End of year reports from Spotify, Apple and Google have spotlighted the songs we couldn’t stop streaming in 2019, as the decade that revolutionised music distribution and the industry draws to a close.
Spotify’s ever-popular “Wrapped” end of year breakdown crowned American genre-blending rapper Post Malone as the most streamed artist in the world as well as in Australia.
He shot to the top of the list by linking up with Swae Lee — one half of brotherly duo Rae Sremmurd — for the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack’s Sunflower, which manages to excel at setting the mood on the way to the club just as easily as it does leaving it alone at 3am.
The track notched up 6.5 billion streams worldwide this year.
While it was technically released last year, the song also made it onto Post Malone’s album Hollywood’s Bleeding, released in September.
That album’s lead single Wow, released on Christmas Eve last year, came in at number four on Spotify’s list.
17-year-old singer Billie Eilish took out the most streamed Spotify album of the year with WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? — a breakout album for the teenager in what has proven to be a breakout year.
It’s the first time a woman has taken out the title.
She also garnered praise from Apple Music, which named her Artist of The Year in its inaugural Apple Music awards, and awarded her Album of the Year for the most streamed, racking up more than a billion streams on the platform.
Ms Eilish wasn’t honoured with Breakthrough Artist of the Year however.
That went to Lizzo, who blew up towards the end of the year thanks to her catchy and forthright dust-off single Truth Hurts, off the album Cuz I Love You. Apple also praised Lizzo’s “joyful, bawdy message of self-love” and for challenging the idea of what a pop star should look and sound like, saying she “redefined the terms and image of pop stardom”.
Apple’s Song Of The Year for most streamed song — like Spotify’s — also went to a genre-blending rapper.
Lil Nas X and his breakout country-rap single Old Town Road went viral on TikTok at the start of the year, prompting a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus that spent a record 18 weeks at number one.
Spotify’s most streamed track in Australia by a local artist went to Tones And I for Dance Monkey, though the Spotify award likely pales in comparison to the four ARIA awards she picked up the other night.
The song also broke in to the top 20 most streamed globally, coming in at number 17.
Dean Lewis came in second with Be Alright and 5 Seconds of Summer closed out the top three with Youngblood.
Aussie hip-hop stalwarts Hilltop Hoods was the most streamed local artist on Spotify.
The Hoods also made an appearance on a list from Google.
While Google does have its own music streaming platform called Play Music, it is in the process of transitioning those users to a new platform called YouTube Music that is designed to integrate more with the company’s popular video sharing platform, which is also widely used as a music service.
In YouTube’s Rewind retrospective, Hilltop Hoods came in at number six on Australia’s top trending music video’s by local artists, with their song Exit Sign, featuring fellow Aussie rappers Illy and Ecca Vandal. But far more noticeable on the list was the frequency of a different Australian hip-hop group that have been making a lot of noise in recent weeks.
ONEFOUR claimed three spots on the top 10 list with videos for their songs Spot the Difference, The Message, and Ladz in the Hood claiming the second, third, and ninth positions respectively.
The rap group from western Sydney’s Mount Druitt area has been attracting a lot of attention in recent weeks, both at home and around the world.
Earlier this week half of the group were sent to jail over a violent 2018 brawl in a Rooty Hill pokies room.
The sentencing comes after the group had to cancel a planned national tour due to venue issues, which they claim were caused by NSW Police pressuring the locations to stop the shows going ahead. NSW Police denied that was the case.
The ongoing battle between the group and the authorities has prompted comparisons to the rise of revolutionary rap group NWA (comprised primarily of now billionaire Dr. Dre, rapper and filmmaker Ice Cube, and the now deceased Eazy-E) in the US west coast rap scene towards the end of the 1980s.
It’s also led to debate about whether the group, from one of the most disadvantaged areas in Australia, should be given the opportunity to perform and potentially change their circumstances for the better.
“They want to get us off the street, yet they won’t give us a chance to. We’ve played three shows with no problems, yet they’re still trying to shut us down. While we’re trying to work and be productive, they want to flex their authority,” the group said in a statement to the ABC.
ONEFOUR did manage to make a brief public appearance last month when they were brought onstage by teen rapper The Kid Laroi, a 16-year-old from Sydney’s Redfern who earlier this year signed a massive deal with Sony Music and has since relocated to the US.
The group also made a surprise guest appearance during Canadian producer Murda Beatz’ performance at Festival X in Sydney.
ONEFOUR perform drill music, an often confronting but undeniably intoxicating subgenre of rap music that grew out of the heavily segregated and violent US city of Chicago at the start of the decade through acts like Chief Keef and Young Chop. It made its way over to the UK, where it was accused of promoting violence. The genre has now made its way to Australia and is being accused of doing the same here.
ONEFOUR’s management defended the group’s lyrical content, saying the “songs depict a life of adversity and conflict that few outsiders have access to but that has connected them to a wide and growing fan base”.
“They have come out of one of the most disadvantaged postcodes in Australia and are on the verge of being the first rap band to break into the US and UK music scene,” the statement to the ABC said.
Despite the immense attention, both positive and negative, the group has recently received, it wasn’t enough for ONEFOUR to take out the top spot on YouTube’s list.
Ironically enough, they were pipped by an artist that appeared on the list at both one and four.
There are no prizes for guessing top spot went to Tones and I for Dance Monkey, but she also took out the fourth spot with Johnny Run Away.
By far the weirdest stat to come out of Spotify’s Wrapped report is the most popular songs by city.
Billie Eilish was predictably popular in gloomy Melbourne with Bad Guy, while Sunflower was most popular in all the other capitals, aside from Hobart and Darwin.
They may be comparatively sleepy cities, but the most popular songs in both were literally designed to send you to sleep. Erik Eriksson’s Pure Brown Noise took the crown in Hobart and a song called Baby Sleep Shhh: The Perfect Settling Tool for Babies! proved popular in Darwin.