One might argue the ubiquitous nature of BTS’ 2017 – the K-pop boy band’s ascent from occasional novelty on the Billboard charts to a group with a bona fide shot at debuting among its English-language peers with each and every release – begins with the Social 50 chart.
A year after ranking at No. 36 on the 2016 year-end Social 50 Artists chart – no small feat considering that the group didn’t even debut on the chart until late October 2016 – BTS crowns the 2017 year-end tally, a foregone conclusion for anyone following the chart over the past year. After all, BTS led the weekly ranking for all but seven weeks in the 2017 chart year (Dec. 3, 2016 through Nov. 25, 2017), and when the seven-piece wasn’t No. 1, it was No. 2.
And why not? If you so much as dabbled in the music side of Twitter this year, BTS was everywhere, even more so leading up to and following the release of September EP Love Yourself: Her, the group’s best showing yet on the Billboard 200 with a No. 7 debut on the Oct. 7-dated ranking, bowing with 31,000 units, according to Nielsen Music – numbers practically unheard of by Asian-language artists in the U.S., let alone acts without a formidable radio presence Stateside.
But the Social 50 isn’t about the traditional metrics used to measure musical success – sales, streaming, radio. The chart is driven by social interaction, specifically that which comes from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Wikipedia, as measured by Next Big Sound. And few fan bases interact with their idols – and vice versa – quite like that of BTS, with swaths of fan-run news accounts, handles whose purposes are to instruct fans on best practices to provide success on worldwide charts for the band, eagle-eyed devotees who seek out any and every opportunity to boost the signal of the group, whether it’s a high-profile celebrity tweeting about the group or a journalist dispensing news.
BTS is far from the only musical entity with this sort of rabid fan base on Twitter; in fact, it extends past music to other corners of celebrity, from actors to those simply famous for, you know, being famous. But, at least since the Social 50 began tracking this kind of data, they’re the first to produce numbers on this scale, with BTS often racking up Twitter mention counts in the ballpark of 5-15 million in a seven-day period, light years ahead of its competition, which is often lucky to count half a million. To be fair, artists like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes – who rank at Nos. 2-4 on the year-end Social 50 Artists chart for 2017 – may command that kind of attention on Instagram, but while BTS generally lags behind those artists on the service, it’s not terribly far behind either, earning Instagram reaction metrics anywhere between a half million and 1 million most weeks.
Will BTS retain its stranglehold on the weekly Social 50 chart in 2018, once the band moves away from promotion around Love Yourself: Her? Perhaps, and maybe the group will give some other artists a chance at No. 1 here and there. But don’t hold your breath — every year since 2013, BTS has put out at least one or two albums. Barring a well-deserved break, chances are 2018 won’t be any different – especially with dominance in the U.S. market finally within their grasp.
Bieber’s Break: No. 3. That’s where Justin Bieber ranks on the year-end Social 50 chart for 2017.
Seems good enough, right? Well, sure, except when you realize that Bieber was No. 1 on the year-end Social 50 Artists chart in every year (except one) since it launched in 2012. (In 2015 he was No. 2.)
Is Bieber, once a surefire commodity in the social media world, losing his grasp? No. A No. 3 year-end placing is still mighty fine, especially for an artist who was in hiatus-ish mode for much of 2017, releasing no songs in which he was the singular main-billed artist on the track. His collaborative release with BloodPop, “Friends,” and featured spots on Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” and David Guetta’s “2U” aside, Bieber was mostly focused on wrapping up his Purpose tour, and when he did, he took a backseat in the pop world to budding stars and tried-and-true superstars in the midst of album cycles.
Oh, and he didn’t have Instagram until February. After deleting the service from his life in August 2016, Bieber returned in February to promote his Super Bowl commercial for T-Mobile, and he’s been back ever since. There’s no making up for lost time (or, in this case, lost favorites), though, especially when you’re trying to combat the social media juggernaut that is BTS.
With 2017 behind him (and barring the deletion of one or more of his accounts… again), Bieber may be well-equipped to return to the top of the chart again in 2018, especially if new music is on the way. And if not, well, his 163 weeks total at No. 1 on the Social 50 are mighty indeed, but a certain K-pop act is closing the gap – and fast.
‘Despacito’ Breaks a Record: Ed Sheeran might have gotten away with it, had it not been for Justin Bieber. “Shape of You,” the No. 2 song on Billboard’s year-end Streaming Songs chart, seemed poised for monstrous streaming success in 2017, benefited by a music video, released in late January, that joined the 1 billion views club and is approaching 3 billion. Even when the song, which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Streaming Songs between March and April, was dethroned by Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.,” a hefty position on the year-end charts seemed assured.
But “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s language barrier-breaking reggaeton jam, was always there, looming just below the surface, waiting for its opportunity to strike. When “Shape” scored its four-week run at No. 1 on Streaming Songs, “Despacito” was slowly climbing, reaching No. 33 by the end of Sheeran’s reign. Then came the Bieber remix, which shot the track to No. 2 on the May 13-dated ranking. Suddenly, the song was a bulldozer of a track, destined for No. 1, competitors be damned. Its video – Bieber-free, no less – skyrocketed in views, and top 40 radio stations were beginning to give it a spin, driving its on-demand streams higher and higher.
By the end of its run, “Despacito,” the No. 1 song on the year-end Streaming Songs chart, had broken the record for most weeks spent at No. 1 on the weekly Streaming Songs chart, reigning for 16 weeks – two more than Desiigner’s “Panda,” 2016’s year-end No. 1. It gave Fonsi — a Latin superstar with years of success on the Latin charts — his first top 40-charting hit on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. It brought Daddy Yankee newfound fame after more than a decade on the charts. It tied the long-standing record for the most weeks ever at No. 1 on the Hot 100 (16 weeks!) with Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day.” It even snagged nominations for both record and song of the year at the 2018 Grammy Awards, the only song to do so for the 60th awards.
Streaming, a Hip-Hop Game: On the whole, hip-hop remains a genre whose bread and butter is in streaming, evidenced by the year-end Streaming Songs Artists ranking, on which four of the top five acts are rappers.
Kendrick Lamar leads the list, little surprise given his 18 entries on the Streaming Songs chart in 2017, led by four-week No. 1 “Humble.” and four other songs that reached the top 10.
The year-end Streaming Songs chart includes one of those songs in its top five, with “Humble.” ranking at No. 4, but Lamar can be found elsewhere as well, with “DNA.” ranking at No. 36.
The rest of the top five on Streaming Songs Artists recap includes Lil Uzi Vert at No. 2, assisted by the runaway success of “XO Tour Llif3,” the No. 7 song on the year-end Streaming Songs. Rap trio Migos rank at No. 3, while the act’s members dot the year-end Streaming Songs chart as soloists or together, led by group track “Bad and Boujee” at No. 3. Drake, who appeared on more titles – 29 – on the chart than anyone else in 2017, reaches No. 5 on the year-end Streaming Songs Artists ranking. Even the No. 4 artist, Bruno Mars, made his most R&B album of his career to date, extending the dominance by artists in the R&B and hip-hop genres.
Comparatively, 2016’s Streaming Songs Artists roundup saw two hip-hop acts – Drake (No. 1) and Desiigner (No. 5) – and one R&B singer (Rihanna, No. 3) flanked by pop’s Justin Bieber (No. 2) and alternative duo twenty one pilots (No. 4).
“Despacito” and “Shape of You,” the Nos. 1 and 2 songs on the year-end Streaming Songs ranking, may have edged above the rest, but the artist-level top five for 2017 proves that, aside from occasional blips on the radar for other genres, streaming remains a world dominated by hip-hop – in fact, its stock is rising.
Billboard’s year-end music recaps are based on chart performance between the Dec. 3, 2016 and Nov. 25, 2017 charts. Data registered before or after a title’s chart run are not considered in these standings. That methodology detail, and the December-November time period, account for some of the differences between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are compiled independently by Nielsen Music.