Adele, Morgan Wallen, Justin Bieber, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo and Dua Lipa top MRC Data’s 2021 Canada year-end report in a year when the nation saw on-demand streams hitting an all-time high as total album consumption was up almost 10% and vinyl sales ticked up more than 21%.
As was the case all over the globe, Adele’s eagerly anticipated return album, 30, topped the charts, debuting at No. 1 on the Canadian Billboard 200 chart with 70,000 first-week equivalent album units for the week ending Nov. 25. The album’s lead single, “Easy On Me,” topped three pop formats at Canadian radio (CHR, Hot AC and Mainstream AC) shortly after its debut, and almost beat Olivia Rodrigo’s record for the biggest one-week streaming total with 7.35 million streams for the week ending Oct. 21 — compared to 7.53 million streams for Rodrigo’s “Drivers License.”
In a year when Canadian on-demand streams surpassed the two billion weekly milestone for the first time, the top streaming hit of 2021 was Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” (84.7 million).
Teen phenom Rodrigo topped the album sales chart (which encompasses album sales, track equivalent albums and streaming equivalent albums) with her debut, Sour, which had 262,200 in total album-equivalent sales and 334.4 million on-demand audio streams, followed by Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album (235,000 units, 280 million on-demand streams), Bieber’s Justice (230,000 units, 271.2 million on-demand streams), The Kid LAROi’s F–k Love (202,000 units, 261 million on-demand streams) and Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia (185,000 units, 230 million on-demand streams). The top 10 was filled out by Drake, Adele, Pop Smoke, The Weeknd and Doja Cat.
Adele’s 30 ran the board on the other year-end charts, topping the top albums (total sales) tally with 114,000, as well as top digital album sales (23,000), top 10 physical CDs (81,000) and vinyl albums (10,000).
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, total album consumption in Canada was up 9.2% (to 83.8 million), as was on-demand song streaming (up 10.6% to 107.6 billion) and and vinyl LP sales (up 21.8% to 1.1 million). Digital album sales, however, were down 26.9% (2.3 million), as were digital track sales (down 25% to 18.3 million) and total album sales (down 12.1% to 6.1 million). The top-selling vinyl albums of the year were Adele’s 30, Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) and Evermore, Harry Styles’ Fine Line and The Tragically Hip’s Saskadelphia.
Unsurprisingly, three of Canada’s biggest acts — Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd — released the three biggest albums of 2021, with, respectively, Justice, Certified Lover Boy and After Hours finishing 1, 2 and 3 on the year-end albums recap. The list of the year’s top songs from Canadian acts was topped by The Weeknd and Ariana Grande’s “Save Your Tears” (640,000 sales + SES On-demand streams), followed by Bieber’s (with Daniel Caesar and Giveon) “Peaches” (546,000), The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” (429,000), Drake’s “Wants and Needs” (275,000) and Tate Mcrae’s “You Broke Me First” (261,000).
As in the U.S., K-pop was huge in Canada in 2021, with BLACKPINK members Rosé and Lisa both scoring hits up North, with Rosé’s single “On the Ground” debuting at No. 35 on the Canadian Hot 100, and Lisa’s “Lalisa” hitting Nov. 42 on the Canadian Hot 100 on the Sept. 25-dated chart, and its follow-up, “Money,” coming in at No. 37 a month later.
BTS peaked at No. 2 on the Canadian Hot 100 — tying the group’s all-time peak on the chart — with their global smash “Butter.” Their follow-up, “My Universe,” with Coldplay, peaked at No. 9 on the chart.
Afro-pop also had a breakthrough year on the Canadian charts, with WizKid’s collab with Justin Bieber and Tems, “Essence,” peaking at No. 30 on the Canadian Hot 100, and garnering 15.4 million on-demand streams in 2021, while CKay’s “Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah)” topped out at No. 5 on the Hot 100 with 37.3 million on-demand streams.
The most popular hip-hop album of the year in Canada was The Kid Laroi’s F–k Love, with 202,000 equivalent album units earned during the year in which the collection debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard Canadian albums chart, and rose to No. 1 in August. The second-most popular rap release was Drake’s CLB (177,000), followed by Pop Smoke’s Shoot For the Stars Aim For the Moon (168,000), Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding (110,000) and Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die (99,000). The most consumed rap song of 2021 was Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut in the Ocean,” followed by 24kGoldn’s “Mood,” which was also the biggest rap song on radio.
It was also a good year for catalog sales in a year when, for the first time since MRC Data began tracking streaming data, current music streams declined in volume year over year (5.3%), even as catalog numbers bumped up by 23.8% from 2020 to 73.7% of total album consumption. Continuing a trend that picked up steam during the first COVID-19 lockdown, music fans turned to nostalgic favorites in 2021, led by Swift’s Taylor’s Version of Fearless and Red.
The former logged 16 million first week on-demand streams for the week ending April 15, for the largest streaming week ever for a country album by a female artist at the time. Red smashed that record in November with 34 million first week on-demand streams, representing a more than 110% increase from the first-week streams for Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
Just like in the U.S., Wallen’s 30-track Dangerous: The Double Album was easily the most popular country album in Canada, logging eight weeks at No. 1 on 235,000 equivalent album units over the year and a No. 1 Canada country chart hit in “More Than My Hometown.” Wallen was followed on the top albums chart by Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get (128,000) and This One’s For You (83,400) and Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) (82,900) and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (74,000).
The list of top country songs of the year was led by Combs’ “Forever After All,” followed by Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like,” Nelly and Florida Georgia Line’s “Lil Bit,” Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” and Chris Stapleton’s “Staring Over.” The year’s top R&B albums were led by The Weeknd’s After Hours (163,000), Doja Cat’s Planet Her (148,000), The Weeknd’s The Highlights (104,000), Bruno Mars’ Doo-Wops & Hooligans (49,000) and Giveon’s When It’s All Said and Done… Take Time (49,000).
The year’s most consumed dance/electronic song was Travis Scott and HVME’s “Goosebumps,” followed by tracks from Tiesto (“The Business”), Elton John & Dua Lipa (“Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)),” Riton & Nightcrawlers (“Friday”) and Joel Corry x MNEK (“Head & Heart”). The top rock songs list was ruled by Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves,” with Eurovision winners Måneskin just behind with “Beggin’,” followed by Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” Machine Gun Kelly x Blackbear’s My Ex’s Best Friend” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Independent artists including teen pop singer Aja (two million audio streams, No. 83 on the Hot 100 for “Red Button”), rapper bbno$ (17 million audio streams, No. 15 on the Hot 100 for “Edamame”) and rocker Boy Golden (500,000 audio streams, No. 2 on the Modern Rock airplay chart for “KD and Lunch Meat”), also made noise in 2021. Among the indigenous acts who hit the charts were Vancouver hip-hop group Snotty Nose Rez Kids, who scored more than 800,000 audio streams for their Life After album and indie singer Jayli Wolf’s debut five-song solo EP, Wild Whisper, which picked up more than 400,000 audio streams.