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Trending Up: Willow Is Everywhere, With Hits Both New and Old — Plus SZA and Muni Long on R&B Radio, ‘Sun and Moon’ & More

Also, Cafuné become the latest 2010s alt/indie viral success story, and The Go-Go's celebrate a nearly double-historic chart 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: A resurrected older hit of Willow’s bumps up against her newer singles (again), Muni Long and SZA help close the gap between streaming and radio in R&B, and yet another 2010s alt-rock song blows up on TikTok.

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Willow’s Slow-Release, Sped-Up New Hit

Willow has quietly become a ubiquitous figure in pop over the past year — popping up on alternative radio with her great 2021 pop-punk album Lately I Feel Everything, in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 with Tyler Cole (as duo The Anxiety) on their alt-rock sing-along “Meet Me At Our Spot,” and recently as a guest artist on projects by Machine Gun Kelly (“Emo Girl”) and Camila Cabello (“Psychofreak”). Willow made her Saturday Night Live debut last weekend, performing “Psychofreak” alongside Cabello one day after the song was unveiled; at the same time, a Willow track that was released closer to her “Whip My Hair” days than the present is becoming one of her most notable streaming hits to date.“Wait a Minute!,” the twinkling, R&B-tinged pop track from Willow’s 2015 project Ardipithecus, has been revived on TikTok in recent weeks, both in its current form as well as with a sped-up version  that makes her jittery vocal performance sound even more urgent. The song jumped up 11.7% week-to-week in U.S. on-demand streams during the most recent tracking week, to 4.99 million, according to Luminate, formerly MRC Data; it’s also reached No. 8 on Alternative Streaming Songs and No. 82 on the Billboard Global 200. Willow was 15 years old when “Wait a Minute!” was released, and now it’s becoming an unlikely solo smash as the 21-year-old continues to gather mainstream momentum. – JASON LIPSHUTZ

 


 

Viral Success Has Cafuné Ready to “Tek It” to the Top

TikTok-fueled Spotify success stories have been increasingly frequent for pre-2020s alt/indie songs of late, with three separate examples (Arctic Monkeys’ “505,” The Walters’ “I Love You So” and The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather”) landing within the top 25 of the service’s US Weekly chart for the week ending April 7. Looking to potentially join their ranks soon is Brooklyn duo Cafuné (singer-songwriter Sedona Schat and writer/producer Noah Yoo), whose infectious and bittersweet “Tek It,” first released in 2019, has been spiking on streaming services after going viral on TikTok — particularly within anime edits  — resulting in a jump from 361,000 to 1.36 million weekly streams in the tracking week ending April 7 (according to Luminate, formerly MRC Data).The song has also cracked the top 100 on Spotify’s US Daily chart, getting as high as No. 67 — and providing further evidence that, as an A&R exec recently suggested to Billboard, there’s a “latent demand for alternative rock” within contemporary audiences. “There’s not a lot of new bands that have been signed that are making that stuff,” the exec added. “But the demand is there.” — ANDREW UNTERBERGER

 


 

A New Star, With “Sun and Moon”

After steadily amassing a social following over the past few years, pop-rap artist Anees is scoring a breakthrough with “sun and moon,” a fast-growing, happy-go-lucky track he’s been teasing to his 500,000 Instagram and 1.5 million TikTok followers since the beginning of 2022. But this feat is more than just another TikTok tease turned viral moment: the song’s traction (earning 300,000 listens on Spotify and 800,000 total streams in its first day), can be attributed, in part, to a little help from Indify, a start-up which specializes in spotting trending independent artists and songs and pairing them with music business investors to provide funding and expertise during a viral moment (think angel investing for unknown artists).Indify’s Jordan Weller found Anees a year ago, and after connecting with his manager Zach Matari, Weller helped the independent artist score investment from seasoned managers Brandon Creed (Saweetie, Lizzo, Mark Ronson), and Nick Mueller (347aidan, Ant Saunders, TELYKast) and his company Golden Kids Group also threw gas onto the fire. Though this is the first instance of virality for Anees, “sun and moon” fits perfectly among other recent TikTok breakthrough tracks with similar feel-good sounds, like Tai Verdes’ “A-O-K” and Surfaces’ “Sunday Best.” Keep an eye on the positive-vibes “sun and moon” as warmer weather approaches. – KRISTIN ROBINSON

 


 

“Hate” and “Hrs” Show How Minimal is Hot on R&B Radio

When we say that Billboard‘s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart has been dominated by big R&B songs lately, we’re not using the D-word lightly. In the last two years, the chart has seen No. 1 runs of at least 18 weeks from three separate high-powered team-ups: Chris Brown and Young Thug’s “Go Crazy,” Bruno Mars’ and Anderson .Paak’s “Leave the Door Open” (as Silk Sonic), and Wizkid’s Tems-featuring “Essence” (which also credited Justin Bieber during the early stretches of its 27-week stay at No. 1). But lately, the chart has been bested by a pair of solo female artists with significantly more stripped-down singles than these prior radio slayers: SZA with “I Hate U” and Muni Long with “Hrs and Hrs.”“Hate” and “Hrs” topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in back-to-back weeks this month, not only giving the two singer-songwriters their respective first No. 1 hits on the chart, but marking the first female solo artists to conquer the listing as lead artists since Megan Thee Stallion’s Beyoncé-featuring “Savage” remix in May 2020. Both hits are also notable for their sparse arrangements, intimate lyrics and productions, and relative lack of big hooks — especially compared to the previously mentioned long-running chart-toppers — reflecting a R&B sound that, to date, has been more traditionally successful on streaming services than on radio. Whether radio is catching up to these songs’ digital heat, or is merely taking a breather from the pop-ready collabs that have marked its biggest go-tos in recent years, remains to be seen. — AU

 


 

Q&A: R Dub, Director of Programming at XHTZ and XHRM San Diego, on What’s Trending Up in His World

What pop trend has defined the first quarter of 2022?

Her name is Doja Cat. [In general], up-tempo, female hip-hop has definitely stolen the show first quarter: Doja, Megan Thee Stallion, Latto, Saweetie, etc. Are there any songs you’re keeping an eye on that you think will be in greater rotation in the near future?

My favorites include the [upcoming] Sam Smith, Lizzo and Ed Sheeran. Smokers!!! Multiple songs near the top of the Hot 100, like “Heat Waves” and “Stay,” have lasted in the top 10 for months. Have you noticed that trend on your side, with tracks staying in power rotation for longer periods of time?

Absolutely. I can’t believe how long “Stay” “stayed” in Power for us… and at so many other stations. It wouldn’t budge! Unfortunately, I believe it has to do with lack of good current product out there. Hopefully, that’s already changing. Which current hit could you see dominating for months on end and pushing into the summer?

No signs of literally ALL of Doja Cat’s songs slowing down. The staying power on her songs is unbelievable, but I get it. Her hooks haunt my dreams at night. – JL

 


 

Trending Back Then: The “Beat” Go-Go’s On

A major part of rock greats the Go-Go’s‘ legacy is becoming the first all-female rock band to top the Billboard 200 albums chart, with their 1981 debut set Beauty and the Beat . But on the chart dated April 10 of 40 years ago, they came just one spot away from also becoming the first to top the Billboard 200 albums chart and Billboard Hot 100 in the same week, as their rumbling new wave classic “We Got the Beat” climbed to the No. 2 position on the Hot 100 in Beauty and the Beat’s sixth (and ultimately final) frame atop the Billboard 200. Coincidentally, it was another female Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who was keeping “We Got the Beat” from the potentially historic top spot: Joan Jett, whose Blackhearts-backed cover of the Arrows’ “I Love Rock and Roll” was in the fourth week of its seven-week run at the chart’s apex. — AU

Additional reporting by Rania Aniftos.