Harry Styles and Kate Bush help ensure British artists appear on all top ten singles of 2022

Harry Styles

British artists have set a new record by appearing on all top ten singles of last year, for the first time in Official Charts history.  

At points last year, you could hardly escape Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’. Not only did its upbeat, nostalgic synth-pop reel you in but it was indeed everywhere, sitting pretty atop the Official Singles Chart for ten weeks. It’s unsurprising then that it was the biggest song of 2022 – and that’s official, according to the Official Charts Company. 

It was the most streamed song of the year, amassing just shy of 181 million audio and video streams combined, and also managed to shift some 1.57 million chart units between its release in April and the end of the year.  

“You know it’s not the same as it was,” the song echoes. Indeed, it might have been Styles’ second chart-topping single – following his debut single ‘Sign of the Times’ in 2017 – but it represents a new feat of commercial success for the former 1D man.

Harry Styles

2022 saw even greater commercial success for Harry Styles than ever before.

What’s also completely new is the record-breaking fact that all the top ten tracks of the Official Top 40 songs of last year are comprised of British artists.  

This included fresh success from the likes of BRITs Rising Star nominee Cat Burns, with her breakup tune ‘Go’ marking a breakout year, and West Lothian’s LF System, whose popular house tune ‘Afraid To Feel’ typified the return of dance music in 2022.

There was also success for former Britain’s Got Talent contestant Calum Scott, who teamed up with Belgian DJ Felix De Laet (aka Lost Frequencies) to deliver the eighth-biggest tune of the year in ‘Where Are You Now’.  

Ed Sheeran’s presence, not once but thrice in the top ten, including his feature on Nigerian singer Fireboy DML’s afrobeat tune ‘Peru’, might not feel that new; but whether you’re a fan of Mr. Sheeran or not, the normality of such an achievement is impressive in itself. It seems not a year goes by without another Sheeran record, and 2022 saw Ed Sheeran become the first artist to have four albums spend a year in the Top 10.  

Cat Burns

Cat Burns had breakout success in 2022.

Here’s that list in full.  

  • 1. ‘As It Was’, Harry Styles
  • 2. ‘Bad Habits’, Ed Sheeran
  • 3. ‘Peru’, Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
  • 4. ‘Go’, Cat Burns
  • 5. ‘Shivers’, Ed Sheeran
  • 6. ‘Running Up That Hill’, Kate Bush
  • 7. ‘Heat Waves’, Glass Animals
  • 8. ‘Where Are You Now’, Lost Frequencies & Calum Scott
  • 9. ‘Afraid To Feel’, LF System
  • 10. ‘Seventeen Going Under’, Sam Fender

So can we be surprised this list is dominated by Brits? Well, yes and no. Ever since the British Invasion of the 60s, we’ve always been one of the most powerful players in pop. Achieving a takeover of the top ten was always inevitable and may simply be one of those quirky statistical coincidences rather than an entirely new phenomenon.   

There’s also a story behind many of them once you delve deeper. Ed Sheeran’s collaboration with Fireboy DML saw ‘Peru’ tap into an African market to create a globally commercial tune. The psychedelic pop-rock of Glass Animals’ ‘Heat Waves’ had huge success on traditional formats whilst also capturing a Gen-Z fanbase with a reverbed version of it soundtracking a viral trend on TikTok. ‘Heat Waves’ gathered such a… wave… that it overtook The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ as the longest-charting Hot 100 single – an indicator of its success in the States.

Ed Sheeran performs live

Ed Sheeran’s presence on the list of most popular songs of 2022 is hardly surprising – and that’s a remarkable achievement in itself.

Then, of course, there’s Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, whose resurgent success following its inclusion in Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things was one of the defining music stories of last year. It reached Number 1 here in the UK, a remarkable 37 years since its release, and was this country’s official ‘song of the summer’ (that’s the most popular song between the first week of June and the last week of August, for those who like a rule).

The tune’s success was indicative of the fact we’re listening to more catalogues of older stars than ever before; the advent of streaming may very much be a 21st century habit, but what it does is allow us to dip our ears back into tunes of old.  

Kate Bush

The success of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, following its appearance in Stranger Things, was one of the standout music stories of 2022.

And whilst some say streaming has generated more competition for music consumption (Puerto Rico’s Bad Bunny, for instance, was the most-streamed Spotify artist in the world between 2020 and last year), that works the other way too, providing easier-than-ever global outreach for British tunes. 

Furthermore, the growth of the UK’s streaming market is now vast, having grown considerably in recent years. Last year, for instance, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) calculated there were 159.3 billion audio streams from the UK – for some (remarkable) context, that’s over 40 times greater than in 2012 (3.7 billion streams). Local growth in listening habits has also propelled British talent to the top.

We might live in fairly fractious times, but without hoisting the flag and singing the national anthem, the British music dominance of 2022 is certainly a source of pride.  

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