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Trending Up: Ed Sheeran Has Hits for All Radio Formats — Plus YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Yeat & More

Also, Maddie Zahm has a viral hit about her struggle for self-acceptance, and the band Mr. Big celebrates the anniversary of a unique Hot 100 achievement.

Welcome to Billboard Pro’s Trending Up newsletter, where we take a closer look at the songs, artists, curiosities and trends that have caught the music industry’s attention. Some have come out of nowhere, others have taken months to catch on, and all of them could become ubiquitous in the blink of a TikTok clip. 

This week: As Ed Sheeran makes multiple radio plays, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Yeat score viral hip-hop hits, and newcomer Maddie Zahm launches an emotional new trend. 

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Ed Sheeran = Radio Ubiquity 

Although Equals (=), Ed Sheeran’s fourth solo album released last October, hasn’t risen to the level of chart-topping single success that 2017’s ÷ did (two No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Shape Of You” and “Perfect”), the project’s past six months have still been not-so-quietly enormous. Sheeran’s = straight-ahead pop singles have carried the load, with “Shivers” and “Bad Habits” both peaking in the Hot 100’s top five, and still ranking at Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, on this week’s chart — two concurrent top 10 hits, 24 weeks and 35 weeks after they first debuted on the tally. Pop radio — Sheeran’s longtime home field — is driving that success: “Shivers” is still in the top 10 of the Pop Airplay chart after peaking at No. 4, while “Bad Habits” previously topped the Adult Pop Airplay and Adult Contemporary charts. But with a few new collaborations, Sheeran is also branching out to unfamiliar formats.  

“Peru,” his team-up with Nigerian Afrobeats star Fireboy DML, continues to gain steam, reaching new highs of No. 7 on Hot R&B Songs, No. 24 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 70 on the Hot 100 on March 5-dated charts. The track has drawn 64 million in total radio airplay audience through Feb. 24, according to MRC Data, and gets Sheeran onto the Rhythmic Airplay and Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts at No. 14 and No. 19, respectively. Meanwhile, far across the radio-dial spectrum, Sheeran’s hard rock version of “Bad Habits” featuring alt-metal stalwarts Bring Me the Horizon was released last month after he and the band performed the re-imagining at the 2022 BRIT Awards. The new version scored 65 radio plays in the most recent tracking week, and has gotten some early airplay on Octane, SiriusXM’s mainstream rock station; it also helped “Bad Habits” jump back into the top 10 of the Hot 100 by counting toward the original, as the single moves up five spots from No. 14 this week. 

Sheeran has reinforcements on the way for his radio takeover: the new Taylor Swift-assisted remix of his = track “The Joker and the Queen” moves up to new highs on Adult Pop Airplay (No. 13) and Pop Airplay (No. 30) this week. And this Friday, Camila Cabello will release her new single, “Bam Bam,” which features  you guessed it — Ed Sheeran. — Jason Lipshutz 

 



YoungBoy’s Late “Hate” Arrival
 

“I Hate YoungBoy” was one of the most talked-about songs of last week — by one of the most prolific charting artists of the past half-decade — but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the Billboard charts this week. The YoungBoy Never Broke Again track arrived on Wednesday, Feb. 23, as a response to (among other big-name rappers) Lil Durk, whose “AHHH HA” dropped the day before and seemed to call out the Louisiana MC, setting off a tidal wave of social media chatter from rap fans invested in the growing feud. But whereas Durk’s new song debuts at No. 42 on the Hot 100 this week (dated March 5), YoungBoy’s is altogether absent.  

That’s mostly because “I Hate YoungBoy” was released towards the end of the weekly tracking period (the Billboard charts measure metrics from Friday to Thursday)… but also because the song was originally available only on YouTube (where YoungBoy has regularly over-indexed) and Amazon Music, before coming to other streaming services this week. Despite limited availability, it still racked up streams in the millions in its first two days of release — 2.3 million on Feb. 23 and 1.2 million on Feb. 24, according to MRC data — as it raced to the top of YouTube’s trending chart.   

Will it have a better shot of making some Billboard listings in its first full week of release, with wider availability? Possibly: The song increased from 766,000 streams to 971,000 in the day following its arrival on Spotify (Feb. 27), a gain of 27% — but with how fast feuds like this tend to move in 2022, whether the song can maintain momentum past its initial flurry of interest is yet to be seen. — Andrew Unterberger 

 


Yeat’s Slow-Grown Explosion 

Yeat has been one of the year’s biggest hip-hop breakout stories so far, as the Portland rapper’s new album 2 Alivë launches at No. 6 on this week’s Billboard 200 albums chart — a huge step up from last year’s Up 2 Më, which peaked at No. 58 on the tally less than six months ago. With artists like Young Thug and Gunna guesting on 2 Alivë, and a scheduled show at The Roxy in Los Angeles last month that had to be shut down due to oversold tickets, Yeat now has the rap world’s attention — but a few older songs are part of the reason why he’s been able to quickly accrue that buzz. 

“Sorry Bout That,” from Yeat’s June 2021 mixtape 4L, inspired a TikTok trend last year, with the melodic hook “She eat me up like it’s Beni-bachi! / Sorry bout that, sorry bout that…” spawning thousands of faux-apology clips. A few months later, Up 2 Më track “Gët Busy” also blew up on TikTok, as the line “This song already was turnt, but here’s a bell!,” followed by an austere chime, made for the perfect soundtrack to quick-transform videos… and caught the attention of Drake, who quoted the song in an Instagram story. While 2 Alivë’s most-streamed track to date is “Still Countin,” with 5.8 million on-demand streams, “Sorry Bout That” and “Gët Busy” each have over 30 million streams, and have helped set the stage for Yeat’s mainstream moment. — JL 

 


Fast-Moving “Fat, Funny Friend” Phenomenon  

Rising singer/songwriter Maddie Zahm has sparked an important online conversation about internalized fatphobia and the journey towards self-acceptance in her confessional single “Fat Funny Friend.” In it, Zahm — who lost more than 150 pounds in recent years — recounts growing up as the “fat funny friend” and the countless ways it affected her. With lyrics like, “I’ve drawn out in Sharpie where I’d take the scissors/ if that’s what it took for me to look in the mirror/ I’ve done every diet to make me look thinner/ So why do I still feel so god damn inferior,” the track has inspired thousands of people of all genders, ages and sizes to share their own struggles with self-image, disordered eating, and hating their bodies. 

One of the most eye-opening and sober trending sounds on TikTok in recent memory, Zahm’s single has proved cathartic for many. Videos vary, but most are photo slideshows of videomakers at different stages of life with honest captions like “Age 5: first joke about my fat belly was made at dance recital.” And comment sections for Zahm’s promotion of the song feel more like a support group than anything else, with fans admitting “I felt this way my whole life,” or “this song is the most accurate representation of my life” and other commenters sharing loving words in response. 

Zahm, who is currently signed to Prescription Songs for publishing and released “Friend” through distribution company AWAL, also shared on TikTok that the breakout song has “felt like letting go of the years I felt this way, but laughed it off because I didn’t think people would listen.” People certainly have been listening: Since its Feb. 19 release, “Fat Funny Friend” has already earned 4.6 million streams and 25 plays on SiriusXM’s TikTok Radio – and debuts on Spotify’s US Viral 50 chart today (Mar. 2) at No. 15.  A “sadder version” (as Zahm puts it) of “FFF” is coming to streaming services on March 18. – Kristin Robinson 

 


 

Q&A: Rachel Whitney, Spotify’s Head of Editorial, Nashville, on What’s Trending Up in Her World 

Which country songs have defined the first few months of 2022? 

“Buy Dirt” from Jordan Davis & Luke Bryan is the song that just won’t quit! It continues to be insanely popular with listeners on editorial playlists and personal libraries alike. It is a fan-favorite song right now and we think it’s about to have a big awards year.  

Maren Morris is gearing up for her album release, coming off of a massive hit with her spouse, Ryan Hurd (“Chasing After You”) — still one of our top streamers in country — which she followed up with some gorgeous autobiographical songs like “Circles Around This Town” and “Background Music.” Maren is a Spotify fan favorite, popular with listeners across genres — her appeal is so universal, and we can’t wait for fans to hear the rest of this album.  

Another defining song to keep an eye on is Zach Bryan’s “From Austin.” This brand new track just debuted at No. 3 on our Top Debut US Songs chart and we’re expecting a breakout year from him.  

Are there any movements in country music that you’re keeping an eye on and think will be impactful in the near future?  

Speaking of Zach Bryan, we’re seeing a new wave of alt-country, with artists like him and Morgan Wade carrying the torch from our Indigo playlist into mainstream spaces. Zach recently left his military career to focus on music full-time, and is finally getting out to play live for a committed and youthful fan base. Between him and Morgan Wade, we are seeing some exciting new independent artists that are expanding what it means to make waves in mainstream country.  

We are also thrilled to support many amazing Black country artists who are making their mark. From Mickey Guyton singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl to rising stars like Breland, Tiera Kennedy and Dalton Dover, country fans are embracing this new generation of artists. 

Last year was significant for country’s presence on streaming platforms, from major album releases to a song like Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like” going viral and crossing over to the mainstream. What does the continuation of that growth look like to you? 

The continuing growth of country on streaming means more opportunities for more artists – from viral hits, to steady growth for indie acts, to career milestones for established artists – the traditional notions of music industry gatekeeping have dissipated, opening up the world to country music in a wholly new way. “Fancy Like,” for example, was a hit before it even came out — we just got to make sure our listeners heard it!  

Fill in the blank: during the rest of 2022, country fans will be surprised by ________. 

…the number of songs they’re going to love from brand new artists. Some of the incredible voices that are just getting started (spotlit in our 2022 Hot Country Artists To Watch list from January), who we can’t wait for country fans to discover, include Dalton Dover, Ashley Cooke, Conner Smith, Carter Faith and more. Many are independent, starting out on our Fresh Finds Country playlist, and all currently have tracks in Hot Country that are really connecting with fans. We’re expecting to hear a lot more from everyone on the list this year! – JL 

 


Trending Back Then: Mr. Big Takes a Leap to No. 1 With “To Be With You”  

To date, there have only been four charts in the nearly 64-year history of the Hot 100 to be dated Feb. 29, a.k.a. Leap Day — in 1960, 1964, 1992 and 2020 — and only one song to ever hit No. 1 for the first time on one of those charts: Mr. Big‘s acoustic romantic ode “To Be With You.” Topping the Hot 100 on Feb. 29, 1992, the No. 1 hit was nearly as rare for being as a pop smash from a hard rock band at the early height of the grunge era, when Nirvana and their ilk was supposed to have sounded the death knell for the entire hair metal era. But at the very least, there was still a commercial lane available for these bands with their softer love songs, one opened by the similarly chart-topping success of Extreme’s gently lighter-waving “More Than Words” the year before, as well as the rising MTV Unplugged franchise — with electric-free series entries from Mariah Carey and Eric Clapton becoming two of the year’s best-selling sets. – AU