Even though its lyrics decry some of the cliches of R&B/hip-hop, Lorde’s “Royals” (Republic) is finding favor on several of the format’s leading stations, and enters Billboard’s Nielsen BDS-based R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart at No. 46.
The crossover marks the latest, and seemingly most surprising, milestone in the song’s journey. The U.S. breakthrough hit for the 16-year-old New Zealander has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks running and has sold 2.5 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. With seven weeks atop the Alternative airplay chart (Aug. 24-Oct. 5), “Royals” passed Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” (1995) for the longest reign by a lead female in the list’s 25-year history.
“Royals” is crossing over to so many formats that some R&B/hip-hop PDs can’t help but see if the pop/alternative track works for their audiences, too. And, at a time when Avicii is leading the rootsy triple A format with the club-banging “Wake Me Up!,” genre categories may be meaning less to listeners and consumers.
“Royals” topped the Triple A chart for eight weeks and now ascends to the summit on Mainstream Top 40. It bullets at No. 2 on Adult Top 40, No. 12 on Dance/Mix Show Airplay and, in its fourth week, No. 21 on Adult Contemporary. It also becomes the first Alternative No. 1 to reach the top five on Rhythmic, where it jumps 6-3 with Greatest Gainer honors (up 783 plays) for a third consecutive week. However, rhythmic currently features heavy doses of pop from the likes of Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus.
“We’re playing ‘Royals’ because we feel that it’s a hit record that can cross formats,” KBFB Dallas operations manager/PD Mark McCray says. The R&B/hip-hop station is one of 18 playing the song, having spun it 68 times during the Oct. 14-20 tracking week. “It’s easy to try to categorize music into boxes, but sometimes there are those songs that you have to play because they’re so strong. ‘Royals’ is one of those songs.
“The texture of it easily fits with all the hits from Drake and the R&B we currently play,” McCray says. “Feedback has been positive. It’s awesome to be able to introduce the hip-hop audience to this song.”
Notably, Republic has promoted “Royals” to alternative, pop and adult radio. It’s not putting such an official push at R&B/hip-hop, making its unsolicited airplay at the format more impressive.
“We noticed local download sales on the song. Then, my staff started talking about it around the same time that [New York’s urban-leaning rhythmic station WQHT] Hot 97 began playing it,” says Al Payne, PD of R&B/hip-hop WERQ Baltimore, which played “Royals” 13 times last week. “Those three indicators usually signal strong potential.”
While the early acceptance for “Royals” at R&B/hip-hop radio is noteworthy, the song reaches the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart with 2.7 million in audience. That’s just 2% of its overall audience last week (158 million).
Still, as the song has become a somewhat unlikely multiformat juggernaut, tracks like “Royals” and “Wake Me Up!” also add support to the thinking that younger generations consume music from multiple platforms, not just, say, one favorite radio station, and, thus, don’t think of formats as strictly in the past. Plus, technology has evolved and become more accessible, helping create hits and mixing previously unthinkable contrasts.