely reach that tier during subsequent months.

There are exceptions, however.

In addition to SZA’s months-later success with “Snooze” and the remix treatment given to Taylor’s “Karma,” Swift’s 2023 No. 1 single “Cruel Summer,” was a late-promoted single from her 2019 opus Lover, a decision she attributed to the album being short-cycled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Still, those cases happen too infrequently for any recent album to get its seventh top-five single, a singular chart accomplishment that Janet Jackson has owned for 33 years and counting.

Of course, I’ll be the first to eat crow if any of these chart records are broken, and I’ll count on readers (and fellow chart watchers) to ensure that I do. 


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and 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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4 thoughts on “Five old chart records that will likely never be broken… even in the streaming era!”
  1. Good! I’m glad some old chart records can’t easily be broken by the new chart methodologies.

  2. I wonder if the strategy Peter Gabriel tried last year – releasing one new song a month and then officially dropping “the album” will be attempted by any more prominent artists during the next few years. Do you think the Taylor Swifts and Drakes will get tired of carpet-bombing the charts and maybe just once present new music in the Old School 70’s-80’s way?

    1. Don’t know, but I highly doubt they’re even concerned about some of the records I mentioned in the article.

Your thoughts?