It's Official: Pharrell Has 2014's Best-Selling Song

Paul Grein
·Writer

No wonder he’s so darn “Happy.” Pharrell Williams, who was featured on the best-selling song of 2013, Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines,” has the best-selling song of 2014 all to himself. “Happy” sold 6.45 million copies in 2014, putting it far ahead of its two closest challengers, John Legend's “All of Me” (4.67 million) and “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J (4.43 million).

This is the third year in a row that the year’s top-seller has surpassed 6 million in sales during the year. “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra, the top-selling song of 2012, sold 6.8 million copies during that year. “Blurred Lines” sold 6.5 million copies in 2013.

Williams wrote Happy for the movie Despicable Me 2. This is the fourth time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that a song from a theatrically-released movie has emerged as the year’s best-seller. The three previous times pre-date the digital era. Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You” (from The Bodyguard) was the best-selling physical single of 1992, with sales that year of 3.09 million. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio featuring L.V. (from Dangerous Minds) was the best-selling physical single of 1995 (2.53 million). Mariah Carey's “Loverboy” (from Glitter) was the best-selling physical single of 2001 (571K).

This is the fifth time in the past seven years that Perry has had a song in the year-end top 10. She’s the only artist who can make that claim. (Rihanna is in second place. Shehas finished in the year-end top 10 in three of the last seven years.)

In addition, Perry has the highest-ranking song by a female lead artist for the year. It’s the second time she has earned that distinction. She previously achieved the feat in 2010 with “California Gurls” (featuring Snoop Dogg), which was also the year’s #1 hit overall.

Meghan Trainor's “All about That Bass” ranks #4 for the year (4.36 million). It was Trainor's first Hot 100 single, and thus is the year's top debut single.

"Fancy" by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX is #5 (3.97 million). This is the highest ranking for an all-female collabo since 1999, when “Heartbreak Hotel” by Whitney Houston (featuring Faith Evans & Kelly Price) was the #3 physical single of that year (1.34 million).

"Talk Dirty" by Jason Derulo featuring 2 Chainz is #6 (3.96 million). This is the second time that Derulo has put a song in the year-end top 10. His breakthrough smash, “Whatcha Say,” was the #10 hit of 2009.

"Turn Down for What" by DJ Snake & Lil Jon is #7 (3.45 million).

Taylor Swift's “Shake It Off” is #8 (3.43 million). This is, surprisingly, the first time that Swift has put a song in the year-end top 10.

"Happy" isn’t the only song from an animated blockbuster to appear in the year’s top 10. Idina Menzel's “Let It Go” from Frozen is #9 (3.37 million).

Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” is #10 (3.34 million).

This year is the first time since 2008 that no artist has more than one song in the year-end top 10.

Five of this year’s top 10 hits are by female artists. Females also had five of the top 10 in 2008 and 2011 (the year of Adele).

Four collaborations are listed in the year’s top 10—down from a record six of the top 10 for 2013.

No songs by an ongoing group or duo made the year-end top 10—a rare occurrence. There was at least one every year from 2008 through 2013.

A total of 1.1 billion song downloads were sold in 2014, down 12% from 1.26 billion in 2013. This is the second year in a row in which overall sales of digital singles fell.

A total of 25 songs topped the 2 million mark in digital sales in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since 2008, when 19 songs reached that plateau. A total of 82 songs topped 1 million. That’s also the lowest mark since 2008, when 71 songs reached that plateau. (The digital market, which began with the opening of the iTunes store in April 2003, was still on the rise in 2008.)

"Happy" is also #1 on Billboard's already-published recap of the top songs of 2014. At 41, Williams is the oldest lead artist to rank #1 on Billboard's recap since 1999, when Cher, then 53, finished first with “Believe.”

There are two key differences between Billboard's recap and Nielsen SoundScan's above-referenced list. First, Billboard's recap is based on the weekly Hot 100 chart, which incorporates airplay and streaming data, in addition to sales. Second, Billboard's list closes about six weeks earlier than Nielsen SoundScan's. It recaps the charts in the issues dated Dec. 7, 2013 through Nov. 29, 2014. The Nov. 29 issue corresponds with Nielsen SoundScan's chart for the week ending Nov. 16.

Follow Paul on Google+