Billboard’s year-end music recaps are based on chart performance during the charts dated Dec. 2, 2017, to Nov. 17, 2018. Data registered before or after a title’s chart run is not considered in these standings. That methodology detail, and the December-to-November time period, account for some of the differences between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are independently compiled by Nielsen Music.
Explore All of Billboard's 2018 Year-End Charts
That’s not to say no other genre had any bright spots on Billboard’s streaming charts in 2018, but for the most part, rap continued to assert its dominance. From Drake to Post Malone, XXXTentacion to Juice WRLD, the genre was inescapable among top hits playlists on services like Spotify and Apple Music, and on the Streaming Songs chart in general. And they weren’t just slow-builders, either; in 2018, 11 songs debuted at No. 1 on Streaming Songs, 10 of them hip-hop songs. Only four did so in 2017 (three rap) and two in 2016 (neither rap).
To that end, rap not only dominated streaming in 2018 – it turned the charts into a vehicle for significant moments. Reaching No. 1 on Streaming Songs was a feat before, but it’s since become something a title often does out of the gate, denoting that week as the week of “God’s Plan,” or of “This Is America,” or of “I Love It.” Sometimes those songs stay atop the chart, sometimes they don’t. But one thing is for sure: their premieres are events, and the goal is to rack up as many clicks as possible before the clock resets.
Drake Takes the Cake: For the second time, Drake is the No. 1 act on the year-end Streaming Songs Artists list. Previously, the Canadian superstar ruled the 2016 list in a year that saw him debut full-length album Views after scoring a new personal high on the 2015 ranking at No. 3. He followed that up by dropping to No. 5 in 2017, his More Life playlist album was his only taste of cohesive material.
2018, of course, saw Drake re-enter the conversation in a big way. After debuting “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity” in January, he continued to drop new songs prior to the release of the 25-song behemoth Scorpion album in late June.
In all, Drake scored 34 entries on the weekly Streaming Songs list in 2018. He also appears on the year-end ranking eight times, with “Plan” the most-streamed song of the year, coming in at No. 1. The track became Drake’s biggest song yet on Streaming Songs, leading the list for 11 weeks, more than any other song in 2018. The second-most weeks at No. 1? The rapper’s “In My Feelings,” which ruled the chart for eight weeks. “Nice for What” added four weeks atop the tally, the fourth-longest among any song this year.
Drake’s 2018 feats didn’t just concern his Scorpion material. He hopped on a pair of songs from emerging rappers that shot said artists to stardom (as well as the year-end Streaming Songs chart). First came BlocBoy JB’s “Look Alive,” which enters at No. 13 on the year-end list and debuted at No. 2 on the Streaming Songs tally dated Feb. 24 thanks to Drake’s appearance. Then came Lil Baby’s “Yes Indeed,” which eventually reached No. 1 on the chart (and comes in at No. 16 on the year-end chart).
Rock Comes Back: Only twice had a rock act reached the top 10 of the year-end Streaming Songs Artists chart before 2018. First came Imagine Dragons, which ranked at No. 5 in 2013 on the strength of hits “It’s Time,” “Radioactive” and “Demons.” Then came twenty one pilots and its No. 4 ranking on the 2016 list with the success of “Stressed Out,” “Ride” and “Heathens.”
Make that three times. Imagine Dragons reach the 2018 list at No. 10, joining Ed Sheeran (No. 3) as the only non-hip-hop acts in the year-end top 10.
Perhaps most impressively, Imagine Dragons reach the top 10 with the least amount of songs (three) to have made the Streaming Songs list all year of anyone else in the top 10 (Sheeran had four; Drake, as previously noted, had 34). In an era where many streaming winners do so with a glut of songs over the course of a year, Imagine Dragons did so with a smaller – but altogether potent – lineup. “Believer,” which ranks at No. 15 on the year-end songs list, has remained on the weekly chart despite its initial February 2017 release, and “Thunder” (year-end No. 40) spend multiple weeks inside the weekly top 20, peaking at No. 18 in December 2017.
Imagine Dragons’ songs are also the only rock tracks on the year-end list, and they also claim three of the five rock songs to make Streaming Songs for at least one week the entire year, joined by songs from Portugal. The Man and Queen.
Country’s First Top 10: For the first time, a country song makes the top 10 of the year-end Streaming Songs chart, as Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant to Be” comes in at No. 10.
The previous best? Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” which reached No. 24 on 2017’s year-end ranking.
“Meant to Be,” a country-pop crossover smash, hits No. 10 on the year-end list despite never actually reaching the top 10 on the weekly Streaming Songs list, peaking at No. 11 (March 24). Its longevity assists its overall ranking, as the track reached Streaming Songs for much of the year, oftentimes in the chart’s top half.
It’s also the first top 10 on the year-end Streaming Songs for both artists; while Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” came in at No. 27 on the 2013 list, Rexha’s “Me Myself & I” with G-Eazy ranked at No. 15 on the 2016 ranking.