I hate to say “I told you so,” but… Who am I kidding? I LOVE saying that!
One month ago, on October 21st, I predicted after a single day of release that Gwen Stefani had a hit on her hands. At that point in time, I was looking at stronger than expected iTunes sales and YouTube streams (along with some gut instinct based on the song). I left a caveat, at the time, that more data would be needed to confirm a trajectory for Gwen’s single. Today, I announce that it has become clear in the data that Gwen Stefani does indeed have another hit on her hands.
Predicted peak on the Billboard Hot 100: #6-#22. Peak-to-date: #84.
The most important statistic is radio airplay over time. Gwen has experienced accelerating radio airplay over time, and her song is now the fifth fastest growing on U.S. radio. It is the fourth fastest-growing single on Pop radio, and the third fastest grower on Adult Pop.
“Used to Love You” leapt 14 positions on the big radio chart today #135-#121, with a weekly audience impression gain of 2.341 million audience impressions, for a total of 15.203 million audience impressions over the past week.
“Used to Love You” popped back onto the (100-position) U.S. iTunes chart in the past 24 hours, and currently sits at #84. The rapidly increasing radio airplay is starting to drive increased sales.
After its initial sales bump, “Used to Love You” had a weak start at radio and had been sloughing off sales like a snake shedding skin. For the week ending 11/12, it only sold about 11,000 copies. Expect sales to reverse course and accelerate starting this week.
“Used to Love You” is not charting on Spotify yet. International YouTube streams are stable at around 100,000/day. At the rate of its increase at radio, however, expect both of these stats to change for the better in coming weeks.
Why is this song going to be a hit?
I think the #1 reason that Gwen is finding success with her comeback right now is because she is caught in a positive media spiral. The media is reporting on her new relationship with Blake Shelton, and her new single/music video came across as genuine. People may not want to see new music that sounds like Gwen Stefani circa 1998 or 2003, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in anything Gwen Stefani creates. She took an excellent approach by opening up her emotions and searching for something real. She stripped away the pomp and circumstance that typically accompanies a Gwen Stefani music video, and left the spotlight exactly where it should have been: on a pretty decent song.
The song itself has an aura of uniqueness, addressing an emotional issue in a way that is different from what we are used to. It doesn’t sound like some song from the 80s dusted off and pulled into a new setting of background music.
Finally, I just wouldn’t underestimate Gwen Stefani as a general rule. She is one of the rarified handful of artists that has managed to generate numerous hits over a substantial period of time (through the 1990s and the early 2000s). The primary reason she hasn’t had a hit since 2007 is that she hasn’t been releasing singles really since then. The fact that her last top 40 hit was a #2 hit implies that she dropped out of the music industry at HER peak, rather than at a time when she was already on a downward trajectory.
Should Gwen turn “Used to Love You” into a new series of legitimate hits in the coming years, then she will truly have reached rarified music industry air, because she will have been a real force in three separate decades. Very few artists remain capable of generating serious hits decades after they first make it big.
So, kudos to Gwen Stefani, and we’ll just have to keep staring at the numbers to ensure a solid prediction of her future performance.
Watch “Used to Love You” here, and take a peak at its (admittedly still weak) global iTunes chart positions below:
Used to Love You
Baby Don’t Lie
Spark the Fire