The 35-year-old Drake is the year’s top artist not just thanks to the success of the pop and hip-hop superstar’s latest Billboard 200 No. 1 album, Certified Lover Boy (his 10th No. 1), and its accompanying hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart; he also reigns supreme via the continued presence of his catalog of previously released albums on the Billboard 200.
Billboard’s year-end music recaps represent aggregated metrics for each artist, title, label and music contributor on the weekly charts dated Nov. 21, 2020, through Nov. 13, 2021. The rankings for MRC Data-based recaps reflect equivalent album units, airplay, sales or streaming during the weeks that the titles appeared on a respective chart during the tracking year. Any activity registered before or after a title’s chart run isn’t considered in these rankings. That methodology detail, and the November-November time period, account for some of the difference between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are independently compiled by MRC Data. The Top Artists and Top New Artists categories ranks the best-performing overall acts, and new acts, of the year based on activity on the Billboard 200 and Billboard Hot 100 charts, as well as Billboard Boxscore (touring), for the 2021 tracking period.
Certified Lover Boy debuted at No. 1 on the Sept. 18, 2021-dated Billboard 200 chart and logged only nine weeks on the survey before the 2021 chart year closed. (The 2021 chart year comprises the Nov. 21, 2020, through Nov. 13, 2021-dated charts.) Certified made the most of its short time in the 2021 chart year, as it also finishes at No. 5 on the year-end Billboard 200 Albums recap.
In total during the chart year, Drake placed eight albums on the Billboard 200 (only one of which was new, Certified). Only Taylor Swift placed more albums on the chart in the 2021 chart year, with nine (three of which were new). She finishes at No. 4 on the Top Artists list.
Drake also charted 35 songs on the Hot 100 during the 2021 chart year — with 13 of those reaching the top 10, including two No. 1s: “What’s Next” and “Way 2 Sexy,” featuring Future and Young Thug. During the 2021 chart year, among all artists, Drake had the most songs reach the Hot 100’s top 10 (13), top 20 (23) and top 40 (30).
Drake is also, thus, 2021’s top male artist, while Olivia Rodrigo does double duty as both the top female artist and top new artist, while ranking at No. 2 on the overall Top Artists tally. Rodrigo’s debut album, Sour, spent five weeks atop the weekly Billboard 200 in June-July and launched a pair of Hot 100 No. 1s in “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U.” Sour finishes at No. 2 on the year-end Billboard 200 Albums tally, while “Good” and “License” are Nos. 5 and 8, respectively, on the year-end Hot 100 Songs recap.
BTS is the top duo/group for a second straight year (No. 12 on the overall list). The South Korean group notched four No. 1s on the Hot 100 during the 2021 chart year — the most of any act — and scored their fifth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with the chart-topping debut of Be (Dec. 5, 2020-dated chart). The set closes the year at No. 40 on the year-end Billboard 200 Albums chart.
The year-end No. 1 on the 2021 Billboard 200 Albums chart is Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album. The January release spent 10 weeks atop the weekly Billboard 200 in 2021 — the most of any album since Drake’s Views racked up 13 weeks at No. 1 in 2016. Dangerous is only the fourth country album to earn No. 1 year-end honors on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, since the list began publishing on a regular, weekly basis in 1956. It follows Taylor Swift’s Fearless (2009), Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts (2006) and Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind (1992).
Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” triumphs as the year-end No. 1 on the Hot 100 Songs recap, following the track’s record-breaking run on the chart. The song debuted on the weekly Hot 100 dated Oct. 17, 2020, peaked at No. 2 on the May 22, 2021-dated survey, and, as of the current issue, has yet to leave the tally. “Levitating” was in the Hot 100’s weekly top 40 in every week of the chart year (Nov. 21, 2020–Nov. 13, 2021), with 41 of those weeks in the top 10. During the chart year, the song broke the record for the most weeks in the top 10 and top 20 for a song by a female artist. “Levitating” also boasts the second-most weeks in the top 10 among all songs, second to only The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” (57), which was 2020’s year-end Hot 100 No. 1.
The consistent chart performance of “Levitating” paid off: It is only the third song to be the Hot 100’s year-end top song without also having reached No. 1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart. Since the chart began in 1958, a non-weekly No. 1 won for the entire year only in 2001 and 2000, when Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment” and Faith Hill’s “Breathe” were the respective year’s biggest hits. Both tracks peaked at No. 2 on the weekly Hot 100 — “Hanging” for four weeks, and “Breathe” for five weeks. Both songs, like “Levitating,” had lengthy runs on the chart, enabling their overall No. 1 year-end finishes.
The year-end Hot 100 No. 1 hit is by a lead female artist for the first time in 10 years, since Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was tops in 2011. (The last year-end No. 1 to credit a female artist at all was 2012’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” with Gotye as the lead act and Kimbra as the featured artist.
“Levitating” is also No. 1 on the 2021 year-end Billboard Global 200, Radio Songs, Streaming Songs, Pop Airplay, Adult Pop Airplay and Billboard Canadian Hot 100 charts.
2020’s year-end Hot 100 champ, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” is the No. 3 Hot 100 title of 2021. Meanwhile, The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears,” with Ariana Grande, is the No. 2 song of the year. (The song was originally released as a solo track by The Weeknd in 2020 but got a boost from a remix with Grande in 2021.) As The Weeknd has the Nos. 2 and 3 year-end songs on the Hot 100, he’s the first act with two of the three year-end songs since Justin Bieber was Nos. 1 and 2 in 2016, respectively, with “Love Yourself” and “Sorry.”