"Every artist from Jamaica wants to thrive in the U.S.," says the 29-year-old OMI (born Omar Samuel Pasley). "There are so many great songs that deserve the recognition that 'Cheerleader' has had. I'm just grateful."
Song of the Summer Is 'Cheerleader,' But What's Your Favorite? Vote!
Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" (featuring Charlie Puth) had led the Songs of the Summer list most of the season (for 13 of the chart's first 15 tracking weeks), but the late-charting, six-week Hot 100 reign of "Cheerleader" proved decisive. "Again," whose 12-week Hot 100 command began prior to the Songs of the Summer tracking span, finishes the season at No. 2.
Swift's "Bad Blood" (featuring Kendrick Lamar) ranks at No. 3, followed by The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" (No. 4) and Silento's "Watch Me" (No. 5). "Can't Feel My Face" started at No. 16 on Songs of the Summer, although not until the July 25 tally.
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Swift's hit, meanwhile, is one of OMI's summer favorites. The singer also favors "Again," Jason Derulo's "Want to Want Me," and Skrillex and Diplo's "Where Are U Now" with Justin Bieber. (Not that listening to the hits took up all of OMI's summer. His tasks included judging a Jamaican cheerleader competition. "I was there giving my support," he says with a gentlemanly chuckle.)
Of course, many others count "Cheerleader" among their summer essentials. "I followed the success of 'Cheerleader' overseas for many months," says Rick Thomas, program director at WBMP (92.3 AMP Radio) New York. AMP leads all U.S. radio stations in airplay for the hit -- more than 2,300 spins since first playing it in January, according to Nielsen Music -- after Felix Jaehn's remix, released in its original form in 2012, had spurred it to top multiple global charts ahead of its American breakthrough.
"I wasn't surprised after we saw massive numbers and success around the world. We knew the chances were pretty good for the U.S. landscape," says Columbia executive VP promotion Lee Leipsner. "We had a story to spread in every single market where the song was exposed.
"The appeal of 'Cheerleader' has been its simple message and cool groove. It's a breezy record that just makes you happy."
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Up next for OMI: his debut Louder Than Life/Ultra/Columbia album, Me 4 U, due Oct. 16, ushered in by new feel-good single "Hula Hoop." "When you have a hit," says OMI, "you don't want to go too far away from that for the follow-up. 'Hula Hoop' is a good transition."
And, quite possibly, a contender for top song of the fall. -- Gary Trust
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of Billboard.