Skip to main content

Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ Is Radio’s Most-Played Song of 2014 (So Far)

Radio never sounded more "Happy" than it did in the first half of 2014.

Radio never sounded more “Happy” than it did in the first half of 2014.
Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” leads Nielsen BDS’ mid-year report of the most-played songs in the first half of the year on U.S. terrestrial radio stations. The track, which topped Billboard’s Radio Songs chart for eight weeks, the longest lead on the chart in 2014, received a whopping 571,000 plays in the first six months of 2014. Those plays translate to 3.3 billion in total audience reach in that span.

‘Frozen’ & Pharrell Lead Overall
Country | Dance/Electronic | Latin | Rock

“Happy” peaked with 226 million in weekly audience on Radio Songs (April 19), the second-best sum in the chart’s 23-year history. Williams also factors into the only song that’s logged a better total: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” on which and he and T.I. are featured. The smash drew a weekly high of 229 million (Aug. 31, 2013).

Guess Who Topped 2014’s Mid-Year Streaming Chart

Williams earns the mid-year crown with not only 2014’s top radio hit to date, but also one of the biggest and most versatile songs since BDS began tracking airplay in 1990. It became the first song to crown as many as six singular-format airplay charts, topping Pop Songs, Adult Pop Songs, Adult Contemporary, Rhythmic Songs, Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop and Adult R&B Songs.
John Legend’s ballad “All of Me” ranks second over the first six months of 2014 with 555,000 plays (and 3.2 billion in cumulative audience). The song ruled Radio Songs for seven weeks, peaking with 196 million (May 10).
Rounding out the five-most-played songs of January through June, Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, has garnered 554,000 plays (3.2 billion in audience); Lorde’s “Team,” 456,000 (2.4 billion); and OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars,” 420,000 (2.5 billion).
While it’s a small sample size, it’s possible to theorize about greater meaning behind the year’s top airwave earworms. Notably, veteran presence has been deemed valuable by radio: four of the five lead acts above boast chart histories dating back to between 2002 and 2007 (with 2013 rookie Lorde the lone exception). “Happy” became Williams’ longest-leading Radio Songs No. 1 as a lead artist; Legend and OneRepublic each earned their first Radio Songs toppers at last; and Perry scored her seventh No. 1.
As radio continues to battle multiple new media for listeners’ attention, perhaps the long-held mantra of playing familiar hits, often by familiar acts, has become even more adhered-to than ever?
A year ago, the five most-played radio songs in the same January-June period were, overall, by artists a bit less deep into their careers. Bruno Mars claimed the top two spots, with “When I Was Your Man” (392,000 plays) and “Locked Out of Heaven” (391,000). Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” (368,000), Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” featuring Jay Z (365,000), and 2013 newbies Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” featuring Wanz (363,000), completed the top five.
Do the stats above mean that “Happy,” or other songs in the top five through the first half of 2014, could finish as the top song of the entire year? Possibly, but it’s not a guarantee. Last year, the first-half plays leader wound up as the eighth-most heard song by December, as two songs that became ubiquitous later in the year wrapped at Nos. 1 and 2: Thicke’s “Lines” and Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” respectively.
Regardless, thanks to Williams, the first half of 2014 has kept radio listeners feeling clearly “Happy,” more than a half-million times over, in fact.

Mid-Year 2014: Radio’s Most Played Songs
(Radio Airplay for All BDS-Monitored U.S. Terrestrial Radio Stations)
  Artist Title Spins Audience
1 Pharrell Williams “Happy” 571,000 3,365,676,000
2 John Legend “All Of Me” 555,000 3,167,258,000
3 Katy Perry feat. Juicy J “Dark Horse” 554,000 3,220,610,000
4 Lorde “Team” 456,000 2,401,101,000
5 OneRepublic “Counting Stars” 420,000 2,538,228,000
6 Bastille “Pompeii” 405,000 2,229,522,000
7 Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz “Talk Dirty” 386,000 2,041,202,000
8 American Authors “Best Day Of My Life” 326,000 1,629,687,000
9 Pitbull feat. Ke$ha “Timber” 316,000 1,695,138,000
10 One Direction “Story Of My Life” 301,000 1,721,916,000

‘Frozen’ & Pharrell Lead Overall
Country | Dance/Electronic | Latin | Rock