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Five Burning Questions: JVKE Scores His First Top 10 Hit With ‘Golden Hour’

todayJanuary 31, 2023

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As a prodigious young singer-songwriter and popular social media personality, Jacob Lawson has grown a devoted following over his past few years as a recording artist. But this week is something of a coronation for the artist now known as JVKE as a crossover star, as he scores his first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.


Golden Hour,” the breakout single from his 2022 breakup song cycle This Is What ____ Feels Like (Vol. 1-4), climbs 11-10 on the Hot 100 dated Feb. 4, thanks to growing pop radio support and steady streaming success. The lush pop ballad is JVKE’s first Hot 100 entry of any kind, though he’d already proven a reliable streaming performer with prior singles “Upside Down,” “Dandelion” and the This Is What title track.

How big will “Golden Hour” get from here? And which bubbling-under pop sensation might be the next to score a crossover chart hit? Billboard writers discuss these questions and more below.

1. “Golden Hour” makes the top 10 in its 12th week on the listing. What do you think has been the biggest factor in its chart rise? 

Stephen Daw: While TikTok was the obvious defining factor in the song’s initial success, pop radio appears to be the big driver for “Golden Hour” right now. Along with his first Hot 100 top 10, JVKE also scored his first top 10 on our Pop Airplay chart thanks to increased radio play of the single — sure, the sound is still everywhere on TikTok, but its crossover onto mainstream radio is what’s sending it way up the charts.

Lyndsey Havens: My best guess is we’re seeing a spike thanks to his year-end performance at Jingle Ball. It was a well-timed live set that primed JVKE for this post-holiday climb. And while “Golden Hour” may have taken off on TikTok first, it’s been growing at radio as well, also entering the top 10 on the Pop Airplay chart this week. And it’s important to remember this is all happening without any major label push.

Jason Lipshutz: “Golden Hour” has a winning formula: semi-rapped verses full of romantic observations and modern music references, boiling into an enormous, crooned-from-the-gut chorus. JVKE, to his credit, nails the push-pull at the heart of the song — nimble enough to sound nonchalant during the lead-up, then giving his absolute all on the hook — while the racing piano line beneath him is a memorable piece of production that simultaneously doesn’t distract from the vocal take.

Glenn Rowley: I would chalk it up in large part to timing. Outside of Miley’s “Flowers” and Shakira’s “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” the chart hasn’t exactly been inundated with new releases. It’s still mostly filled with pre-holiday holdovers, which has left some room for JVKE to sneak into the top 10 after a three-month climb.

Andrew Unterberger: A combination of a strong social following and presence (over 10 million followers on TikTok) and legitimate musical talent (displayed with this song’s frantic piano hook and soaring vocals) is usually a pretty good starting point for pop success. The interest had been there for a couple years already with JVKE; once he had a song that broke through a little bit it was pretty clear it was going to go pretty far from there.

2. JVKE has seen some streaming success before — three of his earlier songs have over 100 million plays on Spotify — but this is his first Hot 100 hit. Does it make sense to you that “Golden Hour” would be the song to put him over the top?

Stephen Daw: For sure. While I think there are more obvious “pop hit”-sounding singles in JVKE’s catalog, but “Golden Hour” stands out. The song has a sense of orchestral drama to it that makes it sound at least moderately different from other viral songs right now — which then makes it a lot easier for fans to go searching for “that one song I heard on TikTok.”

Lyndsey Havens: Totally. This song is not only incredibly well-crafted and fresh sounding, but the way he introduced it — with a simple TikTok clip in which his childhood piano teacher tears up at him playing the song for her — pushed it over the edge. I can’t quite remember the last time an artist who grew up inspired by both Christian music and hip-hop, with a knack for intricate piano melodies and soaring vocals, put it all together. The result is, well… a top 10 hit.

Jason Lipshutz: It does, simply because “Golden Hour” has demonstrated a pop radio appeal that JVKE’s other hits have not. The key to “Golden Hour” crossing into the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart may be its move up to No. 25 on the Radio Songs chart this week, with that soaring hook sounding right at home on top 40 radio. “Golden Hour” had already reached the top 10 of the Streaming Songs chart (and sits at No. 13 this week), but winning over another format has helped create a multi-platform smash.

Glenn Rowley: Honestly, it makes sense from a strategy perspective — what, with countless remixes, a holiday version and assists from the likes of Ruel and Henry. But musically, the song feels like such an anomaly to me; certainly not what I’d expect to hear at the top of the chart at the moment. 

Andrew Unterberger: I didn’t think so at first, though I’m sorta coming around to it. Parts of it feel more like an album interlude (or really an intro) than a big single, but such distinctions are increasingly irrelevant in 2023: Look at Steve Lacy’s “Static,” the beatless opening track to his Gemini Rights that never really properly kicks in, but was still pretty easily the album’s second biggest hit after the chart-conquering “Bad Habit.” This song doesn’t feel like his most radio-ready, but it does feel like his most striking, and in modern pop the latter is probably more important.

3. Do you see the song continuing to climb on the Hot 100 from here? How high do you think it might go?

Stephen Daw: Without a remix or an updated version of some kind, I don’t see the song going that much further up the chart — especially when you have tracks with a proven track record of chart longevity like “As It Was,” “Rich Flex” and “Die For You” in the way. Maybe “Golden Hour” will be able overtake one or two of those tracks, but I doubt it will crack the seemingly impenetrable Top 5 we currently have.

Lyndsey Havens: When you consider some expected post-Grammy bumps, the No. 10 spot may be where “Golden Hour” peaks for now. Unless he and his team have an official music video up their sleeves — or something else — to regenerate buzz, the timing may be a bit off for it to climb any higher. But hey, the upper echelon is the upper echelon. And it could leave room for his follow-up hit to get even closer to the summit.

Jason Lipshutz: I could see “Golden Hour” challenging for a top 5 spot on the Hot 100, considering how some songs above it on the chart, like Harry Styles’ “As It Was” and David Guetta & Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue),” have presided in the top 10 for months and could start slipping in the coming weeks. However, I don’t envision “Golden Hour” challenging the “Flowers”/“Kill Bill”/“Anti-Hero” triumvirate at the top of the tally anytime soon — which says less about JVKE’s breakout hit and more about how sturdy those Miley Cyrus, SZA and Taylor Swift tracks have become at the Hot 100 summit.

Glenn Rowley: I think it’s probably reached its summit. It’ll be harder for it to climb much higher as the industry thaws from its January gloom and the release calendar starts heating up again. 

Andrew Unterberger: Could maybe get another spot higher or two, but would probably need a major moment to get much higher than that. Speaking of which, though: Why is JVKE not booked to play the Grammys this year? He’s not a household name yet, but he could’ve brought some younger viewers to the ceremonies, and the ornate production and majestic presentation of “Golden Hour” actually makes it more auditorium-ready than a lot of the songs we’ll likely hear at the awards this year. (Plus his instrumental ability should make him an easier sell than most young artists to the stodgier Recording Academy members in attendance.) Could’ve been a win for both show and performer. Maybe next year.

4. Artists with TikTok-assisted breakouts sometimes find difficulty scoring a follow-up hit of comparable size — do you think JVKE has more high-level pop success in him, or is this likely closer to a charts one-off?

Stephen Daw: I think it depends on how JVKE proceeds from here; if he tries to go about replicating the sound and feel of “Golden Hour” in another song, then I don’t think it’ll work. “Golden Hour” succeeded because it stood out from a lot of what’s big on TikTok right now. If JVKE follows that gut instinct of making something that is as immediately striking thanks to its individuality, then I think there’s a very good chance that we’ll be seeing him again.

Lyndsey Havens: I do think there’s more here. Because of the way in which he blends his skills as a pianist, vocalist and lyricist, his music stands out and makes me intrigued to hear what’s next. And, of course, there’s the key part of him choosing to remain independent… helping me feel confident that without any outside forces suggesting or perhaps pushing him down alternate paths, what follows will be just as impressive — and entirely JVKE.

Jason Lipshutz: I do think JVKE will be heard from after “Golden Hour,” mostly because of the personality he flaunts on its verses — the way he comfortably sets the scene, distinguishes his voice and showcases his multi-faceted skill set in a short amount of time. “Golden Hour” isn’t a hit because of a quick, catchy melody or production gimmick, but because the artist powering it intrigues the listener throughout; maybe he won’t have another hit as big as “Golden Hour,” but JVKE has definitely caught the attention of a lot of people.

Glenn Rowley: I do think JVKE has potential to build on this moment. He clearly has the musical chops, which are demonstrated here far better than they were on, say, “Upside Down” back in 2020. This Is What ____ Feels Like (Vol. 1-4) is just such a unique beast as a debut album that wherever he does go from here, there’s no doubt it’ll certainly be interesting.

Andrew Unterberger: He might not be the type to chart with every song, but I’d bet we see JVKE again on the Hot 100 before long. He’s got the talent, the drive and the following — he’ll get his chances, and now that he’s got the one legitimate crossover hit, it probably won’t be so hard for him to score a second. And it wouldn’t be shocking to see him enlisted as a guest player on other stars’ records either; lord knows there are a lot of rappers out there who love a good dramatic piano loop.

5. Who’s another young pop artist that’s sorta been bubbling just below the mainstream so far this decade who you think might be due for a breakout hit like “Golden Hour” in the near future?

Stephen Daw: Do not sleep on Ashnikko. She has been just on the periphery of mainstream chart success — “Daisy” entered both the Pop and Alternative Airplay charts, but never quite managed to crack the Hot 100. But with every subsequent release, Ashnikko’s sound gets more and more refined and specific, so I think 2023 could be the year we finally see her make her way to a debut Hot 100 single.

Lyndsey Havens: I can see “Red Flags,” the latest single from British singer-songwriter Mimi Webb, enjoying a slow climb onto — and eventually up — the Hot 100. It’s a pure pop banger, and her upcoming debut album out this March could very well help with that journey.

Jason Lipshutz: I’m betting big on Gracie Abrams, who has been releasing pop songs over the past three years without impacting the Hot 100 but whose songs keep getting stronger as she gears up for her debut album, Good Riddance, next month. Don’t be surprised if an Abrams song is dominating the cultural conversation by the end of February.

Glenn Rowley: Four months ago, my immediate answer would’ve been Kim Petras, but “Unholy” obviously delivered a much-deserved breakout hit for her and then some. Shout-out to Maisie Peters, though — the U.K. pop darling people should keep a close eye on as she gears up for her sophomore album. You heard it here first: she has the songwriting chops to rival Olivia Rodrigo as Gen Z’s answer to Taylor Swift.

Andrew Unterberger: PinkPantheress just keeps getting closer to true breakout success, and her late 2022 single “Boy’s a Liar” might end up being her biggest streaming hit yet. She’s a pretty prolific creator, so it seems like only a matter of time before the right release at the right time puts her over the top; I’d almost be more surprised if she didn’t end up with a Hot 100 hit before 2023 was up.

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todayJanuary 31, 2023

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