Female pop stars celebrate record-breaking year on UK singles chart

The last 12 months proved a record-breaking year for female musicians in the British music industry, according to new figures from the British Phonographic Institute (BPI). Women spent an unprecedented 31 weeks atop the UK singles chart, and accounted for a record seven of the year’s 10 biggest singles, and more than half of the overall top 20.

Ten of those weeks at No 1 belonged to Miley Cyrus, who had the year’s biggest single in Flowers and who kept company at the top spot with Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Kenya Grace, Raye, Billie Eilish, Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift.

Cyrus, Swift, Goulding and Raye along with SZA, PinkPantheress and Cameroonian-American singer Libianca helmed seven of the year’s 10 most popular tracks, the highest number in more than 70 years of Official Singles Chart history.

Goulding’s track, Miracle, was a collaboration with Calvin Harris; the rest of the top 10 was made up by Dave and Central Cee, and Nigerian singer Rema.

BPI chief executive Dr Jo Twist celebrated the shift, but advised against complacency. “Our work in the music industry continues to ensure that this becomes the norm.”

Additionally, 48.5% of all songs that reached the Top 10 this year were by women – either solo or as collaborations – representing female musicians’ highest annual share of Top 10 hits this century.

Elton John making his retirement from live performance by headlining Glastonbury, 25 June 2023.

Overall, 2023 was the ninth year of growth for the British music industry. Sales and streams increased by 10% to 182.8m albums or equivalent units. Streaming hit a record high with 179.6bn audio streams across 12 months – up 12.8% on the previous year, and almost double that of 2018.

However, the long-tail effect of streaming meant there were no new albums released in 2023 in the year’s overall Top 10 – with the exception of Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version), a note-for-note re-recording of her 2014 pop breakthrough, at No 3. It featured three albums from 2022: Swift’s Midnights placed second, SZA’s SOS, released in December 2022, eighth, and Harry Styles’ Harry’s House fifth.

Otherwise, the Top 10 albums featured many of the same suspects as the 2022 list, nearly all of them greatest hits collections: the Weekend’s The Highlights was the year’s No 1 album, followed by Elton John’s Diamonds (No 4), Fleetwood Mac’s 50 Years – Don’t Stop (No 6), Eminem’s Curtain Call: The Hits (No 7) and Abba’s Gold (No 10). The list was rounded out by Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 album AM (No 9).

Vinyl sales saw their 16th year of growth, rising 11.8% to 6.1m units – their highest level since 1990. Unlike the superannuated overall combined physical and streaming Top 10, the vinyl chart featured seven brand new albums, with Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) at No 1, followed by the Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds (No 2), Lana Del Rey’s Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (3), Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) (No 4), Blur’s The Ballad of Darren (7) and Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts (No 9).

CDs’ rate of decline slowed, dropping by 6.9% to 10.8m units. Take That’s This Life was the year’s highest selling CD. Cassettes, meanwhile, sold around 136,000 units, retaining a steady six-figure sales rate for the fourth consecutive year. Rodrigo’s Guts was the highest-selling tape, selling nearly 8,500 copies during its first week of release.

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Streaming comprised more than 80% of the overall recorded music market, but of the 44 albums that debuted at No 1, 86% had more than half their chart-eligible sales made up by physical sales – likely a result of artist-incentivised preorders, with physical units sold offering a heavier chart weighting than streamed units.

The UK’s biggest albums of 2023

1. The Weeknd – The Highlights
2. Taylor Swift – Midnights
3. Taylor Swift – 1989 (Taylor’s Version)
4. Elton John – Diamonds
5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House
6. Fleetwood Mac – 50 Years – Don’t Stop
7. Eminem – Curtain Call: The Hits
8. SZA – SOS
9. Arctic Monkeys – AM
10. ABBA – Gold: Greatest Hits

The UK’s biggest singles of 2023

1. Miley Cyrus – Flowers
2. Dave and Central Cee – Sprinter
3. Raye – Escapism ft 070 Shake
4. Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
5. Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding – Miracle
6. Rema – Calm Down
7. SZA – Kill Bill
8. PinkPantheress – Boy’s a Liar
9. Harry Styles – As It Was
10. Libianca – People

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