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Five Burning Questions: Early Thoughts About the 2021 Hot 100

Now that the last vestiges of the holiday season have officially disappeared from the Billboard Hot 100, it's a good time for us here at Billboard to take stock of what's going on with the all-metric…

Now that the last vestiges of the holiday season have officially disappeared from the Billboard Hot 100, it’s a good time for us here at Billboard to take stock of what’s going on with the all-metric songs chart at the start of the new year.

“Mood,” by 24kGoldn featuring Iann Dior, has spent the last two weeks back atop the chart, reigning for its seventh and eighth week total. This week, the listing’s top 10 greets a brand new entry from Justin Bieber, whose “Anyone” debuts on the chart at No. 6 — while other songs from AJR, Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby and Chris Brown & Young Thug inch their ways closer to the top spot.

Will any of those songs ultimately supplant “Mood” at No. 1? And which songs currently lower on the chart might have the best chance of crashing the Hot 100’s top tier? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.


1. For the second year in a row, Justin Bieber is leading off early with a new single — “Anyone” debuts at No. 6 on the Hot 100 this week. Based on the song and its initial chart bow, what kind of things are you expecting from Bieber in 2021?

Rania Aniftos: Wholesome Married Bieber will surely continue writing love songs about Hailey in 2021. On a deeper level, as we’ve seen from “Holy,” “Lonely” and his uplifting Instagram posts, JB is in a period of growth lately, which I think will translate into a more reflective, faith-driven album than we’ve seen from him in the past.

Katie Atkinson: It seems like Bieber can’t miss lately, with “Holy” (featuring Chance the Rapper) also holding strong at No. 4, and his Shawn Mendes duet “Monster” hitting the top 10 back in November — so his 20th, 21st and 22nd Hot 100 top 10 hits have all been released since the fall. It hasn’t even been a full year since his Changes album came out, somehow (a few things have happened since Valentine’s Day 2020…), but whether he decides to put out another full-length project or just these loose singles, listeners clearly want all the Bieber they can get.

Gab Ginsberg: Maybe an album, but even if he doesn’t release one (like Katie said, Changes isn’t even a year old yet!) he’ll still have a big year. While he may not get to embark on that rescheduled world tour, Bieber is up for four Grammys, and I expect him to pop up in at least a handful of unexpected places, as he did last year on Shawn Mendes’ “Monster.” Or maybe he’ll follow up his Justin Bieber: Seasons and The Biebers on Watch with more quaran-content.

Jason Lipshutz: “Holy” has been the biggest hit of Bieber’s recent singles streak so far, peaking at No. 3 on the Hot 100, but I think “Anyone” is the type of skyscraper-sized anthem that could match its peak or climb even higher. While its No. 6 Hot 100 debut came during a week in which there wasn’t a ton of new music to compete with it, I could see “Anyone” catching on at pop radio and becoming a durable hit for Bieber.

Andrew Unterberger: It seems like “more” is the key word with The Biebs right now — and with the returns still uniformly positive on the charts and on radio, he doesn’t seem likely to do any less for the rest of 2021. He may not hit the top of the Hot 100 again in 2021 — failing another high-profile duet like last year’s chart-topping Ariana Grande teamup, anyway — but if he hits the top ten five or six more times, I imagine neither he or Scooter Braun are likely to be sweating it.

2. Along with “Anyone,” three addiitional songs are moving up in the Hot 100’s top 10 this week — Chris Brown and Young Thug’s “Go Crazy” (6-5), Dua Lipa feat. DaBaby’s “Levitating” (10-7) and AJR’s “Bang!” (11-9). Which of the four songs, if any, do you think have a shot at unseating “Mood” at No. 1? 

Rania Aniftos: While I’m not sure it will unseat a song as viral as “Mood,” Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” has the best shot. It’s upbeat and catchy, and I think we can all agree that it’s about time Dua gets a No. 1 song on the Hot 100.

Katie Atkinson: The other three songs have all been kicking around for months and all have music videos, so it would take some serious muscle for any of them to rise to the top. For that reason, I’m going to go out on a limb and say none of these four are making it to No. 1.

Gab Ginsberg: Man, I hope it’s “Levitating,” which has steadily marched forward since it arrived in March 2020. It’s personally my favorite cut from Future Nostalgia, and I’m still thinking about that performance at the AMAs in November! And a No. 1 would also be a hard-earned honor for Dua. (But it’ll probably be “Anyone.”)

Jason Lipshutz: “Levitating” has always been one of my favorite songs off of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, and DaBaby’s guest verse on the remix elevates it further, transforming a top-notch album cut into immediate top 40 fodder by swapping out its second verse with bouncy rapping. Streaking to No. 1 — and giving Lipa her first Hot 100 chart-topper — would be surprising, but “Levitating” keeps quickly climbing and has the juice to push higher.

Andrew Unterberger: I don’t think any of the songs have quite the new-year momentum to get all the way to No. 1, but few songs have been as unkillable in the past 12 months as “Go Crazy,” which is somehow still climbing at radio. Give it a new remix or new video, who knows what could happen?

3. Which song from outside the top 10 (say 11-50) that’s a 2020 leftover are you thinking (or hoping) might still have enough juice to make a run towards the top 10 in 2021? 

Rania Aniftos: The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” is getting a second life as his new single, especially considering the subtle shade thrown at the Grammys in his music video. As we get closer to this year’s ceremonies, it makes sense that fans would stream the song on repeat. After all, what better way to respond to a snub than with a No. 1 song?

Katie Atkinson: The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears.” It’s at No. 46 this week, thanks to three days of tracking since the release of an eerie new music video, but radio will be looking for its next “Blinding Lights” this year, especially ramping up to The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl halftime show in February.

Gab Ginsberg: Ava Max’s “Kings & Queens” has proven to have legs since its release in March 2020, and there’s still time for that royal refrain to go top 10 by its one-year anniversary. Certainly, I’ll be popping champagne and raising a toast if that happens.

Jason Lipshutz: Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body” has peaked at No. 12, and moves back up five spots on this week’s chart to No. 16. Remember when Megan recruited Beyonce for a remix of “Savage,” turning a sizable hit into a No. 1 smash? I could see the same thing happening with “Body” if the right remix partner hops on the track and provides a shot of adrenaline.

Andrew Unterberger: Gimme the still-gaining momentum of New York rapper CJ’s breakout hit “Whoopty,” a song with obvious energy and excitement that’s becoming ubiquitous both on hip-hop radio and TikTok — a pretty indefatigable combo once it gets going.


4. Looking at the lower stretches of the Hot 100 this week, which song are you keeping an eye on that you think could make a big jump to the top 10 in the next month or so? 

Rania Aniftos: Admittedly, I am not a big country music listener — so the fact that I immediately recognize songs by Morgan Wallen says a lot about his breakthrough in the pop mainstream. After Dangerous: The Double Album was released last week, “Somebody’s Problem” and “Still Goin Down” re-entered the chart and “7 Summers” jumped from No. 63 to No. 53. As the pandemic drags on and we crave the sunshine and simpler times, I think we’ll find ourselves “thinkin’ about that boy from East Tennessee” and “7 Summers” will break back into the top 10.

Katie Atkinson: A couple of songs pop out to me: Given Dua Lipa’s track record this year with Future Nostalgia singles in the top 10, maybe once “Levitating” starts to fall, her duet with Miley Cyrus on “Prisoner” could get a bigger radio push. And then my longshot pick is Jason Derulo’s “Take You Dancing,” which would be smart to pick up a feature to give it an extra push, a la the BTS remix taking Derulo and Jawsh 685’s “Savage Love” all the way to No. 1.

Gab Ginsberg: I’d love to see Harry Styles’ “Golden” or Miley Cyrus’ “Midnight Sky” soar. I’m keeping an eye out for the TikToks!

Jason Lipshutz: The Kid Laroi’s “Without You,” which jumps up 11 spots to No. 54 this week, sounds like it’s going to be massive — just listen to that impossibly emo hook and try not to have it jangle around your brain for the next hour. Considering how much buzz he’s already gotten and how undeniable “Without You” sounds, I’m penciling that one in for the top 40 in the next month or two.

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll go with a song that just made its bow on the Hot 100 this week at No. 93: “Back in Blood,” by Pooh Shiesty featuring Lil Durk. The Memphis rapper’s name might not be immediately familiar to many, but his Chicago co-star is already well on his way to a huge 2021, and their new collab — with an absolutely massive hook, and a video tributing the late King Von that’s already taking off on YouTube — seems like it could be a huge hit for both artists.

5. “Mood” is currently at eight weeks at No. 1 — do you think it gets to double digits, or is it unseated for good before that? 

Rania Aniftos: I’d love to see “Mood” stay on top a few more weeks, and unless a massive song drops and skyrockets to No. 1, I don’t think 24kGoldn and Iann Dior are going anywhere.

Katie Atkinson: I think Olivia Rodrigo is heading toward the No. 1 parking spot next week with “Drivers License,” so 24kGoldn and Iann Dior will likely have to settle for single digits.

Gab Ginsberg: Hmm, I think there’s a chance “Anyone” sneaks up on it before that happens. Never underestimate the power of the Beliebers.

Jason Lipshutz: It’s been a great run for “Mood,” but I think it tops out at eight weeks. There’s too much existing and incoming competition for No. 1, so I’d expect this week to be its curtain call in the top spot. With that said, I hear it playing on the radio every six minutes or so, and expect that frequency to continue for at least another month.

Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, eight weeks is an exceptional run for two relative newcomers, but another rookie looks like she’s coming on strong next week — and she may be unmovable on top for a little while.