The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” is indisputably one of the landmark songs of 2020 —and the only reason it isn’t even more dominant is because it was released on Nov. 29, 2019, and racked up significant numbers that year as well.
Written by The Weeknd with Max Martin (the most successful songwriter-producer of the past 25 years) and Oscar Holter and produced by the trio with Jason “DaHeala” Quenneville and Ahmad “Belly” Balshe, the song has racked up a jaw-dropping 4.5 billion global streams. It’s the most-streamed song of the year on Spotify and the ninth most-streamed song on the platform of all time (and it’s barely a year old). It’s Billboard’s No. 1 Record of the year and set an all-time record for the longest-running Top 5 and Top 10 record in the Hot 100’s 62-year history. It’s the most played song on America’s largest radio network, iHeartRadio, and has been used in everything from Pepsi and Mercedes ads to “Wrestlemania,” and it topped the singles charts in 19 major countries, for multiple weeks in many of them.
With a crystalline synth hook straight out of 1985, the song’s initial success gave The Weeknd the validation he needed to push ahead with the adventurous songs on his latest album, “After Hours,” which was released in March, several months after “Blinding Lights” dropped. In fact, in an early sign of the song’s longevity, it did not top the Alpha Data charts until April.
“At first I felt like I went overboard with ambition,” The Weeknd told Variety earlier this year. “I’m ambitious, but I thought maybe it was too much. But it wasn’t until people liked ‘Blinding Lights” that I was like, ‘This is so not what now is, and people loved it anyway.’”
Looking back over an unprecedented year that The Weeknd dominated, it all began with “Blinding Lights” (even though “Heartless” was released a few days earlier) — and while the song soundtracked some harrowing times, it also has come to symbolize strength and triumphing over adversity.
And with The Weeknd headlining the Super Bowl Halftime show on Jan. 31 — the world’s biggest stage for a musician, by far — the story is still unfolding.