Five Burning Questions: All-Star 'Don't Call Me Angel' Debuts at No. 13 on the Hot 100

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Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, "Don’t Call Me Angel"

After months of anticipation, the All-Star team up "Don't Call Me Angel" -- with vocals split between Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey -- arrived two Fridays ago (Sept. 13) as the lead single off the soundtrack to the latest Charlie's Angels film reboot, due out this November. 

Given the star power of the artists involved, as well as the guiding hands of proven hitmakers Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Savan Kotecha as co-writers/producers, commercial expectations for the single were high. This week, the song debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- becoming the 20th top 20 hit on the chart for Grande, the 14th for Cyrus and the third for Del Rey, but perhaps falling short of fan hopes for the song's initial bow. 

What does the No. 13 landing mean for the soundtrack single? And how might we have tweaked the song's formula? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below. 

1. Given the expectations and hype around it, how do you think the three stars should be feeling about a No. 13 debut for "Don't Call Me Angel"? 

Stephen Daw: With all of the star power on this track, I was sure that the track would at least crack the top 10, so I would understand if  these three leading ladies are feeling relatively underwhelmed by their debut. That being said, when you look at the songs ahead of them, with monster tracks like "Truth Hurts," "Señorita" and "Bad Guy" still holding strong in their top three positions, it's also understandable why this song didn't break through in the way I thought it would. 

Eric Frankenberg: There are two ways to look at the No. 13 debut. On one hand, it marks Lana’s highest-charting single in six years and it’s the best of Miley’s four 2019 debuts. On the other, it’s a sequel of sorts to Destiny’s Child’s 10-week run at No. 1 with “Independent Women, Pt. I,” and follows four top 10 debuts for Grande in the last twelve months, two of which were No. 1 entries. I’m leaning toward the latter perspective, disappointed that the biggest voice in pop couldn’t make a bigger splash with a posse cut for a name-brand blockbuster movie.

BUT, the film doesn’t come out for almost two months and will likely have a ton of promotion and hype around it, soundtracked by “Don’t Call Me Angel.” So despite the track’s relatively tepid debut, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it sprout some legs and stick around, even if it doesn’t become a chart-dominating force.

Jason Lipshutz: Fine, if not thrilled. Lana Del Rey and Miley Cyrus have not spent 2019 regularly sending singles into the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart, but Grande has, and the superstar summit’s connection to the Charlie’s Angels franchise -- as a spiritual sequel to Destiny’s Child’s No. 1 hit “Independent Women Pt. 1” -- undoubtedly made commercial expectations for “Don’t Call Me Angel” pretty high. A top 20 bow is nothing to sneeze at, but to have a song with Ariana, Miley and Lana out-debuted by Grande’s own “Boyfriend,” her Social House collaboration that started at No. 8 in August, probably smarts at least a little.

Andrew Unterberger: Hardly tragic, but it has to be a little disappointing for Cyrus and Del Rey, who could both use an easy top 10 hit in 2019 for the resumé -- not like it really matters for either, but fair or not, pop star credibility is still largely built off hit singles -- and aren't likely to have as simple a path to one again anytime soon. For Grande, it should be pretty easy to shrug off (as she basically already has), though it does mean that she's ending the year with her golden touch looking the slightest bit duller than it did at its blinding beginning. 

Taylor Weatherby: Before the song arrived, I would bet the ladies -- and frankly, the fans who were stoked about them coming together -- were thinking the song would debut in the top 10 of the Hot 100. But just about everyone I've talked to about the song felt it was lackluster compared to its potential, so I'm not really too shocked that it didn't crack the the top 10 in its first week. Plus, Ariana, Miley and Lana have each had a top 10 hit themselves (Miley and Ariana several times), so I doubt any of them were banking on "Don't Call Me Angel" becoming their defining big-time smash. And there's still a chance it could move higher than No. 13, so I'd think the gals are perfectly content with where their song debuted.

2. Miley, Ariana and Lana have all had fairly productive years already. Which of the three do you think is most likely to see "Angel" actually stick as a notable part of their catalogue, if any? 

Stephen Daw: This one's tough. Ariana, in the last year, has released arguably the two most definitive albums of her career with Sweetener and Thank U, Next. Lana, meanwhile, has seen Norman Fucking Rockwell gain near-universal critical acclaim, even if it hasn't quite spun off any major hit singles on the Hot 100. And Miley seems to be in the midst of another artistic shift with She Is Coming, with songs like "Slide Away" and "Mother's Daughter" at the very least turning heads. So, the short answer is, with a stacked group like this one, I'm not sure "Angel" is going to be as significant of an entry in any of their catalogues.

Eric Frankenberg: Miley? Ariana’s setlist has ballooned over the last year-plus, so adding in another single, especially if it isn’t a smash, would be tough. And it doesn’t really fit with anything from Lana’s catalogue, even the hit turbo-remix of “Summertime Sadness.” It does however, mesh with some the empowering aggressive pop that Miley has settled into this year.

Jason Lipshutz: Lana Del Rey simply doesn’t have a lot of songs in her catalogue that sound like “Don’t Call Me Angel,” historically more comfortable operating at a slower, more melancholy tempo than pop radio typically demands (case in point: the lone top 10 hit of her career remains a dance remix of one of her wooziest songs). Even as she receives the greatest accolades of her career with her recently released Norman Fucking Rockwell!, “Don’t Call Me Angel” marks a notable -- and enjoyable! -- swerve in Del Rey’s well-established sound.

Andrew Unterberger: Cyrus might have the first verse (and have been the first one to perform it live), but at the end of the day, it still mostly feels like an Ariana Grande song. It's written and produced with some of her most frequent collaborators of late, its video is directed by her regular partner Hannah Lux Davis, and it just sounds like her kind of breathy pop banger. Not to say that it'll become a permanent Grande setlist fixture or anything, but I think most fans will mentally slot it into her back catalog, likely as the closing blast from one of the most fruitful periods any pop star has enjoyed this decade. 

Taylor Weatherby: f I had to choose, I'd say Ariana, mostly because she sings the chorus. Its melody and racing beat also feel the most like an Ariana song. But honestly, I don't feel like any of them made such an impact with their "Don't Call Me Angel" part that it'll become an iconic part of their discography.

3. What's one thing about "Don't Call Me Angel" that you would have tweaked or reimagined to maybe make it a little more potent?

Stephen Daw: The thing, in my mind, that made "Independent Women Pt. I" such a smash hit for Destiny's Child was that it made strong statements oozing with bossed-up confidence, and that was represented both in the music and lyrics. "Don't Call Me Angel" has both of those things, until it doesn't -- Miley's verse is the template I would have worked off of. She nailed the balance of confidence and ferocity needed to sell this song, and then as the song continued, it just seemed to take a dip in mood. 

Eric Frankenberg: A rap verse. The switch-up gave some extra texture to “Lady Marmalade” and “Bang Bang,” and Lizzo, pre-retirement Nicki Minaj, Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion (or, to accent the weird that is Lana Del Rey on this song and video, throw in Rico Nasty) would have juiced this song up.

After writing that sentence, a female rap collaboration would have been amazing. “Independent Women” meets “Ladies Night” featuring the aforementioned rappers? Together? Get Ariana, Miley, or Lana to sing a hook.

Jason Lipshutz: As much as I love hearing Del Rey’s smoky voice drop into view in the final third of the song for a chopped-up bridge, I do wonder whether “Don’t Call Me Angel” would have worked slightly better with a high-octane rap verse in its place. Imagine what Cardi B could have done with the “Don’t Call Me Angel” concept, or Megan Thee Stallion feeding off Grande and Cyrus’ combined energy with a rapid-fire verse! Or maybe Nicki Minaj links back up with Grande for the “Bang Bang” sequel we never knew we needed.

Andrew Unterberger: I think everyone involved needed to lean in a little harder. Whether it's "Eye of the Tiger," "My Heart Will Go On" or indeed, "Independent Women Pt. I," the key to a great soundtrack single is always over-commitment. It's no accident that the most memorable (non-chorus) part of "Independent Women" is the DC ladies calling off a Charlie's Angels roll call -- a terrible, cheesy idea on paper that works just because when else are you ever going to hear Destiny's Child name-checking Drew Barrymore? Over-the-top fun and ridiculousness should've been the name of the game here, but no one involved quite sounds invested enough for that. 

Taylor Weatherby: Though I'm aware I'm no lyricist, I felt like the message "Don't Call Me Angel" delivers feels a little clichéd instead of empowered. Also, I know Lana's part is very Lana, but I think it feels kind of out of place in an otherwise adrenaline-pumping track. I would've loved to hear her take on a verse as in-your-face as Miley's -- something tells me she'd pleasantly surprise.

4. "Don't Call Me Angel" is, in many ways, the spiritual sequel to "Independent Women, Pt. I" But we shouldn't forget that there already was an actual sequel to that song -- titled, naturally, "Independent Women Pt. II." Which one of the two is more likely to make an appearance on any future playlists of yours? 

Stephen Daw: As a tried-and-true Beyoncé stan, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I didn't pick "Independent Women Pt. II". The song is so weird and has that very strange flair with those horns and xylophones throughout the track, but it's still so good and adds this almost sinister vibe to the track that kind of gives me the chills. "Angel" is still a really good song, but "Pt. II" is just one of those under-appreciated gems that I will always find myself going back to.

Eric Frankenberg: “Independent Women, Pt. II” works well enough as a remix of its mega-hit predecessor but can I avoid the question and just pick one of the many, many empowerment bangers from Beyoncé’s catalogue? Right now, I’d choose either “Flawless” or the wonderfully dated “Bug a Boo.”

Jason Lipshutz: I give the edge to “Don’t Call Me Angel” for placing Grande, Cyrus and Del Rey on the same track, a comet-like phenomenon that we’re likely never going to see again. Destiny’s Child has many tracks that are superior to “Independent Women Pt. II”; where else are you going to hear Grande’s breathy delivery immediately followed by Del Rey’s even breathier delivery? Points scored for existing as a unique, if imperfect, pop occurrence.

Andrew Unterberger: "Pt. II." What can I say, I love a good sequel song playlist

Taylor Weatherby: "Don't Call Me Angel." Love Destiny's Child, but "Independent Women, Pt. II" was a bad case of a sequel fail. "Independent Women, Pt. I" was so iconic it didn't need any sort of upgrade -- and Destiny's Child's attempt at a follow-up hardly even sounds like it belongs with the original (and those clattering background sounds are AWFUL). Can I just take "Pt. I" for my playlists instead of either of these?

5. It's 2026, and they're rebooting Charlie's Angels yet again. Build your ideal female future-pop dream team for the new version's theme song. 

Stephen Daw: No. 1: Daya. She's already proven that she knows how to put together an amazing empowerment anthem with "Sit Still, Look Pretty," so she will absolutely be making the cut. 
No. 2: King Princess would make for a wonderfully weird addition to this track. 
No. 3: Willow Smith could bring some amazing bars to this. You're welcome Charlie's Angels

Eric Frankenberg: I don’t know if it’s too on-the-nose to include Charli XCX but Charlie’s Angels meets future-pop screams Charli, baby. In the spirit of Ms. XCX, hopefully other borderline-mainstream pop stars will have taken over by then and we can throw in Rosalia, Tierra Whack, and frequent collaborator Kim Petras. 

Jason Lipshutz: How about Beyonce, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, a quarter-century after “Independent Women Pt. 1” became a chart-topper? Destiny’s Child reuniting for a new Charlie’s Angels anthem is the best-case scenario, regardless of how the actual song turns out. Let’s just hope that President Beyoncé can carve out some time in her busy schedule at that point.

Andrew Unterberger: Normani to be the song's vocal anchor and most dedicated live performer. Billie Eilish to make a bunch of self-referential "Bad Guy" references and wear something absolutely batshit in the video. And Bhad Bhabie to come in from out of nowhere on the bridge and blister through 12 bars where she describes the plot of the new movie in exceptionally profane detail. 

Taylor Weatherby: Rihanna, Lizzo and Cardi B. Do I need to say more?


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