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: Kandi Burruss turns her little-known musical number into a social-media anthem, Stephen Sanchez finds his breakout moment, and K-pop’s next potential Top 40 success story comes from Oklahoma.
Kandi Burruss’ “Legs, Hips, Body” Gets a Viral Workout
If you’ve been anywhere near social media in the last week, you’ve probably heard the sound of longtime R&B staple Kandi Burruss’ voice bellowing out over rumbling timpani: “Leeegggs… nnnn… hiiipppps… nnnn… bodyyy, bodyyy, bodyyy…” The 12-second snippet, which first soundtracked a TikTok video of Burruss leaving her trailer to perform at this month’s Lovers and Friends festival in Las Vegas, comes from “Legs, Hips, Body” – a 2014 song originally released on the soundtrack (via her Kandi Koated Entertainment label) to A Mother’s Love, a stage musical loosely based on Burruss’ life, penned by the singer-songwriter with her now-husband Todd Tucker.
The mighty-sounding anthem caught fire over the weekend, with stars like Chloe Bailey and Tracee Ellis Ross also posting videos of themselves set to the song. Now, “Legs, Hips, Body” is starting to pick up in accompanying streams, jumping up 1,630% from a negligible number on Wednesday to over 3,000 streams on Thursday (May 19), and growing another 864% over the next three days to over 30,000 total streams on Sunday, all according to initial reports from Luminate. That’s not quite enough to threaten the Billboard charts yet, but it’s a whopping total for a song with virtually no commercial imprint until the last week – and with the song’s social takeover still yet to abate, there may be miles left in these “Legs” yet. – ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Pop Radio, Play AleXa
The first year of the Eurovision-inspired, NBC-broadcasted American Song Contest was won by AleXa – born Alexandra Christine Schneiderman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Russian-American and South Korean parents. Despite representing the Sooner State in the contest, for years AleXa has been based out of South Korea, where she’d competed in multiple reality shows and trained as a K-pop singer, finding modest success with singles like “Bomb” and “Do or Die.” Following her stateside TV victory, however, she’s trying her hand at a U.S. breakthrough. A week after making an appearance as a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards, she now bows at No. 38 on Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart (dated May 28) with her Contest-winning single for Atlantic Records, “Wonderland.”
Airplay for the English-language, K-pop-styled song has been led by a combined 58 major-market radio plays in the tracking week from KYLD (WiLD 94.9) in San Francisco and WHTZ (Z100) in New York – and also includes 29 plays from KJYO (KJ103) in AleXa’s home market of Oklahoma City, which has famously long been ahead of the curve when it comes to supporting K-pop acts. Whether the song will continue to spread from here remains to be seen – the song has tapered off on streaming the past week, after steadily climbing to a new peak of 356,000 official audio streams on the chart week ending May 19, according to Luminate – but AleXa is now a fascinating trial case, both as a rare prominent U.S. K-pop export, and the first breakout artist from the ambitious Contest. – AU
Stephen Sanchez ‘Found’ a Heartwarming Hit
TikTok clips soundtracked by Stephen Sanchez’s “Until I Found You” are generally designed to make you cry. Over 150,000 videos on the app use the waltzing, retro-sounding ballad, with many of them focused on the lead-in to the song’s chorus (“Oh, I used to say/ I would never fall in love again until I found her/ I said I would never fall unless it’s you I fall into”), and placed under tearjerker fodder — slow-motion romantic gestures, surprise proposals, odes to best friends and beloved pets (cats, specifically).
Sanchez, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who released “Until I Found You” last September, now has a fast-growing hit on his hands: the track has reached a new peak of No. 4 on Hot Rock Streaming Songs and is up to 5.3 million U.S. on-demand streams in the week ending May 19, an 88% bump from the previous week’s total. As the Mercury/Republic Records artist works toward crossing over “Until I Found You” to the mainstream — he made his late night TV debut earlier this month performing the song on Seth Meyers — Sanchez is getting an assist from a label mate who’s made a similar leap: Em Beihold, whose “Numb Little Bug” has cracked the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 months after bubbling up on TikTok, appears on a new duet version of “Until I Found You,” released last month. – JASON LIPSHUTZ
Turning the Beatnuts Around
What a long, winding road “Se Acabó” (“It’s Over”) has enjoyed: Mexican singer Marco Antonio Muñiz first released the aching ballad in 1969, and 30 years later, NYC production duo the Beatnuts sampled Muñiz uttering the titular phrase on their 1999 Spanish-language party track titled “Se Acabó,” featuring Magic Juan and Swinger. Two years after that, Method Man hopped on an English-language remix of “Se Acabó” for the Beatnuts’ 2001 Loud Records full-length, Take It or Squeeze It — and that version is the one taking off over two decades later.
A TikTok dance craze set to the song’s intro — users typically show off a nonchalant fist pump when the beat drops — has pushed “Se Acabó” onto viral streaming charts, and the track is up 59% in week-over-week streams. As a result, teens are grooving to a two-word phrase Muñiz recorded over a half-century ago, and the Beatnuts, beloved figures in New York hip-hop who haven’t released an album since 2004, have scored their most notable hit in years. – JL
Q&A: Members of Spotify’s Global Team on What’s Trending Up in the K-Pop World
K-pop and cross-genre Asian music have achieved enormous global attention over the past few years. What has your experience been like watching that international impact in real-time?Kossy Ng, head of music, South East Asia: It’s amazing to see how far K-pop and Asian music has grown globally. It’s always been our goal to help break down the barriers of music because great music can come from anywhere in the world, and we’re excited to see more and more being embraced by audiences these days. K-pop has hit 230% growth in listenership since 2014, and is now averaging more than 8 billion monthly streams across the world. With so much more access to artists and the power to drive discovery in an increasingly borderless playlist ecosystem, we’re definitely expecting global fandom to grow!
We’ve recently rebranded our K-pop flagship K-pop ON!, and it’s consistently one of our top playlists. As a team, we’re always trying to find new ways to connect artists with fans everywhere, so expect to see more content, creative campaigns, product features and partnerships roll out as we want to continue making an impact around this music culture that is taking over the world.How has K-pop in Today’s Top Hits playlist evolved over the past few years, and how do you expect it to change in the future? Becky Bass, global hits editorial lead: Over the past few years, it’s been so exciting to support K-pop artists in our flagship playlists. Every release feels like an event, and the fans’ passion is always felt both within the playlist and across Spotify overall. Breakthrough moments like the release of BTS’s “Dynamite” and BLACKPINK’s “How You Like That” took place during the pandemic, both songs becoming staples on the Today’s Top Hits playlist. 2021 marked the first time a solo Korean artist appeared on the cover of Today’s Top Hits, when LISA was featured for her track “Money.” Beyond BTS and BLACKPINK, releases like ENHYPEN’s “Polaroid Love” and Jessi’s “Zoom” have really resonated with global pop audiences in recent months, and we look forward to expanding the range of artists featured in Today’s Top Hits and other flagship playlists in the future. Which recent trend within K-pop music is especially intriguing to you? Chesca Tan, senior editor K-pop, Philippines: Dancing is a huge part of K-pop culture and a deeply inspired aspect of the fandom. With the rise of dance trends taking over the internet, we’re seeing these moments translate into an uptick in streams on-platform. Jessi’s “Zoom” and ENHYPEN’S “Polaroid Love” are two examples of global dance challenges that aided in the songs being introduced to a global broader audience across Spotify. NMIXX and ITZY are two other examples. Fans are living and breathing the genre, and it’s exciting to watch the popularity of these songs grow.
Nurul Husniyah, senior editor K-pop, Singapore & Malaysia: Another trend is the return of second- and third-generation artists. For example, artists such as BIGBANG returned with their single “Still Life” after a four-year hiatus. BIGBANG’s return reminded everyone how legendary they still are by continuing to break multiple records. Other artists such as GOT7 also recently came back to the music scene with a self-titled 6-track EP, after leaving JYP Entertainment last year.
Iltaek Hong, senior editor K-pop, Korea: The crossover between K-pop music and [global] mainstream music is an interesting trend here as well. Recently, Korean artists exploring music genres outside K-pop music (which means Korean idol dance music) have been growing. Many top K-pop idols are adding hip-hop and R&B elements to their songs and having Korean hip-hop and R&B artists featured in their title or B-side songs of albums. Some K-pop artists or members of groups are releasing their solo albums across hip-hop, R&B, rock, acoustic and other genres. The convergence of K-pop mainstream music and [outside] genre music can make for more diverse and rich sounds, helping K-pop music improve in terms of quality and diversity on both sides.Which songs or artists do you think will be making a greater global impact in the near future? Chesca Tan: We are always on the lookout for the next superstar, and we have our eyes on the next generation of K-Pop idols, some of whom we have been supporting from the beginning. Stray Kids, for instance, started as a part of our emerging artist program in the early days and has grown to become the fourth most-streamed K-pop artist on Spotify. Additionally, the band is now a part of Spotify Island’s K-park on ROBLOX. We’ve seen similar excitement for other artists like TOMORROW X TOGETHER, ITZY, aespa and many more. There are many exciting 4th generation artists bubbling with the potential to become the next superstar; keep your eyes peeled for more to come! – JL
Trending Back Then: Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa “Phone” Home
This week, the final payphones were removed from New York City’s streets – but a decade ago, those standalone booths were still enough of a cultural fixture to provide the setting for one of the year’s biggest pop hits. “Payphone,” the Wiz Khalifa-featuring lead single from Maroon 5’s 2012 album Overexposed, debuted at No. 3 on the Hot 100 dated May 4, 2012, and reached a peak of No. 2 on the chart three weeks later – ultimately unable to unseat Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” for the top spot, though follow-up single “One More Night” would make up for lost time by topping the chart for nine weeks later that year. One trend “Payphone” started that continues to be far more prominent than its titular device: rappers guest starring on Maroon 5 singles, a mold that the group has since followed with top 20 Hot 100 hits separately featuring Kendrick Lamar, Future, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. – AU