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Trending Up: ‘Thor’ Looks Less Than Mighty With Guns N’ Roses Synchs, Ruth B’s ‘Dandelions’ Grows & A Surprise ‘Minions’ Breakout Hit

Plus, Sabrina Carpenter gives her side of the story, and we celebrate an "Achy Breaky" anniversary.

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: Thor demonstrates that Stranger Things-sized bumps for old rock favorites are still more exception than rule, while a Ruth B song continues to flower around the world, and a surreal near-decade-old Minions cover outpaces the new Rise of Gru soundtrack.

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Welcome to the Synch Jungle: Guns N’ Roses Get ‘Thor’ Bump, But Not a Huge One

The year has been overrun with massive media properties spinning new successes out of older synchs – The Batman with Nirvana, Top Gun: Maverick with Kenny Loggins, Stranger Things with Kate Bush and Metallica. News of the Taika Waititi-directed Marvel blockbuster Thor: Love and Thunder featuring a whopping four songs by beloved classic rockers Guns N’ Roses — and arguably their four biggest, in “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “November Rain” — naturally spurred prognostication about whether GnR could be the latest catalog act to have a classic song resurrected for 2022.

Now that the first-week numbers are in, the answer is: sort of.

In the tracking week since the U.S. box office-topping movie was released July 8, three of the four songs saw bumps in consumption — but none anywhere near the size those aforementioned artists received. Comparing the week before and after the film’s release, “Welcome to the Jungle” saw the biggest rise — up 19.1% in official on-demand U.S. streams to 2.64 million for the tracking week (ending July 14). That was followed by “November Rain” (up 15.3% to 1.49 million) and “Sweet Child O Mine” (up 7% to 4.56 million), all according to Luminate. “Paradise City” was actually down for the week, dropping .7% to 2.26 million.

So why did Thor fail to generate the impact for these songs that those other film and TV megahits did for their featured synchs? A number of factors likely contributed: The GnR songs are all perennial streaming successes to begin with (making a higher bar to clear for a major rise in consumption), and are likely more familiar to audiences due to consistent play on classic rock radio and at bars and sporting events. In contrast, those tracks by Nirvana, Loggins, Bush and Metallica either were never big U.S. radio hits or had dropped off the mainstream cultural radar in the years since. Also, the use of GnR’s tracks simply might not have been as memorable as the other synchs, where the songs were essentially used as theme songs for key characters and occasionally even entered into the plot.

Either way, one thing is clear: Popular music in 2022 might be much more amenable to second-go-round hits than it used to be, but it’s not fully in the Upside Down just yet. – ANDREW UNTERBERGER


The Minions Go Viral for “Swear”ing

A lot of time and resources were invested for the soundtrack to Universal Pictures’ July 1-released hit Minions: The Rise of Gru. Star songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff was enlisted to curate an entire compilation’s worth of mostly contemporary artists, including St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers and Brockhampton, covering ‘70s classics. It’s fitting then of 2022’s musical chaos that the Minions-related song to go viral this month wasn’t any of those versions, or even an original of any of the songs covered — but, rather, a novelty cover from 2013’s Despicable Me 2.

“I Swear,” a cover of the perennial ‘90s ballad — sung by the Minions themselves in their Minionese language — is up 151.8% to 572,000 streams in the tracking week ending July 14, according to Luminate, while also topping Spotify’s Viral 50 – USA chart earlier this week. The song benefits not only from renewed interest in the entire Minions franchise with the new Rise of Gru, but from social media (TikTok in particular, of course) discussion of the song’s unintelligible lyrics, with videos featuring dirty interpretations of them (and supposed Spotify displays of those dirty lyrics) drawing millions of likes.

It remains unlikely that The Minions will follow ’90s R&B group All-4-One’s definitive 1994 version of the song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 — it’s not particularly close to the chart just yet. But it wouldn’t even be the first song from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack to reach the chart’s apex, so we wouldn’t swear to anything. – AU


Ruth B.’s Running With “Dandelions”

In 2017, Ruth B. scored a belated breakthrough when her 2015 ballad “Lost Boy” crossed over to hot adult contemporary and adult top 40 radio formats, and eventually peaked at No. 24 on the Hot 100. A half-decade and a TikTok-sized shift in virality later, the Canadian singer-songwriter has scored another hit with an even slower build as the charming pop song “Dandelions,” from the same 2017 album, Safe Haven, has blown up overseas and is starting to reach American shores.

Thanks to a TikTok trend built around the chorus lyric “Wishin’ on dandelions all of the time, all of the time,” “Dandelions” took off in parts of Asia earlier this year, hitting the top 10 of the Malaysia Songs and Singapore Songs chart, and the top 20 on the Indonesia and Philippines tallies. Along with reaching No. 51 on the Global 200 chart and No. 45 on the Global 200 Excl. U.S., the track has returned Ruth B. to U.S. radio, debuting on the Adult Pop Airplay and Adult Contemporary Airplay charts in April and May, respectively. “Dandelions,” which was produced by Taylor Swift/Lorde collaborator Joel Little, has yet to reach the Hot 100, but has developed a steady presence on streaming platforms, hovering around 4 million U.S. on-demands streams per week over the past month (3.81 million in the week ending July 14, according to Luminate).

An interesting wrinkle to this particular song revival: Ruth B. is no longer signed to Columbia Records, the label that released Safe Haven in 2017 and could ostensibly help “Dandelions” grow even larger today. The viral success of the track helped the album debut on the Americana/Folk Albums chart in February, where it remains today. – JASON LIPSHUTZ


Sabrina Carpenter Continues Fighting Virality With Virality on “Because I Liked a Boy”

The most explosive hit of 2021 was unquestionably Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License,” which burst out of the gate in January with unprecedented speed. That velocity was in large part due to early buzz about the love triangle referenced in the post-breakup song — which, fans speculated, involved Rodrigo, her High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett and multi-platform star Sabrina Carpenter. Carpenter appeared to fire back a few weeks later with “Skin,” which referenced lyrics from “License” and claimed “You can’t get under my skin if I don’t let you in” — resulting in her first Hot 100 hit, debuting at No. 48 on the chart.

A year and a half later, Carpenter seems to be revisiting the drama of early 2021 with “Because I Liked a Boy” — the centerpiece to her excellent new album Emails I Can’t Send, the singer-songwriter’s first full-length since moving from Hollywood Records to Island, released Friday (July 15). The song likely references the backlash she experienced in the wake of “License” (“I’m a homewrecker, I’m a slut… all because I liked a boy”) and includes the late-song reveal, “When everything went down, we’d already broken up.”

Initially, it appears to be the song from the album that is catching on at streaming — the song debuted with 328,000 U.S. on-demand audio streams on Friday, according to Luminate, with that number climbing 18% to 387,000 by Monday (July 18), as “Boy” rose up the Spotify U.S. Daily 200 chart, thus far peaking at No. 137. Not “Drivers License”-level numbers yet — or even “Skin” numbers really — but enough to show that listeners are still invested in multiple sides of this love triangle. – AU


Q&A: Andy Bernstein, Co-Founder & Executive Director of HeadCount, on What’s Trending Up in His World

As a voter engagement organization a few months away from the midterms, what has the process been like for HeadCount partnering with musical acts this summer?  We are a music-centric organization, so we always put the artist first, and try to elevate their voices. Our ideal scenario is we work with artists who truly care about the mission and put their own creativity behind the engagement. So, we lay out a few options like making short videos, having HeadCount volunteers on their tours, and doing digital contests. But with all of these, we try to add personal and creative elements so it’s authentic, both to the artists and their fans.
Are there any differences in how those musical partnerships are formed in 2022 than in years past? 
Well, 2020 was, surprisingly, our biggest year ever. We registered nearly half a million voters, and with no touring, festivals or concerts after March, it was all digital.

We started doing free online raffles that fans could enter by checking their voter registration status, and it was hugely successful. We’re continuing that, but this year we also have the live shows, so it’s the best of both worlds. We just came off our best Dead & Co. tour ever. Coming up, we have tours with Panic! At the Disco, My Chemical Romance, Odesza and about a dozen others. With each artist, we do both on-site and digital activations. We are taking all the things that we’ve perfected over the last 18 years. (Yes, HeadCount turned 18 this year. We are old enough to vote!) And we’re building partnerships with artists that will have the highest possible impact. HeadCount recently announced a partnership with Billie Eilish. How crucial is it to have a young superstar like Billie as an ambassador?  With eight million 18-19 year olds eligible to vote for the first time this year, and nearly half of 18-24 year olds not currently registered to vote, Gen Z represents a significant demographic that could greatly affect laws and policies across the country. Because of this, I can’t overstate how much Billie and other young artists mean to HeadCount. They not only reach the demographic we want to reach, they ARE the demographic.

There’s only one Billie Eilish, but we work with as many young artists as possible. Another is GAYLE, who just turned 18. Other young artists we partnered with this year include Chelsea Cutler, BENEE, Lawrence, mxmtoon, Faye Webster and Clairo. Fill in the blank: in the second half of 2022, I hope concertgoers ______________.  Recognize their power. When you’re at a packed show or festival, the energy is unmistakable. What happens when we all bring that energy to the polls and work toward positive change?

That’s the idea behind HeadCount. Always has been. And now, more than ever we can see that young people — the same young people who go to concerts — need to take control of this country. Wherever that takes us, the future is in the hands of young people. And it starts with recognizing that collective power. – JL


Trending Back Then: Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky’ Chartbuster

These days, it might take TikTok popularity (or a major Applebee’s synch) for a country star to cross over from the usual Nashville machine to the rest of the world. Thirty years ago, however, Billy Ray Cyrus did it with a mullet and a line dance. The Hot 100 was almost entirely devoid of country in 1992 — with megastars like Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire almost completely siloed off from the pop world — but top 40 could not ignore the cultural phenomenon that was “Achy Breaky Heart.” The song broke out nationally, spurring sales of Cyrus’ Some Gave All album into the many millions and peaking at No. 4 on the Hot 100 on the chart dated July 18, 1992. It would be Cyrus’ biggest hit on the listing for 27 years — until he hit No. 1 in 2019, after being featured on a distinctly newer sort of viral smash. – AU