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(Credit: Eric Koch / Anefo)

Discovering The Beatles' most popular streaming songs, album by album

Streaming services have revolutionised the way we all listen to music. A concept that began in the mid-to-late 1990s, as media became increasingly digital in format, has blossomed (or corroded, depending on your view) into the modern music landscape, where labels are less important than ever, and tastes are more widely dispersed. Insufferable older generations will bemoan the fleeting nature of “viral” hits, but it’s hard to argue against the notion that the whims of consumers have been inundated with a far greater range of options, with a subsequent lack of time to properly take it all in.

The effect that streaming services have had on the music industry can even be viewed philosophically within the idea of cultural diffusion. Cultural diffusion refers to the spread of any form of culture, whether it be language, music, film, religion, food, technology, or fashion, to other cultures and the subsequent adaptations and evolutions of the culture that follow. With the advent of the internet, cultural distribution began to expand exponentially, to the point where almost every society is just a touch away from experiencing the traditions and ways of life of a different society halfway around the world.

With regards to music, and specifically to streaming services, the effect is that services like Spotify are slowly stripping away the original cultural contexts of albums from distinct time periods. In about ten seconds, you can jump from a 1951 recording of ‘Rocket 88’ to a 2021 recording of ‘Good 4 U’. Sure, the inherent composition, sound, and production quality will be easily differentiated, but the method by which someone is able to gather all of these disparate pieces of music is the same.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it means that Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ can hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 even 20 years after it was first released. Theoretically, if it got enough streams, a fluke number one hit from Freddie and the Dreamers or Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez that have largely been lost to the annals of history can make a resurgence and become modern-day hits. Time is no longer a consideration for contemporary commercial appeal.

This is all a tremendously convoluted way to explore a simple concept: what’s the most popular Beatles song for each album on Spotify? That’s a pretty basic measure of popularity, but what I find fascinating is how Spotify’s bizarre use of algorithms make certain songs more popular than others.

If you’ve read about how Pavement’s most popular song on the service is a B-side from the Brighten the Corners era, you’re aware that Spotify takes elements of the music you’re listening to and “autoplays” songs if you don’t have anything cued up. That, in turn, boosts numbers for songs that fit a lot of varied criteria. Basically, a band’s most popular song on Spotify is most likely going to be a song that the streaming service has decided sounds the most like a lot of other kinds of music. Your most average song, statistically, is going to be your most popular.

This is interesting when we turn our attention back to The Beatles. For roughly the first half of their career, The Beatles made a lot of music that sounded similar – live instruments playing guitar-based pop-rock with catchy melodies and guitar solos. Take one listen to A Hard Day’s Night and you’ve got it. But as we all know, The Beatles made significant changes to their sound by exploring a wide range of genres, including classical Indian music, blues, experimental musique concrete, music hall, folk, and ragtime jazz. With such a diverse palate, what could possibly be viewed as ‘normal’?

That’s what we’ll find out today, and along the way, we’ll extrapolate on why one particular song might be more popular – or to Spotify more ‘normal’ – than others. Were these the songs that The Beatles themselves would consider to be the most popular? Are there any surprises in the mix? See for yourselves as we look at each of The Beatles most popular songs on Spotify, album by album.

Note: Data collected September 2021.

The Beatles’ most popular streaming songs on Spotify:

Most streamed song of Please Please Me: ‘Twist and Shout’

Starting off this list is a song that should come as no surprise as the most popular from The Beatles’ debut Please Please Me: album closer ‘Twist and Shout’ with over 260 million streams.

Of all the songs from Please Please Me that have proliferated and reverberated through pop culture, ‘Twist and Shout’ is head and shoulders above the rest. Its prominent use in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off certainly helped, but its iconic layered harmonies, catchy melody, and John Lennon’s signature throat-shredding lead vocal all make ‘Twist and Shout’ both instantly identifiable and completely unforgettable.

It’s not even that much of a competition. The next song with the most amount of streams is ‘Love Me Do’, which gets an additional boost from being featured on the Past Masters and 1 albums. ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ is the only other song from the album to get above 100 million streams, with a sharp decline from thereon in. Even the iconic title track only has 40 million listens, and pity poor ‘Chains’, which sits at the least popular slot with just barely seven million streams.

Most streamed song of With The Beatles: ‘All My Loving’

Please Please Me has quite a bit of popularity on Spotify, with three tracks above 100 million streams boosting much of the album’s notoriety. In contrast, With The Beatles doesn’t have a single track that currently sits above 82 million. That one track, though, is quite a doozy: ‘All My Loving’.

It’s probably not enough to say that ‘All My Loving’ is simply the best song on With The Beatles (although it is), and it also might not be fair for Spotify to say its the most ‘normal’ song of the bunch (which, for my money, is ‘Money’). ‘All My Loving’ was the first song the band played on their debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, so it carries quite a bit of weight as many original fans’ first taste of Beatlemania.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see ‘Till There Was You’ as the second most-streamed song on the album, and not at all surprised to see ‘Little Child’ as the least streamed with a paltry 4.5 million streams. The version of ‘Little Child’ on Spotify is atrociously mixed, with the backing track in one speaker and the vocals in the other. I understand that pretty much every Beatles stereo mix is poor as the band themselves didn’t convert to exclusively stereo mixes until Yellow Submarine, and pretty much everything before that should ideally be listened to in the mono format since these was the mixes that the band directly signed off on — but this one is egregiously so.

Most streamed song on A Hard Day’s Night: ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

Another completely unsurprising top spot belongs to the title track from A Hard Day’s Night with 137 million streams.

Perhaps a dark horse pick could have gone to ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, which itself will like reach 100 million streams soon but currently sits at 97 million, or maybe even ‘And I Love Her’, which I am honestly shocked to see has 87 million streams. It’s a fantastic song, a great languid acoustic love ballad that is ripe for modern-day renditions, but I wouldn’t call it twice as good as the similarly styled ‘If I Fell’, which sits at 46 million.

A Hard Day’s Night remains a cornerstone of The Beatles catalogue: the first all-original album, the moment where Beatlemania was at its height, and perhaps even the quintessential LP of the band’s first few years. Still, the back half tends to run together, and the difference in streams of the first seven songs versus the last six are pretty drastic. I quite like ‘When I Get Home’ as a shouty rocker, but it currently sits as the album’s least popular track with only five million streams.

Most streamed song on Beatles For Sale: ‘Eight Days a Week’

Despite what I like to think is an extensive amount of useless Beatles knowledge and trivia in my brain, I was surprised to see that ‘Eight Days a Week’ was not released as a single in the UK. The band almost never included UK singles on their studio albums, but ‘Eight Days a Week’ was a number one hit in America and around the world, and so it unsurprisingly sits at the top of Beatles For Sale‘s streams with 93 million.

Beatles For Sale represents palpable exhaustion for the Fab Four. The band had been touring non-stop for years and barely had any time to write and record new material to fulfil all of their contractual obligations. Beatles For Sale, with its sullen cover photo and abundance of covers, was the first crack that would eventually cause the band to stop touring altogether.

Most of Beatles For Sale is relatively unpopular compared to the band’s other albums on Spotify. It’s certainly an in-between record for the band and their covers of ‘Mr. Moonlight’ and ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey’ don’t get a lot of streaming love. Surprisingly, it’s a battle at the bottom between Ringo’s take on Carl Perkins ‘Honey Don’t’ and one of John Lennon’s first cracks at self-analysis, ‘I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party’. Despite performing it at the Concert for George, Ringo’s ‘Honey Don’t’ comes out with the least amount of streams with only 4.4 million.

Most streamed song on Help!: ‘Yesterday’

Just when I thought that title songs were going to sweep, in comes ‘Yesterday’ to claim the title of Help!‘s most-streamed song with a whopping 357 million streams, enough to put it as the band’s fifth most-streamed song and placed fourth on the current ‘most popular’ list – why that list doesn’t reflect the total number of streams is beyond me.

Help! was a bit of reinvigoration for The Beatles: another successful film, a surprising abundance of great new original songs, a newfound love of marijuana. The vitality is on full display, with quite a bit of popularity on Spotify as a result. ‘Help!’ has 192 million streams, with ‘Ticket To Ride’ just barely below the nine digit mark at 99 million streams (it might hit 100 million by the time this article runs). Shout out to both ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ for sitting at an impressive 62 million and 42 million, respectively.

Even the lower rungs of Help! aren’t as unpopular as the bottom feeders on other albums. Here, the least steamed song is ‘Tell Me What You See’, which currently sits at 6.9 million streams. Ringo’s cover ‘Act Naturally’ fares a lot better than ‘Honey Don’t’ did on Beatles For Sale, with 8.4 million streams.

Most streamed song on Rubber Soul: ‘In My Life’

John Lennon stands tall on Rubber Soul, with the two most streamed songs belonging to him. ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’ has an impressive 103 million streams, but it’s ‘In My Life’, his reflection of his days in Liverpool, that takes the top spot with `195 million.

Rubber Soul was The Beatles’ most drastic transition up to this point. Incorporating more explicit elements of folk, soul, and acoustic music, the good old days of filler rock and roll tunes to round out albums was coming to an end. Now, each song on an album would fill a deliberate space and there was no room for fluff.

Well, almost no room. Even the lesser songs on Rubber Soul are more captivating and complex than the filler tracks from their early albums, but theirs still a slight sense of “oh, man, we’ve got to fill an extra ten minutes, what do we do?”. Poor Ringo once again gets the short end of the stick, and with his first writing credit as well: ‘What Goes On’ staggers in with ten million streams, making Rubber Soul the first LP without a song that has less than an eight digit stream count.

Most streamed song on Revolver: ‘Eleanor Rigby’

Justice for Paul! Over the last six albums, McCartney only managed to snag the top spot twice with ‘All My Loving’ and ‘Yesterday’. Neither of those songs were issued as singles in the UK, McCartney would snag the A-side of Revolver‘s first single, ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Appropriately, the track is Revolver‘s most-streamed song with 156 million plays.

Also, justice for Ringo! After having been stuck at the bottom for a few albums now, Starr gets the second most popular song here with ‘Yellow Submarine’. Despite stepping up with an unprecedented three contributions, George Harrison’s songs don’t quite get as much streaming love. ‘Taxman’ sits at a respectable 39 million streams, but ‘Love You To’ and ‘I Want to Tell You’ sit at only 15 million and 12 million, respectively.

Still, those are not the least popular songs. That distinction goes to ‘Doctor Robert’ with a lowly 11 million streams. ‘Doctor Robert’ is the one song on Revolver that sounds most like the band’s past work, and while it’s a pleasant jaunt that doesn’t feel out of place on the album, it doesn’t quite intrigue or inspire like the other tracks.

Most streamed song on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’

For an album with such esteem, acclaim, and reputation, the fact that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band only has a single song over 100 million streams is surprising. I would have probably put my money on ‘A Day in the Life’ (which sits at 87 million), but it’s ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ that reigns supreme at 114 million.

Sgt. Pepper’s was made with the intention of creating a full album that worked as a complete entity. Picking and choosing songs would take away from the experience that is Sgt. Pepper’s. And I tend to agree, although that also highlights the fact that certain tunes become less interesting divorced from the engaging deep dive that happens when you put on the entire album.

Because of the fickle nature of the Spotify listener, all albums are tilted in favour of the first half. Sgt. Pepper’s is no different, with the back half garnering fewer streams than the first half (despite ending with the second most-streamed song). Sitting at the bottom is ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ with 11 million streams. Quite appropriate for a song John Lennon once labelled “a piece of garbage”.

Most streamed song from Magical Mystery Tour: ‘All You Need Is Love’

Sure, this might be a little unfair considering that Magical Mystery Tour is pretty much just an EP/soundtrack for the film of the same name with a bunch of the band’s singles rounding out the back half. But Magical Mystery Tour has retrospectively been added to the band’s canon as a studio album, and its most popular cut is ‘All You Need Is Love’ with 130 million streams.

This is no surprise. ‘All You Need Is Love’ was the centrepiece for the band’s Our World performance that went out to over 400 million people around the world. It remains one of the band’s most iconic and frequently referenced tunes, with its easy to digest message and earnestness making it probably as close as the band ever came to a universal message.

I’m going to try and not let my own personal feelings of ‘All You Need Is Love’ seep it here (spoiler: not a big fan) but there is some egregious injustice for George Harrison’s trippy ‘Blue Jay Way’, which sits at the bottom with ten million streams. Even ‘Flying’, and instrumental meant to be incidental music for the film, has a million more streams than ‘Blue Jay Way’.

Most streamed song The Beatles (The White Album): ‘Blackbird’

Something about Paul McCartney acoustic guitar songs have translated really well to the Spotify generation. After ‘Yesterday’ took the top spot for Help!, McCartney has done it once again with ‘Blackbird’ sitting at a staggering 246 million streams.

The White Album has quite a bit of popularity on Spotify, which shouldn’t be shocking. It plays like a modern day Spotify playlist, complete with a variety of genres and styles that you can put on shuffle or listen to in order without ever sacrificing any interest or excitement. Harrison’s brilliant ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ sits at 156 million streams, but the wretched ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ comes in third with 146 million.

I would have bet any amount of money that ‘Wild Honey Pie’, the irritating and pointless non-song that wastes 52 seconds of the album’s runtime, would be the least popular song. But no, it’s the album’s other irritating addition, ‘Revolution 9’, with an appropriate nine million streams. You’re telling me more people listened to ‘Revolution 9’ than ‘Honey Don’t’? That’s bananas.

Most streamed (original) song on Yellow Submarine: ‘Hey Bulldog’

Again, there’s a bit of revisionist history that goes into considering Yellow Submarine a Beatles studio album. Half of it is George Martin pieces for the Yellow Submarine film, and its two most-streamed songs already appeared on previous studio albums, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’.

When it comes to the original Beatles songs that you can’t find on any other studio album, it’s slim pickings. Four songs, two of which are psychedelic experimental pieces haphazardly mixed with melodies, and one of which is a children’s song. But the remaining tune is the closest The Beatles ever got to making a hidden gem: ‘Hey Bulldog’.

‘Hey Bulldog’ isn’t hard to find, especially now, but once upon a time, it was relatively obscure. Even now, it only holds 14 million streams, by far the lowest tally on this list. That’s more the fault of Yellow Submarine and its current place within the Beatles canon as a “studio” album, but it merits recognition nonetheless. The least streamed of the four? ‘It’s All Too Much’ with 5.2 million.

Most streamed song on Abbey Road: ‘Here Comes the Sun’

The one album where George Harrison takes the top spot is the album with arguably his two most popular and cherished compositions. I wouldn’t have been surprised if either ‘Something’ or ‘Here Comes the Sun’ wound up taking the top spot, but when it all shook down, it was ‘Here Comes the Sun’ that came out on top with 707 million, far and away the most-streamed Beatles song on Spotify.

I find it absolutely inconceivable in retrospect that ‘Here Comes the Sun’ wasn’t even considered to be a single. Sure, Harrison himself offered up ‘Something’ and the rest of the band favoured that song anyway, but the fact that ‘Here Comes the Sun’ was a bit of an afterthought, just another “George song” to knock out and get over with, is completely bonkers to me. John Lennon doesn’t even play on it. John Lennon doesn’t play on The Beatles most-streamed song! What a world we live in.

Abbey Road is also the most popular Beatles album on Spotify, for what it’s worth. Tracks like ‘Come Together’ with 447 million streams and ‘Something’ with 171 million streams elevate it, with even the medley songs having some pretty respectable numbers. Strange, then, that it’s also the album with by far the least popular song: ‘Hey Majesty’ has 179 thousand streams, making it by far the song with the lowest number of streams on Spotify.

Most streamed song on Let It Be: ‘Let It Be’

Once again scoring one for the title tracks, ‘Let It Be’ is The Beatles third most streamed and most popular song on Spotify. McCartney has a lot of ballads, but ‘Let It Be’ is the quintessential one that the Spotify crowd gravitate towards.

Every time I go back to it, I’m always struck by how much of a mess Let It Be is. Sure, the recording was famously contentious, but at least contentious recording sessions could create wonderful messes like The White Album. In contrast, Let It Be suffers from a distinct lack of fun. There are brilliant moments for sure, like ‘Across the Universe’ (82 million) and ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ (18 million), but the sequencing always seemed bizarrely paced and the snippet songs are distracting.

As if to reflect this very idea, 50 second ‘Dig It’ sits at the bottom of the stream list with only eight million streams. Nobody’s really adding it to any playlists, other than Beatles completists, and it’s not going to come up as being ‘normal’ compared to any other songs you might be listening to.

Bonus: Most streamed song on Past Masters: ‘Hey Jude’

The various singles that didn’t (or sometimes did) appear on Beatles studio albums are hard to factor into when compiling a list like this. There are multiple compilations that feature these songs, but none of them are true blue canon studios albums (I’m sure you could argue the same for Magical Mystery Tour or Yellow Submarine, but I digress).

Past Masters is the most extensive and complete of these complications, featuring all of the songs released commercially by the band that were not available on The Beatles’ original UK albums or Magical Mystery Tour. That includes singles, B-sides, and a few rarities, including the two singles that the band cut in German.

Here, it’s once again the Paul McCartney show, as ‘Hey Jude’ remains the most popular with 385 million streams. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ gets a respectable second place 262 million streams. Some of the band’s early singles, in contrast, have some pitiful streaming numbers, with ‘Bad Boy’ (1.7 million), ‘Slow Down’ (1.6 million), and the German version of ‘She Loves You, ‘Sie Liebt Dich’ (1.5 million), all coming in below 2 million streams. But it’s another Ringo cover, ‘Matchbox’, that takes the bottom spot on Past Masters with just 1.3 million streams.

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