G-Eazy’s “No Limit,” featuring A$AP Rocky and Cardi, rose to No. 4 on the Hot 100; “MotorSport,” from Migos, Cardi and Nicki Minaj, held at No. 7; and “Bodak Yellow” — the debut smash that made her the first female rapper to guide a solo song to No. 1 on the Hot 100 this century — is back up two spots to No. 10. Only The Beatles and Ashanti had logged their first three Hot 100 entries in the same top 10; we can only hope that Paul, Ringo and Ashanti sent Cardi a congratulatory “Welcome to the club” text earlier this week.
Even beyond those three songs, which have each been on the Hot 100 chart for at least two months, Cardi B is on the type of hot streak most recording artists would kill for. “Bartier Cardi,” her latest single as a lead artist (which features 21 Savage) debuts at No. 14 on this week’s Hot 100, while “La Modelo,” her collaboration with reggaeton star Ozuna, starts at No. 52. Cardi B is the hottest new name in hip-hop, with a bevy of hit singles alongside a diverse array of star talent. Yet Cardi has also demonstrated that she has the charisma and talent to transcend her primary genre — “Bodak Yellow” was gigantic enough to reach non-hip-hop fans, partially because of the quotable lyrics and synth-driven beat, but mostly because of the brash, intoxicating force of personality that anchored it.
Cardi has yet to achieve her true pop coming-out party, at least sonically: “La Modelo” comes closest of the five aforementioned songs — listening to Cardi croon in Spanish is an unexpected delight — but the song’s hook might not have the immediacy to truly blow up on Top 40 radio. And while there’s certainly no need for her to rush into that world, there’s little doubt that she would succeed there if she wanted to. Seven years ago, Cardi’s friend and “MotorSport” collaborator Nicki Minaj was one of rap’s most promising new personas; she could have thrived just by dropping “Monster”-esque verses for years. Instead, Nicki released “Super Bass,” and became a household name.
For Cardi, the newly released remix of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” represents a genius bit of strategy as she tries to conquer more territory within the mainstream. The reworking of the new jack swing-inspired track demonstrates why Cardi’s profile has expanded so quickly over the past few months — her opening verse is funny, triumphant and inviting, in a shade over 30 seconds — while the In Living Color-inspired video allows her to endearingly mug for the camera in a retro getup.
“Finesse” is the sort of calculated pop move that could deliver Cardi to a wider audience, and most importantly, the remix doesn’t compromise her distinct musical approach. The Cardi on “Finesse” is still the Cardi that was intoxicatingly aggressive on “Bodak” (“I went from dollar bills, now we poppin’ rubber bands,” she raps here), and the insistent beat of the remix does not stray too far from her previous hits so that she feels shoehorned into the action. Here, Cardi aligns herself with a pop radio staple, and steals the show without betraying her sound or style. The “Finesse” remix is not only a brilliant, ahem, money move for Cardi, but a sign of her agility, as she navigates new terrain and remains wholly likable.
Mars is smart enough to not attempt to overshadow Cardi on the “Finesse” remix — when they’re both on screen in the music video, Cardi is typically front and center, and Bruno is dancing off to the side. Still, the remix is a well-timed coup for Mr. XXIV, who’s going to be competing for album of the year at the Grammy Awards in a few weeks and — if he were smart — could bring up fellow Grammy nominee Cardi B for a much-anticipated first televised “Finesse” performance.
24K Magic, Mars’ third album, is now 14 months old; with two pop smashes to its credit: “That’s What I Like” and the title track. But its two most recent singles, “Versace on the Floor” and “Chunky,” haven’t fared as well, the former grazing the top 40 and the latter missing the Hot 100 altogether. That’s likely of little concern to Mars, who can already fill out a full set list with recognizable hits, but if “Finesse” were to take off thanks to the launch of this remix, that would extend the album’s life cycle for a few more months, past the Grammys, and into multiple international legs of the 24K Magic world tour, which wraps this July.
Consider a successful “Finesse” remix found money for Mars, who has leaned on throwback R&B stylings for his entire extended album campaign, but still found a way to make his latest ’90s-steeped video vibrant and exciting. And as someone who doesn’t have a particularly long history of event remixes, he wisely recognized the new life that Cardi could inject into one of 24K Magic’s fan favorites. This is why he’s one of the biggest pop stars of the decade: even when he doesn’t necessarily need another hit, he puts himself in position to collect one anyway.
There’s a lot to like about the “Finesse” remix and video: the joyful choreography, the nostalgic reference points, Bruno Mars’ groove-riding chorus, Cardi B’s Lil Jon impression. Both artists are already enjoying impressive moments in their respective careers. Expect “Finesse” to be their first shared commercial victory.