That Billie Eilish is just having a huge breakthrough moment is obviously true. But this most recent record of hers, that she’s 14 songs simultaneously in the Billboard Hot 100, is more to do with the way we’ve changed how we count these things than anything else. No one was going to do it even a few years back as we simply didn’t count streaming in the chart calculations. No one was going to do it more than a decade back as we didn’t really have streaming to any great extent.
So, yes, she’s a star now, it’s a breakthrough, but not quite the long standing record we might think just from looking at the Billboard Hot 100:
The singer just received her first top 10 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and with that, she’s broken the record for the most simultaneously charted Hot 100 titles among women. She has 14. To break it down, the album has 13 songs. Out of those, 12 are on the Hot 100 besides the final track “Goodbye.” Along with those, her tracks “Lovely” and “Ocean Eyes” also appear on the chart.
Hey, sure, this is good stuff:
But think how it used to go. There might have been an album every 6 months – if we’re in the early 60s – or perhaps every two years more recently. There would be a single from that album released to be the track that got the airplay and so on. And that one track would be pushed and pushed until it could do no more. Then another track from the same album released etc. It would be near impossible to find copies of the first track in the shops when the second one was released, those weeks or months later. That’s just how it worked.
And the Billboard Hot 100 was made up of actual sales of those physical singles. So, with occasional exceptions, no one really had more than one song in the upper reaches of the chart at any one time. There might be the one before lingering down in the 80s or 90s, as the new one rose toward the top, that sort of thing. But there was unlikely to be more than one or, at the extreme, maybe 3 actually in issue at the same time. Which would rather limit the number which could sell enough to be counted in the Hot 100.
These days we include streaming and single track sales online. An artist’s entire album – heck, their entire output for their career – is available to buy at any one time. Or to listen to at this very moment. So, a hit album might have people streaming every track in their millions. Which is exactly what is happening.
This isn’t exactly accurate but it’s a good way of thinking about it. So, back in the day someone would have a hit album and people would play every track on it many a time. But we counted the album sale the once, not the playing of the tracks. Today we’re counting every online play of the track, of every track. Which is obviously going to change the records about how many tracks can be in that Billboard Hot 100 at any time.
Sure, Billie Eilish is a serious breakthrough here. But her Billboard Hot 100 record is more about the new way we calculate that chart than anything else.