Sheeran, meanwhile – a star so sceptical of showmanship he named his most recent album No. 6 Collaborations Project – lays claim to the decade’s most-streamed track with 2017’s Shape of You earning over 2.3 billion streams. The song beats Drake’s One Dance, Post Malone and 21 Savage’s Rockstar, Halsey and The Chainsmokers’ Closer and Sheeran’s own Thinking Out Loud.
Australian artist Sia also has a claim into the twenty-teens’ musical hall of fame, ranking in the top five most streamed female artists of the decade, ahead of Beyonce but behind Ariana Grande, Rihanna and Taylor Swift.
Of course, Spotify’s streaming numbers tell just part of the story. Before streaming became the most dominant format of music consumption in Australia in 2016, Grammy-winning singer Adele twice claimed releases that now lie among the best-selling CDs of all-time, 2011’s 21 and 2015’s 25.
Neilsen figures in the US also cite Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (2013) and Taylor Swift’s 1989 (2014) as the decade’s earlier pop juggernauts, while Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know (2012), Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines (2013) and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk (2015) were among the decade’s top-selling singles.
In terms of critical accord and lingering relevance, other artists still have dominated discussions of the 2010s’ most enduring musical works.
In its lists of the 200 best albums and singles of the decade, influential music site Pitchfork made a claim for Frank Ocean’s Blonde (2016) and Kendrick Lamar’s Alright (2015) respectively, for capturing the cultural zeitgeist’s focus on issues of identity and social activism. Billboard gifted the title to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), while Vice gave its nod to the less-likely Knowles, Solange’s A Seat at the Table (2016). NME, meanwhile, after vouching for Lorde’s emotional Melodrama (2017) and Kanye’s vibrant Yeezus (2013), gave its top spot to Arctic Monkeys’ AM (2013). Go figure.
Dr Axel Brunns, professor at the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology, says rather than a singular artist, the decade is likely to be remembered for the “breadth and diversity” of artists including the global rise of “non-Anglo pop music” such as K-pop, ever since Psy’s Gangnam Style dominated worldwide charts in 2012.
“We’re kind of past, in many ways, the one defining artist and the big star scene,” he says. “It’s largely because of streaming and the way people access artists now – people have been discovering lots of different styles and genres and artists, and obviously exploring Bandcamp and all those sites that provide support for indie artists. It’s really broadened out things quite a bit.”
Complicating the discussion further, Spotify’s wrap also shone the spotlight on the decade’s recent latecomers.
2019’s most streamed artist globally was US frat-rapper Post Malone with over 6.5 billion streams, with Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? the year’s top-streamed album, and Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes’ Senorita the top-streamed track.
On the local front, Australia’s top-streamed homegrown artists this year were led by veterans Hilltop Hoods, and included Dean Lewis, Tones and I, and Sticky Fingers. Our most-streamed track, though? Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), proving no matter the decade taste remains a battle for the ages.
Spotify’s most streamed artists of the decade (global)
2: Ed Sheeran
3: Post Malone
4: Ariana Grande
Spotify’s most streamed tracks of the decade (global)
1: Shape of You – Ed Sheeran
2: One Dance – Drake, Kyla, WizKid
3: Rockstar – Post Malone, 21 Savage
4: Closer – Halsey, The Chainsmokers
5: Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Spotify’s most streamed artists of 2019 (global)
1: Post Malone
2: Billie Eilish
3: Ariana Grande
4: Ed Sheeran
5: Bad Bunny
Spotify’s most streamed albums of 2019 (global)
1: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish
2: Hollywood’s Bleeding – Post Malone
3: Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande
4: No. 6 Collaborations Project – Ed Sheeran
5: Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
Spotify’s most streamed tracks of 2019 (global)
1: Senorita – Camilla Cabello, Shawn Mendes
2: Bad Guy – Billie Eilish
3: Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) – Post Malone, Swae Lee
4: 7 Rings – Ariana Grande
5: Old Town Road Remix – Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus
Spotify’s most streamed Australian artists of 2019
1: Hilltop Hoods
2: 5 Seconds of Summer
3: Dean Lewis
4: Tones and I
Robert Moran is a culture reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age