The Soundtrack to the Most Bizarre Year Ever: Top 10 Artists on Spotify 2020

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Singer Justin Bieber attends The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)

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From interminable stay-at-home orders to people hoarding toilet paper, the list of what makes 2020 outlandish is longer than a CVS receipt. In spite of it all — or, maybe more accurately, because of it — music has remained a saving grace, a comforting distraction from tragedies and questions for which we have no answers. So, as we round out the strangest year ever, here are the top 10 artists on Spotify 2020. Warning: you may (or may not) be surprised by what people listened to during lockdown.

Justin Bieber

When talent manager Scooter Braun discovered Justin Bieber back in 2007, the Canadian cover-song singer was just a 13-year-old with a wind-blown bowl-cut. Since then, Bieber has consistently topped charts and become a pop icon, seldom faltering or falling far from the summit (aside from a few awkward interviews and some long-lasting fashion and facial-hair faux pas).

Justin Bieber

 Earlier this year, Bieber broke a US chart record previously held by Elvis Presley: the 25-year-old “Yummy” singer became the youngest artist to release seven No. 1 albums in America. It had been nearly 60 years since Presley set the record at age 26. 

Justin Bieber

Though Bieber is still young, he’s been a mainstay in pop music for a decade. His music is comfort food for his fans. So, it comes as no surprise that millions were bumping The Biebs through what could be considered the most bizarre year in modern history. According to Spotify, his monthly listeners were 64,240,613, and the song “Holy” featuring Chance the Rapper has a play count with as many digits as a social security number. 193,694,356 plays for anyone counting.

Ariana Grande

Born in Boca Raton, Florida, singer Ariana Grande initially found fame acting as a minor character in several Nickelodeon shows. In 2011, executives at Republic Records stumbled upon some of Grande’s Youtube cover-songs and quickly signed her to the label. Grande’s steady and consistent rise has helped her achieve monumental success in the industry, and her signature oversized look — baggy sweatshirts, thigh-high boots, and, of course, her grandiose ponytail have made her pop’s pint-sized princess. In 2019, Grande headlined Coachella, making her the youngest artist to ever do so.

Ariana Grande

Grande is also recognized in the industry for her many romantic escapades, the most famous being her two-year relationship with rapper Mac Miller. Mac Miller died by overdose in September of 2018, and following his devastating death, Grande released the song, “Thank U, Next.” The single praises, rather than punishes, her exes  including Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, and Pete Davidson  ultimately commemorating Mac Miller in the final line of the hook.

Ariana Grande

 As 2020's weirdness descended upon us all and the whole world was seemingly put on pause, Grande worked on her sixth studio album, Positions. On October 29, the 27-year-old singer announced its release. According to Spotify, the album's titular track racked up 153,857,609 plays, and Grande’s monthly listeners clocked-in just shy of 64 million. Grande seemingly has no problem creating while grappling with pain and the unprecedented, and her consistency likely explains her high-standing on the list.

The Weeknd

 The Weeknd born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye once said that his childhood was like “[the film] Kids without the AIDS.” The Canadian-born R&B singer was raised mostly by his mother and grandmother, citing that his father, though not an “asshole” per se, “just wasn’t there.” Subsequently, the singer had a predominantly lawless childhood. In 2010, The Weeknd began uploading anonymous recordings to Youtube. Then, a year later, he released several mixtapes that eventually got him signed to Republic Records. 


The Weeknd's desensitized demeanor, smooth falsetto, and raw lyrics have made him a unique figure in pop. Though highly recognized for his songs about sex and cocaine, it’s not solely the content of his music that sets him apart. While many artists who speak about drug use thrust themselves into the public eye, The Weeknd remains aloof and mysterious.

The Weeknd

The 30-year-old singer’s Spotify ranking likely has some to do with his dark disposition. As the pandemic put life on hold, so too did most of our moods shift. For some, stay-at-home orders and forced hibernation gave way to despondency, and dejected music like The Weeknd’s likely became a useful coping mechanism. According to Spotify, The Weeknd’s 2019 single “Blinding Lights a song about loss and loneliness  has been listened to over one billion times. 

J Balvin

J Balvin didn’t move from Columbia to the US until he was 17 years old. It was only then that the reggaeton singer learned to speak English. Although Balvin grew up a fan of Metallica and Nirvana, it was Daddy Yankee who ultimately inspired his professional career. Balvin’s crossover success, however, is likely due to his unique approach to Latin hip-hop. Where his counterparts stick predominantly to a traditional (and thus identifiable) beat and tone  quick and brimming  Balvin has cadences and flows akin to American rappers.

J Balvin

 In 2018, Balvin linked up with Cardi B and Bad Bunny for “I Like It a hit scalding hot with Latin heat and although both Balvin and Bad Bunny rapped entirely in Spanish, there was seldom a moment when non-Spanish speakers were aware of the disconnect. Having been forced to spend an entire summer in lockdown, it’s no mystery as to why Spotify users bumped J Balvin’s bouncy Columbian songs close to 58 million times per month. 

Dua Lipa

Although Dua Lipa’s father is the lead vocalist of Oda, a Kosovan rock band, the 25-year-old English singer has been heavily influenced by hip-hop. Like so many other young stars, Youtube served as the catalyst for Dua Lipa’s fame. She often covered and posted Nelly Furtado songs for subscribers, later noting that she’d intentionally selected Youtube following the rise of Justin Bieber. Lipa signed her first deal in 2013 while cocktail waitressing at a local London bar. Soon thereafter, she took a deal with Warner Music Group, a decision that ultimately shaped her career. 

Dua Lipa

Lipa’s deep, smoldering voice is so powerful it outweighs her beauty. As she sings her singular brand of electro-pop, the rawness of her delivery transcends neat genre. She mixes deep emotion with the dispassionate urge to party. Her single “Hotter than Hell” demonstrates her style most authentically and is also the foundation of her career. (Lipa signed to WMG shortly after its release.)

Dua Lipa