It isn’t often that a debut single goes on to become the biggest song of the year. Historically, it’s taken a swaggering, genre-squashing disruptor like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” or something like Kesha’s “Tik Tok,” so hooky and energetic it might just cause withdrawal, for a track from a newbie to overthrow established stars. But can a slow-burning pop ballad about teenage heartbreak pull it off?
According to the numbers, “Drivers License” has a shot.
The song, which propelled Olivia Rodrigo from Disney star to one of the biggest new voices in pop, leads Rolling Stone‘s ranking of the biggest songs in the first half of 2021. Six months after its huge debut atop the RS 100 – it broke the record for the biggest first week in the chart’s history as well as single-day streaming records on Spotify – “Drivers License” has seen more than 3.6 million units from January 1st through June 24th, a healthy 700,000 units ahead of any other song so far.
The dominance of “Drivers License” isn’t only notable because it’s a debut single. If it maintains its lead and goes on to top Rolling Stone’s Year-End Top 100 Songs Chart, it would also be the first time in 10 years that a woman has the biggest song of the year. Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” topped Billboard’s year-end chart in 2011, and Kimbra was featured on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” the following year, but apart from that, the top songs of the year have been, well, kind of bro-y.
Even if it isn’t “Drivers License,” there’s still a good chance that the biggest song of the year will be by a woman. Dua Lipa’s Da Baby-featuring “Levitating” takes Number Two on the mid-year ranking, with close to three million units. “Levitating” has seen a pretty untraditional trajectory on the charts. The song was originally released as a single in October, but didn’t hit its peak on the RS 100 until May, when it reached Number Three. If it keeps climbing, “Levitating” could float its way to Number One by year’s end. The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” takes third in the mid-year ranking.
The Rolling Stone Top 100 chart tracks the most popular songs of the week in the United States. Songs are ranked by song units, a number that combines audio streams and song sales using a custom weighting system. The chart does not include passive listening like terrestrial or digital radio. The mid-year chart includes streams and sales from January 1st, 2021 through June 24th, 2021.
Two other new faces reach the top 10. Australian rapper Masked Wolf ranks fourth with his breakout hit “Astronaut in the Ocean,” right ahead of Cardi B’s “Up,” which pulled in 2.2 million units. Pooh Shiesty, who has proven to be one of 2021’s biggest breakthrough acts, takes ninth with “Back in Blood,” which became Shiesty’s first top 10 RS 100 hit in February.
See the full mid-year top 10 below.
Top 10 Songs, January 1st 2021 through June 24th 2021
- Olivia Rodrigo, “Drivers License” – 3.6 million units
- Dua Lipa feat. Dababy, “Levitating” – 3 million units
- The Weeknd, “Save Your Tears”- 2.7 million units
- Masked Wolf, “Astronaut in the Ocean” – 2.3 million units
- Cardi B, “Up” – 2.2 million units
- SZA, “Good Days” – 2.1 million units
- The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights” – 2 million units
- Justin Bieber, “Peaches” – 2 million units
- Pooh Shiesty, “Back In Blood” – 1.9 million units
- Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, “Leave the Door Open” – 1.9 million units