Ed Sheeran was the UK's most-played artist of 2021

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

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Ed SheeranImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Ed Sheeran has been the UK's most-played artist every year since 2018, except for 2020, when Dua Lipa briefly replaced him

Ed Sheeran was the most-played artist in the UK last year, according to new data from music licensing body PPL.

The star also had the most-played song of the year with Bad Habits.

It's the fourth time in five years that Sheeran has been named the UK's most-played artist, calculated by plays on radio, TV, pubs, clubs and shops.

The singer last topped the most-played song chart in 2017 with Shape Of You, over which he recently won a High Court copyright case.

Sheeran's continued success is "a testament to the quality of his output [and] the strength of UK music at a time when the global music landscape is more competitive than ever," said PPL chief executive Peter Leatham.

But Bedford-born singer Tom Grennan could coming for Sheeran's crown.

The singer, who was recently hospitalised after being attacked in New York, had the second and third most-played songs of 2021.

His Calvin Harris collaboration, By Your Side, took the runner-up spot, with his solo single Little Bit of Love in third place.

Most-played artists of 2021. .  .

The Weeknd's Blinding Lights was the fourth most-played track of 2021, even though it was originally released in November 2019.

The song, which has sold three million copies in the UK, was also recently named the biggest hit of all time on the US Billboard charts, overtaking Chubby Checker's 1960 single The Twist.

Another long-in-the-tooth chartmaker was Miley Cyrus's Midnight Sky - a modern riff on Stevie Nicks' Edge Of Seventeen - which took ninth place on the UK chart.

French DJ David Guetta also had two tracks in the top 10: Heartbreak Anthem, a collaboration with Little Mix; and Bed, which was recorded with Raye and Joel Corry.

The feat helped him become the second most-played artist of 2021; while Dua Lipa took third place.

Little Mix, who announced an indefinite hiatus last year, also made the top 10 for the fifth year in a row.

Pink appeared at number 10, illustrating the enduring popularity of her back catalogue on UK radio. Last year, the PPL named the US star the UK's most-played female artist of the 21st century.

The organisation announced its charts to coincide with its annual report. It said it had collected a total revenue of £252.8m, the proceeds of which were shared between 147,000 performers and rightsholders.

Most-played songs of 2021. .  .

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