Music industry data has spotlighted last year's biggest hits, with Adele, The Weeknd and Olivia Rodrigo coming out on top.

With so many outlets on which to enjoy music these days – be it the many streaming services, vinyl, CD, or Stem Player – the traditional measures of tracking what are the most popular artists and tunes in the world, like the weekly charts, have less influence than ever. Fortunately, the global music industry data organisation the IFPI has conducted a comprehensive survey of what set the music world alight in 2021, bringing clarity to the confusion.


It’s two stars from either side of the Atlantic who come out on top of the IFPI’s data for last year. Adele, who made a blockbuster return with her album ’30’, and The Weeknd, who enjoyed a year in-between albums with a Super Bowl headline show and a string of hit collabs, have emerged as the monarchs of the album and singles lists respectively.


’30’ tops the global album chart, with silver and bronze going to fellow 2021 hits ‘Sour’ by Olivia Rodrigo and ‘Justice’ by Justin Bieber. The top 10 also includes Ed Sheeran’s ‘=’, The Weeknd’s ‘After Hours’ (not even released in 2021!) and Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’ – and, in a nostalgic twist, Abba’s big comeback album ‘Voyage’.


Meanwhile, on the global singles chart, The Weekend made it two in a row after 2020’s ‘Blinding Lights’ win, with his Ariana Grande collab ‘Save Your Tears’ claiming first place with an estimated 2.15 billion paid streams. “STAY”, a collab between The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber, also nudged past 2 billion streams in second place. The leaderboard is filled out with other success stories like Dua Lipa’s “Levitating’, BTS’ “Butter”, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers Licence” and “Good 4 U” – oh, and in seventh place, “Blinding Lights” makes it again.


The data also tracked global vinyl sales, where ’30’ once again topped the list, but there was also room for evergreen classics like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, as fans add staples to their collections.


Start your guesses now on what 2022’s lists may bring – though it wouldn’t be cheating to count Adele and The Weekend, who has already released a hit new album this year, as likely overachievers once more.

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