Chartbreaker: charlieonnafriday Flooded the Market — And Earned a Breakthrough Hit
The Seattle singer-rapper's "Enough" has reached No. 22 on Billboard's Pop Airplay chart.
In early 2022, charlieonnafriday had just finished recording the last song for his first project and was about to drive away from the studio. Then his producer Tyler Dopps called. “He was like, ‘Wait, there’s one more thing that we have to do before you leave,’” the 19-year-old artist recalls. Dopps played him a languid loop, and the singer-rapper wrote down the lyrics that ultimately became the hook to his pop-leaning breakup track, “Enough.”
The song wasn’t ready at the time to make the project, so he stashed it away in his phone. But months later, ready or not, “Enough” took off on social media. While driving to Los Angeles from his native Seattle with a friend last June, charlieonnafriday (born Charlie Finch) played the song and belted along to the chorus — which his friend filmed and posted on TikTok. The clip not only went viral but became charlieonnafriday’s breakthrough hit — two things he’d been building toward since childhood.
He started uploading vlogs to YouTube at eight years old and continued creating content on TikTok with his friends throughout high school. Inspired by his hometown hero Macklemore, he developed an interest in music, and in the eighth grade, after seeing his friend’s older brother producing in a home studio, started making his own. Over the next few years, the two stockpiled “hundreds of songs” as charlieonnafriday honed his rap skills during their daily sessions. “Every time I made a song, I felt like I was getting better slowly,” he says. “That’s what really interested me. I wanted to see how far I could take it and how good I could get.”
After taking a break to focus on school and football, he was motivated by the pandemic lockdown to pick the craft back up — this time on his own. Charlieonafriday started recording with Logic Pro and leaned heavily on YouTube tutorials to show him the ropes, admitting the hardest part was learning how to mix his own vocals. On the production side, he decided to trade in the trap drums that grounded his early music for more melodic beats, creating a pop-rap hybrid. “The artist always has that vision in their head,” he says, “but if you know how to do it, then it’s seamless.”
He then “started flooding TikTok” with snippets of new songs — advising viewers to “live every day like it’s Friday,” inspiring his moniker — in hopes of building a fan base outside of Seattle. At the start of 2021, he made his first significant splash when he teased the intoxicating “After Hours.” Months later, the song caught the attention of Geoff Ogunlesi, CEO of The Ogunlesi Group, who signed on to co-manage charlieonnafriday (along with the company’s Sam Weiss, charlieonnafriday’s day-to-day manager, as well as Anthony and Ameer Brown, CEO and president, respectively, of digital marketing company Breakr). By the end of the year, “After Hours” surged to a new level of virality, with two live performance clips that have collected more than 13 million views.
Record labels were calling, but Ogunlesi was intent on waiting for the rising artist to release a body of work before committing to a deal. “It was risky because in this music landscape, moments are fleeting,” he admits. “You’re rolling the dice where, if and when ‘After Hours’ dies down, do the labels disappear? Do you lose an opportunity? [But] we felt really strong with our strategy.”
The artist’s debut project, the eight-track Onnafriday, arrived in April 2022 and soon after, he started taking meetings with the labels competing for him. He was immediately sold on Island, saying he was swayed by the label’s “family vibe,” and signed a record deal that summer. “A lot of the labels I met with two or three people, but with Island, I met everybody,” he says. “I knew that Island would put in a lot of effort. Labels are amazing for dumping gas on a flame.”
But “Enough” still didn’t have more than a refrain at that point — and as it began to take off online, he started feeling the pressure. He recalls with a laugh his team’s mentality: “Get [co-writer] Club 97, Tyler [Dopps] and Charlie in a room and finish it, [because] there are videos with five million views on a song that’s not done.”
“Enough” was finally released in August, and soon crossed over from social media to streaming services to radio airwaves — which Ogunlesi refers to as “icing on the cake” — fueled by a promotional run set up by the label. “At the end of the day, a lot of life is built on relationships,” says Ogunlesi. “Nothing really beats meeting people, winning them over [and] having programmers that are fans.” By November, charlieonnafriday made his debut on Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart, where “Enough” has since reached a No. 22 high on charts dated Jan. 28.
Having recently moved to Los Angeles — where he lives in a house “full of the same homies I started with” — charlieonnafriday kicked the year off with his new single “That’s What I Get,” amid a 10-date college tour across the country that wraps in February. He’ll then head overseas, playing to some of the biggest crowds of his career and opening for an artist he calls “one of the greatest performers ever”: Macklemore. And though hesitant on announcing a release date, he’s planning to drop a deluxe version of Onnafriday later this year.
“We’re not just trying to build a song, we’re trying to build an artist,” says Ogunlesi. “It has to extend beyond just one moment.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2023, issue of Billboard.