Special Report

Best Artists of the Year

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Numerous artists contributed to making 2019 a memorable year for popular music — some new, some well-established, as well as a few legendary acts. Out of the thousands of musicians that perform and release recorded music, these are who fans and critics held above all others.

The path to popularity has changed dramatically over the years. Newer artists increasingly rely on social media to connect with fans. In certain cases, these platforms are essential to a performer’s reputation. Rapper Lil Nas X would likely have never had the success he’s enjoyed with “Old Town Road” were it not for Tik Tok. Thanks in part to the mobile video app, the viral hit broke the record for total weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with 19.

Similarly, artists like Billie Eilish began their musical careers releasing songs on the music platform SoundCloud. This type of social media usage is especially common with younger musicians. Here are the year’s youngest pop stars.

The tried-and-true methods of maintaining one’s fanbase continue to work for other musicians. Seventy-two-year-old Sir Elton John has benefited greatly from his ongoing world tour. The 2019 biopic “Rocketman” didn’t hurt his visibility, either. John has a long history of cranking out hit songs, and he ranks among the artists with the most No. 1 hits. These are the artists with the most No. 1 hits.

Of course, the most important element needed for becoming a superstar is making well-loved music. The artists on our list have all had huge success on the music charts this year, dominating radio, album sales, and online streaming. Many have won major music awards. All have amassed huge followings.

24/7 Tempo has identified the best artists of the year based on the Billboard Top Artists year-end chart, Metacritic album Metascores, and total Wikipedia page views over the past year.

Click here to see the best artists of the year.

To determine the best artists of 2019, 24/7 Tempo generated an index based on artists’ rankings on the Billboard Top Artists year end chart, Metacritic scores for their most recently reviewed albums, and total Wikipedia page views from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 12, 2019.

Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

25. Summer Walker
> Most popular song in 2019: Playing Games
> Most recent album: Over It (2019)
> Album Metascore: 86

Atlanta-based R&B artist Summer Walker has been hugely successful since releasing her debut album in 2018. Walker quickly followed up with another album in 2019, “Over It.” The two versions of the record’s lead single, “Playing Games” — there is an extended version featuring additional vocals from singer Bryson Tiller — have amassed more than 77 million streams on Spotify.


Source: JStone / Shutterstock.com

24. P!nk
> Most popular song in 2019: Walk Me Home
> Most recent album: Hurts 2B Human (2019)
> Album Metascore: 71

The swoosh-coiffed singer returned to the top spot on the Billboard 200 this year with the album “Hurts 2B Human,” her third chart-topper on Billboard. The Grammy Award-winning performer from Pennsylvania has had three No. 1 singles, the most recent one in 2013. She had her first top 10 single in 2000 with “There You Go,” which reached No. 7.

Source: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

23. Ed Sheeran
> Most popular song in 2019: I Don’t Care (with Justin Bieber)
> Most recent album: No. 6 Collaborations Project (2019)
> Album Metascore: 57

Hit-making machine Ed Sheeran earned much acclaim with his album “No. 6 Collaborations Project.” He scored a No. 2 hit on the Hot 100 with Justin Bieber on the joint effort “I Don’t Care.” “Beautiful People,” featuring Khalid also hit No. 13 in November. Other collaborators include Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Chris Stapleton, and Bruno Mars.

Source: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

22. Lil Nas X
> Most popular song in 2019: Old Town Road (ft. Billy Ray Cyrus)
> Most recent album: 7 (2019)
> Album Metascore: 57

Atlanta-based rapper, singer, and songwriter Lil Nas X, in collaboration with country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, sang “Old Town Road,” which occupied the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 a record 19 weeks. “Old Town Road” reached diamond status in October, as certified by the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning it reached the sales and streaming equivalent sales of 10 million units. It was the fastest song in history to reach that milestone.

Just to show he wasn’t a flash in the pan, 20-year-old Lil Nas X followed up his monster hit with “Panini,” which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.


21. Panic! At The Disco
> Most popular song in 2019: High Hopes
> Most recent album: Pray for the Wicked (2018)
> Album Metascore: 70

Pop-rockers Panic! At the Disco released their sixth studio album “Pray for the Wicked” during the summer of 2018. It was certified platinum this past May. Among the album’s singles were the quadruple-platinum “High Hopes” — which peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 — and “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” which topped out at No. 16. The Grammy-nominated group was also featured on the soundtrack for the animated blockbuster “Frozen II.”

Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

20. Camila Cabello
> Most popular song in 2019: Senorita (with Shawn Mendes)
> Most recent album: Romance (2019)
> Album Metascore: 72

Cuban-American singer and actress Camila Cabello landed her second No. 1 duet in 2019 with “Senorita,” performed alongside Shawn Mendes. The singer also appeared on the Ed Sheeran song “South of the Border” from his album “No. 6 Collaborations Project.” Cabello’s newest album, “Romance,” was released this December.


Source: Jason Kempin / Getty Images

19. Luke Combs
> Most popular song in 2019: Beautiful Crazy
> Most recent album: What YouSee is What You Get (2019)
> Album Metascore: 74

Country singer Luke Combs built on his popularity as a crossover country artist in 2019. He released his second studio album, “What You See Is What You Get,” which included the Hot 100-charting singles “Beer Never Broke My Heart” and “Even Though I’m Leaving.” Combs also scored a hit with “Beautiful Crazy” — a bonus track off the expanded version of his studio debut.

Source: Aaron J. Thornton / Getty Images

18. Lil Baby
> Most popular song in 2019: Drip Too Hard (with Gunna)
> Most recent album: Drip Harder (2018)
> Album Metascore: 76

Despite only launching his career in 2017, Atlanta rapper Lil Baby has achieved significant success. He scored a major hit this year with “Drip Too Hard,” recorded alongside rapper Gunna. Lil Baby had another notable hit with “Close Friends” and released the popular song “Baby” along with DaBaby.

Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

17. Meek Mill
> Most popular song in 2019: Going Bad (ft. Drake)
> Most recent album: Championships (2018)
> Album Metascore: 77

In addition to the ongoing success of his single “Going Bad,” Meek Mill appeared on other artists’ hit songs in 2019, including Post Malone’s “On The Road” and DJ Khaled’s “You Stay.” The Philly rapper embarked on multiple tours in 2019 and starred in an Amazon original documentary series titled “Free Meek” about his own legal troubles and work with the justice reform movement.


Source: Roger Kisby / Getty Images

16. DaBaby
> Most popular song in 2019: Suge
> Most recent album: KIRK (2019)
> Album Metascore: 74

Charlotte, North Carolina-native DaBaby released his debut album “Baby on Baby” this year following numerous mixtapes. The album — which reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200 — featured the rapper’s biggest hit to date, “Suge,” which also hit No. 7 on the Hot 100.

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

15. Halsey
> Most popular song in 2019: Without Me
> Most recent album: Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017)
> Album Metascore: 66

New Jersey native Halsey released in 2018 what became one of 2019’s biggest hits, “Without Me.” The song peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in January 2019, spending a total of 52 weeks on the chart. The first single from the yet-to-be-released album “Manic” was performed numerous times throughout the year by Halsey, including on “Saturday Night Live” and at the Billboard Music Awards.


Source: Paras Griffin / Getty Images

14. 21 Savage
> Most popular song in 2019: A Lot
> Most recent album: I Am > I Was (2018)
> Album Metascore: 81

“A Lot” from rapper 21 Savage peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 in February 2019. Savage also appeared alongside Cardi B on DJ Khaled’s popular single “Wish Wish” this year. The year wasn’t all positive for the rapper, born in the U.K. as Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph. In February, he was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for overstaying his visa by 13 years.

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

13. Drake
> Most popular song in 2019: Money in the Grave (ft. Rick Ross)
> Most recent album: Scorpion (2018)
> Album Metascore: 67

Drake has been one of pop music’s biggest stars for years now. In addition to releasing his own hit singles this year, including “Money in the Grave,” which peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100, the rapper appeared as a featured guest on numerous other hit songs by other artists. These include Meek Mill’s “Going Bad,” Chris Brown’s “No Guidance,” and Bad Bunny’s “MIA.”

Source: Gregg DeGuire / Getty Images

12. Shawn Mendes
> Most popular song in 2019: Senorita (with Camila Cabello)
> Most recent album: Shawn Mendes (2018)
> Album Metascore: 73

The Shawn Mendes duet with Camila Cabello, “Senorita,” is the Canadian singer’s sole No. 1 hit to date, hitting its peak on the Hot 100 in August. He also scored a No. 2 hit with “If I Can’t Have You.” “Senorita” has been nominated for a Grammy Award.


Source: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

11. Jonas Brothers
> Most popular song in 2019: Sucker
> Most recent album: Happiness Begins (2019)
> Album Metascore: 76

The Jonas Brothers returned from a six-year hiatus with the album “Happiness Begins,” which was released with the documentary “Chasing Happiness.” The album features the group’s sole No. 1 Hot 100 single to date, “Sucker.”

Source: Ian Gavan / Getty Images

10. Elton John
> Most popular song in 2019: (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again (with Taron Egerton)
> Most recent album: Wonderful Crazy Night (2016)
> Album Metascore: 70

Seventy-two-year old popular music legend Elton John has been in the spotlight recently. In addition to his ongoing farewell tour, the singer released his first autobiography in 2019. “Rocketman,” a fantastical biopic based on John, was also released to largely favorable reviews.


Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

9. Lizzo
> Most popular song in 2019: Truth Hurts
> Most recent album: Cuz I Love You (2019)
> Album Metascore: 84

Lizzo sent three songs to the Hot 100 in 2019, including the No. 1 hit “Truth Hurts.” The song was originally released in 2017 yet didn’t reach the charts until it was included on the deluxe version of Lizzo’s 2019 album “Cuz I Love You.” The past year also saw Lizzo appear in the movie “Hustlers” and performing at the MTV Video Music Awards. She is scheduled to perform on Saturday Night Live before the year ends.

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

8. BTS
> Most popular song in 2019: Boy With Luv (ft. Halsey)
> Most recent album: Map of the Soul: Persona (2019)
> Album Metascore: 74

Korean boy band BTS, which has been gaining a following in the United States, has more than 23 million followers on Twitter. The seven-member group has had two top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Their greatest success so far is the song “Boy With Luv,” a collaboration with Halsey that climbed to No. 8. Three of their albums have summited the Billboard 200 over the last two years. Their failure to get a Grammy Award nomination rankled fans who voiced their displeasure on social media.

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

7. Lady Gaga
> Most popular song in 2019: Shallow (with Bradley Cooper)
> Most recent album: A Star is Born Soundtrack (2018)
> Album Metascore: 78

Grammy-winning artist Lady Gaga won an Oscar for her song “Shallow,” which appeared in the 2018 blockbuster film “A Star is Born.” The duet with actor and co-star Bradley Cooper peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in March 2019. The film’s soundtrack has been certified double platinum by the RIAA.


Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

6. Taylor Swift
> Most popular song in 2019: You Need to Calm Down
> Most recent album: Lover (2019)
> Album Metascore: 79

Hit juggernaut Taylor Swift became the first recipient of Billboard’s Woman of the Decade Award earlier this month. The Pennsylvania native has had six No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and five chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this decade. Swift posted her first hit single in 2008, and her success has continued into 2019 with the single “Me!” and album “Lover,” both of which sold a million units

Source: Paul Morigi / Getty Images

5. Travis Scott
> Most popular song in 2019: Sicko Mode
> Most recent album: Astroworld (2018)
> Album Metascore: 85

Twenty-seven-year old rapper Travis Scott scored his second Hot 100 chart topper this year with the track “Highest in the Room.” He also enjoyed the continuing success of his No. 1 album “Astroworld,” which was released in 2018. The album — which is currently on the Billboard 200 — has been on the chart for 71 weeks, as of date.


Source: Tabatha Fireman / Getty Images

4. Post Malone
> Most popular song in 2019: Sunflower (with Swae Lee)
> Most recent album: Hollywood’s Bleeding (2019)
> Album Metascore: 79

The singer from New York had a big year in 2019 — his blockbuster single, “Sunflower,” was heard in the action film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” The song was certified 8x multi-platinum in October by the RIAA. Post Malone has had four chart-toppers in the Billboard Hot 100 and two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200.

Source: Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images for BET

3. Cardi B
> Most popular song in 2019: Please Me (with Bruno Mars)
> Most recent album: Invasion of Privacy (2018)
> Album Metascore: 84

It didn’t take long for Cardi B to become one of the biggest names in rap and pop music. She first reached the Hot 100 chart in 2017 and has since had a total of 31 songs (including those she appears on as a featured artist) make the chart. Among her songs to appear on the chart in 2019 were “Money,” “Please Me,” and the No. 1 hit by Maroon 5 featuring Cardi, “Girls Like You.” The entertainer also made a cameo appearance in the movie “Hustlers.”

Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

2. Ariana Grande
> Most popular song in 2019: 7 Rings
> Most recent album: thank u, next (2019)
> Album Metascore: 86

Ariana Grande has gone from being a Disney Channel sit-com character to one of the biggest pop stars in the world. This year, the Florida native regularly performed before sold-out crowds on her “Sweetener World Tour” that started in March and concludes in late December. Three of her Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits were released in 2019, including her second chart-topper, “7 Rings.” Her single “Thank U, Next” has sold 5 million units and was certified mult-platinum in November.


Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

1. Billie Eilish
> Most popular song in 2019: Bad Guy
> Most recent album: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019)
> Album Metascore: 82

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Billie Eilish — who celebrates her 18th birthday this December — has already been declared the “Voice of Generation Z” by many critics. Her genre-blending debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” has been certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA and its lead single, “Bad Guy,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 2019. Eilish has been nominated for six Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist.

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