Snoh Aalegra’s “I Want You Around” is a sumptuous ballad about slowly falling in love — and listeners slowly fell in love with it, too. Released in early 2019, the track hit No. 1 on the Adult R&B Songs chart in March after 41 weeks, the longest climb to the top since R. Kelly’s “Step in the Name of Love” took 34 weeks in 2003.
Below, Grammy Award-winning producer Dion “No I.D.” Wilson and Izabelle Wilson — spouses and co-founders of ARTium Recordings, which signed Aalegra in 2012 — share lessons from the song’s surprising journey.
Find Your Biggest Fans
“We all knew the song was very special,” says Izabelle, but a Stevie Wonder co-sign really helped. The track contains a few lyrical references to Wonder’s 1973 album, Innervisions, and after hearing it, Wonder put it into heavy rotation on KJLH, his Los Angeles R&B station. He later invited the Swedish singer to perform on the KJLH stage at L.A.’s Taste of Soul festival in October 2019. “It got her the opportunity to meet him in person,” says Izabelle. “It was a major moment for her.” Wonder wasn’t the only famous fan: A$AP Twelvyy’s appearance in the track’s music video garnered support from the entire A$AP Mob collective, while former President Barack Obama named “Around” one of his favorite songs of 2019.
Don’t Overthink It
A casual conversation between Aalegra and 6LACK sparked a November 2019 remix of the song. “It was literally just them being organic fans of each other,” recalls No I.D. During a winter North American tour a few weeks later, Aalegra made the usual promotional visits to radio stations, but the team tried not to fixate on airplay stats. “Sometimes those numbers, as much as they help, they don’t necessarily grow love in the hearts of the people,” says No I.D. Instead, they focused on another metric: audience reception. “The room would go insane when that song came on,” says Izabelle.
Put the Talent First
In February, a year after the single’s release, Aalegra performed a swoon-worthy rendition of the song for NPR’s beloved Tiny Desk concert series. That’s when Izabelle noticed “a surge overall” — including a 29% boost in on-demand U.S. streams the next week, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. Ongoing buzz around Aalegra had also helped the singer score a joint-venture label deal between Roc Nation and ARTium that was announced the same day she finally hit No. 1. “I’ve always had a philosophy: ‘Do you want to have music and an artist that people love when there is no hit?’ ” says No I.D. “Because when there is a hit, that’s just gravy.”