22 of the most iconic record-breaking songs in pop music history

Dia Dipasupil/Getty ImagesBTS just broke a record with their new music video for ‘Dynamite.’
  • While these 22 songs couldn’t be more different, they all have one thing in common: They have broken records.
  • From remaining on the charts for almost two years to being the best-selling song of all time, each of these songs has carved out a space in music history.
  • “WAP,” Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s latest collaboration, has broken many records since its debut.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There’s an infinite number of records to break out there, from the most expensive pair of sneakers sold at auction ($US437,000) to the heaviest cabbage (138.25 pounds). But these records all have to do with the varied, ever-changing world of pop music.

Ever wondered what the best-selling song of all time is? Or who the oldest person to top the Hot 100 was? Look no further – here are 22 iconic songs that have broken records throughout musical history.

With “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey became the first person to have No. 1 songs in four different decades.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The Elusive Chanteuse herself has had No. 1 songs in the ’90s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Her hit Christmas song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” topped the charts in the first week of 2020, as well as 2019.

Over her career, she’s had 19 songs top the charts.

Listen to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” here.

The Nicki Minaj remix of “Say So” gave the rapper her first No. 1 hit, earning her the record for the longest wait for a first Hot 100 No. 1. It was her 109th song to chart on the Hot 100.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesNicki Minaj.

It’s been 10 years since the rapper notched her first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the last decade, she’s become one of the most prolific rappers of our time, but it took a full decade and 109 total entries for Minaj to top the the charts. She finally earned the top spot due to her appearance on a remixed version of Doja Cat’s “Say So,” giving her the longest wait from first Hot 100 entry to No. 1 song.

Listen to “Say So” here.

“Old Town Road” became the longest-running No. 1 song of all time when it topped the charts for 19 consecutive weeks last summer.

Columbia RecordsBilly Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X.

The song had a slow burn – it was originally released in December 2018. But once the remix was released with Billy Ray Cyrus in April 2019, and once it became a meme on TikTok, there was no stopping Lil Nas X and the power of “Old Town Road.”

It first reached the top of the Hot 100 in April and remained there for a record-shattering 19 weeks until August, making it the longest-running No. 1 song of all time.

Listen to “Old Town Road” here.

Before “Old Town Road,” the longest-running No. 1 song was “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. It topped the charts for 16 weeks.

Eric Draper/APMariah Carey with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men.

“One Sweet Day” was released in 1995 as the second single from Carey’s album “Daydream.” Both Carey and Boyz II Men were at the peak of their power in the mid-’90s, and each holds records of their own so, of course, their collaboration was a sure success.

The song reached the top spot on December 2, 1995 and remained there for 16 weeks until March 16, 1996. It held the record for longest-running No. 1 for 23 years until it was surpassed by “Old Town Road.”

Listen to “One Sweet Day” here.

The music video for “Dynamite” by K-pop icons BTS broke the record for most YouTube views in 24 hours.

Big Hit Labels/YouTubeBTS members dance in the music video ‘Dynamite.’

In August 2020, BTS – K-pop superstars and “the world’s biggest boyband,” according to Forbes – released their first English-only song, “Dynamite.” The music video amassed a staggering 101.1 million views in just 24 hours of its release, breaking their own record over a year after they set it with their song, “Boy With Luv,” featuring Halsey.

Listen to “Dynamite” here.

“WAP,” the collaboration between Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, broke many records. For one, it became the first female rap collaboration to debut at No. 1.

YouTube/AtlanticCardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in ‘WAP.’

With “WAP,” Cardi B became the first female rapper to have No. 1 songs in two different decades (“Bodak Yellow,” “I Like It,” and “Girls Like You” all topped the charts in the 2010s). She also extended her record as the female rapper with the most No. 1 hits (four), and, as stated, the song became the first female rap collab to debut atop the charts, as both the Nicki Minaj remix of “Say So” and the Beyoncé remix of “Savage” also hit the top of the charts this year.

Also, according to Billboard, with 93 million streams, “WAP” has the “greatest ever [numbers] for a song in its first week of release.”

Listen to “WAP” here.

The very first song to ever take the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 was Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” in August 1958.

APRicky Nelson in September 1958.

The Billboard Hot 100 didn’t exist until 1958, though it has since become a part of any music fan’s life. The very first song to earn the distinction of Hot 100 chart-topper was “Poor Little Fool” by teen idol and star of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” Ricky Nelson.

Listen to “Poor Little Fool” here.

The song with the longest journey to No. 1 is none other than “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” by Los Del Rio, which took 33 weeks to reach the top of the charts.

Lionel Cironneau/AP PhotoLos Del Rio members Rafael Ruiz, left, and Antonio Romero Monge.

The song was originally released in 1995 to little fanfare, but once the Bayside Boys stepped in, the song became a megahit, topping the charts in August 1996, 33 weeks, or seven and a half months, after it debuted. It stayed at the top for 14 weeks.

Listen to “Macarena (Bayside Boys)” here.

“Jingle Bell Rock” helped Bobby Helms set the record for a musician with the longest gap between their first Hot 100 song and a place within the top 10.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesCountry singer Bobby Helms poses for a portrait holding an acoustic guitar circa 1957.

Helms first had a song on the Hot 100 in 1958 when “Borrowed Dreams” peaked at 60. The next year, “The Fool and the Angel” hit No. 75.

Over the next six decades, Helms failed to chart another song, until January 2019 when his iconic Christmas jam “Jingle Bell Rock” made it to No. 8 – 62 years after it was written. In 2020, it rose to a new peak, reaching No. 3.

It means Helms holds the record for the longest gap between a musician’s first appearance on the Hot 100 and their first top 10 hit.

Listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” here.

“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons holds the record for the longest time on the Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 87 weeks, or almost two years.

John Salangsang/Invision/APDan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs in 2018.

“Radioactive” remained on the Hot 100 from August 2012 to May 2014, roughly a year and eight months. Its debut spot was No. 96 and its peak was No. 3. Its 87-week journey made it the longest run on the Hot 100 of all time.

Listen to “Radioactive” here.

But Post Malone’s “Circles” spent 39 weeks in the top 10, the most time any song has spent there.

REUTERS/Mike BlakePost Malone.

“Circles” debuted in August 2019, and over the course of 12 months (or 52 weeks), it spent a record 39 weeks in the top 10. Three of those weeks were spent at No. 1, and overall, the song has been on the Hot 100 for a whopping 45 weeks.

Listen to “Circles” here.

The shortest song to ever hit No. 1 is Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs’ “Stay,” which is just a minute and 38 seconds long.

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty ImagesMaurice Williams & the Zodiacs.

No, “Old Town Road” isn’t the shortest song to top the US charts – though it was the shortest song in 54 years. But “Stay” earned the title of shortest song to ever hit No. 1, with a length of just 98 seconds.

Listen to “Stay” here.

Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling single of all time.

AP ImagesBing Crosby in 1944.

According to Guinness, this iconic Christmas tune is the best-selling single of all time, with an estimated 50 million copies sold around the world. “White Christmas” earned this honour in 2012, 70 years after its release.

Listen to “White Christmas” here.

Both “Work It” by Missy Elliott and “Waiting for a Girl Like You” by Foreigner are the longest-running No. 2s that never hit No. 1. They each sat at the second spot for 10 weeks.

Jeff Lombardo, Robert E. Klein/APMissy Elliott and Foreigner.

At first, Foreigner’s 1981 hit held the record solo when “Waiting for a Girl Like You” sat at the almost-top spot for 10 weeks. But in 2002, “Work It” came along and matched their record.

Listen to “Waiting for a Girl Like You” here and listen to “Work It” here.

Michael Jackson made history when his single “You Are Not Alone” debuted at the top of the Hot 100.

Doug Pizac/AP ImagesMichael Jackson in 1984.

In 1995, the Hot 100 was just 37 years old, and a song had never debuted on the chart at No. 1. The King of Pop set that record when “You Are Not Alone,” the second single from his ninth album, made its Hot 100 debut at the top spot. As of August 2020, only 42 songs since have repeated the feat.

Listen to “You Are Not Alone” here.

“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran is the most streamed song ever on Spotify. It has garnered over 2.5 billion streams.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesEd Sheeran.

Spotify announced in December 2017 that the most streamed song of all time was “Shape of You,” the most popular single from Sheeran’s mega-hit album “Divide.” At the time, it had been streamed over 1.6 billion times. Now, it holds that title with 2.5 billion streams total.

Listen to “Shape of You” here.

“My Life Would Suck Without You” holds the record for largest jump to No. 1. It rocketed to the top from No. 97.

Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty ImagesKelly Clarkson.

This Kelly Clarkson power-pop song made it to No. 1 in its second week. It debuted at 97, before jumping a record 96 spots in a single week.

Listen to “My Life Would Suck Without You” here.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” made The Beatles the only act in history to replace themselves twice for three consecutive No. 1s.

Getty ImagesThe Beatles perform in November 1963.

A fair few artists have replaced themselves at No. 1, including Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Outkast. But The Beatles remain the only musicians to replace themselves at the top spot not once, but twice. First up, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit No. 1 in February 1964, where it remained for seven weeks. It was then replaced by “She Loves You,” which stayed at No. 1 for two weeks.

But they set the record with “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which marked their third consecutive No. 1, and it made them the only act before or since to replace themselves twice.

Listen to “Can’t Buy Me Love” here.

When “Hello, Dolly!” reached No. 1, it did two things: It made Louis Armstrong the oldest person to have a No. 1 song, and it ended The Beatles’ three-song reign.

Eddie Adams/APLouis Armstrong in 1971.

Armstrong was 62 years old when “Hello, Dolly!” peaked at the top of the charts in 1964 for a week, making him the oldest musician to achieve this feat. The song later went on to win the Grammy for Best Vocal Performance Male, and it was Armstrong’s biggest hit.

Listen to “Hello, Dolly!” here.

And “Dur dur d’être bébé! (It’s Tough to Be a Baby)” made 4-year-old Jordy Lemoine, known as Jordy, the youngest musician to top the charts.

Alain BUU/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesFrench singer Jordy and his parents Claude Lemoine and Patricia Clerget in 1993.

Jordy is the youngest person to ever have a No. 1 song when his song “Dur dur d’être bébé! (It’s Tough to Be a Baby),” topped the charts in 1992. However, his music was banned in his home country of France due to concerns that his parents were exploiting him.

Listen to “Dur dur d’être bébé! (It’s Tough to Be a Baby)” here.

When “Believe” hit No.1 in 1999, it was Cher’s first chart-topper since her 1974 hit, “Dark Lady.” That 25-year gap is still the biggest between two No. 1s.

APCher in 1971.

It had also been 34 years since her first No.1 hit “I Got You Babe,” also a record. “Believe” proved that even three decades in, Cher remained the Goddess of Pop.

Listen to “Believe” here.

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