While every year always brings a smattering of new acts that rack up major hits, 2012 produced an unusually robust group of fresh-faced talent.
For the first time since 1956, the year's three biggest singles are by acts that earned their first pop hit in the past year.
On the Billboard Hot 100's year-end chart Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" is No. 1, while Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and fun.'s "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae) are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Each song was the breakthrough U.S. chart hit for the act (and also happened to be every artist's debut entry on the Hot 100).
• Q&As: One Direction, 5 Interviews
• COVER STORY: One Direction
• OVERVIEW The Year in Pop
• YEAR-END ISSUE: Order It Here
• HUB: The Year In Music 2012
• 2012 CHARTS: Hot 100 Songs
• 2012 CHARTS: Billboard 200
• 2012 CHARTS: Top Artists
We have to scroll way back to 1956 -- before the Hot 100 even started in 1958 -- to find a top three so newly-minted.
That year, Elvis Presley owned the top two singles on the year-end Best Sellers in Stores chart with "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Don't Be Cruel," while Nelson Riddle's "Lisbon Antigua" was the year's third-biggest hit. (Before the Hot 100 launched in 1958, the pop singles chart of record was Best Sellers in Stores.)
On our year-end Top New Artists ranking, the list is led by unstoppable One Direction, with Jepsen and Gotye coming in at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. One Direction saw its first two albums -- "Up All Night" and "Take Me Home" -- both debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2012. They also scored a pair of hit singles with "What Makes You Beautiful" (No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100) and "Live While We're Young" (No. 3). The former finishes 2012 as the No. 10 year-end Hot 100 song.
The English/Irish group is the first act from either country to be the year's top new artist since 2008, when England's Leona Lewis led the charge. The last English or Irish group to lead the year-end tally was Spice Girls, in 1997.
Impressively, the top 10 new acts of 2012 sold a combined 45 million song downloads in the calendar year (through Dec. 2), according to Nielsen SoundScan. That equates to a stunning 8.3% of all current songs sold in the same time frame (542 million). It certainly helps that, through Dec. 2, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" and Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" rank as the year's top two sellers overall, with 6.7 million and 6.2 million sold.
Eight of the year's top 10 new acts all earned top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with only 2 Chainz and Hunter Hayes (Nos. 8 and 9, respectively) missing the region. Don't cry for them though, as they made splashes on their core genre charts. Rapper 2 Chainz topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart twice this year and also bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with his debut studio album "Based on a T.R.U. Story." Meanwhile, country singer Hayes logged a No. 1 on the Country Songs tally with "Wanted."
The overall new artist field was so competitive this year, some big names were squeezed out of our top 10 round up. They include Kip Moore, the Lumineers, Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean, Dustin Lynch, Romeo Santos, Of Monsters and Men, Imagine Dragons and Florida Georgia Line. During the chart year, those acts combined for a total of nine top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 -- including a trio of No. 2s: Del Rey's "Born to Die," Ocean's "Channel Orange" and Imagine Dragons' "Night Visions."
Never fear: As we have new artist lists for the genres of R&B/hip-hop, country, rock and Latin -- nearly all of those acts can be found on the new artist tallies for their respective home formats.