As the books officially close on 2021, Columbia Records has another reason to celebrate a historic year. On the Hot 100 charts dated for 2021 (Jan. 2 – Dec. 25), Columbia held the No. 1 spot for 33 total weeks, the most the label has achieved in the Hot 100’s 63-year history. And among those 33 weeks, Columbia had nine different songs reach the top spot, the most for a label in a single year since MRC Data information began powering the chart in 1991.
Also notably, those were by seven different artists, led by BTS’ “Butter,” which spent 10 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 over the summer. The other songs to take the top spot were Mariah Carey’s holiday classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (two weeks), 24KGoldn’s “Mood” (two weeks), Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby” (one week apiece), Polo G’s “Rapstar” (two weeks), BTS’ “Permission To Dance” (one week), The Kid LAROI’s “Stay” (seven weeks) and Adele’s “Easy On Me” (seven weeks). BTS also spent an additional week at No. 1 as part of Coldplay’s hit “My Universe,” though that song was released through Atlantic.
Overall, Columbia’s 33 weeks atop the chart represents the third-highest total of any label in any year, behind only Zomba (42 weeks in 2004) and Republic (36 weeks in 2018). Of those three years, Columbia’s nine different No. 1s and seven different artists are the most: Zomba’s record in 2004 was driven by seven No. 1 hits, four of which were by Usher — OutKast, with two, and Ciara had the others — and all of which were on the LaFace imprint; Republic’s 2018 total was driven by five No. 1s, with Drake alone accounting for three of them (“God’s Plan,” “In My Feelings” and “Nice For What”) across 29 weeks, with Ariana Grande and Post Malone the others to record chart toppers.
It’s an impressive feat for Columbia and chairman/CEO Ron Perry, who took over at the beginning of 2018 and has seen a number of artists reach their first Hot 100 No. 1s on his watch, including Lil Nas X in 2019; Harry Styles, BTS, Jawsh 685 and 24kGoldn in 2020; and Polo G and Kid LAROI in 2021.
“We’re truly humbled by this achievement,” Perry said in a statement to Billboard. “Our artists released groundbreaking music. Our team brought incredible dedication, strategy and ideas and [Sony Music Group chairman] Rob Stringer gave us his unwavering support. We don’t take any of this for granted.”
Each of the No. 1s took a different path to the top for the label. For instance, this was the second year in a row that the year was essentially bookended by Carey’s “Christmas” smash in both January and December, reflecting the song’s cemented status as a cultural benchmark for the holiday season. And “Mood,” released through Barry Weiss’ RECORDS imprint, was a holdover from 2020, when it climbed to the top in the fall and maintained its momentum into January.
For Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” was the first single off the artist’s official debut album, and heralded the new era following the record-breaking success of his debut “Old Town Road.” Between the quality of the music and the ingenuity of Nas’ marketing ideas — like creating a fake Maury Povich show appearance based on the music video for “That’s What I Want” — the label was able to help him to two successive No. 1s this year, helping parent album Montero surpass 1 million equivalent album units in the United States, according to MRC Data.
With The Kid LAROI’s “Stay” feat. Justin Bieber, the No. 1 was the culmination of a steady building process undertaken over the course of a year, as his debut project F*ck Love was released as a series of deluxe editions from July 2020 to July 2021, with singles like “Go” (which peaked at No. 52 on the Hot 100) and the Miley Cyrus-assisted “Without You” (which peaked at No. 8) paving the way for “Stay” to reach the top. It’s a strategy that has echoes in Polo G’s success with “Rapstar,” a single from his third album, Hall of Fame: each of his trio of albums reached a higher Billboard 200 mark than the one prior, building a fan base to the point where “Rapstar,” which the artist himself chose as the single, pushed all the way to the top.
BTS, of course, has become a cultural phenomenon with a dedicated fan base, and by the time “Butter” was released the K-Pop group had already secured a pair of Hot 100 No. 1s with “Dynamite” and “Life Goes On” in 2020 (as well as another remixing Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love”), with the former in particular opening up the U.S. market as the group’s first English-language hit. “Butter” followed in those footsteps with another hit that delivered on a musical level, becoming a radio hit, too.
And then there was Adele, coming back for the first time in six years with the emotional ballad “Easy On Me,” heralding the return of one of the biggest artists in the industry. Even in a music business that looks radically different from the one that existed for her previous album cycle — notably, she withheld 25 from streaming services upon its initial release back in 2015, a tactic that was not really on the table in 2021 — “Easy On Me” became the most-streamed song in a single day on Spotify as it debuted at No. 1 in October.