The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande Topped All 2021 Radio Plays, Per Mediabase Report

Dua Lipa had the most-played song across radio formats with "Levitating."

The Weeknd
Courtesy Republic Records

The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande were the three most-played artists across radio formats in 2021, followed by Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo, according to a year-end report from Mediabase.

Rounding out the top 10 radio artists in Mediabase’s ranking were Pop Smoke, Doja Cat, 24kGoldn, Ava Max and Drake.

Although she was only the fourth-biggest artist at radio overall, Dua Lipa had the No. 1 most-played song for the year, in the form of “Levitating” — a song that famously soared at radio, fell off for a while, and then came back to be the monster hit of the year.

24kGoldn was another artist that had a lot of its 2021 firepower concentrated in just one smash, as “Mood,” a track with a feature from Iann Diorr, landed at No. 2 on the year-end all-format chart.

Rounding out the top 10: the Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” at No. 3, followed by Chris Brown and Young Thug’s “Go Crazy,” Grande’s “Positions,” an older Weeknd trak, “Blinding Lights,” Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open,” Doja Cat and SZA’s “KIss Me More,” Max’s “Kings & Queens” and “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon.

What’s interesting was how Rodrigo could land in the No. 4 slot as an artist without having any songs make the top 10 — indicating just how well-dispersed the power of her sequential hits was. If you’re thinking that her career-establishing smash “Drivers License” was her top tune, think again. “Good 4 U” was Rodrigo’s highest ranking song, at No. 16, followed by “Drivers License” at No. 18 and “Deja Vu” at No. 23.

Bieber also had several hits spaced out to arrive at his No. 2 position for the year, with none of them ranking higher than No. 10 on the songs ranking. That’s the position that “Peaches” achieved, followed by “Holy” (with Chance the Rapper) at No. 15, “Stay” (with the Kid Laroi) at No. 27 and “Lonely” (with Benny Blanco) at No. 35.

In label market share of radio songs, Republic came in first, followed by Interscope in second place and Columbia in third, repeating last year’s top winners. RCA had the most movement in radio share, moving up from sixth to fourth. Atlantic came in fifth, with Warner, Capitol, Def Jem, Epic and 300 Ent. rounding out the overall market share top 10.

The Mediabase rankings represent data collected between Nov. 8, 2020 and Nov. 17, 2021. The nine formats surveyed are Top 40, Rhythmic, Urban, R&B, Hot AC, AC, Active Rock, Alternative and Triple A.

Breakdowns by genre indicate where artists that had their appeal across different formats found the greatest strength.

At the Top 40 format, Grande was on top as the most-played artist, followed by Rodrigo, Bieber, the Weeknd, Lipa, Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, 24kGoldn, the Kid Laroi and Billie Eilish. Lipa’s “Levitating” was the No. 1 song for the year at Top 40.

At Rhythm radio, the late Pop Smoke was No. 1, followed by Drake, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Bieber, Saweetie, Lil Nas X, DaBaby, Chris Brown and the Weeknd. The top song in the Rhythmic format was Pop Smoke’s “What You Know Bout Love.”

Urban radio favored Lil Baby as its No. 1 artist for 2021. Pop Smoke followed, as did Moneybagg Yo, Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, Yung Bleu, H.E.R., Rod Wave, Roddy Ricch and Chris Brown. “For the Night,” by Pop Smoke featuring Lil Baby and DaBaby, clicked at Urban’s No. 1 song.

At the R&B format, Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” was the most played artist. H.E.R and Jazmine Sullivan were Nos. 2-3, followed by Jam & Lewis, Trey Songz, Snoh Allgra, Tank, Usher, Robin Thicke and Leela James. The top two songs were a reversal of the top-played artist rankings: H.E.R.’s “Damage” came in at No. 1 and “Leave the Door Open” setltled for the second spot.

In country, Luke Combs was tops in the artists chart for 2021, followed by Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean and Russell Dickerson. The top country song was Rhett’s “What’s Your Country Song.”

In a sign that no significant progress is being made in the wish list of many to get more women on country radio, there is not a single female artist represented among the 10 most-played. However, on the list of the top 10 songs for the year, a woman does get in — barely — as Gabby Barrett’s “The Good Ones” finished the year at No. 10. Then again, no women landed in Nos 11-20. The next highest-charting song by a woman is all the way down at No. 22: Lainey Wilson’s “Things a Man Oughta Know.”

At Hot AC, the top 10 artists for the year were the Weeknd, Bieber, Lipa, Rodrigo, AJR, Max, 24kGoldn, Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift. “Levitating” landed as the No. 1 Hot AC song.

At mainstream AC, Lipa was the top artist, pushing the Weeknd to second place, followed by Harry Styles, Lewis Capaldi, Barrett (crossing over from country), Maroon 5, Post Malone (bringing songs through from a preceding year), Max, Bieber and Maren Morris. “Blinding Lights” came out on top among AC songs.

Foo Fighters were most-played at Active Rock. That was even without any Foo Fighters songs in the top 10 at the format. The No. 1 Active Rock song was AC/DC’s “Shot in the Dark.”

Alternative radio had Machine Gun Kelly as its No. 1 artist for the year, followed by All Time Low, Twenty One Pilots, Imagine Dragons, Eilish, Glass Animals, Weezer, Foo Fighters, AJR and Cannons. The top Alternative song was “Monsters” by All Time Low featuiring Blackbear. Interestingly, Blackbear also had a feature on the No. 2 song, Machine Gun Kelly’s “My Ex’s Best Friend.”

In the Triple A format, Foo Fighters came out on top, followed by Kings of Leon, Lord Huron, Dayglow, Imagine Dragons, Cannons, Cage the Elephant, Bleachers, Grammy multi-nominee Jon Batiste and Michigander. Kings of Leon’s “The Bandit” was the No. 1 AAA track.

The top Christian AC artist: Cain. Crowder’s “Good God Almighty” came in as the top song.

The full Mediabase report for 2021 can be found here.