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2022 Music Charts: 6 Facts (and Lessons) for Songwriters

2022, the year when:


If 2022 was not the best year for your songwriting career, or if you simply wish to make 2023 even more sparkling, now it’s the best time to implement changes in your mindset and plans. But for that, you need to understand the state of the music industry and consumers’ preferences right now. And what better way to understand that than analyzing music charts? We got you covered!


SPARWK prepared a recap of what went on the music charts in 2022, with special attention to what it says about the songwriting industry. Check the 6 main conclusions we drew from the music charts in 2022 — and what each of them can teach you.


Pandemic songs were still hitting

2022 marked a slowdown of the Covid-19 pandemic in most parts of the world. It was the return of music festivals, dance clubs, and several music concerts that were postponed in 2020 and 2021.


However, some of the biggest songs of 2022 were from the peak-pandemic era.


Released in 2019, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” got traction and popularity in 2020, the same year when Covid-19 hit the globe. The song’s nostalgic beats and strangely prophetic lyrics (“the city is cold and empty / No one's around to judge me”) got so popular in the following year of its release that many people considered it the “song that defined the 2020 experience”. It also went down as the “first chart topper of the Coronavirus era”, as put by Slate Magazine. Even though we are (hopefully) saying goodbye to Covid, people are not ready to say goodbye to “Blinding Lights” yet. In the last days of 2022, the song became the #1 most streamed song in Spotify history, with 3.332 billion streams, surpassing Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” (2017).

Another song from the "pandemic era" that continued to thrive in 2022 was Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves”. Released in 2020, the song topped Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 Songs chart in 2022. It also ended 2022 as the song with the most-shared lyrics on Spotify’s yearly Wrapped charts.


What can songwriters learn from this?

“Blinding Lights” and “Heat Waves” are notorious cases of longevity in music charts. That’s remarkable in itself, and it's even more impressive that these songs’ performers come from somewhat different positions in the music industry.


Glass Waves transited in alternative scenes (and radio stations), while The Weeknd is one of the biggest pop stars in the world. As Billboard writer Eric Renner Brown said in October 2022 — when “Heat Waves” broke “Blinding Lights”’s longevity record on Billboard Hot 100 —, the songs’ paralleled journey shows that even a smaller act can “eventually match the accomplishment of a major pop artist”.



For songwriters, it’s encouraging to know that you don’t necessarily have to land cuts with huge artists to have a song that will generate years of income.


Nostalgia led pop music

"Blinding Lights" might have become a symbol of the pandemic era, but the most popular "post-pandemic" songs were not too different from its sound and style. Many 2022 hits were built off the same nostalgic feeling that the Weeknd hit evokes, through 1980s synthpop-influence.


One of them is Harry Styles’ “As It Was”, whose beats and hook bring A-Ha to mind. The song was the most-streamed song on Spotify in 2022, and the top song on the Billboard Global 200 and Global Excl. U.S. charts.

It seems like nostalgia was everywhere in 2022. It drove the production and creative concept of Taylor Swift’s Midnights (2022's best-selling album in the world, according to United World Chart). Even the hot and bright Un Verano Sin Ti was nostalgic-driven (the inspiration for the Bad Bunny album was the summer that the pandemic robbed him).


What can songwriters learn from this?

"Old" styles are never really out of style; trends from the past always come back, eventually.


But have you ever thought that "nostalgia" only works for those who have lived a specific time? For the rest, "retro" might mean novelty! Not all Harry Styles fans know "Take on Me" or any 1980s pop. So while a song like this can count on the familiarity of its sound to appeal to older fans, it can also introduce such a sound to younger generations.


As for lyrics, the past is always a good muse. Songs about times lived or unlived are great to inspire emotion and can be deeply relatable.


Christmas and the World Cup boosted songs (old and new)

Some things never change. One of them is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” dominating the U.S. charts every Christmas season. In 2022, Carey’s 1994 Christmas song expanded its own record for the most time (12 weeks) a song topped the Hot 100 for a holiday song, according to Billboard.


“All I Want for Christmas is You” also dominated Christmas in the U.K. (it hit #1 on the Official Singles Chart on the week of December 9th to 15th, 2022), where another Christmas song made history. YouTuber LadBaby’s “Food Aid” (a cover of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, recorded to raise funds for charity) was #1 for 5 consecutive weeks in 2022. With that run, LadBaby is now the act with the most number-one singles in the history of the Official UK Christmas chart. Before LadBaby, this record was held by none less than The Beatles, who had four Christmas #1s in 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1967.

Speaking of 50+ years old Christmas hits, Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958) also figured prominently at #3 on Billboard US Hot 100 during Christmas week. Meanwhile, Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song” (which was recorded in 1946, but debuted on Billboard Hot 100 in 1960) made it to the Top 10 for the first time.

While Christmas’ influence in music charts might be a particular feature of countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., some events are almost like a worldwide unanimity. One of them is the FIFA World Cup, whose impact goes beyond sports.


A 2022 World Cup official song “Dreamers”, performed by the BTS member Jungkook and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi, disrupted music charts all over the world. On the week of November 25 to 27, “Dreamers” topped iTunes charts in more than 100 countries. The song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Songs Debut USA chart, and the Top Songs Debut Global. It was the first ever FIFA official track to do so. It also got Jungkook to become the first member of BTS to have Top 10 hits on the Billboard Global 200 chart.

Even songs written in homage to previous World Cups, such as Shakira’s “Waka Waka” (2010) and MC Guimê & Emicida’s “País do Futebol” (2013), received a new influx of YouTube and Spotify streams during the 2022 World Cup.


Another “first” scored by an artist thanks to a song from FIFA’s World Cup Qatar 2022 Official Soundtrack was “Arhbo”. It gave Congolese rapper Gims his first entry on the Billboard Latin Charts (Puerto-Rican singer Ozuna is also on the track).


But the songs from the World Cup official soundtrack were not the only ones to receive a boost from the event. As songs spread organically in the stadiums and also in social media, the World Cup also has a sort of unofficial soundtrack; and as stated in an NBC headline, in 2022 it was Brazilian funk.


Brazilian memes, dance challenges, and celebratory dance moves from Brazilian soccer players got viral on TikTok, leading to the popularity of Brazilian funk hits like “Tubarão Te Amo” and “Parado no Bailão”. From December 3 to 5 (the same week as Brazil left the World Cup), these songs hit #3 and #8 respectively on Spotify US Viral Chart. They also appeared on YouTube and Spotify charts of Germany, Paraguay, Portugal, Sweden, and more countries.


In Argentina, the land of the 2022 World Cup winners, the local music charts obviously reflected the soccer euphoria too. Unsurprisingly, the World Cup hits in Argentina were songs dedicated to their team players, such as La Mosca’s “Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos a Ilusionar”, and La T y La M’s “Pa’ La Selección”. The former hit #1 on Billboard Argentina Hot 100 on the week of Argentina’s victory match, while the latter climbed to #17 on Christmas Week, following Argentinian soccer hero Lionel Messi sharing a video of his wife Antonella Rocuzzo dancing to it.


What can songwriters learn from this?

In 2022, big events had a hold on music charts — as always.


It’s always worth keeping an eye on occasions such as holidays, celebratory dates, and sporting or entertainment events, as they often represent opportunities for song placements.


But additionally, there is always the possibility that songs completely unrelated to the event will get their shine during them as well.


Songwriters must prepare for big events, but don’t get discouraged if they don’t land a song or a hit. You never know — maybe a song that you wrote for one World Cup will be the hit of the next one!


Spotify music consumption in the U.S. matched global stats

The United States is known as the “music world’s stage”. The most listened-to artists there are often the same as the rest of the world. There are some exceptions, but they are getting fewer and fewer.


When Spotify published its 2022 Wrapped charts with data about its Most-Streamed artists, the U.S.’s Top 5 was revealed to be very close to the Global Top 5:


5 MOST-STREAMED ARTISTS ON SPOTIFY IN 2022

GLOBAL

U.S.

1

Bad Bunny

Drake

2

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

3

Drake

Bad Bunny

4

The Weeknd

Kanye West

5

BTS

The Weeknd

It’s the closest these two rankings have ever been in this decade.


In 2021, two artists among the 5 most-streamed in the U.S. did not appear on the Global Top 5: JUICE WRLD and Kanye West (instead, BTS and Justin Bieber figured in the Global Top 5). In 2020, there were three artists in the U.S. Top 5 (Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, and Taylor Swift) who did not figure in the Global Top 5 (Bad Bunny, J Balvin and The Weeknd appeared instead).


If 2023 follows the same pattern, it might be the first time when the U.S. Top 5 will be identical to the Global 5.


Check a comparison of the most-streamed artists on Spotify across the years:


MOST-STREAMED ARTISTS ON SPOTIFY 2020

GLOBAL

U.S.

1

Bad Bunny

Juice WRLD

2

Drake

Drake

3

J Balvin

Lil Uzi Vert

4

Juice WRLD

Post Malone

5

The Weeknd

Taylor Swift

MOST-STREAMED ARTISTS ON SPOTIFY 2021

GLOBAL

U.S.

1

Bad Bunny

Drake

2

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

3

BTS

Juice WRLD

4

Drake

Kanye West

5

Justin Bieber

Bad Bunny

MOST-STREAMED ARTISTS ON SPOTIFY 2022

GLOBAL

U.S.

1

Bad Bunny

Drake

2

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

3

Drake

Bad Bunny

4

The Weeknd

Kanye West

5

BTS

The Weeknd

What can songwriters learn from this?

The U.S. is increasingly reflecting the world's preferences in music.


While many of the most-listened artists in the world are still English-speakers, acts like J Balvin, Bad Bunny and BTS show that other languages can belong to the centre of the music world as well.


For songwriters, what it means is that it is possible to carve a career in the #1 music market in the world without necessarily being there, or even writing songs in English.


K-pop girl groups broke the niche

In fewer industries, the power of fandoms influences music charts as much as it does in K-pop. The general public that is not familiar with K-pop is often confused as to how "unknown" acts reach such big numbers. The general popularity of K-pop is restricted to one or two groups, or maybe less if we judge by songs rather than the group’s names.


The year 2022 may have been the year where that has changed, and it started with women. While BTS and PSY continue to be the face of K-pop in many ways, statistics suggest that some K-pop girl groups are getting known beyond K-pop connoisseurs or their specific fanbases.


When 2022 started, BLACKPINK’s status was by no means of rookies or strangers to the world. Yet the year proved to be a groundbreaking one for the girl group to expand its reach. On August 19 to 21, BLACKPINK's “Pink Venom” debuted at #1 on Spotify’s Global Songs chart. It was the first song mainly sung in Korean to reach and debut in this position. One month later, another single by the group, “Shut Down”, topped this same chart (these two songs also reached striking features on Billboard and YouTube).

Another K-pop girl group reaching unprecedented heights in 2022 was NewJeans, who just debuted in the same year. While having only 4 songs on their discography, NewJeans reached an impressive amount of 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify. On August 26, their song “Hype Boy” hit #1 on Spotify Viral 100 chart, where it stayed for days.


These are historic features that can hardly be credited exclusively to fan efforts only and represent the songs’ overall knowledge and popularity as well.


What can songwriters learn from this?

As we wrote in “2023 Music Trends”, K-pop will continue to grow in 2023. It might even grow in unexpected ways.


Groups like NewJeans are bringing a fresh approach to the K-pop sound. BLACKPINK keeps raising their own bar for releasing songs that are as true to K-pop as they are accessible to people unfamiliar with K-pop.


There's much to discuss as to what the "K-pop sound" is at all, or if it's a good or bad thing that it's reflecting West pop music steadily more. Come what may, the K-pop industry is big enough to accommodate different styles, which leads to more opportunities for songwriters.


Latin music disrupted itself

Many people read the rise of Latin music as solely “the rise of reggaeton”. But the truth is that “the Latin music scene is far from a homogeneous bunch”, as we reported in our “2023 Music Trends” article.


2022 was not only the biggest year for Latin Music, in commercial terms. It was also a year when its success was driven by a wide array of genres, and artists from varied countries and backgrounds. Here are some facts and stats that show it:

  • Mexican regional music reached new heights with the independent act Grupo Frontera. With “No Se Va”, the group made its first entry ever on Billboard Hot 100, at #99. On October 14 to 20, the video for the song was the 3rd most-watched in the world;

  • Colombian singer Manuel Turizo put bachata on the top of the world with "La Bachata", one of the most successful Spanish-language songs of the year (it hit #1 on Billboard's Latin Airplay charts for multiple weeks);

  • Producer Bizarrap showed the power of Argentinian hip hop with the project Bzrp Music Sessions, which featured collaborations with artists from Argentina, Spain, Puerto Rico, and more. In August, Bizarrap & Quevedo’s "Vol. 52" topped the global Spotify chart for more than 20 consecutive days;

  • The biggest 2022 hit from reggaeton’s biggest icon Bad Bunny was not even a reggaeton song. Bad Bunny's “Titi me preguntó” is a mix of hip hop with dembow and bachata; it was Spotify's 5th most-streamed song in the world;

  • Anitta cracked the code for hitting the Spanish-speaking market, and even the U.S. market, with "Envolver". The track cemented Brazil in the modern roster of Latin music, which the Portuguese-speaking country has a hard time fitting.


What can songwriters learn from this?

It's tempting to mimic what's hot right now or stick to what seems to be the standard in a music genre or niche. But trying different things, or simply getting to learn more about them, can pay off.


The Latin music industry, which had struggled with prejudice for a long time and is still widely stereotyped, is showing that it can thrive if it stays true to its inherent diversity. More diversity means more possibilities, opportunities, and potential.


Don't be afraid of expanding your perspectives as a songwriter!


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