Imagine Dragons rewrite Billboard Hot 100 history, as “Radioactive” (No. 26) logs its record-breaking 77th week on the chart. The total tops the mark previously established by Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” in 2008-09.
Meanwhile, AWOLNATION’s “Sail” (No. 40) collects its 76th week on the Hot 100, matching Mraz’s now-second-best longevity.
“It’s unbelievable,” Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds tells Billboard. “There are few things more satisfying as an artist than seeing your music have longevity. But, we could never have expected to see one of our songs have legs like this.
“People seem to be connecting to it in personal ways, which is exactly what we hoped for. We’ve been out on the road and focused on touring for a long time. Somewhere along the way, we started to realize the song was taking on a life of its own.”
Upon the songs’ latest landmark frames this week, here’s an updated look at the 10 longest-charting entries in the Hot 100’s 55-year history:
Weeks, Title, Artist, Peak, Pos., Year
77, “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons, No. 3, 2013*
76, “Sail,” AWOLNATION, No. 17, 2013*
76, “I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz, No. 6, 2008
69, “How Do I Live,” LeAnn Rimes, No. 2, 1997
68, “Party Rock Anthem,” LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock, No. 1, 2011
65, “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele, No. 1, 2011
65, “You Were Meant for Me”/”Foolish Games,” Jewel, No. 2, 1997
64, “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood, No. 8, 2007
62, “Ho Hey,” the Lumineers, No. 3, 2012
62, “You and Me,” Lifehouse, No. 5, 2005
RADIO ACTIVITY AND SALES FOR ‘RADIOACTIVE’ AND ‘SAIL’ (STREAMING & SYNCHS, TOO)
“Radioactive” debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 93 the week of Aug. 18, 2012. After it dropped to No. 98 the following frame, it returned on Sept. 29, 2012, and has remained on the chart since, rising to its No. 3 peak the week of Aug. 3, 2013.
What’s behind the song’s unprecedented chart residency?
In large part, it’s crossed from rock to adult to pop radio formats over months. It topped Alternative Songs for 13 weeks beginning in March 2013. It segued to a No. 2 peak on Adult Pop Songs in August and also reached No. 2 on Pop Songs in December.
Imagine Dragons are keenly aware of the track’s build. “It helps that the song blurs genre lines. It crept its way into more and more radio formats and kept sneaking up on people. That slow growth meant more time on the charts.”
Radio agrees that the sound of “Radioactive” has been key to its long run. “I think there is a lot to the song, from the style of the vocals to the power of the song itself,” Barry McKay, program director of alternative-leaning adult pop WPTE Norfolk, Va., told Billboard in July. “It feels a little like old-school rock but still sounds new.
“The dance/rhythmic sound of other hits was beginning to burn and listeners were looking for the next exciting thing. They’ve found it in songs and bands like this.”
More recently, a collaboration has helped fuel the staying power of “Radioactive.” Its sales have been boosted the last three weeks by its remix featuring Kendrick Lamar after the band and rapper performed the song together at the Grammy Awards, broadcast live on CBS, on Jan. 26. (They also performed it on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” on Feb. 1.) The song has sold 6.6 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan (with the version featuring Lamar accounting for 228,000 of the sum). As of last week, “Radioactive” ranked as the 16th-best-selling download since SoundScan began tracking digital sales in 2003.
“Sail” by AWOLNATION (aka, Aaron Bruno) has made its waves a bit less conventionally.
It peaked at No. 17 on the Hot 100 in October, having first graced the chart the week of Sept. 3, 2011. (It’s, thus, appeared on the Hot 100 in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.) While “Sail” similarly crossed from rock to pop radio, having peaked at No. 5 on Alternative Songs in August 2011 and No. 17 on Pop Songs more than two years later, its rise has been powered less by lofty airplay chart ranks and more by non-traditional catalysts, including user-generated YouTube videos featuring the song’s audio. It’s sold 4.8 million downloads. (Follow further in-depth analysis of the steady growth of “Sail” here.)
Notably, both “Radioactive” and “Sail” were additionally aided by advertising synchs, including ads for Beats By Dre for the former song and BMW for the latter.
That both songs simultaneously crash through historical chart longevity barriers in 2014 isn’t a coincidence. Modern-day marketing methods, including commercial synchs; viral popularity; and radio’s penchant to play the biggest hits more in an era of real-time audience measurement (i.e., Nielsen Audio’s Portable People Meter) have helped spur their long chart stays.
Such factors also seem to portend that more crossover hits could make themselves comfortable for similar glacial Hot 100 stays going forward.
TRANSLATING HIT SONGS INTO ALBUM SALES
As “Radioactive” grants Imagine Dragons Hot 100 history, with AWOLNATION on its heels with “Sail,” the songs have done what singles are traditionally supposed to do: sell albums.
Following “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons have released two more singles from their debut album “Night Visions.” “Demons” ranks at No. 19 on the Hot 100, after reaching No. 6 in December, while new single “On Top of the World” bullets at No. 94 in its third chart week. (Before “Radioactive,” the album’s lead single, “It’s Time,” rose to No. 15.)
“Night Visions” reigned as the top title on Billboard’s 2013 year-end Top Rock Albums recap. (“Radioactive” finished as the year-end Hot Rock Songs No. 1, while the group ruled as 2013’s top rock act.)
On the Billboard 200 album chart this week, “Night Visions” charges 12-6, in its 76th week, as the chart’s Greatest Gainer with 41,000 copies sold, a 77% gain. With its latest frame, it passes 2 million sold to date.
“Sail” has likewise spurred sales for “Megalithic Symphony,” the parent album of AWOLNATION’s breakout hit. The set has totaled 110 weeks on the Billboard 200 and sold 529,000 copies. The album generated follow-up Alternative Songs top 10s in “Not Your Fault” (No. 3) and “Kill Your Heroes” (No. 7), both in 2012.
Additional reporting by Jason Lipshutz