Welcome to Trending Up, a Billboard column that features a closer look at the songs, artists, curiosities and trends that have caught the music industry’s attention — and could be impacting the mainstream before you know it. 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 Dove Cameron seems primed for her first solo breakout hit and Tame Impala rebounds with an album from seven years earlier, Taylor Swift enjoys radio success with a song both new and old.
Taylor Swift Sends a “Message” to Pop Radio Listeners
After spending the first decade of her career as a reliable top 40 fixture, Taylor Swift‘s presence on the pop airwaves has been a little spottier in recent years — with only a pair of songs from Swift’s acclaimed Folklore and Evermore projects from 2020 making the Pop Airplay chart (“Cardigan” and “Willow,” both No. 17 hits). Now, a song both technically newer and spiritually older is getting spins: “Message in a Bottle” (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault), taken from Swift’s best-selling re-recording/reissue of her 2012 blockbuster, Red (Taylor’s Version), and has so far spent 13 weeks on the Pop Airplay chart and peaked at No. 17.
“Message” is the first of the newly released tracks on Swift’s two-to-date Taylor’s Version redos to have major pop radio impact — though her 10-minute re-recording of Red‘s “All Too Well” had a splashy-enough streaming and sales debut to land at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 last November — and it’s not hard to see why. While Swift’s recent albums and singles have taken a more hushed, acoustic approach to pop-rock (heralded in part by the presence of Aaron Dessner of indie stalwarts The National as Swift’s primary creative partner) “Bottle” takes after the more explosive synth-pop sound of the Red -era singles — and, in fact, sounds more in step with a post-“Blinding Lights” top 40 radio world. However, the song now faces competition on the airwaves from another Swift entry, recorded with a Red-era peer who has remained a pop radio mainstay: Ed Sheeran‘s Swift-featuring “The Joker and the Queen” remix, which debuts on Pop Airplay at No. 37 this week. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Dove Soaring With ‘Boyfriend’
Former Disney Channel star Dove Cameron has hit the Hot 100 before as part of the best-selling Descendants soundtracks, but new single “Boyfriend” may establish the singer-actress as a star outside of the kid-friendly franchise. The sensual, gender-flipping pop track, on which Cameron tells a girl, “I could be a better boyfriend than him,” has taken off on TikTok, and crossed over to streaming platforms since its Feb. 11 release. Since debuting at No. 26 on the Spotify US Daily Chart in its first day, it has steadily climbed, and sits this Wednesday (Feb. 16) at No. 16 — a stellar start for a new song by an artist without much recent Hot 100 history.
Before she released “Boyfriend” last Friday, Cameron — who opened up about her bisexuality last year — teased what she described as a “queer perspective song” that felt “powerful and right” multiple times on her TikTok page; a Jan. 30 clip featuring an instant outfit change amassed 29 million views and nearly 6 million likes. The early hype has resulted in seven-figure daily streams for “Boyfriend” — 1.2 million on-demand streams on its release day, and 1 million more the following day, according to preliminary figures from MRC Data. It’s a chance at real chart noise from Cameron, the 26-year-old former star of the Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie and Descendants, who’s looking to jump-start an adult pop career after signing with Disruptor Records/Columbia Records in 2018. – JASON LIPSHUTZ
Currents Staying Current
Tame Impala’s Currents album was one of the most successful rock releases of 2015, a spectral set of indie-psych ballads and bangers that debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and drew some of the year’s best reviews. Seven years later, it’s back in the top half of the Billboard 200 — climbing 38 spots to land at No. 91 this week. The reason? Well, it helps to have one of the ultimate alt-rock streaming perennials on its track list: “The Less I Know the Better” has racked up 722.7 million U.S. streams to date, according to MRC data — a mighty number for a song that was never a Hot 100 hit — 3 million of which came in the Feb. 4-10 tracking week.
But now the song is also joined by a rising Currents-mate: “Eventually,” whose juxtaposition of mournful vocals and roaring guitars went viral on TikTok in early February, and which netted 2.5 million streams of its own last week, up 47% from the week before. Perhaps not coincidentally, the set has also seen its vinyl sales pick up recently, with the record up 34% in sales this week to 3,000 copies (and a No. 18 placement on Billboard‘s Vinyl Sales chart). It all adds up to Currents reaching its highest ranking on the Billboard 200 since 2015 — a current which may still just be growing stronger. –– A.U.
“Playboy” Rising in Circulation
If you don’t know what hitting the “griddy” is yet, you’ll know soon — we’re sure of it. We’re also sure you’ll be hearing about Jx.zero, a rising rapper, and his song “Playboy.” In TikTok’s latest viral dance, kids, teachers, parents, even grandparents are doing the griddy, a dance first popularized on Fortnite (aren’t they all?), to the track.
Though Jx.Zero is currently independent, one of his reps say the virality of “Playboy” has label sharks circling him. For now, the rapper is being bolstered by a start-up called Indify, which specializes in identifying early-stage talent having a viral moment and pairing them with an industry head who can act as an angel investor. These deals allow the artist to get funding and mentorship to capitalize on the moment without giving up any of the ownership of their master. Jx.Zero’s “Playboy” is currently partnered through Indify with ATG Group, led by Omid Noori and his business partner Ramzi Najdawi — and in exchange for the help, Jx.Zero will provide a percentage of his streaming royalties for the track.
To put this recent virality into perspective: From Jan. 28-Feb. 3, “Playboy” earned 1.2 million U.S. streams, while from Feb. 4-10 it earned 2.7 million — a jump of 125%, according to MRC Data. — KRISTIN ROBINSON
Q&A: Tim Hinshaw, Amazon Music Head of Hip-Hop and R&B, on What’s Trending Up in His World
What Hip-Hop/R&B songs or artist have defined the first few weeks of 2022? Kodak Black get the recognition he deserves with “Super Gremlin.” He’s extremely talented and has been so consistent for a long time but to see this record connect the way that it has is special. On the R&B side, what we are seeing with Muni Long’s “Hrs and Hrs” is incredible. I can’t really recall another R&B record with this much growth in such a short time. Rotation is releasing a reimagined version of that song later this month as a part of our Black History Month content—keep an eye out.It’s been great to see
Are there any trends in the space that you’re keeping an eye on and think will be impactful in the near future?Tyler, The Creator paying homage to H-Town on “Wusyaname.” Last year was huge for mainstream R&B. Which artists do you see potentially continuing that growth in 2022? Ella Mai is back and I am extremely excited about that. She’s come out swinging with “DFMU,” I got a chance to hear music from the album and it won’t disappoint. Summer Walker hasn’t missed yet, it’s incredible. We’ll be livestreaming Summer’s first show since the pandemic, premiering Feb. 18 exclusively on the Amazon Music channel on Twitch. And of course, we are all awaiting the return of Frank Ocean. Fill in the blank: in 2022, Hip-Hop fans will be surprised by ______? Shameless plug but Rotation, Amazon Music’s global hip-hop and R&B brand. We have so many great things rolling out this year that fans will have first access to. The team has been working extremely hard at building the “everything store” for true hip-hop fans. — J.L.With R&B, the return of the ’90s influences via samples or even just the melodies we’re hearing in the music has been a breath of fresh air. You can tell the art of songwriting is being taken really seriously, and I think that will have an everlasting impact on the future of R&B. We’ve seen it in hip-hop as well, with guys like
Trending Back Then: High “Drama” on the Hot 100
Twenty years before bringing it to the Super Bowl LVI halftime show in Inglewood, Calif. last weekend, Mary J. Blige‘s “No More Drama” — the epic title track to her triple-platinum-certified 2001 album — reached its ultimate peak of No. 15 on the Hot 100, on the chart dated Feb. 16, 2002. It was the follow-up to the Dr. Dre-produced “Family Affair,” which had become Blige’s first No. 1 on the chart the previous November — and it sampled an older top 10 hit in “Nadia’s Theme,” used as theme music for long-running TV soap The Young and the Restless, a No. 8 hit in 1976 for composers Barry DeVorzon and Perry Boitkin Jr. ”I woke up one morning and I’m on the cutting edge of R&B,” Boitkin Jr. told EW of the “Drama” success in 2002. ”These days, I’m completely removed from pop music — except when [royalty] checks arrive.” — A.U.