Just One of 2020's Top Songs Came From a Solo Songwriter - Rolling Stone
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Just One of 2020’s Top Songs Came From a Solo Songwriter

And only 4% of Top 50 songs from the last 10 years have been written by a single writer, according to our review of data from the last decade

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Tones And I performs on stage at O2 Forum Kentish Town on February 28, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)

Tones And I performs on stage at O2 Forum Kentish Town on February 28, 2020 in London, England.

Gus Stewart/Redferns/Getty Images

It’s fitting that a song about doing it yourself is the only track in Rolling Stone‘s year-end Top 50 chart to be penned by a single writer. The song in question, Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey,” was inspired by busking, which is exactly what the Australian artist — born Toni Watson — quit her job to do for the sake of following her dream.

Watson writes all of her own music, which is a rarity these days, but especially in popular music. Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over” was the only song written by a single writer in 2019’s year-end Top 50. And in 2018, Travis Scott broke the record for most writers credited on a single song with a horde of 30 writers on his track “Sicko Mode.”

Rolling Stone reviewed data on 10 years of music hits and found that, over the last decade, only 4% of the year-end Top 50 songs have come from an individual. And the figure drops to 3.2% if you count by number of unique songwriters. (Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph wrote three of these single-writer songs, as did Calvin Harris.) In combining these lists, it appears that it takes, on average, five writers to write a hit song.

Here’s every Top 50 song written by one writer from 2010 to 2020, presented in chronological order — first by charting year then release date. Data from 2015 to 2020 utilizes Rolling Stone’s year-end charts and their data provider Alpha Data; due to Alpha Data’s lack of older sales figures, data from 2010 to 2015 comes from Billboard’s Hot 100 charts and Nielsen Music. The RS charts rank songs by streams and sales and do not include radio airplay or YouTube views, while the Billboard charts do include radio airplay and, as of 2013, YouTube. Asterisks denote Top 10 records.

1. Owl City, “Fireflies” (Adam Young)
2. Usher, “OMG” (will.i.am)*
3. Taylor Swift, “Mine” (Taylor Swift)
4. The Band Perry, “If I Die Young” (Kimberly Perry)
5. Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks” (Mark Foster)
6. Calvin Harris, “Feel So Close” (Calvin Harris)
7. Rihanna, “We Found Love” (Calvin Harris)*
8. AWOLNATION, “Sail” (Aaron Bruno)
9. Passenger, “Let Her Go” (Mike Rosenberg)
10. Bastille, “Pompeii” (Dan Smith)
11. OneRepublic, “Counting Stars” (Ryan Tedder)*
12. Pharrell Williams, “Happy” (Pharrell Williams)*
13. Calvin Harris, “Summer” (Calvin Harris)
14. Hozier, “Take Me to Church” (Andrew Hozier-Byrne)
15. Ruth B, “Lost Boy” (Ruth Berhe)
16. Mike Posner, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” (Mike Posner)
17. Twenty One Pilots, “Stressed Out” (Tyler Joseph)*
18. Twenty One Pilots, “Ride” (Tyler Joseph)
19. Twenty One Pilots, “Heathens” (Tyler Joseph)
20. Ed Sheeran, “Perfect” (Ed Sheeran)
21. Billie Eilish, “When the Party’s Over” (Finneas O’Connell)
22. Tones and I, “Dance Monkey” (Toni Watson)

In This Article: music industry, Tones and I

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