You don’t need us to tell you that the way in which we consume music changes all the time. From being a purely live experience to the various recorded formats that we’ve taken advantage of over the years from vinyl to tape to mp3, to say that things have come a long way would be an understatement. Since its founding in 2006, Swedish streaming service Spotify has not only come to dominate the streaming market, far outstripping competitors such as Apple Music and the Jay-Z backed Tidal with over 180 million premium subscribers worldwide, but has also played a key role in redefining the way we access music.
At Ledger Note, you know we’re all about the numbers, and when it comes to Spotify, they’re nothing short of ludicrous. We’ve covered the most streamed artists on the platform before, and we had such a good time doing it that we’re going back to the well, this time to take a look at the most streamed individual songs of all time.
#10 Believer - Imagine Dragons
Spotify Streams: 2.24 Billion
A perfect introduction to both the sort of mainstream uber hits that will be populating this list, and the truly massive numbers we will be dealing with here. Imagine Dragons’ third US top ten single, and lead single for their third album, “Believer”, is almost exactly the same as their first two US top ten singles, at least as far as we can tell.
With its stop-start dynamic rhythm and vague lyrics, this generic self-help tape is set over a burping clattering racket where every instrument seems to have been mixed to be louder than every other instrument advertising catnip. The song essentially took over the world upon its release, hitting the top ten in nine countries and featuring heavily in various advertising campaigns, including the likes of Nintendo Switch and the 2017 Superbowl, in addition to underscoring the season finale of Riverdale. The kind of song that sounds extremely meaningful, even if what that meaning actually is, is not immediately obvious to anyone.
Trivia: The song was re-released in 2019, this time featuring Lil Wayne, who has always seemed to know a good way to make a quick buck. His verse does nothing to explain who or what any of us should be believing.
#9 Senorita - Shawn Mendes/ Camilla Cabello
Spotify Streams: 2.25 Billion
A Latin-flavored two-hander from Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, this track features castanets, a flamenco-light picked guitar riff, the sort of hook that is destined to nestle in your brain for at least three days, and an extremely sweaty music video. This song was released in 2019 as a supporting single for the deluxe version of Mendes' self-titled third album, and was also included on Cabello's second album, imaginatively titled “Romance”, later that same year.
On its release, the song was an instant global sensation, charting at number one in a scarcely believable forty countries, including the US. It also went on to sweep a stack of awards, including an AMA, a People’s Choice, two MTV music video awards and a Grammy nomination. This is the second collaboration between the two singers, the first being “I Know What You Did Last Summer” in 2015. This one should honestly come with a warning attached, as it is dangerously catchy.
Trivia: The song has several writing credits attached, with Charli XCX and Jack Patterson from Clean Bandit listed among others.
#8 Closer - The Chainsmokers/ Halsey
Spotify Streams: 2.38 Billion
A watered-down EDM melody, underpinned by one of those clap-clap drum loops that seemed to be absolutely everywhere for a few years, this is a song that, criminally, centers around the non-existent rhyming triplet “closer/Rover/shoulder”, as two sexy young people sing about being young and sexy.
As with every song on this list, the song absolutely dominated on release in 2016, (incidentally making it one of the oldest songs to be included) staying at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for twelve consecutive weeks. It also made The Chainsmokers the first act to have four songs top the Dance/Electronic music chart and also topped the charts in 17 countries around the world. It also has a lyric that references Blink-182, the type of wink to the audience that people go wild for.
Trivia: Because of the song’s undeniable similarity to The Fray’s 2000s pop anthem “Over My Head”, both the singer and guitarist of The Fray were granted co-writing credits on “Closer”.
#7 Sunflower - Post Malone/ Swae Lee
Spotify Streams: 2.43 Billion
A blend of contemporary, wavy production and summery, uplifting pop melodies, this is hip-hop at its most accessible. Served up by two guys who have undeniable songwriting chops, this song is so giddily listenable that it almost defies any attempt at cynicism or criticism. After its October 2018 release, “Sunflower” stayed in the Billboard top ten for a record-matching 33 weeks, a record that would eventually be broken by Post Malone himself, proving this was no fluke.
This song's popularity was ensured by its involvement with the 2018 animated film, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse”, which, in a departure from the various live-action Peter Parker-focused films, follows comic book protagonist Miles Morales. The film itself was a major box-office success, drawing praise for its innovative and distinctive animation style, and cleaned up during awards season as a rare non-Disney/Pixar recipient of the best-animated feature Oscar.
Trivia: “Sunflower” was the first song taken from a soundtrack to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 since Justin Timberlake’s “Trolls” hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling”.
#6 One Dance - Drake feat. Wizkid and Kyla
Spotify Streams: 2.44 Billion
Canadian hip hop and R&B sensation Drake is here to prove that music doesn’t always need to be overly complicated. In fact, you can take over the world with little more than a lyrical hook repeated about nineteen times, three looped piano chords and a Casio keyboard drum track. The song upped its credibility in dancehall terms by including vocals from Nigerian artist, Wizkid, and also found room for British singer, Kyla.
“One Dance” reached the number one spot in the charts in a staggering fifteen countries on its release back in 2016, marking the first time Drake reached the summit as a solo artist. It was also, for a time, the most streamed song on the platform, until it was overtaken by the song that is still number one on this list. The song was lauded at the time for its multiculturalism, and Drake was praised for not being afraid to explore different cultures and genres within his music. A rarity on this list for receiving critical as well as commercial acclaim.
Trivia: Speaking of the two featured artists, “One Dance” was the first time a Nigerian artist had topped the US charts and Kyla thought she was being pranked when she learned of Drake’s interest in sampling her song.
#5 Someone You Loved - Lewis Capaldi
Spotify Streams: 2.50 Billion
The self-proclaimed 'Scottish Beyonce', at least according to a billboard Capaldi famously took out on the London Underground, featuring a cropped headshot of the singer wearing sunglasses with his hair wrapped in a towel in order to announce the “debut Capalbum”. Capaldi has never been afraid to utilize his trademark Scottish humor and social media presence to garner attention outside of his music, and this marketing stunt was a perfect example of his approach.
This, then, is an absolutely textbook emotional breakup song stripped back almost entirely to keys and vocals that took a while to garner the attention it has since received. Originally released as part of an EP in 2018 before being repurposed for Capaldi's 2019 debut album, the song was his first to be issued to the US as a single, eventually topping the chart in its 24th week and going on to receive a Grammy nomination for best song.
Trivia: Despite its obvious appeal as a classic breakup song, the inspiration for Capaldi’s lyric of loss and loneliness was the death of his Grandmother.
#4 Rockstar - Post Malone feat. 21 Savage
Spotify Streams: 2.52 Billion
A second entry on the list from a man whose face looks like a high school notebook, this song is a complete departure from the dreamy summer vibes of “Sunflower”. This is Post Malone in mean-mugging mode, a club hit about the joys of having lots of money and spending it on naughty things. Released in 2017, “Rockstar” was the first US number one hit for both Malone and his collaborator 21 Savage as the lead single for Malone's wonderfully titled 2018 album, “beerbongs & bentleys”.
Unusually adult-centric for such a smash hit, with lyrics centered around drugs and shooting people, the tone of the song did absolutely nothing to detract from its popularity as it topped the chart in thirteen countries. However, part of the song's popularity and commercial success is tinged with controversy, as there was also an unofficial audio track and music video, which was just the song's chorus looped for three and half minutes, that contributed to its download stats and resulting chart performance. Not that Post Malone or 21 Savage would spend any time worrying about that.
Trivia: In the first seven days following its release, “Rockstar” smashed the one-week streaming record on Apple Music, with 25 million streams worldwide.
#3 Dance Monkey - Tones and I
Spotify Streams: 2.67 Billion
We have officially reached stratospheric numbers with this, a song that can best be described as truly odd. A club-friendly bassline is matched with some show tune clicks and percussion, all in service with a breathy, distorted vocal that says the words “dance for me” and “move for me” repeatedly for a little over three minutes. In other words, a perfect contemporary pop song. The other remarkable thing about this song is that it is one of the newest entries on the list, having only been released a little over three years ago, an astonishingly short time to rack up such a colossal stream count.
“Dance Monkey” topped the official singles chart in a whopping thirty, we repeat, thirty, countries and charted in the top ten in a further ten. It also won the Grand Prize at the obscure but prestigious sounding International Songwriting Competition. Tones And I, the Australian singer-songwriter, based the lyrics on her experiences of busking on the streets and trying to get a reaction from passers-by. Safe to say she got one eventually.
Trivia: Shazam, the music recognition app that has seen users worldwide impatiently shush all their friends while holding their phone toward the nearest speaker, recognized “Dance Monkey” as the most searched song, proving, if nothing else, that the hook alone is enough to stop you in your tracks.
#2 Blinding Lights - The Weeknd
Spotify Streams: 3.19 Billion
Just look at that number. Try to imagine, for a moment, three billion of anything. It’s a practically incomprehensible figure. Now, as this is the most recent release on our entire list, only entering the scene at the end of November 2019, try to imagine the stunning feat of accruing three billion streams in just three years. This is the very definition of a monster hit, recognized by Billboard as the best performing single of all time, as well as the longest charting song on the Hot 100 ever at 90 weeks, and topping the charts in 36 countries. It was also the fastest song to reach two billion streams on Spotify.
The dopamine hit from the song’s undeniable nostalgic qualities, from the unabashed eighties synths to the Michael Jackson-inspired visuals in the video–check out the crash zoom on his tip-toed black and white dance shoes if you don’t believe us–almost certainly contributed to this song’s absolute domination. With production helmed by Swedish hitmaker Max Martin, responsible for Britney Spears's “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, and Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”, it’s no surprise that the song was a success, although the numbers themselves remain mind-boggling.
Trivia: Never afraid of a dark undertone, with past lyrical themes covering everything from substance abuse to adultery, “Blinding Lights” refers to someone’s vision blurring as they drive toward a romantic liaison while drunk.
#1 Shape of You - Ed Sheeran
Spotify Streams: 3.26 Billion
It was always going to be him, wasn’t it? The only surprising thing about Ed Sheeran’s place at the top of this list is that it's his only appearance in the top ten. While he may not go down in history alongside the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney or Jeff Buckley as a generational songwriting talent, when it comes to writing songs that people all over the world can relate to and appreciate, Sheeran is setting the new benchmark.
When it comes to this guy, the numbers almost defy comprehension, but here we go with some that might help. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, in 2017 alone in a world where streaming platforms render sales almost entirely optional, this song's combined sales were $26.6 million. It was also the first song to reach two billion streams on Spotify, a figure which it has obviously far surpassed since, taking over from Drake's “One Dance” mentioned above, as the most streamed song on the platform. At the time of writing, the official music video on Youtube has racked up 5.7 billion views, a number well over two-thirds of the global human population. We're simply not prepared to spend a single second describing this song, because we are absolutely sure that if you're reading this, you've heard it at least eight hundred times already.
Trivia: Because of similarities with TLC's “No Scrubs” (listen out for it in the pre-chorus particularly) , the songwriting team behind the 90's R'n'B classic are also credited on this.
Here we have a few that are only a hair outside the top ten.
Perfect - Ed Sheeran
Spotify Streams: 2.18 Billion
Making up for lost time on our countdown, it’s that man again. This is a more traditional ballad compared to the urban flavor of “Shape of You”, and was released in 2017 as the fourth single from Sheeran’s album “÷”. Almost certainly the soundtrack to first dances at weddings all over the world for the last five years, the song was also repackaged with Beyonce, as “Perfect Duet” and Andrea Bocelli, as “Perfect Symphony”.
Bad Guy - Billie Eilish
Spotify Streams: 2.14 Billion
The fifth single from teen phenomenon Billie Eilish's 2018 debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”. This is a song to remind people that pop music is always capable of springing a surprise. After all, who could have expected a song about, shall we say, endurance, sung by an eighteen-year-old, over a mix of subdued club bass, an 808 drum track lifted straight from the eighties, and a synth riff destined to live in your head for at least a week after hearing it.
Say You Won’t Let Go - James Arthur
Spotify Streams: 2.13 Billion
Back in more traditional ballad territory, we have the voice that launched a million buskers and bar singers, James Arthur, with the lead single from his second album back in 2016. The song, a touching warble about the redemption and resilience of love, debuted at 100 on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at 11, being kept out of the top ten by a combination of Post Malone and Miley Cyrus. It eventually spent 52 weeks on the Hot 100 and topped the charts in five other countries. After legal proceedings, the songwriters of The Fray’s hit “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” successfully received a songwriting credit because of similarities between the two.
And, just because we’re completionists, here are the rest of the top twenty, in descending order.
- Stay - The Kid Laroi/Justin Bieber (Spotify Streams: 2.14 Billion) - Not the first song on this list to feature 80's style keys and nostalgic pop drums, for those of you planning a mega-hit of your own, is this two-hander between singer/rapper The Kid Laroi and Canadian pop monster Justin Bieber. Topped the charts in 23 countries.
- Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran (Spotify Streams: 2.03 Billion) - The joint oldest song on the list, released way back in 2014, possibly the moment that he took over the world.
- Lucid Dreams - Juice Wrld (Spotify Streams: 2.00 Billion) - Re-released in 2018 by the emo-rap sensation’s label after originally being posted to Soundcloud, this, for the uninitiated, is exactly what you might imagine emo-rap to sound like.
- God’s Plan - Drake (Spotify Streams: 1.98 Billion) - The first song on this list to dip below two billion streams is the lead single from Drake’s fifth album, “Scorpion”. This finds the Toronto rapper in reflective mode on his fame and career.
- Don’t Start Now - Dua Lipa (Spotify Streams: 1.96 Billion) - Another gleaming slice of retro-pop, this is the lead single from Dua Lipa’s second album, appropriately titled ‘Future Nostalgia’.
- Photograph - Ed Sheeran (Spotify Streams: 1.92 Billion) - Another entry from the world’s favorite busker, bringing hit total streams on this list alone to just under ten billion, released in 2014, alongside ‘Thinking Out Loud.’
- Starboy - The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk (Spotify Streams: 1.89 Billion) - Bringing up the rear, it's the collaboration between the French electronic legends and funky Canadian miserabilist that we didn't know we needed, although we absolutely did.
And that’s a wrap! A list of absolutely brain-mangling success, highlighting the popularity of not only these artists and their place in the contemporary pop pantheon, with not a single entry older than eight years, but also of Spotify itself, with just the twenty songs on this list responsible for a combined 45 billion hits.
What's interesting is to compare it with our rundown of the best-selling artists of all time, to see how things shape up when you compare streaming to more traditional forms of music access. It is also worth checking our own list of best songs of all time. We hope you enjoyed this run through the outer limits of musical popularity, and, as ever, do get in touch to let us know what you think!
Top 10 Most Streamed Songs of All Time on Spotify
This is the table for the top 10 most streamed songs of all time. It contains their names and all time Spotify stream numbers.
|1||Shape of You||Ed Sheeran||3.26 billion|
|2||Blinding Lights||The Weeknd||3.19 billion|
|3||Dance Monkey||Tones and I||2.67 billion|
|4||Rockstar||Post Malone feat. 21 Savage||2.52 billion|
|5||Someone You Loved||Lewis Capaldi||2.50 billion|
|6||One Dance||Drake feat. Wizkid and Kyla||2.45 billion|
|7||Sunflower||Post Malone, Swae Lee||2.43 billion|
|8||Closer||The Chainsmokers, Halsey||2.38 billion|
|9||Senorita||Shawn Mendes, Camilla Cabello||2.25 billion|
|10||Believer||Imagine Dragons||2.24 billion|