The New Year in Music Charts: Morgan Wallen and Olivia Rodrigo

At the beginning of the New Year, 2021, only two artists have attained and maintained dominance on the music charts, Morgan Wallen and Olivia Rodrigo. Both artists sing in smooth, calming, and melodic tones. Despite their many differences, these two artists probably owe their incredible popularity to the soothing effects of their music as the pandemic continues, and as political transitions strain a weary nation. Their music is the perfect soundtrack for New Years’ introspection and reflection, at a time when it is hard to even think about resolutions for an uncertain future.


Morgan Wallen is a country singer, the son of a preacher, from Tennessee, and Olivia Rodrigo is a teenage Disney actress and pop singer from California. Wallen is from Sneedville, a rural town on Tennessee’s northern border with Kentucky, far from Nashville. Rodrigo is from Temecula, a small city between San Diego and Riverside. Their music captures and represents their respective rural and suburban environments, and appeals to local rather than urban, metropolitan, or big-city sensibilities.


Both sing about love, mostly unrequited. Their music is about how to deal with heartbreak. In the case of Wallen, solutions include whiskey glasses, mullet cuts, and drunk dialing. In the case of Rodrigo, solutions include getting that first driver’s license, driving through the suburbs, and looking for lost love.


These formulas work. According to Music Maven’s proprietary technology, which provides the most current and accurate data on the performance of all artists and songs in daily music charts, Morgan Wallen is the undisputed champion of the artist charts so far this year, and Rodrigo’s single, “drivers license,” is by far the greatest hit of the year so far.


Since Wallen released his second studio album, Dangerous: The Double Album, on January 8, 2021, he has been The Number One Most Streamed and Highest Earning Artist. He debuted with 28M streams and $90.7K on the first day, and while his daily streams and revenue are less than half of that now, there have been no real challengers to his dominance on the artist charts over the last weeks. Wallen does not dominant the song charts: only one song from his latest album is in the top 20 Most Streamed Songs, “Wasted on You,” now at fourteenth most streamed, with little over a million daily streams. Wallen owes his artist chart power to the 30 tracks on his double album, which accumulate more total streams than any other, rather then just one or two hit singles.


Since Rodrigo released her single, “drivers license,” also on January 8, that song has been The Number One Most Streamed and Highest Earning Song over the last weeks. The song so far peaked at 7M streams and $23.4K on January 13. It has recently begun to falter in competition with previously-released tracks like Bad Bunny’s “DÁKITI,” but the 67M streams of the song’s music video on YouTube and 196M streams on Spotify in less than a month makes it this year’s breakout hit. Since “drivers license” is the lead single to a promised EP, there is not yet any studio album to accompany that song’s success, which explains Rodrigo’s dominance of the song charts rather than the artist charts.


On their own, Morgan Wallen and Olivia Rodrigo are practically unstoppable on their respective charts this year. A Wallen-Rodrigo collaboration would likely lock down the charts even farther into the New Year.


By Vince, January 24, 2021

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