Olivia Rodrigo’s Whirlwind Rise, by the Numbers

It’s rare that we see a breakthrough on the charts quite like Olivia Rodrigo. While her debut single “Drivers License” writhes with heartache and desperation, on the charts, it’s been casually cool and unbothered at Number One on the RS 100 for three weeks in a row, millions of streams ahead of any competition. And considering it also leads the daily version of the songs chart, it seems it’s looking at its nails and saying, “Why not another?”

Rodrigo tops January’s Breakthrough 25 Chart with equally casual authority. From December to January, Rodrigo grew her streams by 178 million — a staggering 2,500% increase month-on-month. This marks the biggest breakthrough we’ve seen for a new artist in RS Charts history. While DaBaby grew his streams by 232 million when he topped the Breakthrough 25 Chart in September of 2019, he had already released Baby on Baby, which was home to the summer hit “Suge.” Olivia’s done all this without an album. All she had was “Drivers License.”


Unit Growth


Unit Growth


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Unit Growth

But when you have a song “Drivers License,” it’s apparently all you need. The breakup ballad has production similar to Lorde in her Melodrama days, occasional whispery vocals reminiscent of Billie Eilish, and the storytelling aptitude of her “mom” Taylor Swift. In other words, it’s got all the elements of a hit, along with an emotional specificity that anyone who is or has ever been a teenager can relate to. Oh, and it’s got the word “fuck,” too.

But even with all that, it was hard to predict that it was going to be shattering records previously set by Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and, yes, even Drake. “Drivers License” saw numbers usually reserved for those with a few Number One albums and Grammys under their belts. When it debuted at Number One on the RS 100, it shattered the record for the biggest debut in the chart’s history, a record previously set by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP.” It debuted with 67.7 million first-week streams, bigger than any first-week streams in Alpha Data history. By comparison, Harry Styles’ debut single “Sign of the Times” saw just over 10 million on-demand audio streams in its first week. 

Biggest First Week Streams (On-Demand Audio) 

  1. “Drivers License,” Olivia Rodrigo – 67.7 million
  2. “Laugh Now Cry Later,” Drake – 52.4 million
  3. “WAP,” Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion – 52 million
  4. “Life is Good,” Future feat. Drake – 46.8 million
  5. “In My Feelings,” Drake – 40 million
  6. “Can’t Take a Joke,” Drake – 33.5 million
  7. “The Scotts,” Travis Scott, Kid Cudi – 32.6 million
  8. “Stargazing,” Travis Scott – 31.8 million
  9. “I’m the One,” DJ Khaled – 31.4 million
  10. “Zeze,” Kodak Black – 31.3 million

The only song to see more streams in a single week — debut week or otherwise — is “Old Town Road.” But Lil Nas X’s hit didn’t come out running quite like Rodrigo’s, taking a few months to hit its peak of 80 million weekly streams. 

Biggest Single-Week Streams (On-Demand Audio)

  1. Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (week of 4/5/19) – 80.7 million
  2. Olivia Rodrigo, “Drivers License” (week of 1/8/21) – 67.7 million 
  3. Drake, “God’s Plan” (week of 1/19/18) – 67.2 million 
  4. Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (week of 4/12/19) – 65.4 million 
  5. Ariana Grande, “7 Rings” (week of 1/18/19) – 62.2 million 
  6. Drake, “In My Feelings” (week of 7/6/18) – 57.7 million 
  7. Drake, “In My Feelings” (week of 7/13/18) – 57.6 million 
  8. Roddy Ricch, “The Box” (week of 1/10/20) – 57.1 million
  9. Meek Mill, “Going Bad” (week of 11/30/18) – 55.5 million
  10. Roddy Ricch, “The Box” (week of 1/17/20) – 54.7 million

While January 2021 will undoubtedly be remembered on the charts as the month of “Drivers License,” other artists were still able to make an impact on the Breakthrough 25 Chart.

Memphis rapper Pooh Shiesty takes second on the chart, growing his monthly streams by 23.6 million on-demand audio streams in January thanks largely to “Back in Blood,” his Lil Durk-featuring single that became his first RS 100 hit. Shiesty has also topped the Apple Music Pre-Add Chart for two weeks straight as he gears up for the Friday release of his debut mixtape, Shiesty Season. Rapper SpotemGottem takes third as his TikTok hit “Beat Box 2” enters the daily RS 100. Erica Banks, the rapper behind the “Buss It” challenge, takes fourth, followed by rising Brooklyn drill rapper Dusty Locane.

The Rolling Stone Breakthrough 25 chart ranks the artists who are seeing the greatest gains each month in audio streams. It does not include passive listening, such as terrestrial radio or digital radio. Because the chart focuses on newer music, eligible artists must not have not reached the upper ranks of the charts before. Each month, Rolling Stone publishes an official version of the Breakthrough 25 chart, covering the four-week period ending with the previous Thursday.

See the full Breakthrough 25 Chart here.

Angelia S. Rico

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