(November 16, 2019). On Thursday (11/14) Billboard announced the top artists of the decade…that is, they announced the artists ranked from No. 100 to No. 11, keeping some of the drama for a big event in 2020.
The industry’s premier trade publication will reveal the top ten in various phases over the next five months.
The artists ranked Nos. 10-6 will be revealed one per month beginning Dec. 3 on the Billboard website, culminating with the sixth-biggest artist of the decade being unveiled in April.
Then, on April 30, 2020, during the annual Billboard Music Awards telecast – in typical awards show fashion – the five “finalists” will be named and the “winner” will be crowned.
According to its website, Billboard used data from December 5, 2009, through September 28, 2019, to compile its decennial ranking, which comprised Hot 100 singles and Billboard 200 album chart data, plus touring boxscore and social media chart activity.
Basically, it’s a determination of which artists were consumed the most during the 2010s using a complex methodology that only Billboard knows. And even though the authoritative trade publication called the race over-and-done in September, it’s apparent that not much was going to change in the decade’s remaining three months.
DJROBBLOG went out on a limb and predicted back in June (and updated in October) which artists were going to rank in the top ten and which would be near-misses.
It appears that eight of the ten artists the blog predicted will be among the top ten – based on their absences from positions 11-100, while two artists we predicted to be near-misses actually made the top ten – by virtue of their non-appearances in the lower positions Billboard just revealed.
The two artists we thought were top-10 contenders but came in lower were gal pals Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, whom Billboard tallied at Nos. 12 and 15, respectively (sorry, Arianators and Barbz, but your girls just couldn’t pull it off).
In case you’re wondering, the artist at No. 11 on the list is Lady Gaga, who capped an amazing decade with A Star is Born – both movie and soundtrack – but who also had some large gaps between hits. Close yes, but as we all know that only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades (speaking of which, Bruno Mars did make the list).
So our revised prediction of the top ten artists of the 2010s – in alphabetical order (don’t worry, I rank them later in the article) – looks like this:
It’s Adele, Justin Bieber, Drake, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Post Malone, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift.
There’s a case that can be made for each one of those to be the decade’s top artist. They all had multiple No. 1 singles during the decade and at least one No. 1 album each, with eight of them having multiple No. 1 albums. Plus they all have huge social media followings and most of them do very well touring.
Adele had the decade’s biggest album (and Billboard’s best performing album of all time, chart-wise), while Bruno Mars shared the decade’s biggest chart single with Mark Ronson.
Perhaps the best foreshadowing of Billboard’s big reveal in April is next week’s American Music Awards where Taylor Swift will be crowned the Artist of the Decade. Of course, the AMAs uses fan voting rather than strict chart data to make their determination, and Swift has the biggest fan base of any artist out there, so there’s that.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s the top artist of the decade in Billboard. Who will be No. 1 is anyone’s guess at this point.
But we’re gonna take away some of the guesswork and give you our updated predictions, based on the information Billboard just teased us with on Thursday. Here is this blog’s updated – and much more informed – argument for each artist’s chances to be the No. 1 artist of the 2010s.
Adele (biggest era: 2011/12):
Adele may have only released two albums this decade, but they were huge!
She has the biggest album of the 2010s with 21, her semi-autobiographical blockbuster that in 2011 spawned three No. 1 singles, including the seven-week chart-topper “Rolling In The Deep,” which ranks as the decade’s tenth-biggest song.
She followed that era with the decade’s second-best seller, 25, which yielded a fourth No. 1 single “Hello,” the British singer’s longest-running No. 1 hit in America to-date. The album 25 smashed all-time records by selling more than three million copies in its first week of release and its lead single spent ten weeks at the top of the Hot 100 at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016.
Adele is the only artist to get two diamond-certified albums in the 2010s, and all three of her albums (including last decade’s 19) rank among this decade’s top 100. Clearly, what she lacks in quantity when it comes to numbers of albums released, she more than makes up for by the sheer enormity of her sales.
Will it be enough? We don’t think so. Our prediction: No. 6
Justin Bieber (biggest era: 2015/16):
Aside from beginning the decade as a teenage heartthrob and later cultivating an increasingly annoying bad-boy image, Justin Bieber amassed a lot of hits…and eventually matured.
His biggest era was 2015 leading into 2016, when he scored with multiple No. 1s from his Purpose album. For several weeks, the first three singles from it were listed in the top five simultaneously and they battled each other for the top. Bieber also shares credit for one of the decade’s biggest singles, the reggaeton flavored “Despacito,” which in 2017 tied the mark for the then-longest run at No. 1 in Hot 100 history at 16 weeks.
Bieber is also the decade’s social media king, having ruled Billboard’s Social 50 chart (which measures weekly activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Wikipedia and Tumblr) for 163 weeks – longer than anyone else in the chart’s nearly nine-year history.
Now that we know Billboard is factoring social media activity into this decade’s rankings, Bieber stands a better than normal chance of ending the 2010s at the top. But he won’t. Our prediction: No. 8
Drake (biggest era: 2018):
Drake may be getting booed out of stadiums this month, but you still can’t get enough of him.
What Drizzy accomplished in 2018 alone would be enough to top most artists’ entire ten-year output (including maybe even one or two on this list). The Canuck had three huge No. 1 singles that totaled 28 weeks at the top of the Hot 100, an album (Scorpion) that ranked as 2018’s biggest, and he established records for most top tens in one week (seven) and most simultaneous Hot 100 entries (27) – both on July 14 (giving Beatles fans fits in the process).
It’s hard to imagine that just two-and-a-half years earlier, when his “Hotline Bling” was held to a No. 2 peak behind Adele’s “Hello,” that Drake had still never hit No. 1 as a lead artist. He’s more than made up for that since with six No. 1s to his name, including four as a lead artist.
Drake has racked up more than 200 Hot 100 entries with most of them coming since 2010. And he’s been no slouch with albums either. Eight of his nine No. 1 albums – his entire decade output before this year – rank among the 200 biggest albums of the 2010s, with four of them in the top 50. He’s clearly also one of the most buzzed-about social media artists of the decade.
My guess is that Drake will be in a tight race with one or two other artists on this list for biggest recording act of the decade. Our prediction: No. 2
Maroon 5 (biggest era: 2011/12):
When Maroon 5 scores No. 1 hits, they get monsters. “Moves Like Jagger,” their first No. 1 hit of this decade: 9x platinum; “One More Night”: 6x platinum; “Girls Like You” spent seven weeks at No. 1 in 2018 and ranked as the fifth-biggest single of the decade.
Even their non-No. 1 hits were blockbusters. “Sugar” peaked at No. 2 and was certified 8x platinum. “Maps” = 4x platinum.
In all, five of their songs ranked among Billboard’s 100 biggest singles of the decade! Add in their four Top-2 platinum albums and you have the makings of the decade’s biggest band (they’re the only group on this list).
Maroon 5 is the longest-charting act on this list, with their first top-10 hit occurring in early 2004 and their most recent, “Memories,” moving in this week (too late to factor into the decade’s tally).
They’re a long shot but it’s possible Maroon 5 could beat all of these solo artists and be named the decade’s biggest act, but they won’t. Our prediction: No. 5
Bruno Mars (biggest era: 2010/11, or…?):
Bruno Mars has been so successful this decade, it’s debatable which one of his eras was actually the biggest.
Was it really 2010/11, when he broke onto the scene with three No. 1 singles (“Nothing On You,” “Grenade” and “Just The Way You Are”)? Or was it a year later when he added two more to the mix (“Locked Out Of Heaven” and “When I Was Your Man”)?
Or was it in 2014/15 when he scored the year’s biggest hit (and the biggest of his career) as a featured act on Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”? Or maybe it was the 24k Magic era when he scored his most recent No. 1 “That’s What I Like,” the song that was his biggest crossover on the R&B chart.
In all, with those seven No. 1s plus a host of other chart entries, it’s amazing that Bruno still only has three studio albums under his belt. But they’ve been huge, and this exciting legend could easily finish the decade as its top act. It doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the biggest selling artists of all time, with all of that success occurring since 2010.
The ranking of “Uptown Funk” at the top of the decade’s singles list is the wildcard, with Mars likely having to split those points with DJ Mark Ronson. Our prediction: No. 3
Katy Perry (biggest era: 2010/11):
Katy Perry began the decade with a bang, becoming only the second artist (after Michael Jackson) to have five consecutive No. 1 singles from the same album!
Those came from her 2010 classic Teenage Dream and included the title track, plus “California Gurls,” “E.T.,” and her signature tune, the uplifting anthem “Firework.” Three of those rank among the decade’s 100 biggest.
Since then she’s cooled off a bit but has had other hits, including 2014’s “Dark Horse,” her last No. 1 single (so far), and the highest-ranking of all her hits on the decade’s list (and one of several songs by high-profile artists on the losing end of copyright infringement lawsuits this decade).
Despite her recent slowdown, doubters shouldn’t count Katy Perry out of the race. She recently debuted in the Top-15 with the single “Never Really Over.”
While No. 15 is not No. 1, it still contributes to her total for the decade. When they add up all the points, who knows where Perry might rank? Our prediction: No. 9
Post Malone (biggest era 2018/19):
Most of the decade’s biggest contenders have been charting since 2010 (or before). Post Malone is another late-decade entry whose biggest success has been in the second half (his current album Hollywood’s Bleeding is No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as I type this).
But what a doozy his second half has been! He’s racked up five singles that have reached No. 2 or better in the past two years alone, including three No. 1s.
One of those – this year’s “Sunflower” – is the eleventh biggest hit of the 2010s based on action in just the past twelve months (at Billboard’s cutoff mark in September, it was still on the charts – along with several of Posty’s other hits).
Four more of his songs also rank among the decade’s top 100. And Beerbongs and Bentleys is the decade’s fifth-biggest album, according to Billboard.
If we were doing a list of artists from say 2015-2024, the 24-year-old rapper/non-rapper out of Syracuse would surely be a serious No. 1 contender.
But just two huge albums and a half dozen or so big singles in a half-decade won’t be enough to carry Posty over this highly competitive field. Our prediction: No. 10
Rihanna (biggest era: 2010/11):
People may forget that the Barbadian wonder Rihanna, whose most recent successes have been in the fashion world with her Fenty clothing line, has racked up 14 No. 1 singles in her 16 years in the pop music game.
Nine of those chart toppers came this decade, and several of them were blockbusters, including the nine-week No. 1 (with Drake) “Work,” as well as her biggest chart hit, “We Found Love,” which Billboard ranked as the decade’s sixth-biggest song.
Rihanna’s singles clearly do better than her albums, and they would have to be enough to carry her above artists who have had blockbuster success with both types of media, like Adele, Drake and Taylor.
Only Billboard knows how the math will work out in the end, but nine No. 1 singles is nothing to sneeze at – and that, along with her social media ubiquity, could be enough to place Rihanna above all the others. We doubt it though; the last three years of music dormancy didn’t help her case. Our prediction: No. 4
Ed Sheeran (biggest era: 2017):
The ginger-haired British superstar has an affinity towards basic mathematical signs. His first three albums – all this decade – were +, x (multiply) and ÷ (pronounced divide). The last two were blockbusters that rank among the biggest selling albums of the past ten years worldwide.
His ÷ (pronounced divide) is the third-biggest album of the decade in the U.S., chart-wise. He’s had a few blockbuster singles, too, including “Thinking Out Loud,” “Shape of You,” and “Perfect,” all of which placed among the decade’s 50 biggest Hot 100 songs.
Also, “Shape” ranks as the decade’s biggest Radio Songs hit and “Perfect” leads the decade’s Digital Song Sales list, making Sheeran the only artist who leads two of the three main component charts that contribute to the weekly Hot 100 list.
His touring numbers aren’t so bad either. He recently broke the all-time record for the highest-grossing concert tour in history, eclipsing U2’s record.
Phenomenal yes, but – unlike other big contenders – Sheeran doesn’t have a lot of other hits to go with the three biggies. Aside from “Thinking,” “Shape” and “Perfect,” he’s only had five other top tens on the Hot 100, including this year’s “I Don’t Care” – a No. 2 hit with Justin Bieber. Our prediction: No. 7
Taylor Swift (biggest era: 2014/15):
Which brings us to Taylor. When it comes to selling albums in the 2010s, Adele may have had the two biggest, but Taylor Swift has the most big sellers!
Four of her first five No. 1 albums this decade sold over a million copies in their first weeks of release and the fifth – Lover – topped 800K when it was released this August.
Former record label dispute aside, Taylor’s longstanding album success, coupled with her five No. 1s on the singles chart, plus more than a dozen top ten hits, and dozens of Hot 100 entries in this decade alone, has to make her the front-runner in this decade’s marathon for top artist.
Her only detriment: Billboard is not using actual sales points; instead they’re using a simplified inverted point scheme based solely on chart position, which means all No. 1 albums get the same number of points, regardless of how many (or few) album units were registered while they were at the top.
But Taylor also has an edge in touring and social media activity, which should be more than enough to keep the others at bay. Swifties rejoice, it appears the AMAs will get it right. Our prediction: No. 1
So to recap, here is DJROBBLOG’s revised prediction of who will be Billboard’s top ten artists of the 2010s, in order from top to bottom:
- Taylor Swift
- Bruno Mars
- Maroon 5
- Ed Sheeran
- Justin Bieber
- Katy Perry
- Post Malone
Are we right? Fans will begin to find out in the next few weeks as Billboard slowly reveals the contenders leading up to the April BBMAs.
Check back with us to see how close we came (we promise not to change our predictions between now and then 😜).
DJRob is a freelance blogger 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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