Is Drake the most popular Jewish recording artist ever?

Canadian rapper breaks record held by the Beatles for 54 years

By
July 17, 2018 16:13
3 minute read.

Drake Releases His Double Album, 'Scorpion, June 29, 2018 (Reuters)

Drake Releases His Double Album, 'Scorpion, June 29, 2018 (Reuters)

 
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He’s shattering records all over the place.

Canadian Jewish rapper Drake recently released his latest album, Scorpion, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, making it his eighth consecutive No. 1 album. Scorpion is also the first ever album in history to hit 1 billion streams in a single week.

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And two weeks after the album debuted, Drake shattered a record held for 54 years – by none other than the Beatles.

In April 1964, the Fab Four had five simultaneous songs in the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart. But this week, Drake landed a whopping seven songs in the top 10 rankings – four of which just debuted and another three which have been hanging around the charts for several weeks.

Meanwhile, the artist has passed both Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder for the most top 10 songs of all time. Drake is now in third place, tying Rihanna with 31 songs and sitting just behind the Beatles (34) and Madonna (38).

Does the incredible success of Drake – born in Toronto to a Catholic father and Jewish mother – make the rapper the most popular Jewish recording artist of all time?

In a 2013 article, Billboard examined the most successful Jewish musicians since it began charting music back in 1958. That report ranked Drake as the No. 13 most popular recording artist, based on an algorithm “weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates” decades ago vs. today.

The 2013 ranking put Billy Joel in the No. 1 slot, followed by Neil Diamond and then Barbra Streisand. Joel, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, has had seven songs in the top 5 and three No. 1 hits.

Of course, five years is a long time in the music industry – and it’s a very long time in Drake’s career. Since that Billboard listing of Jewish stars, the rapper has released 32 more singles, two more studio albums and been featured on dozens of hit songs including Rihanna’s No. 1 single “Work.”

Drake is pretty popular among Israelis as well. In stats released several months ago to mark the first month of operation of Spotify in Israel, Drake was the second most listened to artist among Israelis, coming in just after local Omer Adam. His single “God’s Plan” was also the most listened to song on the platform for the whole month.

So is Drake – who not only had a bar mitzvah but also recreated it in the 2012 music video for “HYFR” and again during his 2014 SNL hosting gig – the most successful Jewish recording artist of all time?

That’s a pretty difficult thing to quantify. Joel has released 13 studio albums and 50 music videos, to Drake’s five albums and 36 music videos. The Piano Man has sold approximately 150 million records in his five-decade long career, while the guy who coined “YOLO” is closer to 10 million album sales. Streisand, for her part, has sold around 145 million records.

But these numbers are like comparing apples and oranges; today music lovers are far more likely to purchase singles than they are albums, and last month Drake became the Recording Industry Association of America’s top certified singles artist ever. And when it comes to platforms like YouTube, it should be no surprise that Drake is king: The video for “Hotline Bling” has been viewed more than 1.4 billion times, and “God’s Plan” is closing in on 750 million. Joel’s most popular video on YouTube has been seen just 95 million times.

Can Drake be crowned the Jewish musician king? There’s no easy answer. But it’s pretty clear that we’ll be hearing plenty more from the 31-year-old rapper.

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