If you like charts, Billboard's year-end issue is Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. The issue contains almost 300 year-end charts. More than 100 are available now to the general public at Billboard.com. More than 440 (!) are listed at billboard.biz/charts. (That might be too much even for me.)
And what do we learn from this blizzard of information? A lot, though some of it confirms the obvious. You will not be shocked to learn that Adele's 21 was the year's best-selling album or that "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra was the year's top single. But did you know that that they were also #1 for the year in Canada? Or that "Somebody…" was also the year's #1 Alternative Song? Details like that give the issue its texture.
21 is the first album to finish #1 on the year-end recaps two years running since Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1983 and 1984. (Actually, the phrase "year-end" is a misnomer. The chart year extends from the Billboard issue dated Dec. 3, 2011 through the issue dated Nov. 24, 2012.)
You also won't be surprised that female artists dominated the year. Adele, Rihanna and Taylor Swift, in that order, were the year's top three artists according to a weighted formula which measures album sales, track download sales, radio airplay, streaming data, Billboard Boxscore touring revenue, Social 50 chart activity and ringtone sales. Here's the rest of the top 10: Drake, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, LMFAO and One Direction.
Counting up the number of charts on which an artist is #1 is a crude measurement, because some charts (Hot 100 Songs, let's say) are very important and some (Regional Mexican Songs Artist, for example) are less so. But let's do it anyway and see what we get. Adele heads nine of the 100+ year-end charts that are posted on Billboard.com, followed by Drake and Mumford & Sons, with eight each. Next in line are Gotye, with six; LMFAO and Latin artist Romeo Santos, with four each; and the Black Keys, Taylor Swift and Latin artist Don Omar, with three each.
Justin Bieber is #1 on the Social 50 chart, which measures new media buzz-worthiness. Here's the rest of the top 10: Adele, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Shakira, Nicki Minaj and Skrillex. (Next Big Sound, which provides this list to Billboard, tracks social activity on such sites as YouTube, Vevo, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, SoundCloud, Instagram and Wikipedia.)
Whitney Houston, who died on Feb. 11, is the year's top-selling catalog album artist, edging out Adele, whose 2008 album 19 was the year's top catalog album. The rest of the top 10 catalog album artists are Taylor Swift, Eminem, the Black Keys, Lady Antebellum, Florence + the Machine, Guns N' Roses, Zac Brown Band and Elvis Presley. Presley's appearance in the top 10 is noteworthy. He died in 1977.
I'm always impressed when artists score in more than one field. Katy Perry is the year's #1 Pop Songs Artist and #1 Dance/Club Artist. Mumford & Sons' Babel is the year's #1 Rock Album, #1 Alternative Album and #1 Folk Album. That's an indication of the album's broad-based appeal. The Black Keys is the #1 Rock Songs Artist and #1 Alternative Songs Artist. Drake is the year's #1 R&B/Hip-Hop artist and had the year's #1 rap album and #1 rap song.
It's not easy to divide music into categories. Is the breakout trio fun. pop or rock? Billboard declares fun. the year's top rock artist. The Grammys slotted the trio's album, Some Nights, in the Best Pop Vocal Album category (rather than Best Rock Album). Who's right? It's a judgment call, but fun.'s two giant hits ("We Are Young" featuring Janelle Monae and "Some Nights") sound pretty pop to me.
While we're on this theme, a few other calls may stir controversy. Nickelback is shown as the year's top hard rock artist, and has the year's top hard rock album, Here And Now. I'd call the Canadian group rock, but not hard rock. Michael Buble is the year's top jazz artist and has the year's top jazz album, Christmas. The Grammys slot Buble in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category (where he has won three times and is probably headed for a fourth award in February). Billboard's year-end issue doesn't have such a category. Bonnie Raitt is the year's top blues artist and has the year's top blues album, Slipstream. The Grammys slot her in the Best Americana Album category. Again, there's no such category in the Billboard issue.
The line-up of charts includes some new additions, reflecting changing times. An On-Demand Songs chart was added. "Somebody That I Used To Know" is the top on-demand song. fun. is the top on-demand artist. (The recap is based on a weekly chart which measures on-demand plays from listener-controlled radio channels on MOG, Muve Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, Xbox Music and Guvera.)
PSY's "Gangnam Style" is #1 on the Korea K-Pop Hot 100 list. (I told you this issue is chock-full of lists.) It's #47 for the year on the Hot 100 recap.
Here are the albums that trailed 21 on the list of the year's top 10 albums: Michael Buble's Christmas, Drake's Take Care, Taylor Swift's Red, One Direction's Up All Night, Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines, Mumford & Sons' Babel, Rihanna's Talk That Talk, Lionel Richie's Tuskegee and the Black Keys' El Camino.
Here are the songs that trail "Somebody That I Used To Know" on the list of the year's top 10 songs (as on the weekly Hot 100, this recap combines radio airplay, digital sales and streaming data): Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," "We Are Young" by fun. featuring Janelle Monae, "Payphone" by Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa, Ellie Goulding's "Lights," The Wanted's "Glad You Came," Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," "We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, Nicki Minaj's "Starships" and One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful."
Madonna had the year's top concert tour. This is a ranking by box-office gross compiled from Billboard Boxscore data reported between Nov. 9, 2011 and Nov. 13, 2012. Here's the rest of the top 10, along with some distinctions that various artists hold: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (#1 rock tour), Roger Waters, Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw (#1 country tour), Van Halen, Jay-Z & Kanye West (#1 rap or hip-hop tour) and Andre Rieu (#1 classical crossover tour).
Most of the charts in the year-end issue are based on data from Nielsen Entertainment. Sales of physical and digital product are tracked by Nielsen SoundScan. Digital streams are measured by Nielsen BDS. The Ringtones category is based on sales tracked by Nielsen MobileScan.