Drake is having a pretty good summer. After releasing his double album Scoprion on June 29, the Toronto-based rapper/singer is breaking historic Billboard chart records.
Drake breaks the prior record of five simultaneous Hot 100 top 10s by the Beatles. On April 4, 1964, at the height of early Beatlemania, the band dominated the entire top five, with, in order from No. 1 to No. 5, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.” The following week, the same five songs placed between Nos. 1 and 9.
It honestly amazes me that The Beatles held on to this record for 54 years. Plenty of artists have had multiple hit songs on the charts at a time. They just didn’t have as many as The Fab Four.
The fact that Drake is the first to best their 5/10 standing speaks to his talent and influence. His 7/10 standing also speaks to major changes in the distribution of music that have occurred since April 1964.
Each of The Beatles charting hits during this week in 1964 was the A-Side of a 45 RPM single bought in stores and played on the radio. They were purchased and engaged with individually.
These fives songs were also recorded and released over the span of nearly eighteen months.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” was the most recent Beatles single when the group had their record-breaking week in the Billboard charts. At that point it had been in US record stores for less than a month, having been released on March 16, 1964.
“Please Please Me” was the oldest of the five. It had been available for over a year in the US with a release date of February 7, 1963. It was released nearly a month earlier in the UK on January 11 and had been getting consistent airplay there.
Drake’s seven top-ten tracks, by comparison, were mostly released on the same date: June 29, 2018. The buzz around each track positively affected the popularity of the others.
Drake’s songs were all theoretically packaged together on Scorpion. Plays of the whole album counted towards their chart position. Plays of the songs as singles counted equally toward the chart position. Playing one hit track also often lead directly into another using streaming features like “Top Artist Tracks.”
I’m not writing all of this to say that I don’t think Drake deserves the crown here. On the contrary, I’m surprised it took this long for anyone to take it.
The Beatles were up against intense technological and logistical barriers when they had five top-ten hits. Plenty of artists in the streaming age have dropped surprise albums with multiple hits on them.
So why did it take so long for any one of those records to have five real hits on the chart at once?
And what does it say that Drake had to release a bloated double album to get the requisite number of record-breaking hits?
The whole thing just surprises me.