When the 2023 Grammy Award nominations were announced in mid-November, the Big Four categories included a slew of household names: Beyoncé, Adele, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Bad Bunny, Doja Cat, Lizzo. None of them were surprises. The Grammy noms were star-studded to reflect the past year in popular music: Following a pandemic-stricken period in which pop’s upper tier mostly held off on releasing new projects, 2022 was dominated by the A-listers, many of whom made good on the commercial promise of their returns and added new hits to their impressive résumés.
“We’ve had almost every global superstar release music within a 12- to 18-month span,” says Joe Hadley, Spotify global head of artist partnerships and audience. Some of that overabundance of big names can surely be chalked up to coincidence: Artists like Adele, Beyoncé and Lamar had been dormant as recording artists for over five years before finally having new albums ready within an eight-month span, for instance. Yet their respective returns were combined with prolific artists like Swift, Drake, Doja Cat and Jack Harlow releasing new material this year after an active 2021; bankable names like Styles, Bad Bunny, BTS, Lady Gaga and The Weeknd headlining a crowded touring field; and reliable hit-makers like Lizzo, Post Malone, Sam Smith and Nicki Minaj collecting more top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits, making 2022 feel like a nonstop star parade.
“Anytime we have superstars putting out music, it’s good for the fans, for radio, for streaming,” says Mark Medina, program director for WHTZ (Z100) New York. (Indeed, recorded-music revenue in the United States grew 9% in the first half of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021, according to the RIAA.) Most of the major projects were spaced out across the calendar year, from Adele’s 30 last November to Styles’ Harry’s House in May to Swift’s Midnights in October, which gave each artist ample room to dominate listener attention and the cultural conversation. Even when their hits competed on the Billboard charts, streaming playlists and radio, as Medina says, “The more the merrier. You could never have too much good music from megastars, and we’ll always find a way to make that work.”
Part of the reason why pop music was so top-heavy this year is simple: The biggest artists delivered hits that matched their statures. Adele is no stranger to the peak of the Hot 100, but by spending 10 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1, “Easy on Me” matched the longest chart reign of her career. Later, Beyoncé scored her first solo Hot 100 chart-topper in 14 years when “Break My Soul” powered to No. 1 upon the July release of Renaissance. And after folk-leaning singles like “Cardigan” and “Willow” summited the Hot 100 in 2020, Swift returned with the ultra-catchy “Anti-Hero,” which has spent its first six weeks at No. 1 and, Medina says, has “big, big mass appeal” at pop radio.
The Real Bad Bunny: Offstage and Personal With the Biggest Artist of 2022
Meanwhile, Styles and Bad Bunny scored the biggest years of their respective careers thanks to chart-topping albums, multiple top 10 hits and mega-selling tours. For Styles, whose 2019 album, Fine Line, unlocked his potential at pop radio, “As It Was” spending a whopping 15 weeks at No. 1 — the longest leader by a solo artist in Hot 100 history — demonstrated just how inescapable the former One Direction member has become on his own. “With Harry, it all rolled out together: He had this career growth from album to album, a great pop record, streaming and research [numbers], celebrity,” says Medina. “Everything was there.”
And just as Styles’ studio output fueled 15-night residencies at venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden and Inglewood, Calif.’s Kia Forum, Bad Bunny’s massive Un Verano Sin Ti album — which has spent 12 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this year, the most of any project — helped the Puerto Rican star graduate from arenas to stadiums. He finished 2022 as the year’s top touring act, crushing his own record for highest-grossing Latin tour in Billboard Boxscore history as his World’s Hottest Tour grossed $373.5 million from 1.8 million tickets across 65 shows. “Bad Bunny absolutely leveled up on the road in a way that was pretty unique,” says Jesse Lawrence, founder and president of TicketIQ.
The end of 2022 doesn’t necessarily mean that pop’s biggest superstars are about to go into hibernation, though: With stadium tours from Swift, Bruce Springsteen, P!nk and Ed Sheeran on the books for next year, Lawrence believes that 2023 will be more significant for top-level tours than 2022 has been. “This time last year, there was still uncertainty about the pandemic dragging on into 2022, and there was too much risk for some of the megatours, which we’ll see in 2023,” says Lawrence. Plus, there’s one superstar whom Medina is “most interested in watching, as a fan and as a programmer,” for a potentially massive 2023: Rihanna, who will headline the Super Bowl halftime show in February and hopefully follow up the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever No. 2single “Lift Me Up” with more new music.
Even if 2023 isn’t quite as jam-packed with new releases from A-listers, Hadley believes that some of the budding stars who broke through in 2022, including Steve Lacy and Zach Bryan — both of whom also recently scored Grammy noms — are poised to join that upper-class conversation. “I’m [always] thinking about superstar releases,” he says, “but I also think it’s a really exciting time for the next generation of superstars.”
Selena Gomez, Zendaya, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), Amanda Seyfried and Sheryl Lee Ralph are among the stars with ties to the music world who are nominated for 2023 Golden Globes. Gomez is nominated for best actress in a television series – musical or comedy for Only Murders in the Building; Zendaya for best actress in a television series – drama for Euphoria; Glover for best actor in a television […]
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