Welcome to Billboard Pro’s Trending Up newsletter, where we take a closer look at the songs, artists, curiosities and trends that have caught the music industry’s attention. Some have come out of nowhere, others have taken months to catch on, and all of them could become ubiquitous in the blink of a TikTok clip.
This week: The Weeknd aims to score a Hot 100-topper with an Ariana Grande remix for the second time in the last two years, Selena Gomez’s social media back-and-forth leads to a surge of streaming support, a golden-age rap hitmaker sells a whole lot of discounted downloads, and loads more.
The Weeknd’s “Die For You” Surges in Streams as It Eyes Hot 100’s Top Spot
Could the Ariana Grande-assisted remix of The Weeknd’s “Die For You” help the years-old song vaunt to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100? The slow-burning single, originally released on 2016’s Starboy album, has exploded over the past few months and reached a No. 6 peak on the Hot 100, thanks to a TikTok revival which then crossed over to streaming and pop radio. The last time Grande hopped on a remixed Weeknd track — two years ago, with “Save Your Tears” — the juiced-up version from the two Republic labelmates sped straight to the top of the Hot 100, and now they’re hoping lightning can strike twice with “Die for You.”
And so far, the remix has helped the song surge across different platforms: daily total streams for “Die for You” were up 269% from Feb. 23, the day before the Grande remix was released, to Feb. 24 — rising from 1.77 million U.S. on-demand streams to 6.55 million, according to Luminate. That daily streaming total dipped a bit in the days following the release, but by Monday, “Die for You” was still collecting over 4.25 million daily streams.
Digital sales for the track also rose considerably thanks to Grande’s addition, from a negligible amount pre-mix to 3,600 last Friday. “Die For You” faces stiff competition near the top of the Hot 100, with Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” and SZA’s “Kill Bill” entrenched in the top two spots for multiple weeks — but early returns suggest that The Weeknd and Grande will at least be tightening the competition on next week’s chart. – JASON LIPSHUTZ
Team Selena: Internet Drama Helps Give Selena Gomez a Catalog Bump
While she hasn’t released a new album since Rare in early 2020, and her 2022 solo single “My Mind & Me” came and went without making a huge impact, Selena Gomez is off to a promising start in 2023. Her “Calm Down” remix collaboration with Afrobeats star Rema has been scaling the Hot 100, breaking into the top 20 this week. And now, fans are flocking to her back catalog to show her support in the midst of a long-simmering celebrity conflict.
The drama stems from Gomez’s relationship with Hailey Bieber, the model/influencer married to Justin Bieber, who was famously involved with Gomez in the early 2010s. Their recent online back-and-forth has involved a mix of subtweets, deleted TikToks, resurfaced old TV clips and other intrigue that you practically need a doctorate in 21st century pop social media to properly understand. But it’s gotten Gomez back in the headlines over the past week and has resulted in some of her best streaming numbers of the young year.
Gomez’s catalog – not counting songs in which she’s a featured or co-lead artist, like “Calm Down” – racked up over 2.5 million official on-demand U.S. streams on Monday (Feb. 27). That’s up 26% from her Sunday total of 2 million, and up 52% from her 1.6 million total the previous Monday (Feb. 20). Combined with her recent crossover collab and the recently teased upcoming third season of her hit Hulu series Only Murders in the Building, it’s looking like a good 2023 so far for the veteran multi-platform star. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Loc-ed After Discount: iTunes Pricing Spurs Massive Tone-Loc and Young MC Sales Gains
With digital song sales an ever-shrinking part of the music marketplace in the 2020s, you might think it quaint that something as simple as an iTunes price discount could generate huge sales boosts for a catalog hit. But we see evidence of it still being a factor every year – and this week, it’s the driving force between an explosion in numbers for a trio of songs from late-’80s hitmakers Tone-Loc and Young MC.
Loc’s singles “Funky Cold Medina” and “Wild Thing” and Young MC’s “Bust a Move” were prominently featured as part of an iTunes sale on classic hip-hop staples last week, with the songs discounted from their usual $1.29 price point to 69 cents. The three songs – all of which were co-penned by Young MC, a.k.a. Marvin Young – saw gigantic sales gains, jumping from negligible numbers for the track week ending Feb. 16 to multiple thousands on the week ending Feb. 23, according to Luminate.
The biggest gainer was “Medina,” up 4,817% to 5,800, followed by “Move” (up 3,159% to 4,800) and “Wild” (up 3,712% to 3,900). The three songs all debut on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart this week, at No. 5, No. 8 and No. 12. Their totals might not be as robust as the best-selling songs of a decade ago, but it’s still an impact worth paying attention to – you don’t need to go too deep into the math to know that selling thousands of a song at 69 cents is worth a little more than selling hundreds at $1.29 — AU
Tune Into TV Girl’s Latest Viral Smash
If you’re not plugged into new-school social media or artist streaming totals, you might not know that indie-pop trio TV Girl are absolutely enormous online. The California group’s dreamy, harmony-heavy tunes didn’t make too much mainstream noise upon the release of 2014 debut French Exit and 2016 follow-up Who Really Cares, but some of the singles from those albums — like the lilting, strings-heavy “Lovers Rock”; the shuffling, percussive “Not Allowed”; and the whirring clap-along “Cigarettes out the Window” — have now earned hundreds of millions of streams each, adopted by TikTok users and used to turn the still-active group into unwitting stars.
Next month, they’ll play Coachella, most likely to a massive crowd; over the past month, however, they’ve added another viral hit to their growing collection. “Blue Hair,” a gentle, cymbal-riding lullaby from TV Girl’s 2018 third album Death of a Party Girl, has taken off on TikTok in a sped-up version, with users zeroing in on the melancholy lyric “And I guess I’ll just miss her / Even though she isn’t even really gone”; the line is soundtracking sing-alongs, bedroom tours and, in one poignant case, a photo collage from a trans TikTok user demonstrating their personal evolution.
However it’s being hoisted up, “Blue Hair” is now booming at streaming: its weekly U.S. official on-demand streams are now 20 times what they were a month ago, from 107,000 for the week ending Jan. 26 to 2.12 million for the week ending Feb. 23, according to Luminate. The band has never earned a Hot 100 hit over the course of their nearly decade-long run together — maybe they’ll have one by the time Coachella rolls around. — JL
Metro Boomin’s Star-Studded “Trance” Goes Viral After Missing Verse Revealed
There’ve been countless examples of a Drake feature helping a song take off on the charts over the past decade and a half, but Metro Boomin, Young Thug and Travis Scott’s “Trance” might be the first example of a song exploding partly for its lack of a Drake feature. After a verse Drake submitted for the Heroes and Villains track leaked in January, Metro went viral on TikTok for a clip of him explaining to an understandably incredulous DJ Drama why the biggest rapper in the game ended up on his cutting room floor (“It just really wasn’t no room”).
“Trance” had originally debuted at No. 42 on the Hot 100 during Heroes’ release week, spending three weeks on the chart before falling off around the new year. But listeners perhaps had to hear (or re-listen to) the song that was so perfectly complete that its creator had to give Drake a thanks-but-no-thanks response for his belated contribution. Official on-demand U.S. streams for the song started climbing back up in February, rising from 3.1 million on the week ending Feb. 9 to 5.8 million the week ending Feb. 23. The song even re-entered the Hot 100 at No. 76 this week, proving even Drake’s negative presence on a song guarantees a positive chart impact. — AU
Q&A: Kevin Meenan, Music Trends Manager at YouTube, on What’s Trending Up in His World
Which music trends from the first two months of 2023 have stood out to you the most?
Regional Mexican has really been top of mind in these first two months of the year, with the diverse sounds of the genre having really broken through. The impact of the genre on our charts can hardly be overstated – this week alone it is responsible for over 15 entries on our US Top Songs chart. The rise of Grupo Frontera has been particularly inspiring – just a year ago the group was getting their start by uploading covers directly to YouTube, and now they regularly are landing multiple songs in the upper echelons of our charts. Their Fuerza Regida collaboration “Bebe Dame” even spent two weeks at No. 1 for us in the U.S.
Sonically speaking, Jersey Club’s latest brush with the mainstream has also proven to be an interesting space to watch, with varying levels of its influence taking form across the pop landscape. Both Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock” and Coi Leray’s “Players” (DJ Smallz 732 – Jersey Club Remix) have proven to be inescapable on YouTube Shorts and beyond, and now PinkPantheress and Ice Spice’s more loosely Jersey Club-inspired “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” is just taking the platform by storm. And finally, the continued global takeover of BZRP Music Sessions has been a real early 2023 bright spot. The Argentinian producer has long been a charts mainstay for us, but his latest feat – BZRP Music Sessions #53 with Shakira – really lived up to the “broke the internet” cliché. The video earned 54.3M views for us in under 24 hours, and reached No. 1 in 20 markets.
Which trends do you think will define the rest of the year?
In recent years, we have increasingly seen that a hit on YouTube can really come from any time and any place, and I expect this to continue to be a real throughline for us in 2023. It has just been a super exciting phenomenon, with fans getting exposed to sometimes unfamiliar sounds – a throwback like City Pop, or a modern melting pot like Drift Phonk – and finding their new favorite artist or musical inspiration in the process.
And increasingly, we are seeing artists really learn how to lean into these moments, embracing the user-generated content that might have sparked a viral moment while engaging fans with their own new touchpoints – Shorts, visualizers, music videos and everything in between – that just add further fuel to the fire. I see this as a real defining theme of 2023, with entry points like Shorts continuing to break both new releases and unexpected material, and artists finding ways to really own that moment and narrative via their own content.
Which of your 2023 initiatives have most effectively amplified these trends?
To me, it is ultimately all about the platform itself and its continued evolution. With YouTube, artists are really in control of creating multiple touch points to tease out a new release, spark a trend or lean into a viral moment. There are just so many ways to share new music and connect with the fans, be it via Premieres, After Party, Community posts, Shorts, chat in a live stream or the traditional video drop. Shorts in particular is the area that excites me the most – looking forward to a growing feature set there that will help fans and artists connect in exciting ways.
Fill in the blank: in terms of maximizing audience, more popular artists should be thinking about…
Getting creative across video formats. We just continuously see artists find new fans and chart success when they enhance their releases in that way. Take NewJeans as an example, who fans have speculated are behind a mysterious channel that compliments the lore they created with a pair of creative music videos (side a and side b) for their track “Ditto” – which itself had multiple performance videos, behind-the-scenes clips and related Shorts. Each of these creates a new touchpoint for the rising K-pop stars to engage with their fans and keep them coming back for me.
There is no one size-fits-all approach, so I would just encourage artists to experiment – engage with Shorts, host a Premiere, have fun with creative teasers and visualizers and continue to make a moment with the time-tested music video drop. – JL
The night before Billboard’s 2023 Women in Music Awards, we honored another collection of women in music: the top women producers. At the 2023 Billboard Women in Music Top Producers Dinner on Tuesday night (Feb. 28), Chloë Bailey, TOKiMONSTA, Uniiqu3, Syd, MNDR, Suni, Malibu Babie, Kito, Ebonie Smith, Tiffany Miranda, Jenn Decilveo, Monique Winning, Yuli, INK, Jade Rose and more gathered at the Pendry Hotel in West Hollywood to celebrate […]
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