Bollywood Ballads, Punjabi Hip-Hop & Cross-Border Pop: What India Listened to In 2022

MUMBAI — In a post-pandemic year when Hindi films finally returned to the cinemas in full force, their soundtracks were expected to claim back some of the audience they lost to “non-film” releases on Indian music streaming services. That didn’t happen. 

In 2022, Bollywood lost some of its clout to movies from south India at the box-office — such as the Oscar-tipped Telugu blockbuster RRR. And on the audio-streaming charts, regional language and independent music proved that the growth of the non-film segment over the last two years wasn’t just a passing fad. 

The past 12 months have shown India’s music industry that a hit can come from just about anywhere, such as a TV series in Pakistan or a Punjabi rapper in Canada. Or even from a pathologist and part-time Hindi singer in Chandigarh like Aditya A., whose two-year-old song “Chaand Baaliyaan” went viral on Instagram Reels, reached No. 5 on Spotify for the year and landed him a deal with Sony Music India.


Billboard’s look at the most-played (and viewed) tracks of 2022 on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube in India highlights the ways in which the country’s consumption patterns are evolving and how the nation, with its continent-like range of states and languages, is among the most dynamic music markets in the world.

International music’s share is shrinking

A sole English-language track, short format video sensation “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals, is on Spotify’s year-end top 10. None appear on Apple Music, on which “Heat Waves” was also the most-heard international song of 2022 (it’s in the top 15 on the platform). A year ago hits in non-Indian languages represented 40% of 2021’s top 10 tunes on both services. However, this doesn’t mean that listenership of international music is falling. As Spotify and Apple Music — global platforms whose early adopters were English-speaking users in large cities — expand their customer bases in India, consumption is increasing in absolute terms, even though the overall share of foreign tracks on the services is decreasing. Significantly, international hits account for nearly 30% of Spotify’s top 100 of 2022. Short format video fueled the streaming success of a majority of these songs, such as Ruth B.’s “Dandelions” from 2017 and Elley Duhé’s “Middle Of The Night” from 2020.

Bollywood isn’t as big as it used to be

Bollywood or Hindi film music’s share of overall listenership has been steadily falling over the last three years and this is reflected once again in 2022’s biggest hits. The percentage of Bollywood songs in Spotify’s year-end top 10 fell from 80% in 2020 to 30% this year, a proportion that includes two older tracks, “Raataan Lambiyan” and “Ranjha” from Shershaah, which were No. 1 and No. 2 for all of 2021. This time, the highest-ranked Hindi film hit is another ballad, “Kesariya” from Brahmastra, at No. 3. On Apple Music’s year-end top 10, the decline has been more gradual, from 50% in 2020 to 40% in 2021 and 30% in 2022, a share made up of the aforementioned “Ranjha” and “Kesariya” and “Doobey” from Gehraiyaan. Surprisingly, there’s not a single Bollywood smash in YouTube’s list of top 10 music videos, which only lists 2022 releases. There were two in 2020 and in 2021 when the No. 1 video of the year was “Lut Gaye” from the movie Mumbai Saga.


Regional language music rules YouTube

The consumption of music in Indian regional languages — songs in languages apart from Hindi, Urdu and English — has been increasing exponentially as internet penetration rises and streaming services gain users across the country’s smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Regional language music streamers’ first port of call is YouTube on which the 2022 top 10 includes tracks in Tamil (the official music and lyric videos of “Arabic Kuthu” from the film Beast), Haryanvi (“Kacha Badam”, a remake of a viral Bengali hit), Bhojpuri (“Le Le Aayi Coca Cola” and “Nathuyina”), Telugu (“Oo Antava Mawa Oo Oo Antava” from the movie Pushpa: The Rise) and Punjabi (“Pasoori” from the Pakistani version of music TV series Coke Studio). Notably, the three Hindi tracks that make up the rest of the chart — “Srivalli,” “Saami Saami” and “Oo Bolega Ya Oo Oo Bolega” — are dubbed versions of Telugu tunes from the soundtrack of Pushpa, an action drama that was also released in Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil.

Punjabi music has crossed over into the mainstream

Out of all of India’s regional languages, Punjabi music has the largest listenership, thanks partly to its similarity to Hindi. Over the last two decades, it’s become increasingly common for Hindi film songs to have Punjabi lyrics. Punjabi’s music popularity has even spread to parts of the country where it isn’t widely spoken. Evidence of this is seen on Apple Music’s top 10 for 2022 on which Punjabi hits comprise the top eight. Five of them feature Canadian hip-hop artist A. P. Dhillon whose breakthrough smash “Brown Munde” was No. 1 for 2021 and whose “Excuses” was No. 1 all this year. “Excuses” tops Spotify’s list too. But the Punjabi music party is not limited to one act. “No Love” by Canadian rapper and singer Shubh is No. 4 on Spotify and “Bijlee Bijlee” by pop singer and actor Harrdy Sandhu is No. 7 on Apple Music.   

“Pasoori” proves a cross-border sensation

Strained relations between India and Pakistan have led to a ban on Indian films in Pakistan and a similar restriction on the hiring of Pakistani actors and singers in India. But when it comes to the charts, both nations love thy neighbor. The only hit to feature across the year-end top 10s of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube is “Pasoori” by singer-composer Ali Sethi, vocalist Shae Gill and producer Zulfiqar ‘Xulfi’ Jabbar Khan. The song, created for the fourteenth season of Coke Studio Pakistan. “Pasoori,” was the third highest streamed track on Indian streaming platform Wynk Music after “Kesariya” and “Arabic Kuthu.” It was also the most-played tune on Amazon Music in India, which is currently available only to subscribers of its Prime service. Conversely, Indian hip-hop stars A. P. Dhillon, Shubh and King feature in the top 10 of 2022 on Spotify in Pakistan.


Top 10 Songs of 2022 on Spotify in India

1. “Excuses”, A. P. Dhillon, Gurinder Gill and Intense, Run-Up Records

2. “Pasoori” (from Coke Studio Pakistan 14), Shae Gill and Ali Sethi, Giraffe Pakistan

3. “Kesariya” (from Brahmastra), Pritam, Arijit Singh and Amitabh Bhattacharya, Sony Music

4. “No Love,” Shubh

5. “Chaand Baaliyan,” Aditya A., Sony Music

6. “Raataan Lambiyan” (from Shershaah), Tanishk Bagchi, Jubin Nautiyal and Asees Kaur, Sony Music

7. “Heat Waves,” Glass Animals, Polydor

8. “Tu Aake Dekhle,” King, Kingsclan Records

9. “Arabic Kuthu – Halamithi Habibo” (from Beast), Anirudh Ravichander, Jonita Gandhi and Sivakarthikeyan, Sun Pictures

10. “Ranjha” (from Shershaah), Jasleen Royal and B. Praak, Sony Music

Top 10 Songs of 2022 on Apple Music in India

1. “Excuses,” A. P. Dhillon, Gurinder Gill and Intense, Run-Up Records

2. “Desires,” A. P. Dhillon and Gurinder Gill, Run-Up Records

3. “Pasoori” (from Coke Studio Pakistan 14), Shae Gill and Ali Sethi, Giraffe Pakistan

4. “Insane,” A. P. Dhillon, Shinda Kahlon, Gurinder Gill and Gminxr, Run-Up Records

5. “Ranjha” (from Shershaah), Jasleen Royal and B. Praak, Sony Music

6. “Spaceship,” A. P. Dhillon, Shinda Kahlon and Gminxr, Run-Up Records

7. “Bijlee Bijlee,” Harrdy Sandhu, B. Praak and Jaani, Desi Melodies/Universal Music

8. “Tere Te,” A. P. Dhillon and Gurinder Gill, Run-Up Records 

9. “Kesariya” (from Brahmastra), Pritam, Arijit Singh and Amitabh Bhattacharya, Sony Music

10. “Doobey” (from Gehraiyaan), OAFF, Savera, Lothika and Kausar Munir, Sony Music

Top 10 Music Videos of 2022 on YouTube in India

1. “Srivalli” (from Pushpa: The Rise), Devi Sri Prasad, Javed Ali and Raqueeb Alam, T-Series

2. “Arabic Kuthu – Halamithi Habibo – Lyric Video” (from Beast), Anirudh Ravichander, Jonita Gandhi and Sivakarthikeyan, Sun Pictures

3. “Saami Saami” (from Pushpa: The Rise), Devi Sri Prasad, Sunidhi Chauhan and Raqueeb Alam, T-Series

4. “Kacha Badam,” Bhuban Badyakar and Amit Dhull, Bajewala Records

5. “Le Le Aayi Coca Cola,” Khesari Lal Yadav, Shilpi Raj, Prakash Barud and Sarvind Malhar, Gannayak Films

6. “Oo Bolega Ya Oo Oo Bolega” (from Pushpa: The Rise), Devi Sri Prasad, Kanika Kapoor and Raqueeb Alam, T-Series

7. “Oo Antava Mawa Oo Oo Antava” (from Pushpa: The Rise), Devi Sri Prasad, Indravathi Chauhan and Chandrabose, Aditya Music

8. “Pasoori” (from Coke Studio Pakistan 14), Shae Gill and Ali Sethi, Giraffe Pakistan

9. “Arabic Kuthu – Halamithi Habibo” (from Beast), Anirudh Ravichander, Jonita Gandhi and Sivakarthikeyan, Sun Pictures

10. “Nathuyina,” Khesari Lal Yadav, Priyanka Singh, Krishna BedardiLaxmikant-Pyarelal and Majrooh Sultanpuri, Saregama

Alexei Barrionuevo