The history of the Official Charts: The twenties

Streaming begins to dominate music consumption, Kate Bush and Taylor Swift break records, the UK sees its first centenarians at Number 1, ABBA make their comeback, and the Official Singles Chart turns 70.

2020 - The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights is the biggest single of the year, racking up 195,000 downloads and 250m streams and spending eight weeks at Number 1 in the Official Singles Chart.

The biggest single released in 2020 is Head & Heart by Joel Corry Ft MNEK, claiming six weeks at Number 1. It is streamed 149m times in 2020. The only other single to stay at the summit for six weeks is Ariana Grande’s Positions.

In a year dominated by the COVID lockdown, a new cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone by Michael Ball and Captain Sir Tom Moore, in aid of NHS Charities, is among the biggest singles. Cpt Sir Tom becomes the oldest artist to top the Official Singles Chart – he takes the Number 1 spot on Friday April 24th, less than a week before his 100th birthday the following Thursday.

Dame Vera Lynn also breaks records when her greatest hits album 100 re-enters the Official Albums Chart at Number 30 in May 2017, following the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Aged 103, she becomes the oldest artist to land a Top 40 in the Albums Chart.

Another charity effort, this time from BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge Allstars, a cover of Foo Fighters’ Times Like These also tops the chart during Lockdown 1 becoming the first BBC song to reach Number 1 in 23 years.

TikTok proves a valuable pastime for those stuck at home, with hits from the likes of Doja Cat, Benee, and Megan Thee Stallion (to name a few) finding their way into the Official Singles Chart after becoming viral sensations on the app.

Lewis Capaldi’s Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent is the biggest album for the second year in a row, pipping Harry Styles’ Fine Line, which is driven by a succession of singles including Watermelon Sugar, Falling and Golden.

In September, Vick Hope joins Katie Thistleton as host of BBC Radio 1’s The Official Chart: First Look every Sunday afternoon.

While Ladbaby claims the Christmas Number 1 for the third time with Don’t Stop Me Eatin’, the Christmas stories of the year are arguably the achievements by Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You and Wham’s Last Christmas, which both make the leap to finally top the Official Singles Chart, 26 years and 36 years after their initial release respectively. They are the fifth and third Number 1s of the two acts’ careers.

2021 – As the world comes out of lockdown fully for the first time, Ed Sheeran and Adele are the biggest artists in the UK.

Sheeran’s Bad Habits is the longest running Number 1 of the year, with 204m streams and 142,000 sales to its name. The single is taken from his album =, with total chart units of 432,000.

The biggest album of the year comes courtesy of Adele, topping the Official Albums Chart for five consecutive weeks, with a chart units total of 600,000 - 502,000 of which are sales (448,000 physical, 53,000 downloads).

Olivia Rodrigo claims the second and third biggest singles of the year, with Good 4 U (driven by 167m streams) and Drivers License respectively. Drivers License, is a record breaker on its release, chalking up the highest number of streams in a day for a non-Christmas song on its release in January, a mammoth 2.407m streams.

Rodrigo’s Sour album is the fourth biggest album of the year (and the biggest debut), behind another comeback in the form of Abba’s Voyage album. The Swedish outfit’s first album of new material in 40 years, Voyage accounts for 400,000 chart units in 2021 – it’s 387,000 pure sales making it the second biggest seller of the year, behind only Adele.

2021 is also significant for the Official Charts Company’s international expansion too, as the company takes over compilation of the official charts in France from January onwards, under a deal with French labels association SNEP.

By the end of the year, the annual streaming volumes are reaching a new landmark again. In early June, the number of audio streams exceeds 3bn in a week for the first time – and by the end of the year, a total of 147bn audio streams have been delivered in the UK.

2022 - The first half of the year is dominated by Harry Styles, whose Harry’s House arrives with a bang, straight to Number 1 in the Official Albums Chart, with As It Was claims the Official Singles Chart summit for 10 weeks.

After featuring in the new season of Stranger Things, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill breaks a slew of chart records in roaring to the top of the Official Singles Chart. The 44 year gap between 1978’s Wuthering Heights and 2022’s Running Up That Hill is the longest gap between Number 1 singles by any artist. In turn, the 37 years since its initial release means it has taken the longest time to climb to the summit. And Bush becomes the oldest female artist to score a Number 1 Single, at 63 years and 11 months.

In September, after four years and two months as the permanent host of Radio 1’s The Official Chart, Scott Mills steps down to be replaced by Jack Saunders.

In October, Taylor Swift and Arctic Monkeys engage in one of the biggest album chart battles of recent years outside of the Christmas period – Swift’s 10th studio album Midnights chalks up 204,000 chart units, Monkeys’ The Car notching 120,000 chart units, as the two releases finish as Official Number 1 and 2 respectively.

As the 70th anniversary of the Official Singles Chart approaches on November 14 2022, a range of activities are organised to celebrate, including a Radio 2 programme compiling the most-streamed songs from each year from 1952 to 2022, an Official Charts Quiz Book, Now! compilation, the launch of a 70th Anniversary fan award, a t-shirt partnership with Weare1Of100.com and an exhibition at the British Music Experience in Liverpool.