Hot 100 Goes Global: American Acts Haven't Hit No. 1 Since July
Amid a record run, no U.S.-born artists have topped the chart since Wiz Khalifa ruled with "See You Again," featuring Charlie Puth.
The chart that ranks the top hits in the United States, the Billboard Hot 100, hasn't sported an American act at No. 1 for a record seven months and counting.
With Canadian Justin Bieber atop the latest chart (dated Feb. 27) for a second nonconsecutive week, dethroning British-born Zayn's "Pillowtalk" after a week at No. 1, non-domestic artists have ruled the Hot 100 for a record 32 weeks in a row. In that span, eight consecutive No. 1s have belonged to non-American talents, tying a streak first set more than 30 years ago.
Not since the Hot 100 dated July 18, 2015, when Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again," featuring Charlie Puth, wrapped a 12-week run at No. 1, have Americans perched atop the tally. (Khalifa was born in North Dakota; Puth, in New Jersey.) The song's reign was interrupted by the last No. 1 to rise to the summit by U.S. acts: Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood," featuring Kendrick Lamar, topped the June 6 Hot 100. (Swift is from Pennsylvania; Lamar, from California.)
Here's a rundown of the last eight Hot 100 leaders:
Title, Weeks at No. 1, Date Reached No. 1, Artist, Country of Origin
"Cheerleader," six, July 25, OMI, Jamaica
"Can't Feel My Face," three, Aug. 22, The Weeknd, Canada
"What Do You Mean?," one, Sept. 19, Justin Bieber, Canada
"The Hills," six, Oct, 3, The Weeknd, Canada
"Hello," 10, Nov. 14, Adele, England
"Sorry," three, Jan. 23, Justin Bieber, Canada
"Love Yourself," two (to date), Feb. 13, Justin Bieber, Canada
"Pillowtalk," one, Feb. 20, Zayn, England
Thus, foreign-born acts have crowned the Hot 100 for a record 32 weeks in a row (so far). The prior such longest weekly streak? Seventeen frames in 2012, thanks to "Somebody That I Used to Know," by Belgian-born Gotye (who was raised in Australia), featuring Kimbra, of New Zealand, and "Call Me Maybe," by Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen. The latter song was famously spurred to U.S. ubiquity by Bieber's social media support.
Meanwhile, the current streak of eight straight Hot 100 toppers by non-Americans ties a record. These eight singles led consecutively in 1985 (after Michigan-born Madonna held the top spot with "Crazy for You"):
Title, Weeks at No. 1, Date Reached No. 1, Artist, Country of Origin
"Don't You (Forget About Me)," one, May 18, Simple Minds, Scotland
"Everything She Wants," two, May 25, Wham!, England
"Everybody Wants to Rule the World," two, June 8, Tears for Fears, England
"Heaven," two, June 22, Bryan Adams, Canada
"Sussudio," one, July 6, Phil Collins, England
"A View to a Kill," two, July 13, Duran Duran, England
"Everytime You Go Away," one, July 27, Paul Young, England
"Shout," three, Aug. 3, Tears for Fears, England
(On Aug. 24, 1985, San Francisco's Huey Lewis & the News brought Americans back to No. 1, with "The Power of Love.")
Notably, the string of eight non-American acts reigning in 1985 doubled the prior record shutout of U.S. acts. As Chart Beat founder Paul Grein wrote in the Aug. 3, 1985, Billboard issue, "At the height of the British invasion in 1965, Freddie & the Dreamers ["I'm Telling You Now"], Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders ["Game of Love"], Herman's Hermits ["Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] and the Beatles ["Ticket to Ride"] had consecutive No. 1 hits."
(Also, a shoutout to reader Dominic "DC" Sheehan, who recently emailed about the absence of U.S.-originated Hot 100 No. 1s of late, well before the current streak had reached record levels.)
What conclusions can we draw from the last seven months of No. 1s belonging exclusively to non-American acts?
Much has been covered here going back to 2014, when Chart Beat examined the influx of then-current Hot 100 hits imported from such countries as Australia (Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," Sia's "Chandelier"), Canada (MAGIC!'s "Rude"), England (Sam Smith's "Stay With Me"), Norway (Nico & Vinz's "Am I Wrong") and Scotland (Calvin Harris' "Summer"), which followed one of 2013's biggest smashes, "Royals," by New Zealander Lorde.
Key findings at the time, per record label and radio executives:
1: The best songs were simply being provided by foreign acts.
2: Certain American stars were in between albums, opening windows for non-domestic acts.
And, 3: Perhaps most at the heart of the Hot 100's increased globalization, YouTube and social media have brought international music to the U.S. more easily, and quickly, than ever before. Said Def Jam executive vp of promotion Rick Sackheim, "Foreign acts have always crossed into American culture once their fame gets to the point that they become undeniable. The difference today is that music discovery no longer takes months. Now, it can literally take minutes. Artists have built up fan bases by releasing music and dropping videos and other clips on their social media sites."
"I think labels have become better at the overall set-up of music from outside the U.S.," added RCA executive vp Joe Riccitelli. "A constant flow of new [social media] content really helps stoke the fires."
Meanwhile, five of the last eight Hot 100 No. 1s are by Canadians: Bieber (three), thanks to his commercial powerhouse LP Purpose, and The Weeknd (two). Part of that domination is simply the latest chapter of Canadian success south of the border. "What is happening right now feels like a bit of a renaissance," Bob Willette, CKFM (99.9 Virgin Radio) Toronto music director, mused in October. "The '80s [had] Bryan Adams and Corey Hart. The '90s had Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain."
Still, "It would be naive not to credit Drake's success with bringing Canadian hip-hop to the next level," Willette added, as, long before The Weeknd's 2015 breakthrough, Drake had blogged about The Weeknd. "Canada has always had a strong hip-hop scene. But, really, Drake has blown things up for everyone."
Beyond Canadians since late July, OMI scored with his perfectly-timed, reggae-splashed song of the summer; Adele returned with her record-shattering "Hello" and parent album 25; and, Zayn rewarded anticipation for his solo debut following his departure from One Direction with a chart-topping launch for "Pillowtalk." Those songs' success reinforces the idea noted above, that foreign acts plainly have delivered the most consensus songs, for seven months so far.
Who'll be the next American act to top the Hot 100 and end the longest stretch (by weeks) of foreign artists controlling the chart's top spot in the tally's 57-year history? Perhaps Ohio's twenty one pilots, currently the Yanks with the highest rank, No. 2, with "Stressed Out" (that rhyme also courtesy of Grein, 1985). Flo Rida (home state self-explanatory) is also within reach of the summit, surging 8-5 with "My House."
To paraphrase Khalifa and Puth, we'll surely see American artists at No. 1 again. For now, they're ceding the Hot 100's summit amid a historic run by non-American talent.