After her watershed success in 2011, Adele triumphs again in 2012. She becomes the only act to be both the top artist of the year and have the No. 1 Billboard 200 album ("21") two years in a row. In 2011, she was the first woman to notch three of Billboard's biggest year-end honors: No. 1 on Top Artists, No. 1 on Top Billboard 200 Albums and No. 1 on Hot 100 Songs ("Rolling in the Deep").
Billboard's year-end music recaps are based on chart performance during the chart year that began with last year's Dec. 3 issue and ended with the Nov. 24, 2012, charts. The year-end top artist category ranks the best-performing acts of the year, derived from activity on the Billboard 200 albums tally and the Billboard Hot 100 singles list, as well as streaming, social, boxscore and ringtone data.
• 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
Previous to "21" (XL/Columbia), the last album to go back-to-back as the No. 1 Billboard 200 album was Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in 1983 and 1984. The Epic Records set, released in late 1982, spent the next year-and-a-half lodged in the weekly Billboard 200 chart's top 10. It spun off seven top 10 Hot 100 singles and went on to become, arguably, the world's biggest-selling album.
Comparably, "21" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on March 12, 2011, and never left the top 10 until the week of Sept. 8, 2012. (At press time, it had since returned to the region for two more weeks.) Among those top 10 weeks were an astonishing 24 frames at No. 1 -- the most weeks at the top since Prince & the Revolution's "Purple Rain" soundtrack ruled for the same number in 1984 and 1985.
Before "Thriller," there were only three albums that struck gold two years in a row since Billboard started its year-end tally for the chart in 1956. The soundtrack to "West Side Story" was tops in both 1962 and 1963, while the cast album to "The Sound of Music" ruled in 1960 and 1961.
Further, Adele is the first act to be the top artist two years in a row since 2000 and 2001, when Destiny's Child reigned. Since Billboard started compiling an overall top artist category in 1981, there have only been four times when an act claimed the top artist feat for two straight years. In addition to Adele and Destiny's Child, Garth Brooks took home the crown in 1992 and 1993, and New Kids on the Block scored in 1989 and 1990. But the same act and album haven't gone back-to-back as the respective No. 1 artist and Billboard 200 album of the year-until now.
Meanwhile, at No. 2 on the Top Artists recap is Rihanna, who comes in second for the second year in a row. The star has yet to be artist of the year, despite having placed quite highly almost every year since her debut in 2005. She also ranked among the top 10 acts in 2006, 2008 and 2010. This year, however, she can crow about being No. 1 on the Hot 100 Artists tally for the first time, thanks to mega-hits like "We Found Love" (featuring Calvin Harris), which spent 10 weeks atop the Hot 100. The SRP/Def Jam/IDJMG collaboration, which arrived in late 2011, finishes 2012 as the No. 8 song on the Hot 100 Songs recap. Despite Rihanna's track record on the Hot 100 (she notched her 12th No. 1 this year with "Diamonds"), the closest she had come to being the Hot 100's top artist was in 2008, when she was runner-up.
Speaking of the Hot 100, for the fourth time in seven years, an act's debut single is the No. 1 Hot 100 song. This year, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (Samples 'n' Seconds/Fairfax/Republic) -- featuring Kimbra -- rules on the Hot 100 Songs recap. Two years ago, Ke$ha's debut single "TiK ToK" was 2010's biggest Hot 100 hit, preceded by Flo Rida's "Low" (2008) and Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" (2006).
On the Hot 100 year-end tally, six of the year's top 10 songs are the first entries for each respective act, with the entire top three all debut singles. Carly Rae Jepsen's inescapable "Call Me Maybe" (604/School Boy/Interscope) is No. 2, followed at No. 3 by fun.'s "We Are Young" (Fueled by Ramen/RRP), featuring Janelle Monae. Other newbies in the top 10: Ellie Goulding's "Lights" (Cherrytree/Interscope) at No. 5, the Wanted's "Glad You Came" (Global Talent/Mercury/IDJMG) at No. 6 and One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" (Syco/Columbia) at No. 10. (While "We Are Young" wasn't fun.'s first single, it was its first to chart on the Hot 100.) Five of those six acts all rule the top five on the new artist recap, led by One Direction, the first group to be the top new artist since Daughtry in 2007.
One Direction's debut album, "Up All Night," is No. 5 on the Top Billboard 200 list. At Nos. 1-4, respectively, are Adele's "21," Michael Buble's "Christmas" (143/Reprise/Warner Bros.), Drake's "Take Care" (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic) and Taylor Swift's "Red" (Big Machine/BMLG). Swift leads the country charge in the top 10, with two other titles from the genre: Luke Bryan's "Tailgates & Tanlines" (Capitol Nashville/UMGN) at No. 6 and Lionel Richie's "Tuskegee" (Mercury Nashville/UMGN) at No. 9. It's the first time there have been three country sets by three different acts in the year-end top 10 since 2008.