While the first new Billboard Hot 100 of 2023 was still overrun by holiday songs from Mariah Carey, Brenda Lee and many more, every one of them departs the listing for the chart dated Jan. 14 — giving us our first real look at the current landscape of pop hits as we get into the new year.
With “All I Want for Christmas Is You” vacating the top spot, the void is once again filled by Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” notching its seventh week at No. 1, followed by Sam Smith & Kim Petras’ “Unholy,” SZA’s “Kill Bill,” David Guetta & Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue)” and Drake & 21 Savage’s “Rich Flex.” Slightly lower on the chart, two songs hit the top 10 for the first time: The Weeknd’s recently revived “Die for You” (No. 8) and Beyoncé’s slow-burning “Cuff It” (No. 10).
What’s the most telling thing about the Hot 100’s current top tier? And what might still be in store for chart watchers this month based on these early returns? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. With the holiday music cobwebs being swept away from the Hot 100, we’re back to the top of the chart being ruled by late last year’s hits. Is there anything about the top five as it currently stands that you find particularly interesting or surprising?
Katie Atkinson: The staying power of David Guetta and Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue)” continues to surprise me – as I’m sure it does David and Bebe themselves. We’ve been talking about the unlikely global success of this song since September, and it just keeps getting unlikelier as it debuts in the top five this week (No. 4). This is only Rexha’s second top five hit on the Hot 100 (following her unstoppable country team-up with Florida Georgia Line “Meant to Be”) and Guetta’s fourth, with his most recent (“Turn Me On” with Nicki Minaj) peaking more than a decade ago now, in February 2012. It’s an eccentric ‘90s interpolation recorded by the duo years ago and then unearthed by eager fans on TikTok – and it’s not going anywhere.
Stephen Daw: David Guetta & Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue)” launching from 19-4 isn’t necessarily shocking, but I certainly did not have that song breaking into the top five on my 2023 bingo card, let alone reaching that spot just two weeks into the year. Between the song’s aggressive marketing on TikTok and at radio and the typically slow start to the year, though, it makes sense why a slow-burning hit like this would be such a big draw for the post-holiday charts. But I was certainly surprised, considering that I had assumed that the song’s cultural capital was already on the decline.
Lyndsey Havens: The two things that surprise me are that “Anti-Hero” returned to the chart’s summit and the fact that David Guetta and Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue)” has crept into the top five. Given the sustained success of SOS on the Billboard 200 albums chart, I would have guessed that SZA would also be able to score the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 after the holiday fallout … but perhaps in good time. And by in good time, I mean by the time the anticipated music video for “Kill Bill” arrives.
Jason Lipshutz: I wrote about SZA’s “Kill Bill” in this space last week, but its return to its No. 3 peak this week underlines just how huge of a solo hit it’s becoming for an artist who’s not generally known for her solo hits. Although it’s sitting behind Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” and Sam Smith & Kim Petras’ “Unholy” — two singles with an enormous presence on top 40 radio — on this week’s chart, “Kill Bill” is likely going to receive more radio play soon, and if its streaming presence remains rock-solid, SZA’s highest-charting solo song to date could climb even higher in the coming weeks.
Andrew Unterberger: I think “Unholy” holding at No. 2 — higher than “Kill Bill,” which already feels like the first major pop hit of 2023 — is a little surprising, given that the cultural peak of that song seems a few months in the rearview already. That’ll probably even out in the weeks to come, but the song holding this strong shows how “Unholy” wasn’t just a TikTok moment, it’s legitimately one of the biggest pop hits of the decade so far.
2. At No. 8, a song hits the top 10 for the first time that makes all the other leftovers feel farm-to-table fresh by comparison: The Weeknd’s “Die for You,” a revived track off his 2016 album Starboy. Why do you think the song has proven to have such legs this late in its lifespan?
Katie Atkinson: I think pop radio fans had an insatiable appetite for The Weeknd that the release of his Dawn FM album a year ago this week didn’t quite feed. So as “Die for You” gained traction via TikTok concurrent to his new album’s release, The Weeknd benefited from music’s everything-old-is-new-again moment. Most casual pop radio listeners likely have no idea it’s a “deep cut” from 2016 and are just appreciating his latest hit.
Stephen Daw: TikTok works in mysterious ways, especially when it comes to deep cut, fan-favorite tracks from a pop megastar. “Die for You” has a universal appeal to its production and vocal, which is what helped it achieve cult-like fave status from The Weeknd’s fervid fans — so once fans begin posting about revisiting their favorite Weeknd songs on TikTok, a groovy earworm like “Die for You” is bound to catch fire.
Lyndsey Havens: Honestly, I forgot “Die for You” was years old — and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. While much of the Starboy era felt like a bit more of a mainstream grab compared to The Weeknd’s prior work, years later, “Die For You” sounds right at home with the artist he is today. Plus, with the rumors of his last two albums being part of a trilogy, perhaps fans just got impatient while waiting for the finale. If the song’s sudden rise is more strategic than that, though, as most things are today … I’m curious to know if “Die for You” is a teaser of what to expect from what’s still to come.
Jason Lipshutz: In my mind, the “Die for You” TikTok revival-turned-mainstream adoption is a cross between Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” comeback, as a fan-favorite song from a superstar getting a long second look, and David Guetta & Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue)” success, as a long-delayed explosion for a years-old song that still sounds current despite its release date. “Die for You” is another mid-tempo Weeknd sing-along with a catchy-as-hell chorus, and once fans — some of whom had been championing the song for years — started watching it flicker to life on social media, they raised it up with undeniable streaming numbers, radio took notice, and now it’s a top 10 hit.
Andrew Unterberger: It seems like a “well, why not?” sort of hit to me: The song had been viral forever and top 40 programmers didn’t find anything they liked enough on Dawn FM to make an After Hours-sized hit out of, and so they decided to fill the Weeknd-sized void on their playlists with… more Weeknd. I’m surprised it’s gone this long and this strong, but the competition just isn’t that strong near the top of the charts right now, and hey, who doesn’t like “Die for You”?
3. Also new to the top 10 this week is Beyoncé’s “Cuff It,” which marks her second top 10 hit off Renaissance following the chart-topping “Break My Soul.” Is the second hit a big deal for the Queen and her latest album, or more of a pleasant New Year’s bonus?
Katie Atkinson: It’s definitely a big deal. It feels like fans have ordained this one the pop hit from the album, and I could see it marking the second No. 1 from Renaissance – especially if Queen B gifts fans with a music video. “Cuff It” has had a life of its own, starting with a dance challenge back in August and going strong into 2023 thanks to a crafty radio edit finally getting its airplay due.
Stephen Daw: It’s very much a big deal. Much like how “Break My Soul” was Beyoncé’s first solo No. 1 hit since “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” in 2008, Renaissance now becomes the first Beyoncé album since I Am … Sasha Fierce (2008) to spawn at least two of her 21 top 10 hits. The fact that Bey can re-reach the heights of her cultural dominance more than a decade after the fact is a feat that very few pop stars could manage in their careers. Though the headliner of Renaissance will forever be “Break My Soul,” “Cuff It” deserves recognition for only further solidifying Queen Bey’s regal status.
Lyndsey Havens: I think it’s a big deal for one reason: Fans are begging for more content — aka music videos. To have “Cuff It” go top 10 without it, or without any push from Queen B herself, proves that whatever she does or wants to do going forward will always work.
Jason Lipshutz: I’m not sure how much it matters for an artist like Beyoncé if her widely beloved and commercially successful new album only had one top 10 hit instead of two… but now it doesn’t! So yes, more of a pleasant New Year’s bonus for Queen Bey than important milestone, but also, “Cuff It” rules, a killer dance track with tons of interesting sonic details and one of the cooler breakdowns in pop music last year. It’s a deserving top 10 hit, and I’m glad it finally got there.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s a big deal mostly because it’s good timing for the Queen. It keeps her in the mainstream while she preps whatever transmission is to come next from the Renaissanceverse, and also keeping her top of mind with Grammy voters as she gears up for perhaps the best opportunity of her career to finally grab the coveted album of the year trophy. Also worth noting that while “Cuff It” may not match the No. 1 Hot 100 peak of “Break My Soul,” it’s already passed it in terms of endurance — the song reaches the top 10 in its 21st week, while “Soul” was off the chart altogether by its 19th week.
4. Lower in the top 40, is there any song you’re looking to maybe make a jump into the top 10 in the weeks to come?
Katie Atkinson: This feels like a cop-out because it only has to climb one spot, but I think Zach Bryan peaking at No. 11 this week with “Something in the Orange” shows that his breakthrough hit still has legs and could definitely make it to the top 10. It’s been out since April, but it also just climbed to No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart last week.
Stephen Daw: I think these coming few weeks are Meghan Trainor’s chance to get the top 10 hit she’s looking for in “Made You Look.” You cannot open TikTok at this point without hearing about the singer having her Gucci on, and as longer-lasting hits like “Bad Habit” and “As It Was” begin to lose steam again, “Made You Look” could find its moment in the spotlight if it manages to keep its trajectory up on streaming and radio.
Lyndsey Havens: If by top 40 you mean top 100, then yes: I have my eye on the Lewis Capaldi slow-burner of a comeback, “Forget Me.” Having made the jump from No. 98 to No. 74 this week — and given his previous two top 10 hits, one of which went to No. 1 (who could forget “Someone You Loved”?) — I think he’s more than capable of making another big leap.
Jason Lipshutz: Now is the time for the “Just Wanna Rock” takeover: Lil Uzi Vert’s Jersey club riff jumps up to a new peak of No. 16 this week, its furious energy and frenzied yelps making its presence known in clubs and sports arenas this winter. After a relatively slow start, “Just Wanna Rock” feels primed to become one of the defining songs of the first few months of the year, and should be another top 10 entry for Uzi.
Andrew Unterberger: “Made You Look.” For better or worse, it’s all aboard the M-Train for the next couple months on radio and streaming.
5. While the Hot 100 being largely static and leftover-dominated is certainly nothing new for the month of January, the previous two years also saw the tedium cut into by fresher cultural phenoms like Olivia Rodrigo and the Encanto soundtrack. Do you think we’ll get something like that this January — and if so, might we have any clue of what it will be yet?
Katie Atkinson: I would love to see “Titanium (M3GAN’s Version)” be our next top 10 Hot 100 hit! In all seriousness, though, I don’t think a chart-smashing new artist or film soundtrack has arrived this year (yet). Maybe Rodrigo herself, who just teased that she’s working on music, could once again own January.
Stephen Daw: Look, I’m biased, but I’m rooting for Sam Smith to keep their momentum going well into January and beyond. They have a highly anticipated new album out at the end of the month, and a trop-house-infused new single with Jessie Reyez and Koffee, “Gimme,” dropping tomorrow. If they can continue their excellent work at promoting their material via TikTok, that song could sweep through the charts and make January Sam Smith’s best month yet.
Lyndsey Havens: Though it wouldn’t be as surprising as the sudden runaway success stories of Olivia and Encanto, I do think that Miss Miley may soon own the month of January — and maybe even the whole year. After kicking things off with another successful NYE show, during which she announced her upcoming single “Flowers,” and subsequently revealing her new album Endless Summer Vacation to be coming in March, Cyrus is poised to dominate early 2023.
Jason Lipshutz: It’s going to be interesting to see what Miley Cyrus, whose new single “Flowers” arrives this Friday, has in her holster this time around. Cyrus is a superstar with a track record of making hits and a ton of goodwill, who’s coming off of a great album, 2020’s Plastic Hearts, that didn’t really produce a smash. If “Flowers” delivers, though, Cyrus has a relatively clear lane to the first big new pop single of 2023.
Andrew Unterberger: I think we actually got the January phenom a couple weeks early this year, with SZA’s SOS album in mid-December. And based on the fact that the album is still No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its fourth week — and still claiming a whopping 15 entries on the Hot 100 — it looks like the set may still carry the first month of 2023 anyway.