Records are made to be broken
Following the release of Views, Drake scored 20 entries on the Billboard Hot 100. 18 of the album’s 20 tracks made the chart thanks to streaming and digital sales (Hotline Bling wasn’t one of them, as it charted last year), while two other songs were already charting. Plus, the album debuted at #1 on the album chart with over 850,000 copies sold.
Drake’s 20 simultaneous chart entries beat a record held by Justin Bieber since December when he placed 17 songs on the chart in a single week following the release of his album Purpose. Before that, Drake charted 14 songs on two separate occasions in 2015, tying the record held by The Beatles for 51 years when they famously charted 14 singles on the Hot 100 in a single week back in 1964.
Meanwhile, this week, Rihanna scores her 29th Top 10 hit, putting her in a tie for third place with Michael Jackson. Only The Beatles (34) and Madonna (38) have more Top 10s. (and Elvis Presley, who has 36, however that number includes singles from before the start of the Hot 100).
Records held by legends, broken by relatively new modern day artists. A topic that never fails to rile fans of the classics, resulting in the predictable and never-ending ‘old > new’ debate.
At face value, it is an easy comparison to make. Justin Bieber and now Drake have both surpassed one of the many records the Beatles held since their heyday. Rihanna is well on her way to owning some major records of her own. In addition to her numerous top 10 singles, she’s also behind only The Beatles, Mariah Carey (and Elvis) for most #1 singles. She’s in their league now.
Facts are facts and records are made to be broken, but there’s more to the facts than what often gets presented, and leaving interpretation up to the reader can result in some disagreement (re: a lot) or at the very least, some interesting discussion.
Underneath those facts, it is worth noting that the Hot 100 has changed a lot over the years. What was dependent purely on the availability of physical singles soon adapted to allow radio airplay into the equation. When digital became prominent, so too did digital singles, and then streaming was entered into the mix.
So not only has the Hot 100 changed, so has the industry itself. How singles get tracked has evolved with the changing times and technology. How music itself is consumed has changed. No longer are we limited to record stores and radio, we now have the internet and streaming, opening up avenues undreamed of 20, 30, 50 years ago.
Even the the single itself has changed. Now an artist doesn’t have to release one song at a time to radio for it to count as a single. Today, there might be a ‘teaser track’ released to announce the upcoming album, followed by a dedicated-radio single, then a promo single released to digital outlets, then a song with a music video for Youtube/Vevo, and maybe an exclusive to Pitchfork. And all of those songs could chart as singles – and THEN the album is released, allowing the remaining tracks to be purchased or streamed separately, giving them enough points to chart individually as well.
Prior to the release of both Red and 1989, Taylor Swift had three songs from each album make the Hot 100 despite only one being a traditional single, thanks to ‘countdown singles’ released one and two weeks before the albums, respectively. Beyonce‘s last two albums came with music videos for each song, something previously only done for traditional singles. And Tegan and Sara have already released four tracks from their upcoming album, even though it’s not out until next month, and they intend on making a music video for each, having three out already.
The fact that The Beatles longstanding record was matched or surpassed four times in the last year is evidence enough that change has occurred. For a record to go unmatched for 51 years, only to be met four times in one year is no coincidence. Back in 1964, the charts were dependent on availability, making the Beatles 14 chart entries rather impressive since that meant having physical singles available for those 14 songs and having enough of them to sell enough to make the Hot 100.
Of course, this isn’t to diminish accomplishments made by today’s big names. Drake, Bieber, Rihanna – they still have the challenge of attracting music listeners to either buy their songs, or stream them in high enough numbers to surpass those of other artists and make the charts. It’s seemingly easier to do, or maybe it just comes down to availability and ease – something music fans 50 years ago didn’t have as much of.
So no need to feel threatened, classic rock fans. The records may get broken, but the legacy does continue to live on!