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The Year in Rock Charts 2020: Panic! at the Disco Reigns, But a Challenger Appears in Machine Gun Kelly

Panic! at the Disco is Billboard’s top rock artist for a second straight year, but in 2020, a new challenger appeared -- and a few years ago, he wouldn’t have even been in the…

Panic! at the Disco is Billboard’s top rock artist for a second straight year, but in 2020, a new challenger appeared — and a few years ago, he wouldn’t have even been in the conversation.

After Machine Gun Kelly’s alternative turn with “I Think I’m Okay” from 2019’s Hotel Diablo, a No. 3 hit on Billboard’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart in late 2019, he went full pop-punk with 2020 album Tickets to My Downfall, a commercially and critically successful release that vaults him to No. 2 on the year-end Top Rock Artists tally for 2020.

Still, no one could touch Panic! at the Disco, who kicked off the year continuing its reign atop Hot Rock & Alternative Songs with the inescapable “High Hopes,” which eventually ruled the list for a record 65 weeks — more than double the amount of its closest competitor, Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens,” with 30 frames.

Billboard’s year-end music recaps represent aggregated metrics for each artist, title, label and music contributor on the weekly charts dated Nov. 23, 2019, through Nov. 14, 2020. The rankings for Nielsen Music/MRC Data-based year-end 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 Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

Explore All of Billboard’s 2020 Year-End Charts

But halfway through the year, Billboard altered its methodology for Hot Rock & Alternative Songs — previously called Hot Rock Songs — 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. That change in June brought about a whole new crop of songs on the chart, with Powfu’s “Death Bed,” featuring Beabadoobee, the first song to crown the redone ranking. (This year’s Top Rock Artists chart, in order to provide the cleanest ranking possible, includes just those in the rock genre, despite the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs change midway through the year. In 2021, expect a list that includes some of the chart’s new players, such as Billie Eilish, 24kGoldn, Powfu and more.)

Machine Gun Kelly’s success coincides with him also being No. 3 on the year-end Top Hot Rock & Alternative Songs Artists tally for 2020, thanks to more than a dozen charting entries, led by the No. 3 peaks of “Bloody Valentine” and “My Ex’s Best Friend” (the latter alongside Blackbear), plus a featured credit on the No. 3-peaking “Sick and Tired” by Iann Dior. Despite its mid-October release, just before the close of the 2020 chart year, Tickets to My Downfall is also No. 22 on the year-end Top Rock Albums list, ruling the weekly tally for four weeks during the tracking year, including the final frame of the year.

He continued his newfound success on alternative radio as well; he’s No. 14 on Top Alternative Airplay Artists, with four entries in the chart year, led by “Bloody Valentine,” No. 14 on Top Alternative Airplay for 2020 after its No. 2 peak on the weekly ranking for six weeks from Sept. 26-Oct. 31.


Meanwhile, Fleetwood Mac vaults 11-3 on Top Rock Artists for 2020, a circumstance spurred by the band’s viral moment in the fall of 2020 when a man created a TikTok to the band’s classic “Dreams” that helped the song return to prominence not just on the rock charts — but also the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 12 in late October, 43 years after its No. 1 reign in June 1977.

“Dreams” led a five-song onslaught of Fleetwood Mac songs on Hot Rock & Alternative Songs in October as a result, peaking at No. 2. Band standards “The Chain,” “Landslide,” “Go Your Own Way” and “Gypsy” also appeared, helping the band to No. 13 on the year-end Top Hot Rock & Alternative Songs Artists ranking, while 1977’s Rumours is No. 3 on the year-end Top Rock Albums.

With the aforementioned change to Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, it’s one of the chart’s newly eligible titles, “Mood” by 24kGoldn featuring Iann Dior, that crowns the year-end list. The No. 2 is in the same boat — the Juice WRLD and Marshmello collaboration “Come & Go” — while all-time-weeks-at-No. 1 champ “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco is No. 3.

For the first time, Twenty One Pilots have the No. 1 song on the year-end Alternative Airplay chart, thanks to “Level of Concern.” Released early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 14-week leader on the weekly Alternative Airplay chart exceeds the duo’s “Ride,” which was the No. 2 song on the year-end 2016 tally. The song — along with fellow Twenty One Pilots single “The Hype” — are also Nos. 1 and 2 on the year-end Rock Airplay survey, the first time since the chart began in 2009 that the same act holds the top two.

Twenty One Pilots are the No. 1 year-end artist on both Alternative Airplay and Rock Airplay tallies as well. Black Pumas is the top artist on the year-end Adult Alternative Songs roundup and Five Finger Death Punch leads the year-end Mainstream Rock Songs artists ranking. Black Pumas reigns thanks in part to one-week No. 1 “Colors” in February 2020 plus the No. 3-peaking “Fire” in August, while Five Finger Death Punch ruled for eight weeks between four-frame leaders “Inside Out” and “A Little Bit Off.”

“A Little Bit Off” is also the year-end No. 1 song on Mainstream Rock Songs, while Adult Alternative Songs leads with Bakar’s “Hell N Back,” which was No. 1 on the weekly ranking for two weeks in July.