1. While Megan Thee Stallion was already at a star level in terms of personality and name recognition, "Savage" was only her first top Hot 100 10 hit, and now her first No. 1. Is she officially a pop superstar now, or is there still more left for her to prove?
Josh Glicksman: Wait, pop superstar? I think she’s closer to a rap phenom more than anything else, but regardless, she’s still got plenty to prove. The wording of the question gives you something of an answer -- it’s just her first venture into the top 10 of the Hot 100, and she’s yet to reach the top 5 on the Billboard 200. Sure, Megan Thee Stallion has reached TikTok ubiquity, but I’m still not sure that she has that truly unavoidable One Big Hit that really launches her to the next level. And of course, having the star power to vault a song to No. 1 on her own would be making a statement, too.
Jason Lipshutz: This is Megan Thee Stallion’s superstar coronation and should be treated as such. After releasing the excellent Fever last year, scoring a few Hot 100 hits and collaborating with artists like Nicki Minaj, Ty Dolls $ign and Normani, “Savage” and its Beyoncé-assisted remix represents her widescreen moment, in which a promising new act starts to become a household name. There’s still a good amount left for her to conquer -- award shows, for one, and a major headlining tour when the live industry returns -- but consider Megan part of the A-list moving forward.
Gail Mitchell: Before and after signing as 300 Entertainment’s first female rapper in 2018, Megan Thee Stallion has been steadily staking her claim as an artistic force. And now since notching her first Hot 100 entry last year with “Big Ole Freak” (peaking at No. 65; No. 23 on Rap Songs), she’s come full circle a year later with her first Hot 100 chart-topper. Being co-signed by Beyoncé is certainly a formidable way to underscore that Megan has arrived on the pop scene and can hold her own. But now as fans await her formal album debut, Megan is no doubt setting the stage for just how hard she can ride as a rapper, singer and songwriter as she continues to forge her own path to stardom.
Andrew Unterberger: Yes and no. Has to at least be part "no" because it is just her first top ten hit, it's boosted by one of the three or four greatest pop stars of all time, and it comes from a project that many had viewed as underperforming before "Savage" began to take off on TikTok. But I'm not sure any of that actually matters: Megan has had that ineffable superstar quality for well over a year now, and now that she has a first unavoidable signature hit to her name, I think the pop floodgates will almost certainly open for her from here.
Christine Werthman: Megan certainly is a star, but a pop superstar? Not quite yet. "Savage" only got to No. 14 before the remix. When she can propel a song to No. 1 on her own without the Beyoncé boost, then she'll get the title.
2. Is "Savage" an appropriately representative track of Megan's and her unique skill set, or is there another recent single (or Suga deep cut) of hers you would've rather seen be the song to break her into that next level of crossover success?
Josh Glicksman: There are plenty of instances when it feels like the wrong hit takes off, but that’s not the case here. “Savage” showcases Megan’s ability to draw in the listener with her signature ad libs while simultaneously putting her hip-hop prowess on full display. It doesn’t take itself too seriously -- perhaps that’s thanks in part to it being TikTok-ified -- though it wastes no time getting its point across to the listener, particularly in the original: “I’m that b--ch, been that b--ch, still that b--ch, will forever be that b--ch.” Noted.
Jason Lipshutz: Ah, summer 2019: a season in which I listened to Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby’s electrifying collaboration “Cash S--t” every day, and therefore, a great season! That song reached No. 36 on the Hot 100 chart, a respectable peak but nowhere near the success of “Savage” -- and while I won’t begrudge the undeniably fun Beyonce team-up as her breakthrough, “Cash S--t” will always hold a special place in my heart.
Gail Mitchell: “Savage” is the perfect representative track for Megan’s unique skill set and subsequent career takeoff. Not only do the verses and refrain capture the essence of who Megan is, they also work together as a rallying call to women all over the world as they continue to empower themselves in the #MeToo era. Plus who better than empowerment Queen Bey to join Megan in delivering a one-two punch in what a means to be a boss female? And rather than Beyoncé simply making a drop-in appearance, the remix was reconstructed with fierce and illuminating new verses. That move, along with the pair’s natural feisty chemistry, further stoked viral excitement for this momentous pairing.
Andrew Unterberger: You could certainly argue that "Big Ole Freak" or "Cash S--t" should have gotten her there first. I'm not sure you could argue against the merits of this being the song that ultimately did it, though.
Christine Werthman: "Savage" is playful, confident and raunchy — very Megan. "B.I.T.C.H." is a good one, but I think the quicker tempo and "classy, bougie, ratchet" tagline of "Savage" make it more appropriate for a pre-summer hit, and a possible Song of the Summer contender. I wouldn't pick a different song -- but I do wish Megan would've gotten there on her own because I think the song was good enough without the feature. That's not a knock on Beyoncé (I repeat: not a knock on Beyoncé), but just a salute to Megan.
3. Meanwhile, though Beyoncé's superstardom is now entering its fourth decade, she had hit something of a dry spell in terms of crossover hits the last two years, with her Carters single "APES--T" being her only song to hit the top 40. Does the success of "Savage" help re-establish Beyoncé as an A-list hitmaker, or is Beyoncé just in a pop class of her own in perpetuity at this point, no matter what her chart stats say?
Josh Glicksman: She’s definitely in a pop class of her own in perpetuity. If a dry spell includes turning in one of the most memorable sets in Coachella history -- subsequently releasing an Emmy-nominated documentary about the performance the following year -- while starring in a live-action remake of The Lion King and dropping two albums tied to the film, then sign me up for one of those, please. There’s little question in my mind that Beyoncé can churn out chart-busting hits whenever she pleases -- with 19 top-10 hits to her name scattered over several decades, she’s adept at adapting to whatever trends the industry is experiencing, as well as setting her own.
Jason Lipshutz: It’s the latter. Beyonce has transcended the pop-music trope of needing new hits to extend her winning streak -- her legacy is more than secure, and if anything, her fans are no doubt breathlessly awaiting a proper follow-up to 2016’s Lemonade more than a radio-ready new single. Queen Bey makes cultural artifacts now more often than solo hits, and while “Savage” is yet another nice stat for the history books, the remix doesn’t re-establish anything worth debating.
Gail Mitchell: Beyoncé has evolved into a pop class of her own. She didn’t need this remix to re-establish her as an A-list hitmaker. Beyoncé’s legion of diehard fans still view her that way no matter what chart stats may say. And it’s not like she’s hasn’t done anything since the Carters’ Everything Is Love album. She’s released two critically acclaimed projects since then: The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack (whose making of netted an ABC TV special) and the Netflix concert film/album Homecoming about her lauded 2018 Coachella headlining gig. Given Beyoncé’s track record for surprise releases, it’s not too far-fetched to think a new solo album might soon be in the offing.
Andrew Unterberger: Beyoncé certainly doesn't need any further resumé boosting at this point; as previously mentioned, her face has long been chiseled on pop's Mount Rushmore. Still, it's worth noting that many of the teens dancing to "Savage" on TikTok probably weren't even born yet when Beyoncé officially went solo in 2003 -- they know of the Queen and her legacy, but she might not be as inextricable part of their day-to-day lives as some other current stars. Never hurts to get on the biggest song in the country (alongside one of the newer generation's brightest burgeoning stars) just to make sure that everyone of all ages understands, appreciates and respects your place on the throne.
Christine Werthman: Going to No. 1 with a younger, TikTok-friendly artist like Megan is quite an important look for Beyoncé. She has been in my world since Destiny's Child, but this helps her reach a different audience age group. The "Savage" remix shows she's still paying attention to what's hot and she's still relevant with younger listeners. I know she and Jay-Z don't care about streaming numbers or Grammys, and it's not like Beyoncé is at some make-or-break moment of her career, but going to the top still has value for any artist.
4. Beyoncé is certainly no stranger to offering welcome assists to other major pop artists -- what's your favorite feature performance of the Queen's to date?
Josh Glicksman: Give me “Telephone” every single time. Combine a truckload of star power with a radio-friendly beat and an epic music video, and you’ve got yourself a steadfast recipe for success. Plus, Beyoncé’s show-stopping lyric “Tonight I’m not taking no calls, ‘cause I’ll be dancing” remains as perfect of a motto now as it was then.
Jason Lipshutz: It’d be easy to choose “Telephone” or one of the Jay-Z team-ups, but let’s go with the remix to J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente,” which made a massive international hit even bigger in the States, benefited hurricane relief funds and included Blue Ivy Carter on the track. Aside from all of her other gifts, Beyonce has great taste, and knew when to amplify one of the most singular beats of the decade.
Gail Mitchell: Other than “Savage,” my favorite feature performance of the Queen’s is on Nicki Minaj’s “Feeling Myself.” At the time, it marked the inspired pairing of two major forces in the worlds of R&B, rap and pop. Between its popular video and the duo’s live performance at the 2015 charity concert Tidal X 10/20 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the song remains a hallmark in both artists’ careers.
Andrew Unterberger: I'll go with "Say Yes," Bey's informal mid-'10s Destiny's Child reunion alongside Kelly Rowland and lead artist Michelle Williams. A Harmony Samuels-produced banger tinged with dancehall and gospel that's absolutely exploding with joy in every measure, the single didn't even crack the Hot 100, but remains a fan favorite over a half-decade later.
Christine Werthman: "Telephone" with Lady Gaga. It's such a bonkers song and really lets Beyoncé get weird. And the video. The video. Don't take Beyoncé's honey! Still waiting for Pt. 2 on that nutty Thelma-and-Louise-style journey.
5. Between "Say So" and "Savage," we've seen two of just seven chart-topping all-female collaborations in Hot 100 history within the last three weeks -- with Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's "Rain on Me" duet likely to challenge for a high debut on next week's chart as well. Do you think we're witnessing a cultural shift, with the industry and/or general public being more welcoming to all-female collabs, or is it just a fluke of timing?
Josh Glicksman: I sure hope it’s the former! That said, as exciting as it is, I think we’re going to need some more evidence of the cultural shift before I’m ready to give everyone a pat on the back. Twice in a month -- or three times, should Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande make it to No. 1 -- is nothing to toss aside, but it’s still important to keep in mind that the last time we saw an all-female collaboration top the chart before this stretch was in 2014 (Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX's “Fancy”). But let’s keep it going.
Jason Lisphutz: Songs like “Savage” and “Say So” hitting the top of the Hot 100 in the same month, while “Rain On Me” becomes one of the more high-profile pop diva collaborations in recent memory, may just be a coincidence of timing -- but one encouraging cultural shift that I believe we’re seeing is a greater public appetite for women in hip-hop to break through to the mainstream with fewer caveats in place.
Previous generations included just one or two female rappers becoming genuine household names and having to make room in the boys’ club; in the past two years, however, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and Doja Cat have all become bankable stars, while artists like City Girls, Saweetie, Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack (among many others) have been able to position themselves for modern success. We’re still a long way away from gender parity in hip-hop, but don’t underestimate “Savage” reaching No. 1 as an important step forward.
Gail Mitchell: Between “Savage,” “Say So” and now “Rain on Me,” I do believe we’re witnessing a cultural shift. There have been other female collaborations in the past such as 2001’s “Lady Marmalade” with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and P!nk and 2014’s “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX. But now there’s a more heightened -- and enlightened -- climate, in which women are on their grind right now, taking matters into their own hands as they break down barriers in music and other industries. As the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin noted in 1985, “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”
Andrew Unterberger: When something happens five times in over 60 years and then (at least) twice in the space of one month, you certainly have to pay attention to it. If nothing else, it shines a light on just how cold the industry (and perhaps the listening public) has been to all-female collabs in the past, treating them either like an event or a novelty but rarely as just a logical, casual team-up, like any number of the hundreds of hit all-male collabs of the last half-century. Hopefully we're getting closer with these No. 1s to a place where female artists can get on a song together without us even thinking of it as anything but another good idea.
Christine Werthman: I think it's a cultural shift, and about damn time. Thank you, younger generations of music fans, for helping the olds progress.