The Year in the Social 50 Chart: BTS & EXO Lead K-Pop Parade

Justin Bieber has, so far, 163 total weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Social 50 chart, accumulated between 2011 and 2017. Between the Social 50 tallies dated July 25, 2015, and Aug. 13, 2016, he was never not leading the list.

But one thing Bieber has never accomplished? Leading the Social 50 for an entire chart year. That’s where BTS comes in.

In 2018, the Social 50 chart was ruled by the K-pop group for the entire 2018 chart year (Dec. 2, 2017-Nov. 17, 2018). That continues a consecutive reign that began on the July 29, 2017-dated list and culminated with BTS’ 100th total week atop the Social 50 in the final week of the chart year.

It probably goes without saying, but BTS is, by far, the No. 1 act on the year-end Social 50 chart.

BTS’ second year at No. 1 on the year-end Social 50 list (the group ruled 2017’s and came in at No. 2 in 2016) comes amid a big year for the boy band overall. In June, it scored its first top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Fake Love” bowing at No. 10 on the June 2-dated tally, the first K-pop song to debut in the chart’s top 10. Three months later, “Idol,” featuring Nicki Minaj, entered the chart one spot below at No. 11 (Sept. 8). Additionally, BTS became the first K-pop act to lead the Billboard 200, doing so with Love Yourself: Tear in June and again in September with Love Yourself: Answer.

So BTS has been busy in 2018, meaning the group’s rule of the Social 50 has been no fluke. The act has been active each and every week on social media, routinely scoring millions of mentions and reactions on Twitter alongside thousands of Wikipedia views. And as BTS’ star continues to rise, so do its followers on social media, further expanding the group’s reach.

Fellow K-pop Acts Mounts a Challenge: But if there’s any consolation for Social 50-watchers who’ve grown tired of BTS’ reign, it’s that some potential challengers have emerged — and shocker, they’re genre-mates. After reaching No. 35 on the 2017 year-end ranking, EXO breaks into the top 10 of the 2018 list at No. 2. The K-pop nine-piece spend much of the chart year within the weekly Social 50’s top 10, oftentimes at No. 2 behind BTS. EXO also made its first appearance in the top 40 of the Billboard 200, with November’s EXO 5: Don’t Mess Up My Tempo debuting at No. 23 (Nov. 17).

Behind EXO, two additional K-pop acts rank in the year-end 2018 top 10: GOT7 (No. 6) and NCT (No. 9). It’s not just the first time more than one K-pop act has reached the year-end top 10 — there’s four in all, and that’s not even counting three more such acts in the top 20.

The moral? The Social 50 is more of a globally-flavored genre playground than ever before. And while BTS may still reign supreme in the weeks to come, the competition up top just got a little more crowded.

Cardi Tops Among U.S. Stars: It’s not like Cardi B wasn’t a factor on the Social 50 whatsoever in 2017, but the rapper, who first reached the list in March 2017, wasn’t a presence inside the weekly top 10 until the end of the year, giving her the No. 32 spot on the year-end 2017 list.

Fast forward to 2018, where Cardi is the top hip-hop act on the Social 50, as well as the highest U.S. musician, at No. 3.

It’s fairly easy to see why the rapper has been such a force on the chart in 2018. Along with her song-based chart feats, including Hot 100 No. 1s “I Like It” with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, plus a featured credit on Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” and a debut album, Invasion of Privacy, that ruled the Billboard 200 dated April 21, Cardi has been quite the presence on social media. While some artists choose to simply promote their new material on social channels with a few choice posts and otherwise use accounts for more personal matters, Cardi blends the two, often celebrating chart feats alongside menial updates about her life.

Cardi even became the subject of a well-publicized spat on social media toward the end of the chart year; after rumors of a feud between her and fellow rapper Nicki Minaj, the two took their disagreements public in late summer and into fall. The Cardi vs. Nicki drama was good promo for both artists’ new releases, of course, and it also routinely shot each up the Social 50 thanks tto social media interaction boosts when the pair squared off.

1D’s Prolific Tweeter: It’s tough to see who’s winning the battle of One Direction members past and present while the group remains on hiatus as the remaining four pursue solo careers, but when it comes to social media, Louis Tomlinson’s quite the contender.

Tomlinson, who ranks at No. 7 on the year-end 2018 Social 50 list, is the only One Directioner to rank within the top 25, with Niall Horan second best at No. 26 (former member Zayn is No. 31, followed by Harry Styles [No. 32] and Liam Payne [No. 35]). In addition to reaching a new peak of No. 2 (Aug. 18), Tomlinson also didn’t fall out of the top five of the weekly Social 50 from mid-July until the end of the chart year.

Why him? Well, activity is always a sure way to rise up the Social 50, and Tomlinson has had plenty of it, tweeting from his Twitter account often multiple times a day (Styles, meanwhile, might go weeks — perhaps months — without tweeting). And while Tomlinson didn’t chart a song on the Hot 100 all year — or release a new song at all, for that matter — he’s remained active in the studio. Perhaps most importantly, he’s been part of the news cycle in his native U.K. especially thanks to the July announcement that he would become part of The X Factor’s judging panel; the show’s 15th season premiered a few months later in September.
So even if we go another year without a new album, let alone new music, from Tomlinson, don’t be surprised if he remains one of the mainstays in the chart’s top 10 going forward. The guy’s got quite the active social media life.


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