Pop Stars: Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Madonna

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Sure, Miley Cyrus is one of the great media stars of the decade. But when it comes to her status as a hitmaker, she is an upstart compared to icons like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Usher or the legions of greats that came before them.

To put the Disney performer-turned-provocateur in perspective, TIME went through every song that reached the top ten of the Billboard 100 back to 1960 to see which artists had both the biggest years and longest careers. We assigned points based on a song’s rank for each week it was in the top ten. Artists who collaborated on songs are both given credit for its success. Artists were chosen for this list based on all-time chart performance and contemporary significance.

While the Beatles’ debut year on the American charts reigns as the crowning example of chart dominance–they had 11 songs that reached the top ten and six number-one hits–they are in fact only the second most successful artist or group in a single year. It took 40 years, but Usher finally unseated them. He spent exactly half of all of 2004 atop the weekly Billboard 100 charts between “Yeah!,” “Burn,” “Confessions Part II” and “My Boo” (with Alicia Keys).


Data comes from the Billboard archives. Points are awarded by placement in the Top Ten, from ten points for a number-one hit to one point for a number-10 song. All artists listed by name on a track are given full points for its chart performance, but groups with members who later had solo careers are still counted as separate entities. (BeyoncĂ©, for example, gets points for “Telephone,” a Lady Gaga song in which she is featured, but does not receive points for songs attributed to Destiny’s Child, the trio that launched her career.) Points for songs are assigned to the year in which the song debuted in the top ten, even if its popularity runs into the next calendar year.

Correction, Aug. 28, 2014: Due to a programming error, the original version of this post incorrectly attributed three hit songs to Carlos Santana and omitted several by Janet Jackson. The post has been updated to display the correct number.

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