Nelly Drives Back To Radio With 'Hey Porsche'

CORNELL HAYNES, JR. (a.k.a. Nelly)

The rapper/singer's inclination toward pop grows stronger with his new single.

Nelly debuts his first song on Billboard's Nielsen BDS-based Pop Songs chart in two-and-a-half years, as "Hey Porsche" speeds in at No. 36. It's his first visit since "Just a Dream" became his fifth format No. 1 in November 2010. "Porsche" previews his forthcoming seventh studio album, "M.O." (The chart will refresh, along with all surveys, on Thursday (Jan. 31) on Billboard.com.)

While Nelly arrived with the core rap "(Hot S**t) Country Grammar," which rose to No. 9 on Pop Songs in 2000, his sound has become increasingly pop-leaning, notably in 2004 when "Over and Over," featuring country superstar Tim McGraw, began an 11-week reign, and again with the melodic "Dream." "Porsche" drives Nelly deeper into pure pop territory.

Pop program directors say that "Porsche" represents more of an evolution than a revolution in Nelly's artistry. The track is "definitely more of a pop song than a rap song, with a great groove and a great hook," says Rich Davis, PD of KDWB Minneapolis, the leader in spins for "Porsche" (131) through Jan. 28. "I think even early on, Nelly did a good job of straddling the line between pop and rap. I'm sure artists can tell by their bank accounts which hits are the most mass-appeal. Nelly, with all his years in the biz, has certainly figured that out."

"What's great about Nelly is that he's so versatile and knows how to adapt and still be relevant," adds WXKB Ft. Myers, Fla., PD/music director Adam Star. "We're only of a couple of weeks in on 'Hey Porsche' but early listener response has been nothing but positive."

Although the song is not yet available for purchase as a download, a digital release is planned, according to Republic Records.