'Empire' Is 'Good Enough' to Hit Radio Charts
After storming in with hefty digital sales, the series is conquering a tougher barrier: radio airplay.
The cast of Fox's new sensation Empire does what few TV show troupes have been able to: make its way onto a Billboard radio airplay chart.
On the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop tally (which ranks total weekly song plays), the Empire cast's "Good Enough," featuring Jussie Smollett, debuts at No. 39. The show's first-season finale, which aired on March 18, helped boost interest at the format, as the song is up by 40 percent in plays in the week ending March 22, according to Nielsen Music.
"Good Enough" also bows on the audience-based R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart at No. 47 with an 89 percent vault to 3 million in listenership.
The question is whether the song, co-written and co-produced by Timbaland, will continue to find support at radio now that the smash first season of Empire has come to an end.
Boogie D., program director of WHHL St. Louis, which played the song 31 times last week, feels that the wrap of the show's 12-episode introductory season doesn't have to mean that airplay for "Good Enough" needs to stop. "I really like the song. And it seems to have legs in [research], Shazam and requests. We will still be playing it as long as the listeners want it."
While "Good Enough" is the first song from Empire to land on a Billboard chart based solely on radio performance, it and other tracks from the show have logged noteworthy download and streaming totals following their inclusion in respective episodes. A total of 16 tracks from the series has reached digital song sales charts, multi-metric rankings (including the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, which measure sales, streaming and airplay) and the Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart (a ranking of the most shared songs on Twitter in the U.S. by up-and-coming acts).
Before its debut on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, "Good Enough" was one of two songs from Empire to chart following its Jan. 7 pilot, when it debuted at No. 33 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, aided by 23,000 first-week downloads sold. It's sold 118,000 so far; only the ensemble's "Conqueror" has sold more (126,000).
Jay Alexander, PD of WBTF Lexington, Ky. credits the show's buzz -- thanks to its mix of drama and original music -- as key in "Good Enough" receiving a warm welcome at radio. The station spun the song 32 times last week. "I have never seen a record pop quite like this, fueled by the popularity of the show, which, I have to admit, I am a fan of. It seems our audience relates to it."
Still, a music-centered TV cast enjoying mass exposure doesn't automatically translate to airplay. Only one song, for instance, from the cast of Fox's Glee reached the Adult Pop Songs chart in the series' six-season run (which wrapped Friday, March 20): the original song "Loser Like Me" reached No. 36 on the list in 2011. An additional five Glee holiday tracks dented the Adult Contemporary chart. That's in contrast to the cast's hefty 45 million downloads sold to-date. Similarly, a minimal amount of songs from ABC's Nashville have reached the Country Airplay chart, spanning its three seasons so far.
Time will tell if "Good Enough" can thrive at radio without the show's weekly broadcast backing; Empire is rumored to return perhaps as early as this fall.
Stan Branson, PD of WJMI, Jackson, Miss., is among the song's believers, with the station's 140 plays to-date the most of any Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart reporter. "I was the first programmer to play 'Good Enough'," he notes. (WJMI and WERQ Baltimore both first aired the track on Feb. 2.) "I saw and heard it the night that it aired and thought it was a good enough song to put on the air. And with the momentum of the show blowing up, it was a no-brainer.
"We are also playing the show's 'Drip Drop' for the same reason. Empire introduced several songs, but these two have the legs to make it without the show. I believe that 'Good Enough' is, well, more than good enough to stand on its own."
Additional reporting by Gary Trust.