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In 2014 Imagine Dragons made history on the Billboard Hot 100 with their second single as a band. Following the chart breakout of their anthemic 2012 debut hit “It’s Time,” which peaked at No. 15 on the Hot 100 in early 2013, the group released “Radioactive,” a massive-sounding arena-rock chest-beater warped by hip-hop dynamics and dub step-influenced production.
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According to Billboard, the song didn’t sound much like anything else on radio in 2012 — or 2013, or 2014 — but it eventually stretched out over all three calendar years, crossing over to multiple radio formats, becoming an iTunes best-seller and even briefly holding the record for the most-streamed song in Spotify history. The song first debuted on the Hot 100 on Aug. 18, 2012, and on the chart dated Feb. 28, 2014, it broke the record (previously held by Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”) for the longest stay in Hot 100 history in its 77th week on the chart — holding on for another 10 weeks, until finally falling off the chart dated May 17th, 2014, after an 87-week run.
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Ever since Radioactive made history seven years ago and held the record until this year, the only song that came really close to breaking that record was AWOLNATION’S Sail which ran for 78 weeks before dropping. But, towards the end of 2019, The Weeknd dropped a pack of two new songs. In the beginning Blinding Lights was the lesser of the two hits, debuting at No.11 on the Hot 100 while its partner Heartless ascended at the No. 1 spot. However, in March 2020 Blinding Lights reached No. 1 for four weeks, spending a record-breaking 57 weeks in the top 10 of the charts and this week it has crossed the record held by Radioactive for all-time chart longevity in its 88th week on the chart.
Recently, in an interview with Billboard, Reynolds talked about his memories of recording Radioactive why he never expected the song to do what it did, and how he couldn’t be happier about The Weeknd being the guy he’s passing the long-endurance Hot 100 torch to.
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When asked, “When you were recording “Radioactive,” I’m sure you didn’t have any thoughts of it becoming one of the biggest hits in Hot 100 history — but did you have a sense that it was going to be a pretty big song for you guys?” Reynolds said, “When we were making the song, it felt really strange, in a cool way. Like, I was excited listening to it, I was excited to show it to my friends, because it was weird. I mean, at that point, we were nothing. My band wasn’t signed at that point, when I wrote that song. And so I had no idea that it would be anything close to what it was. But I did feel that it was special, and interesting. But once we signed [to Interscope], it wasn’t like everybody at the label was like, “This is the song.” In fact, it was the opposite. “It’s Time” was the first single, and we [already] had “Radioactive” at that point. Nobody thought that that song would play on radio. In fact, I remember our radio department specifically being like, “This song won’t play on radio.” But the song just started to go on its own, and then it just went to radio because it kind of had a life of its own, and it kinda dictated its own way. Long story short, I had no idea. No idea whatsoever.”