Lady Antebellum's country/pop smash "Need You Now" this week becomes the 20th song to reach the 4 million mark in paid downloads. The heartfelt, mid-tempo ballad is a sure thing to be in the running for both Record and Song of the Year when the Grammy nominations are announced in December.
I like a nice, round number as much as the next guy, so I decided this would be a good time to run a list of the 20 best-selling songs in digital history.
Lady Gaga is the only artist with three of the top 20. The Black Eyed Peas and Flo Rida each have two. (Ke$ha, whose "TiK ToK" is #7 on the list, sings on Flo Rida's "Right Round," but her "featured" credit on the latter hit was removed midway through the song's six-week run at #1.)
All 20 of these songs were released in the last 40 months, which makes sense. This is the period in which digital song sales have exploded. The oldest song on the list is "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring OneRepublic, which was released in April 2007. The newest is "TiK ToK," which was released in October 2009.
Surprisingly, four of the top 20 digital sellers failed to reach #1 on the weekly Digital Songs sales chart. That simply means there was never a week when the hit was the best-selling download in the country. These songs are Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," Taylor Swift's "Love Story," Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" and "Need You Now."
Seven of the top 20 digital sellers failed to reach #1 on Billboard's Hot 100, which combines digital sales and radio airplay points. These smashes are the four songs listed above plus Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A."
Here are the top 20 songs in digital history, as measured by Nielsen/SoundScan. The songs are ranked by their sales totals as of this week. I show where the songs peaked on the Hot 100. I also indicate the songs that won Grammys and/or received Grammy nominations for Record or Song of the Year.
1. The Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling," 6,049,000. This ultra catchy song was #1 for 14 weeks, beginning in July 2009. It replaced "Boom Boom Pow" in the top spot, giving the Peas a record-setting 26-week run at #1. It won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and was nominated for Record of the Year.
2. Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, "Low," 5,640,000. This rap smash was #1 for 10 weeks beginning in January 2008. It was Flo Rida's first chart hit; T-Pain's 13th. It was T-Pain's third #1, following his own "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')" and Chris Brown's "Kiss, Kiss," on which he was featured.
3. Lady Gaga featuring Colby O'Donis, 5,616,000. "Just Dance," This Madonna-inspired smash was #1 for three weeks in January 2009. It was Gaga's first chart hit; O'Donis' second, following his own "What You Got" (featuring Akon).
4. The Black Eyed Peas, "Boom Boom Pow," 5,517,000. This was #1 for 12 weeks, beginning in April 2009. It was the Peas' first #1. The video won a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video.
5. Lady Gaga, "Poker Face," 5,451,000. This was #1 for one week in April 2009. It was Gaga's second #1. It won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording and was nominated for both Record and Song of the Year.
6. Jason Mraz, "I'm Yours," 5,267,000. Mraz wrote this little ditty in 15 minutes. It was time well spent. The mellow pop shuffle hit #6 in September 2008. It was Mraz's first top 10 hit. It remained on the Hot 100 through October 2009, setting an all-time record for most weeks on the chart (76). It was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year.
7. Ke$ha, "TiK ToK," 5,078,000. Ke$ha gave Mick Jagger a name check on this cheeky smash, which began a nine-week run at #1 in January 2010. It was Ke$ha's first Hot 100 single (not counting "Right Round").
8. Timbaland featuring OneRepublic, "Apologize," 4,747,000. This classy pop ballad logged four weeks at #2, beginning in November 2007. It was OneRepublic's first Hot 100 hit. It was Timbaland's third top 10 hit as a "lead" artist, following "Give It To Me" (featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake) and "The Way I Are" (featuring Keri Hilson).
9. Taylor Swift, "Love Story," 4,654,000. This is the best-selling country crossover song in digital history. It hit #4 in January 2009. It was Swift's second top 10 hit, following "Change."
10. Flo Rida, "Right Round," 4,594,000. Less than a year after "Low" ended its long run at #1, Flo Rida was back in the top spot. This was #1 for six weeks, beginning in February 2009.
11. Coldplay, "Viva La Vida," 4,588,000. This majestic pop hit is the best-selling digital hit by an act that hails from outside the U.S. It was #1 for one week in June 2008. It was the English group's first #1 hit. "Viva La Vida" won two Grammys: Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
12. Soulja Boy Tell'Em, "Crank That (Soulja Boy)," 4,520,000. This rap smash was #1 for seven weeks, beginning in September 2007. It was Soulja Boy's first Hot 100 single.
13. Katy Perry, "Hot N Cold," 4,461,000. This propulsive pop smash hit #3 in November 2008. It was Perry's second top 10 single, following "I Kissed A Girl."
14. Train, "Hey, Soul Sister," 4,311,000. Train ended a nine-year absence from the top 10 when this melodic pop tune logged four weeks at #3, beginning in April 2010. The 80s-themed hit gave name-checks to both the famous (Madonna) and the nearly forgotten (Mr. Mister). It was Train's second top 10 hit, following "Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)."
15. Beyonce, "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," 4,166,000. This ubiquitous smash was #1 for four weeks, beginning in December 2008. It was Beyonce's fifth #1 solo hit, which exceeds the four she had with Destiny's Child. It won three Grammys (more than any other hit on this list): Song of the Year, Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
16. Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance," 4,154,000. This melodramatic hit logged seven weeks at #2, beginning in December 2009. It could put Gaga back in the Grammy finals for Record and Song of the Year.
17. Kanye West, "Stronger," 4,106,000. For his first #1 hit, 2005's "Gold Digger," West teamed with Jamie Foxx. On this smash, which was #1 for one week in September 2007, West proved he could do it on his own. It won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
18. Miley Cyrus, "Party In The U.S.A.," 4,105,000. This summer anthem was #2 for three weeks, beginning in August 2009. It was the teen star's fourth top 10 hit, following "See You Again," "7 Things" and "The Climb." Cyrus, 17, is the youngest artist on this list.
19. Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now," 4,028,000. This country/pop smash echoes such Eagles classics as "New Kid In Town" and "Lyin' Eyes." It was #2 for two weeks in March 2010. Grammy nominations for Record and Song of the Year are a foregone conclusion.
20. Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love," 4,026,000. This is odd: No American Idol alumnus has had a 4 million digital seller, but a winner on Britain's The X Factor did the trick. This elegant ballad was #1 for four weeks, beginning in April 2008. It was Lewis' first Hot 100 single. It was nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year.
Post Script I: Here are the next five songs in line: Rihanna's "Disturbia" (3,960,000), Pink's "So What" (3,947,000), Lil Wayne featuring Static Major's "Lollipop" (3,937,000), Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (3,920,000) and T.I. featuring Rihanna's "Live Your Life" (3,909,000).
Post Script II: Nielsen SoundScan first posted an all-time Digital Songs chart on its site a little more than two years ago (on July 6, 2008.) Only five songs that were ranked in the top 20 on that first recap are listed in the top 20 on the current one. That of course means that 15 songs have tumbled out of the top 20. I'm going to list them all. After each title, I show the song's ranking on that first all-time chart, followed by its ranking on the current one.
First, the five "keepers": "Low" (#1 to #2), "Crank That (Soulja Boy) (#2 to #12), "Apologize" (#3 to #8), "Stronger" (#6 to #17) and "Bleeding Love" (#10 to #20).
Now, the 15 "goners": Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" (#4 to #29) Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" (#5 to #35), Rihanna featuring Jay-Z's "Umbrella" (#7 to #34), Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland's "SexyBack" (#8 to #38), Alicia Keys' "No One" (#9 to #42), The Fray's "How To Save A Life" (#11 to #37), Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" (#12 to #48), Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" (#14 to #46), Akon featuring Eminem's "Smack That" (#15 to #59), Fergie featuring will.i.am's "Fergalicious" (#16 to #63), Sara Bareilles' "Love Song" (#17 to #49), Gwen Stefani featuring Akon's ''The Sweet Escape" (#18 to #67), Nickelback's "Rockstar" (#19 to #39) and Lil Wayne featuring Static Major's "Lollipop" (#20 to #23).
Thanks to the readers who kept pushing for this list (and you know who you are!).