Adele finishes 2016 in a familiar place: on top. Nearly five years after her last blockbuster album — 2011’s 21, which spent 24 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — the 28-year-old British pop powerhouse returned as if she had never left, closing out 2016 as Billboard’s top artist for a record third time. (She previously ruled 2011 and 2012.)
Long breaks between albums seem only to confirm that Adele’s adoring fan base will spring for new music no matter when it arrives. Her third studio album, 25, hit shelves on Nov. 20, 2015, with a blend of epic ballads and soulful pop similar to that on her sophomore hit, 21, and easily conquered the Billboard 200, blasting in at No. 1 with a Nielsen Music-era (1991 to the present) record of 3.4 million copies sold in its first week. So far, those sales have climbed to 9.1 million and counting.
The album’s runaway success ?is especially impressive — and indicative of Adele acolytes’ enduring loyalty — considering the fact that the singer initially shunned streaming services, denying 25 to Spotify until seven months after the album’s release. That didn’t hurt 25 one bit: It spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Billboard 200 (a chart driven by both track and album sales plus streaming) and is far and away the chart’s year-end winner.
That Adele announced her? return with one of the year’s most inescapable singles certainly helped her clinch 2016’s top charts prize. “Hello” felt like a nod to listeners who had stuck out the last five years, going on to rule both the Billboard Hot 100 (staying at No. 1 for 10 weeks) and the pop culture landscape (see the numerous Lionel Richie vs. Adele “Hello” memes, a viral “Carpool Karaoke” segment and a “Hello”-inspired Saturday Night Live skit, for starters).
The song closes out 2016 as ?the Hot 100’s year-end No. 7 track — the second time Adele has finished within the top 10 on that list, following her No. 1 in 2011 with “Rolling in the Deep.” And it’s just one of 25’s triumphs: Two other tracks, “When We Were Young” ?and “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” charted in the weekly Hot 100’s top 20, and Adele went on to sell out a world tour, raking in more than $150 million from 100-plus shows across Europe and North America and finishing the year as the No. 4 tour.
On the year-end Hot 100, another artist who stepped away from the pop world claims the top two songs: Justin Bieber, who released Purpose the same month as Adele’s 25, and more than three years after his previous studio effort, 2012’s Believe.
Thanks to a new tropical house-influenced sound and a trio of 2016’s most infectious singles, Bieber returned to pop as a bona fide superstar. Purpose topped the Billboard 200, and Bieber earned his first three No. 1 songs on the Hot 100, becoming only the third artist in the chart’s 58-year history to score its year-end top two songs (“Love Yourself ” and “Sorry”). The last act to achieve that? Bieber’s mentor, Usher, with “Yeah!” (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris) and “Burn” in 2004, and, before him, The Beatles in 1964 with their debut hits “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”
Bieber’s return started strong in early 2015 with the Diplo and Skrillex collaboration “Where Are U Now” (reaching No. 8 on the Hot 100). His first Hot 100 No. 1 followed that — Purpose lead single “What Do You Mean?” — and he continued to turn out hits throughout 2016: the Ed Sheeran co-write “Love Yourself ” and “Sorry” led the Hot 100 for two and three weeks, respectively.
While “Love Yourself” and “Sorry” may have logged relatively brief visits to the No. 1 slot, their lengthy runs inside the top 10 helped cement their year-end status: “Love Yourself” ranked in the top 10 for 24 weeks (only 18 songs have managed a run at least that long in the chart’s history), while “Sorry” scored 21 weeks in the region.
At No. 3 on the 2016 year-end Hot 100 roundup is Billboard’s official song of the summer, Drake’s “One Dance” featuring WizKid and Kyla. Drake pops up at No. 4 on the tally as well, as he’s the featured act on Rihanna’s “Work,” while Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” rounds out the top five. Thus, two artists – Bieber and Drake – place two songs each among the top four songs of the year. That feat last happened in 2009, when The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” were Nos. 1 and 4, bookending Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and “Just Dance” (featuring Colby O’Donis) at Nos. 2 and 3.
Twenty One Pilots lead the year-end top artists–duo/group category thanks to the duo’s Billboard 200-topping success with Blurryface and its smash singles. In fact, Twenty One Pilots became the first rock act to notch three Hot 100 top five hits in a year since INXS back in 1988. Bieber is the year’s top male, and Adele, of course, leads the way for the ladies. R&B/hip-hop artist Bryson Tiller is 2016’s top new artist, fueled by the 23-year-old’s debut studio album Trapsoul, which finishes at No. 11 on the year-end Billboard 200 list.
Billboard’s year-end music recaps are based on chart performance during?the span of Dec. 5, 2015, and Nov. 26, 2016. The year-end top artist category ranks the best-performing acts of the year derived from activity on the Billboard 200 albums tally and the Billboard Hot 100 singles list, as well as streaming, social and Billboard Boxscore data. 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.