For the first time since 2008, English pop-rock superstars Coldplay are back atop the Billboard Hot 100 with their new song “My Universe” — the longest span in between Hot 100 No. 1s for one artist since entertainment legend Cher scored her first No. 1 in nearly 25 years when “Believe” topped the listing in 1999.
Appearing alongside Coldplay on the artist credit is a group who’ve been far more recent (and frequent) visitors to the Hot 100’s top spot: Korean superstar pop septet BTS. “My Universe” is their third No. 1 in 2021 alone, and sixth dating back to their “Dynamite” debuting atop the chart in Sept. 2020 — both high marks for any artist over the respective timespans.
Which of the two groups is this latest No. 1 more significant for? And which other ’00s hitmakers might still be threats to take the chart’s top spot? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. “My Universe” is the sixth Hot 100 No. 1 in two years for BTS, while the first for Coldplay since 2008. Which of the two artists do you think the No. 1 means more to?
Katie Bain: Six No. 1s in two years is obviously a big deal — and given this, I imagine that for BTS, the success of “My Universe” exists within the context of this impressive run rather than as a more singular accomplishment. So, my guess is that this means more to Coldplay, given that it’s been 13 years since their last No. 1 and particularly given that they’ve had so many incredible songs during the last 20 years that haven’t reached this apex position. Like ‘em or love ‘em, they deserve it.
Starr Bowenbank: While BTS has always been incredibly thankful to their ARMY for helping them achieve previously unimaginable levels of success, one could argue “My Universe” going No. 1 doesn’t come as too much of surprise to the Bangtan Boys. ARMY is very a dedicated — and strategic — fanbase, and BTS has earned countless accolades with their help. Since “My Universe” is Coldplay’s first No. 1 since in 13 years, it probably means a bit more to them, especially since it’s a bilingual collaboration that likely required more attention to detail (and ARMY’s approval, of course).
Jason Lipshutz: While “My Universe” debuting at No. 1 speaks to the enduring commercial enormity of BTS, the fact that Coldplay is back atop the Hot 100 in the third decade of their career reflects the shapeshifting nature of their music and mass appeal. Instead of remaining in the British alt-rock lane that made them stars in the early 2000s, they’ve evolved their sound with the help of producers like Max Martin and Stargate, while pulling in younger fans through collaborations with The Chainsmokers and BTS (and, soon, Selena Gomez). Call it trend-hopping, or call it pivoting to modern pop; whatever Coldplay is doing, it’s working for them quite well.
Mia Nazareno: Just like in relationships, there’s bound to be a reacher in every musical collab. In this case, Coldplay is def reaching — given that their last No. 1 “Viva La Vida” topped the charts when I was a high school freshman in 2008 (!!!). Coldplay has kept a low (mainstream) profile in the last 13 years with the exception of some high-profile appearances, including their Super Bowl show alongside Beyoncé and Bruno Mars in 2016, and Chris Martin’s stint as mentor on The Voice in 2014. Following the lead of Jason Derulo (“Savage Love”) and Megan Thee Stallion (“Butter” remix), the British band’s play of partnering with BTS is the most 2021 way to get back on the charts and on people’s minds. Considering how BTS has had a chokehold on the top spot with six chartoppers in the last year, it’s not a suprise that the South Korean group has notched another No. 1. By default, this most recent No. 1 means more to Coldplay.
Andrew Unterberger: It might mean more for Coldplay, especially since they have a new album coming shortly which could use a big hit single as a launching pad, and that proggy ten-minute song wasn’t exactly doing the trick. But it means more about BTS, who are so dominant right now that they can essentially score No. 1s regardless of collaborator — not that Coldplay are exactly slouches themselves, but this could’ve been recorded by BTS with Snow Patrol or Travis or Starsailor and probably still gone to No. 1.
2. BTS has now scored No. 1s alongside Jason Derulo (“Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)”) and Coldplay. Which English-language artist would you like to see them collaborate with next?
Katie Bain: I’m going to say Justin Bieber, if only in the interest of seeing what that level of global fan pandemonium would look like. His voice amongst those of BTS would also sound pretty slick.
Starr Bowenbank: It would be really cool to see BTS collaborate with the Backstreet Boys — or a reunited *NSYNC! Both groups ruled the ‘90s and the earlier part of the 2000s, so if they worked on a song with BTS, I think it could provide a really satisfying blend of the past and present and be a defining moment in modern boy band history.
Jason Lipshutz: How about Katy Perry? She possesses the same electro-pop sensibility as BTS, and after scoring a few minor hits during her Smile era, Perry would no doubt love another smash to land her first No. 1 single of this decade. Imagine something akin to a BTS remix of Perry’s “Never Really Over” — works pretty well, right?
Mia Nazareno: The only correct answer to that is Drake, whose star power is equal (in my opinion!) to BTS’. After watching a clip of BTS meeting Drake backstage at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards, I’d love to see the boys collaborate with an artist they’re legit big fans of. During the encounter in 2019, Drake admitted, “You guys are the most famous people in North America right now.” In 2021, it would — and I don’t use this phrase lightly — break the internet to see the star power of BTS and Drake collide.
Andrew Unterberger: Travis Barker. Time for the Bangtan Boys to go pop-punk.
3. Max Martin also scores his historic 23rd No. 1 as a producer this week — a run dating back to the late ’90s — tying him with Beatles producer George Martin for most of all-time. What does “My Universe” demonstrate about how he’s been able to stay relevant and at pop’s forefront for nearly a quarter-century now?
Katie Bain: “My Universe” fuses a bunch of styles that have been popular in the last few years — warm ’80s synth, funk, shimmery dance, R&B — into the most current iteration of mainstream pop music. The genius of Max Martin is that despite incorporating already popular sounds, his stuff is always fresh, modern and accessible, but never reductive or trend biting. If I knew the magic trick of how to pull that off, I too would have 23 No. 1s.
Starr Bowenbank: It speaks to how timeless his production techniques are, in my opinion. So many of his hits have endured the test of time – Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” are just a few examples. To be able to have so many hit singles over the years means that Martin is always leveling up his techniques, searching for innovative approaches to songwriting and production. It also means that he has a certain way with taking direction and understanding each artist’s individual needs to create chart-worthy magic. He’s an ASCAP favorite for a reason!
Jason Lipshutz: Although the involvement of Coldplay and BTS in “My Universe” helped ensure another No. 1 for Martin, the song itself is massive, and expertly orchestrated; it could have been a smash for another star, and been tweaked to cater to their strengths. Martin’s gift as a mega-producer has been aligning with A-listers, having fresh-sounding hooks and beats ready for their plundering, and then maximizing (pardon the pun) an artist’s particular skill set within that production. Producers across genres would kill to have that type of triangulation come naturally, but Martin’s been doing it for decades, with dozens of different artists, and remains on top today.
Mia Nazareno: Martin has had his finger on the pulse of pop music for more than 20 years. Starting with Britney’s “Baby One More Time” in 1998 to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” in 2020, Martin’s longevity as a producer points to his understanding of how the pop music sound has evolved throughout the decades. From the bubble gum pop of Britney’s era to the disco/R&B-type pop of The Weeknd’s last album After Hours, Martin has adapted to what genres are resonating with radio listeners, and has also been mindful of how cross-genre collabs have proven successful at earning No. 1s.
Andrew Unterberger: The expansive, bombastic, heart-bursting ’80s pop-rock sound of “My Universe” has been a trademark not just of Max Martin for the past two years, but for pretty much all of pop radio since the Weeknd’s Martin-stewarded “Blinding Lights” first began its takeover in late 2019. It’s something the pop titan has done for most of the last century: Set the course for pop music, enjoy the smooth sailing for a year or two, and then change direction again before the waters start to get too choppy.
4. It might surprise some that despite being arena rock and pop superstars for 20-plus years themselves, this is only Coldplay’s second No. 1, following “Viva La Vida” in 2008. Which of their other many huge non-No. 1 hits do you think was most deserving of reaching the top spot?
Katie Bain: While it’s not my favorite Coldplay song — that’s “Talk” — “A Sky Full Of Stars” was a sophisticated fusion of pop and EDM, and probably one of the best examples of how seamlessly and accessibly the genres were colliding (and in doing so evolving) in 2014, when the track was released. “A Sky Full of Stars” did hit No. 10 on the Hot 100, but given the popularity of Coldplay and the then dominance of the song’s producer, Avicii, I’m surprised it never took the top spot. The EDM era is obviously over, but the song still sounds really fresh. All the same can also be said for the 2017 Coldplay/Chainsmokers collab “Something Just Like This,” which topped out at No. 3.
Starr Bowenbank: “Yellow,” hands down. It’s one of Coldplay’s most classic love songs (though I personally have a spot for “Green Eyes”), and it captures the feel of 2000s adult contemporary rock perfectly. The recent boost it received from becoming a viral TikTok sound in 2020 should have, in theory, allowed it to chart higher than its No. 48 spot on the Hot 100 chart, but it failed to move the needle that significantly. Coldplay is still one of the biggest bands in the world regardless, but the difficulty they’ve had with securing additional No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 does reveal how hard it is to fully break the American market.
Jason Lipshutz: I’m convinced that, had “A Sky Full of Stars” — their 2014 Ghost Stories single, co-produced and co-written by Avicii — been released a year or two earlier, the song would have topped the Hot 100 chart instead of peaking at No. 10. A mountain-sized dance track the combined a killer piano riff with a titular phrase ripe for festival-crowd warbling, “A Sky Full of Stars” arrived at the tail end of the EDM movement’s peak, notching another hit for Coldplay and hinting at the sonic direction they’d explore more on their Chainsmokers team-up “Something Just Like This.”
Mia Nazareno: Yes, I am a music journalist and I, too, am very surprised! “Paradise” off Mylo Xyloto in 2011 comes to mind first, followed by “Speed of Sound” from X&Y and then “Clocks” from A Rush of Blood to the Head. But damn, “Paradise” was robbed — it’s a banger, and was inescapable back in the day!
Andrew Unterberger: Few songs define the iPod era of pop music like “Clocks,” whose cascading majesty was absolutely ubiquitous across all media for seemingly the entirety of 2003. Pretty remarkable that it only peaked at No. 29 on the Hot 100 — and that none of the other massive songs off A Rush of Blood to the Head even hit the chart at all.
5. What other artist whose commercial peak was largely in the ’00s could you see coming back with a No. 1 single this decade?
Katie Bain: I pray Justin Timberlake still has one more “SexyBack” in him.
Starr Bowenbank: There have been murmurs about a possible Destiny’s Child reunion, so if they were to make a comeback, I could definitely see that going No. 1. Nostalgia is hotter than ever, and girl groups are slowly starting to gain traction in the U.S. music industry again. Put the BeyHive’s power behind a new DC single, and it would be a certified hit.
Jason Lipshutz: There’s an artist who’s been the focus of the music industry for much of the year, even though they haven’t released an album in a half-decade or played any shows recently; who the entire Internet supports at the moment; and who scored their biggest hits two decades ago, but if they came out with a new album tomorrow, the whole world would be listening. It’s Britney… bet.
Mia Nazareno: Let’s go with Ciara! “Goodies Pt. 2″ would be awesome in 2021.
Andrew Unterberger: Let’s manifest it for 2022: Olivia Rodrigo feat. Avril Lavigne. (Or Billie Eilish feat. Avril Lavigne, for that matter.)