It may be January on the calendar, but it’s at least still half Christmas on the charts — Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” begins 2022 still atop the Billboard Hot 100, while the top stretches of the chart are still littered with fellow holiday classics.
A good time, then, to look ahead to what may be ahead on the Hot 100 this year. What songs that are already starting to percolate in the mainstream will become defining hits for 2022? Which artists with music scheduled for the next few months may end up dominating the early part of the year? And what new trends might end up bending the charts in new and unexpected directions?
Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more for the year to come below.
1. With the most recent chart week still including tracking data from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Hot 100 is still largely littered at the top with Christmas songs. Outside of 2021 No. 1s like “Easy on Me” or “Stay,” what song in the upper stretches of the chart do you think is the biggest threat to top the chart in 2022?
Katie Atkinson: I’m going to go with GAYLE’s irreverently fun “abcdefu” (currently at No. 17), which shockingly hit No. 2 on the Global 200 last month behind only Mariah’s perennial powerhouse – meaning it was the most popular non-Christmas song in the world. (Actually, at No. 5 on this week’s chart, it remains the most popular non-holiday song in the world.) It feels like it’s only a matter of time until it creeps up to the top 10 in the U.S. and, maybe, all the way to No. 1.
Lyndsey Havens: While I’m rooting for our current Chartbreaker GAYLE and her breakout hit “abcdefu,” I’m placing my bet on Silk Sonic’s “Smokin Out the Window,” which is seeing weekly gains in performance and re-climbing the chart eight weeks after its top 10 debut (it since peaked at No. 5). With the group’s Grammy buzz and potential for a stellar awards show performance — and tour, hopefully, at some point — it seems Silk Sonic won’t be in the rearview mirror any time soon, and “Smokin Out the Window” might just be the hazy slow-burning hit to keep them on the road to the top.
Jason Lipshutz: Current top 10 songs like Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” or Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” may be more obvious answers, but I’m keeping an eye on Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin,” which sounds like a melodic-rap smash and has reacted as such over the past few weeks. The top 10 feels like a sure thing for “Super Gremlin” (currently at No. 16) once the holiday singles drop off, and from there, should the streaming numbers keep jumping, the top spot will be attainable.
Joe Lynch: With Santa’s elves in retreat, I see another diminutive fictional being creeping toward the top of the Hot 100 in 2022: that’s right, gremlins. No, we’re not talking about brainy gremlins, googly-eyed gremlins or electricity gremlins, but a “Super Gremlin” from the pen of Kodak Black. The Sniper Gang rapper rips into the mic like a hungry man tearing meat from the bone while the off-kilter, catchy hook keeps pulling you back in for seconds.
Andrew Unterberger: Definitely can’t rule out “Heat Waves,” which improbably kept on growing over the past year and actually ended 2021 atop the Spotify daily US chart. But I’ll take the slightly longer odds on GAYLE’s “abcdefu,” which became one of the runaway hits of late 2021 on TikTok and streaming and has only just started to be embraced by radio — where it very well might become ubiquitous in early 2022, even with its profane-by-implication hook.
2. Lower than that on this week’s Hot 100, what still-climbing song or songs do you think might be jumping up into the chart’s top 10 in short order?
Katie Atkinson: Doja Cat & The Weeknd’s “You Right” has just missed the top 10, so far peaking at No. 11, but with its re-entry on the chart this week at No. 42, maybe it’s ready to separate itself from the sea of Planet Her radio singles. “You Right” has been my favorite since the album arrived in June, but it’s been crowded out by the top 10 hits “Kiss Me More” and “Need to Know” — 2022 could be its moment.
Lyndsey Havens: As Adele’s 30 adds a sixth week to its Billboard 200 chart-topping tally, so too do the album’s first two singles gain steam. While “Easy On Me” could return to No. 1 after the holiday fall off, “Oh My God” is a dark horse contender to perhaps reenter the Hot 100’s upper echelon over time. After debuting at No. 5 in early Dec., the sassy, uptempo track has returned to the top 40 (jumping 57-40) this week — a good indicator of what’s to come once more space opens up.
Jason Lipshutz: Climbing from No. 94 to the top 10 of the Hot 100 is a tall order, but Ari Lennox’s “Pressure,” which debuts there this week, is both extremely likable and sports a titular refrain snaking throughout that sounds tailor-made for a viral challenge. As Lennox’s first Hot 100 entry as a lead artist, “Pressure” already represents a victory for the R&B star, and I’d suspect it becomes a bigger one soon.
Joe Lynch: It’s an easy prediction but I’m going with the Encanto breakout song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” a slyly beguiling song from the inordinately talented Lin-Manuel Miranda. Similar to “Let It Go” finding an audience beyond Frozen viewers, I see Bruno being on the tip of people’s tongues for months.
Andrew Unterberger: We’re about on schedule for our semi-regular Imagine Dragons visit to the top 10, so I’ll back their bombastic J.I.D. collab “Enemy,” which was slowly growing over the end of last year and seems poised for crossover domination in early 2022.
3. The Weeknd has already announced a new album for this Friday, making it likely the first major release of the 2022 calendar. Aside from him, which artist that’s scheduled for a new song and/or album in early 2022 do you expect to be a major presence on the charts in the quarter to come?
Katie Atkinson: It could be a huge year for Saweetie, with her debut album Pretty Bitch Music finally on the horizon (though without a set release date). Seeing how Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and Doja have dominated the charts, there’s plenty of room for Saweetie’s sugar-coated hip-hop up top.
Lyndsey Havens: My eyes are on The Weeknd’s labelmate and recent collaborator Post Malone. The pair released “One Right Now,” the lead single off Posty’s upcoming album (which he confirmed in Billboard‘s year-end Republic cover story) yet since then the chart-topper has remained relatively quiet. But perhaps he’s just clearing the way for Abel to dominate once again before making his own commanding — and long awaited — reentrance.
Jason Lipshutz: If Cardi B finally releases the follow-up to 2018’s Invasion of Privacy in the next few months, she’s likely going to dominate the charts with the same force as she carried four years ago — after all, “WAP” and “Up” returned her to the top of the Hot 100 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, without requiring the same thrust of a tentpole album rollout. Whenever the wait is over, a whole lot of listeners will be ready to press play on new Cardi.
Joe Lynch: If he keeps playing his cards right, mining the pop-punk resurgence presided over by Travis Barker and teaming up with similarly minded disciples of the genre, MGK – who says he has two albums coming this year – should prove to be a reliable presence on at least the album charts.
Andrew Unterberger: Country star Maren Morris’ first unaccompanied single of the 2020s, “Circles Around This Town,” is due for release on Friday — and given how 2019’s “The Bones” feels like it only just dropped off the charts a few weeks ago, I’d expect it to be one of the splashiest releases of the year from the country world. (Possibly the pop world too, given how wide the public embrace of Morris has been over her first two albums.)
4. Which artist who’s yet to score a No. 1 on the Hot 100 could you see finally breaking through to the top spot this year?
Katie Atkinson: It’s so hard to believe that Dua Lipa doesn’t have a No. 1 yet, the way she’s been so omnipresent in the pop world since dropping the lead single for Future Nostalgia back in 2019. But as she told us for the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast, she’s “maybe, potentially, actively working on some new music” right now, so she has plenty of time to finally release a chart-topper in 2022.
Lyndsey Havens: I would love to see Lil Baby hit the chart’s top spot this year, and with an upcoming anticipated album from Gunna — which features Baby on a track titled “25k Jacket” — it very well could be within reach. I’m also always rooting for Dua Lipa, who shockingly ended 2021 with the top Hot 100 song of the year (“Levitating”) despite it never hitting No. 1. While she’s seemingly exhausted all options for another version of Future Nostalgia, perhaps Lipa will follow The Weeknd’s lead and continue comforting fans with retro-inspired dance-pop hits as the pandemic continues on.
Jason Lipshutz: Although some of Blackpink’s members spent 2021 exploring solo sounds and projects, the K-pop quartet coming back together in 2022 for a new single or album would be a big deal, both in the U.S. and globally. Their highest-charting Hot 100 hit to date, “Ice Cream” with Selena Gomez, peaked at No. 13; provided they release something in 2022, I’d bet it climbs higher than that.
Joe Lynch:Dua Lipa got so close in 2021 that I bet she’s just one or two new singles away from finally topping the Hot 100 this year. Nothing is announced, but I can’t help but think her team is planning to strike while the iron is hot and get new music out before mid-year. After all, Future Nostalgia — which established her as a career pop star that radio can’t get enough of — is two years old at this point. Seems to me she’s primed not just for her first No. 1, but for a potential song of the summer champ.
Andrew Unterberger: Lil Durk was absolutely everywhere on the charts last year — except No. 1. The right collab should finally get him there this year, and you can bet he’ll get his shots up over the next 12 months trying to find it. (Perhaps it will finally come via longtime partner on the mic Lil Baby, one of the other biggest stars of the moment who’s still yet to secure that elusive Hot 100-topper.)
5. Make one other bold prediction for the Hot 100 this year: A new trend or shift, a record broken, an artist majorly breaking through or falling back, etc.
Katie Atkinson: I really miss the days of female country artists having major crossover moments that blurred the lines between pop and country, like the late ’90s with Shania and Faith or the early days of Taylor. There have been some one-offs – like Carrie Underwood’s top 10 hit “Before He Cheats” in 2007 and Gabby Barrett’s 2020 smash “I Hope,” or even Maren Morris joining forces with Zedd in 2018 for “The Middle” – but my bold prediction is that we’ll meet a new country superstar (or two) who can nimbly navigate the pop world too. A girl can dream!
Lyndsey Havens: I’ve long been rooting for the return of pop-punk and hoping for its continued winning streak — which can in large part be credited to Travis Barker. And now that Barker signed the pop-punk princess herself, Avril Lavgine, at the end of 2021, I believe she’s well set up to come roaring back this year with a new record that sounds a lot like her old self.
Jason Lipshutz: More guitars! If you think the mainstream pop world wasn’t paying attention to artists like Machine Gun Kelly and Willow bringing the pop-punk revival to the top 40, or Olivia Rodrigo topping the Hot 100 with a Paramore-indebted smash, or Italian rock group Måneskin scoring one of the biggest radio hits of the year, you need to think again. The trend started in earnest in late 2020, bloomed in 2021, and I expect it to be ubiquitous in 2022.
Joe Lynch: Okay, you’re asking for bold, you got it: 2022 will see a country song top the Hot 100 for the first time in years. Since 2012, there have been only two songs that one could arguably consider country that have topped the Hot 100: Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. Without wading into the perilous “what is country?!” discussion, it’s clear that country music rarely hits the pole peak of the flagship chart these days. But with the genre gaining at streaming, we may very well see Nashville saddle up to the top this year.
Andrew Unterberger: I’m feeling a lot of short runs at No. 1 for hits this year — even fewer songs than ever that manage to dominate all platforms at the same time. I see bright-burning viral TikTok hits trading off the top spot with massive artists’ top streaming debuts, and enduring radio smashes occasionally filling in the gaps in between, but none of them lasting on top for too long at a time. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” ruled for eight weeks at the beginning of 2021, I’ll bet that no one song lasts that long on top this year.