Bigger than the Beatles? How Drake's historic year solidified him as one of music's biggest stars

The Toronto rapper set new streaming records and broke decades-old Billboard records in 2018.
Drake performing live at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. (Christopher Polk)

As the year comes to an end, streaming records have proven that Drake is undeniably the biggest artist of 2018. Crowned as the most streamed artist of the year on both Spotify and Apple Music, Drake's success has reached a new level that rivals and, in some ways, surpasses the Beatles and Michael Jackson.

While many can argue that Scorpion, Drake's fifth studio album that dropped on June 29, wasn't the Toronto rapper's best album to date — reviews were generally mixed — fans still pushed his commercial numbers to historic heights.

"God's Plan," which dropped on Jan. 19, broke the one-day song streaming record on Apple Music (14 million streams) and Spotify (4.3 million streams). (It has since been surpassed by rapper XXXtentacion's "Sad!") The streams kept piling in, though, when Scorpion was released months later.

The album broke Spotify's one-day record for album streams with 132.45 million streams. That's 50 million more plays than Post Malone's Beerbongs & Bentleys, which previously held that record. Scorpion also broke Apple Music's record for one-day album streams when it reached 170 million streams; the title was previously held by Drake's last release, More Life.

Thanks to strong streaming numbers for the singles Drake released before Scorpion officially came out ("God's Plan," "Nice For What," "I'm Upset") the album immediately went platinumScorpion also capped off its debut week with one billion streams — the first album to ever achieve that feat.

The Beatles, from left: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison smile as they display the Member of The Order of The British Empire medals presented to them by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony in Buckingham Palace in London, England. (The Associated Press)

Scorpion continued to dominate the charts throughout the summer. Drake upped his Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits to 31, beating out Michael Jackson's 30 as the solo male artist with the most hits. Drake then shattered two 54-year-old Beatles Billboard records, one for most simultaneous Hot 100 top 10s (Drake had seven, the Beatles had five) and another for most top 10 singles in one year (Drake earned 12, the Beatles held the record for 11).

That's just a small selection of Drake's massive list of accomplishments this year, but it's clear that he was able to establish a higher bar of success in the streaming era while knocking down old, decades-long Billboard records.

Drake didn't leave 2018 unscathed, though. Many deemed him the loser in a rap beef with rival Pusha T, and he was labelled a bully by Kanye West. Those aforementioned album reviews didn't help him nab many year-end list spots, but on a purely commercial level, Drake still came up victorious.

Nothing really stopped his music from topping the charts; his numbers became immune to controversy or opinion. Is that a good or bad thing? That's yet to be decided, but Drake's music found an audience regardless, and this year put him in the history books.

If he hasn't outdone the Beatles yet, Drake is definitely on his way to becoming music's biggest star.


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