Chart Beat

Z100 Makes a Hometown Hit With The Chainsmokers' 'New York City'

the Chainsmokers
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Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart of the Chainsmokers performs onstage during the 2016 MTV Music Video Awards at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 28, 2016 in New York City. 

"Great songs that capture the essence and vibe of a city are typically timeless," says WHTZ New York program director Mark Medina.

"New York City, please go easy on me tonight
New York City, please go easy on this heart of mine
Cause I'm losing my lover to the arms of another
New York City, please go easy on me tonight"

On the new Billboard Hot 100, released Monday (Nov. 14) (and dated Nov. 26), The Chainsmokers' "Closer," featuring Halsey, slips to No. 2 after 12 weeks at No. 1 -- the chart's longest reign this year -- as Rae Sremmurd makes a very un-mannequin-like leap to the top with "Black Beatles," featuring Gucci Mane.

While the reign of "Closer" has halted, Columbia Records hasn't yet released an official follow-up single; one is expected after the new year, with no indication given yet if it will be from the EDM/pop duo's new EP Collage, which debuts on the Billboard 200 at No. 6 (and includes "Closer").

With 2016 having brought The Chainsmokers, aka Drew Taggart and Alex Pall, to new heights -- the pair earned its first two Hot 100 top 10s, "Roses," featuring Rozes (No. 6), and "Don't Let Me Down," featuring Daya (No. 3), prior to "Closer" -- iHeartMedia-owned top 40 WHTZ (Z100) New York, with its audience of 4.2 million in October, according to Nielsen Audio, is taking advantage of the act's momentum in its own way, and ahead of Columbia's next move.

Among the 169 top 40 stations that report to Billboard's Pop Songs radio airplay chart (where "Closer" reigns for an eighth week, the list's longest domination in three years), Z100 is the only panelist playing The Chainsmokers' "New York City," having spun the song 44 times in the tracking week ending Nov. 13, according to Nielsen Music, making it the station's 15th-most-played song of the week. Of those 44 plays, 31 occurred between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., perfectly tying into the song's storyline, a desperate plea for mercy in a city where millions of hustling and bustling New Yorkers can sometimes be no match for late-night loneliness (all set to a throbbing yet understated beat and instant hook).

"Nights downtown, it's a new town
But I keep thinking I see your face in the crowd
But you're not here and you won't be
Cause you love me enough to let go of me"

Z100's support of the largely unfamiliar "New York City," sung by newcomer Brittany and from The Chainsmokers' first EP, Bouquet, released nearly a year ago, is a bit of an old-school radio maneuver, harkening back to before mid-'90s ownership consolidation sparked a greater emphasis on research and reliance on songs proven to be hits in multiple markets.

At the same time, the track seems obvious for a New York audience, given its lyrics. Plus, play for the song further raises the profile for The Chainsmokers (formed in New York City in 2012), with the act set to play Z100's (sold-out) Jingle Ball Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden.

"I've always loved 'New York City,' The Chainsmokers are as hot as it gets in top 40 music right now, and since there is no official next single until the new year, we thought now was the time to go with it and see how the market reacts," explains Z100 program director Mark Medina. "Great songs that capture the essence and vibe of a city are typically timeless. It's been exciting to watch the song start to appear in Shazam [research] in New York and surrounding areas.

"[And since] we consider Alex and Drew family at Z100, it's been so great watching them explode and have the great success they are experiencing."

Meanwhile, Medina is proud that the station is following its heart by championing a song that simply feels, and sounds, right on-air. "I think any radio station in any market needs to reflect the lifestyle and tastes of its core listener base. We've got so much data, research and info. at our fingertips these days that it can become very easy to get paralysis by analysis. With [Nielsen Audio's real-time] measurement system for our ratings, the margin for error is very thin. This can make risk-taking, and following your gut, take a backseat to data and metrics.

"But, taking the right risks, at the right time, can be the special sauce that enhances your brand and sets you apart. We can't lose the passion and the art of our medium."