For the first time, Billboard is naming the biggest songs of the year based on worldwide data.
The Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts launched in September 2020, but after its first full tracking year, the results are in.
Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” is No. 1 on the 2021 year-end Billboard 200 Global Songs chart, while Olivia Rodrigo is the top Billboard Global 200 Artist. BTS leads both the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. Songs ranking (with “Dynamite”) and the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. Artist.
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.
Lipa Levitates To The Top: Not only did Dua Lipa conquer the U.S. with the No. 1 year-end Billboard Hot 100 song, but Future Nostalgia’s “Levitating” is 2021’s biggest song in the world. “Levitating” is the No. 1 Billboard Global 200 song of 2021, without ever having reached the top of the weekly chart.
The song first appeared at No. 51 on the Oct. 17, 2020-dated ranking and circled the top 40 throughout the final months of 2020 as holiday music crowded the chart’s upper regions.
Lipa shot 13-8 on the Jan. 16-dated chart, beginning a non-consecutive 32-week run in the top 10. She spent six weeks between Nos. 7-8 before dipping in-and-out of the top 10, and then returned and slowly made its way up the ladder with three weeks at No. 6, three more at No. 4, then to No. 3 and ultimately to its peak at No. 2 for a week in late-May, behind Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U.”
“Levitating” was last seen in the top 10 at No. 8 on the Sept. 4 chart. It’s one of 11 Global 200 hits for the British-Albanian superstar, and one of two to hit the top 10. Her duet with Elton John, “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” scaled to No. 5 in November.
Rodrigo’s Breakout Year: Olivia Rodrigo is the top artist of the year on the Billboard Global 200, based on streaming and sales data from more than 200 markets around the world. She finishes the year with eight titles on the Billboard Global 200 Songs ranking, topped by “Drivers License” at No. 4 and “Good 4 U” at No. 9. It’s an especially impressive feat considering that, outside of her starring role in Disney’s High School Musical: The Series: The Musical (and its accompanying songs), she only has released 11 songs in her career.
All of Rodrigo’s charting hits are solo endeavors, a rare feat in an age of international crossover. Other acts with as many, or more, entries on the Billboard Global 200 year-end list – Justin Bieber (11), Doja Cat and Drake (eight each) – do so via numerous duet partners and featured bits ranging from fellow North American pop and hip-hop stars to Spanish-language Latin hitmakers.
Rodrigo kicked off the year with “Drivers License” debuting atop both Global charts in January and staying there for eight weeks (plus a ninth frame on the Global Excl. U.S. tally). No other song has debuted and stuck to the top for that long, though one of her own follow-ups came quite close. “Good 4 U” debuted at No. 1 on the May 29-dated Global 200 and spent six of its first eight weeks at No. 1, the other two at No. 2.
BTS Dominates Internationally: The seven-piece South Korean group is the year’s top artist, and has the year’s top song, on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. recaps. “Dynamite” finishes at No. 1 on the year-end Global Excl. U.S. chart while their English language-follow-up, “Butter,” is No. 5. BTS. The Weeknd also nabs two of the top five Global Excl. U.S. songs of the year (“Save Your Tears,” with Ariana Grande is No. 2; “Blinding Lights” is No. 4), while “Levitating” rounds out the top five at No. 3.
“Dynamite” and “Butter” are two of five songs with which BTS has topped the weekly Global Excl. U.S. chart. In that pair, they reigned with “Life Goes On,” “Permission to Dance” and “My Universe,” with Coldplay, each for one week. Justin Bieber is the only other act to manage multiple Global Excl. U.S. chart-toppers with “Peaches,” featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, for five weeks and “Stay,” with The Kid LAROI, for nine weeks.
International Breakdown: The Billboard Global 200 measures the biggest songs in the world, merging the biggest American stars with those of South America, Asia, Europe and beyond. The Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart, however, removes stateside streams & sales from the equation, giving a glimpse of the biggest international songs. Essentially, the opposite of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Looking at the top 25 songs of the year on the Global Excl. U.S. chart, there are some obvious similarities to the Hot 100’s annual recap. Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Olivia Rodrigo, Lil Nas X and Justin Bieber all make the top 10 of both lists. But while BTS’ “Dynamite” topped both charts in their weekly editions, the song held steady outside the U.S. for months, becoming the top Global Excl. U.S. song of the year, whereas it is No. 41 on the 2021 Hot 100 chart.
Other major discrepancies include Bad Bunny & Jhay Cortez’s “Dakiti,” which finishes at No. 6 on the Global Excl. U.S. recap, but ranks at No. 28 for the Hot 100. Italy’s Maneskin nabs a top 20 year-end hit in “Beggin’” outside America but falls below the top 50 domestically (No. 16; No. 66). And Rauw Alejandro’s “Todo De Ti” is No. 25 on the Excl. U.S. year-end list, while rounding out the Hot 100’s at No. 100. Songs by Maluma (Colombia), YOASOBI (Japan) and Joel Corry x MNEK (U.K.) all land in the Excl. U.S.’s top 25 while missing the Hot 100 recap completely.