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The Year in Rock & Alternative Charts 2021: Glass Animals Are Top Rock Artist After ‘Heat Waves’ Hot Streak

Plus: Taylor Swift, AC/DC, Maneskin & Foo Fighters are among the acts that made waves on the alternative, hard rock and Adult Alternative airplay charts in 2021.

Glass Animals’ rise to Billboard’s Top Rock Artist of 2021 wasn’t exactly an obvious conclusion at the beginning of the year.

For years, the Britain-based four-piece had seen a steady increase in fame Stateside, culminating in 2020 with their third album Dreamland debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. Lead single “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” was the band’s top-peaking song on the Alternative Airplay chart to date, hitting No. 7 that summer. A then-album track, “Heat Waves,” had enjoyed success on Hot Rock & Alternative Songs despite little radio airplay just yet, generally hovering within the Nos. 21-30 range on mostly via streaming. By year’s end, Glass Animals appeared at a modest No. 20 on the 2020 Top Rock Artists ranking.

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.


Explore All of Billboard’s 2021 Year-End Charts

The Internet can have a funny way with songs, be they old or new. “Heat Waves” went on to become the band’s first radio No. 1 earlier this year, a three-week Alternative Airplay ruler in March and April. It was then buoyed by supplementary success on user-generated content apps like TikTok, something that only grew in the summer months and is still going strong in late fall.

The result? The longest trip to No. 1 in Hot Rock & Alternative Songs history (60 weeks) and, later, a similarly historically lengthy rise to the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 (42 frames). And thanks to all that airplay, sales and streaming success – toward both “Heat Waves” and Dreamland as a whole – Glass Animals becomes Billboard’s Top Rock Artist of 2021.

In addition to Glass Animals’ artist-based chart success, the band also claims No. 2 on the year-end Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart with “Heat Waves,” while the track reaches No. 9 on the year-end Alternative Airplay survey.

The newly created Top Alternative Artists ranking, meanwhile, features Glass Animals at No. 3. Ahead of them are Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Swift and Eilish are the main beneficiaries of the first full chart year for the Hot Alternative Songs list, which began in June 2020 and coincided with the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs tally’s shift to include music that might not be considered explicitly rock but was alternative in some way, from the genres of pop, rap, dance and more.

Swift’s pair of alternative-leaning albums from 2020, Folklore and follow-up Evermore, concurrently reign on the year-end Top Alternative Albums list, with Evermore at No. 1 thanks to its Dec. 11, 2020, release date, snugly within the start of the 2021 chart year; Folklore, despite its July 24, 2020, drop, appears at No. 2 after crowning the 2020 survey.

Eilish, meanwhile, boasts three releases on the year-end Top Alternative Albums chart: 2019 debut studio album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? at No. 4, followed by 2021 follow-up Happier Than Ever (No. 5) and her initial project Dont Smile at Me (No. 6). She’s also the No. 1 act on the year-end Hot Rock & Alternative Songs Artists survey, with 18 different entries on the chart throughout the year, paced by “Therefore I Am” at No. 5 on the corresponding year-end songs tally.

While Swift and Eilish were gigantic on both an album and song level, top dog on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs and Hot Alternative Songs year-end front is 24kGoldn’s “Mood,” featuring Iann Dior. “Mood” also reigned on the former’s year-end ranking in 2020, while the latter is new for 2021.

Speaking of new year-end charts, AC/DC is 2021’s Top Hard Rock Artist, an honor bestowed not just because of the success of new album Power Up, released Nov. 13, 2020, but also the continued success of the band’s catalog on the Hard Rock Albums chart. For 2021, AC/DC claimed the Nos. 2 and 11 albums on the year-end Hard Rock Albums list, with Power Up at No. 11 and 1980 classic Back in Black at No. 2. The band also comes in at No. 7 on the new year-end Hot Hard Rock Songs Artists list and ranks at No. 9 on the corresponding songs chart with “Shot in the Dark.”

The top artist and song honors for Hot Hard Rock Songs in 2021 belong to Five Finger Death Punch and Italian rockers Maneskin, respectively. The latter leads the list with “I Wanna Be Your Slave,” while the former is runner-up with “A Little Bit Off.” Maneskin is also concurrently the top new rock artist for 2021 and even ranks at No. 9 on the overall Top Rock Artists tally.

On the radio side, twenty one pilots snag the No. 1 spot on the Alternative Airplay Artists ranking for the second year in a row following the success of No. 1 singles “Shy Away” and “Saturday,” while All Time Low’s “Monsters,” featuring Blackbear, surges atop the year-end Alternative Airplay chart as it continues its now-chart-record 79 weeks on the weekly list.

The No. 1 Adult Alternative Airplay Artist of 2021 are Foo Fighters, who charted three songs throughout the year, all of which peaked within the top three – though, peculiarly, none went to No. 1. The top song on the year-end Adult Alternative Airplay list did, though: Kings of Leon’s “The Bandit,” a six-week leader in winter 2021.

Foo Fighters also claim the No. 1 Mainstream Rock Airplay Artist honor of 2021, with three weekly chart No. 1s, led by six-week ruler “Shame Shame.” Bring Me the Horizon’s “Teardrops” rides its longevity to No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Airplay year-end songs list; despite peaking at No. 2 on the weekly surveys, it accrued 32 total weeks on the chart, half of which were in the top 10.