Sia v. Madonna: Contrasting Two Female Artists Over 40

If you pay attention to the charts, you might notice that a female artist over the age of 40 just hit #1 on the Hot 100 for the first time in 16 years, when Madonna scored her 12th and final #1, “Music,” in 2000. At the time, Madonna was 42. Her next-most-recent #1 was “Take a Bow” in 1994.

Lady Gaga is 30. Beyonce is 34. Katy Perry is 31. Britney Spears is 34. Rihanna, with her long and storied career including more #1 hits than Michael Jackson, is still only 28. Adele, despite writing songs about “When We Were Young,” is the same age as Rihanna. Mariah Carey, who holds the record among soloists for the most #1 hits in the history of the Hot 100 (18), is 46. Madonna is 57. Sia is exactly 40. This is the short-list of female artists that could conceivably top the Hot 100 past the age of 40. Much like Madonna, Mariah Carey hasn’t reached #1 in eight years, and has had increasingly spotty success since then. Only 2 of her 18 #1s were released after the year 2000, in which Carey turned 30. The other giants all have years left to fall out of the public’s graces, assuming that that is even where they currently are. They are all maybes, with lots of ifs, buts, and caveats. Only Sia seems likely to top the Hot 100 again.

In the age of music videos and endless streaming, the female artist topping the Hot 100 over the age of 40 has nearly gone extinct. Despite colossal efforts, and 5 Top Ten hits to show for it across 5 studio albums, even the Queen of Pop herself has never managed to replicate her feat in 16 years.

In such a climate, how has Sia come to thrive?

1) She hides her face in music videos;

2) She is extremely talented at writing hit songs (and is therefore not dependent on access to hitmakers; she IS a hitmaker); and

3) She is actually legitimately an extremely talented vocalist.

In other words, Sia avoids letting her age actively damage her while she rides on pure talent. 

Age is irrelevant to Sia’s success, and that is why it is possible for her to continue breaking the trend.

I recently replied to a comment on a Billboard article that if Madonna’s recent flop “Ghosttown” had been released by Katy Perry, it would have been a #1 hit. My response was to acknowledge that it very likely would have debuted at least in the top 20. And it would have. The song is passable. It has the building blocks for a hit. But it was wrong for the commenter to blame ageist radio programmers for the song’s lack of success. Radio programmers are rational actors. They play what they think the public wants to hear. The truth is that very few people are buying new Madonna music these days, and people aren’t streaming her new videos on YouTube either (with the exception of the celebrity-stuffed “Bitch I’m Madonna” video).

It is true that the quality of Madonna’s music hasn’t actually declined. She hasn’t suddenly become less talented than she used to be, when she was still racking up more top ten hits than any other artist in the history of the charts.

But there are lots of talented artists (with songs as good as Ghosttown) that have difficulty breaking through. They also have difficulty not because their music isn’t good, or because radio programmers are ageist, sexist, homophobic, or racist, but simply because popularity is a positive trait. There has to be a sufficient affirmative reason FOR someone TO be famous and successful in the music industry. Simply releasing a catchy song that merely COULD be successful on the radio is not sufficient. Artists have to capture the public’s imagination, and make the public (or at least some subset of the public) fall in love with them. They have to find their niche. They have to find a way to stoke the media fire. And today, that is simply not as easy as merely releasing a song that simply COULD be successful if it were released by someone that the public already affirmatively wanted to like.

Madonna’s real problem is only indirectly her age. Her real problem is that she is no longer capable of generating real controversy. She expertly deployed her sexuality in the 1980s and 1990s to generate controversy and to keep the media fire stoked. She was beautiful, and extremely intelligent and talented at manipulating people, and that gave her opportunities which she expertly exploited. Now, the public is no longer enthralled with her beauty, and the world has moved beyond her many versions of controversy, after being completely desensitized by Lady Gaga’s meat dresses, giant eggs and diamond tears.

Madonna had enough vocal talent to pass. She had enough for her team to work with. But her real talent was never in her vocal talent or her songwriting talent. Her real strength was always in dealing with people. She expertly crafted her public image. She expertly pulled talented people into her team and motivated them to impress her.

Madonna’s skills took her very far indeed, but she really is getting old now. She is tired. Her magnetism is fading. Her labels are no longer willing to invest in her the way they once did. Her music is no longer young and fresh.

The real money for her is in touring, now. She can still sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tickets to her tours, and make the same salary as Adele or Beyonce. Hoping for hit singles, if she still does, is probably just an ego trip for her at this point, because it is pretty much completely irrelevant to her paycheck.

Sia, on the other hand, appears to be at the sunrise of her career. And, even though she had to hide her face to do it, even though her stunt is probably not replicable by nearly any other artist, from a feminist perspective, that is like a breathe of fresh air.

 

Weekly Recap 3/11: Meghan Trainor v. Ariana Grande

Meghan Trainor‘s new song “No” has been blasting up the radio airplay chart about as quickly as is humanly possible. It gains another 8.391 million audience impressions today for a weekly running total of 62.299 million in its first week (#22).

Meanwhile, “No” has just been overtaken atop iTunes by Ariana Grande‘s new single, “Dangerous Woman,” which is reputedly far more appreciated by fans than was her recent pseudo-hit “Focus” (pseudo because strong early radio airplay reversed sharply when the first Callout reports revealed its deep unpopularity, but the song’s high budget and pristine music video–notice the extraordinary star contact lenses in this post’s featured image–still pulled out nearly 1/2 billion views and adds millions of new views/day, long after the song faded off of radio airplay charts).

Dangerous Woman” is currently selling at nearly twice the rate of the #2 song on iTunes (and still rising), leading to the possibility of a top five debut on the Hot 100, depending on how streaming and radio airplay shape up.

What I’m watching: 1) Will “Dangerous Woman” or “No” ultimately be the bigger hit? 2) Just how much early radio airplay will “Dangerous Woman” ultimately get? 3) Will Who Is Fancy‘s “Boys Like You,” which features BOTH Ariana AND Meghan Trainor, be this year’s Song of the Summer once they start promoting it to radio?

Kelly Clarkson‘s “Piece by Piece,” after debuting at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 after an emotional performance on the final season of American Idol, is starting to take off during a second run at radio. The track pulled in 8.149 million audience impressions from Adult Pop and Adult Contemporary radio stations during the running week (+418,000 today), as it nears Pop radio’s top 40. Second week sales are dropping about 50% to 98,000 for the week ending 3/10.

Adam Lambert Speaking of American Idol, the greatest-earning alumnus of 2015 will be performing next week for “a very special final performance.” “Ghost Town,” the lead single from Adam’s latest album, The Original High, actually has more Youtube views than the lead singles from the latest albums of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and on Spotify it has done even better, at 118 million streams. Adam Lambert is in the middle of his The Original High Tour.

What I’m Watching: Is Adam about to unveil title track “The Original High” as the set’s next single (as I have argued he should)? If so, will it go over a fraction as well as just did Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece By Piece?”

Sia‘s “Cheap Thrills” debuts on Pop radio today with 1.463 million running weekly audience impressions. Week over week (US) sales are steady at 7,000/week, as are Spotify streams at about 416,000/day. The lyric video continues to post steady gains.

Rihanna reaches a new peak of #3 on radio with “Work” (145.73 million running weekly audience impressions, +1.858 million today). With substantial leads, at 181.358 million and 201.788 million, respectively, it is unclear that Rihanna’s song will maintain sufficient steam to continue rising past Twenty One Pilot’s “Stressed Out” or Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” It depends on how high Rihanna’s song is going to rise before peaking, and on how fast the former two songs fall.

Rihanna concurrently extends a record stay of non-American artists atop the Hot 100 (Rihanna is from Barbados; featured artist, Drake, is from Canada).

Work“‘s music video crosses 100 million views today, after just over two weeks, as it continues to pull in over 4 million views/day.

Selena Gomez‘s “Hands to Myself” slides #11 to #15 on the Hot 100 this week, with an overall points decline featuring a 6% sales slide from 41,000 to 38,000, despite continued steady gains at radio. The song rises #10 – #9 this week with 98.385 million running weekly audience impressions (+1.056 million today). It is also expected to overtake two more songs within about one week, if current trends hold. It seems doubtful, however, that “Hands to Myself” will continue rising long enough to match the #3 and #4 radio peaks of earlier Revival singles “Same Old Love” and “Good for You,” respectively. I forecast a peak of either #6 or #7 for “Hands to Myself,” with the edge to #7.

Lady Gaga‘s “Til It Happens to You” has finally debuted at #95 on the Hot 100, based largely on the strength of a sales bump after her emotional Oscars performance. “Til It Happens to You” sold about 26,000 copies after peaking at #8 on iTunes (higher than Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall,” which won the award for which “Til It Happens to You” was nominated).

Taylor Swift‘s “New Romantics” appears to be slowing down WAY EARLY, before even reaching the top 40 on radio songs. Basically all of Taylor Swift’s singles peaked with 170+ million audience impressions until “Out of the Woods” peaked early at #18 with only 68.848 million audience impressions, never even passing immediately preceding single “Wildest Dreams.”

“New Romantics” has only 36.144 million audience impressions at #62, and it’s daily gain has already dropped below 1 million. In fact, “Wildest Dreams” (now two singles ago) is still getting almost 70 million audience impressions at #17 after peaking with just over 180 million.

Interestingly enough, “Style,” which is the only song prior to “Wildest Dreams” to have a lower radio peak, actually retains the highest continuing radio airplay of the album’s first four singles, by a good margin.

Current running weekly radio airplay of Taylor Swift 1989 singles:

  1. (5th, #5 Hot 100 peak) “Wildest Dreams,” #17, 68.098m, -572,000 today, peak: 180.290m.
  2. (7th, #71) “New Romantics,” #62, 36.577m, +778,000 today, peak: 36.577m.
  3. (3rd, #7) “Style,” #86, 25.567m, +47,000 today, peak: 178.862m.
  4. (2nd, #1) “Blank Space,” #104, 20.181m, +98,000 today, peak 198.131m.
  5. (1st, #1) “Shake It Off,”#109, 17.950m, -195,000 today, peak: 195.501m.
  6. (4th, #1) “Bad Blood,” #125, 14.879m, +56,000 today, peak: 195.179m.
  7. (6th, #18*) “Out of the Woods,” #297, 5.305m, -284,000 today, peak: 68.848m.

*”Out of the Woods” peaked at #18 based on sales when it was released as a promotional single prior to the release of 1989. It never surpassed this rank when it was released as a radio single.

What I’m Watching: What happens when TS releases a music video for “New Romantics?” Does she even bother?

 

Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” is Charting at Pop Radio

Cheap Thrills,” the second single off of Sia’s This is Acting, has finally reached #50 on Pop radio airplay. The track debuts with 465 running weekly spins (+158 over the past week) representing 1.416 million weekly audience impressions.

The song concurrently charts at #225 on iTunes (about 7,000 sales in the week ending 3/10); #24 on US Spotify (daily) (+1 today; 392,813 streams, -1,358 today); #31 on US Spotify (weekly) (+16 for the week ending 3/3; 2,469,035 streams, +434,468 for the week); #14 on Global Spotify (daily) (+1 today; 1,672,557 streams, +53,648 today); and #24 on Global Spotify (weekly) (+9 for the week ending 3/3; 9,448,660 streams, +2,212,701 for the week).

The lyric video for “Cheap Thrills” has 12,557,686 views since its February 10th, 2016 release. It set a new high on Saturday, 3/5/16, when it earned 660,625 daily views. So far, it has averaged 444,168 views/day.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 10.43.39 AM

The official audio for “Cheap Thrills” has 11,973,257 views since 12/16/15.

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In it’s fourth charting week, “Cheap Thrills” is at #91 (+6 this week) on the US Billboard Hot 100 (which ranks songs’ overall success in terms of weekly sales, streaming, and radio airplay), closing in on its initial sales-driven debut at #81. The song dropped off the Hot 100 in its second week of availability.

Analysis

Cheap Thrills“‘s lyric video has a strong Youtube view-curve, with consistently increasing views and no visible deterioration. Frequently a Youtube release will feature a local high on the day of or in the days immediately following its release, followed by a consistent downward pressure as public interest in the spectacle of the music video deteriorates. A song that gets substantial radio airplay tends to at least slow in its descent for a time, and may reverse course if radio airplay is sufficient. “Cheap Thrills” features essentially NO initial interest bump, and instantaneously began rising, driven by radio airplay.

There are three reasons for this that immediately stand out to me. 1) The lyric video is not “exciting” to the audience, except insofar as it is the thing that pops up when they want to stream the song. This would preclude the existence of an initial interest bump, and would forecast a view-curve entirely or almost entirely by radio airplay. 2) Although US radio is just starting to play Sia’s song, Youtube views are agglomerated on an international basis. Clearly, “Cheap Thrills” is getting a substantial amount of attention overseas. 3) Sia did not substantially promote the release of her “Cheap Thrills” lyric video beyond merely posting it on her Youtube page. In the absence of controversy or substantial media buzz, the video is left to stand on its own two feet as a carrier for the song itself.

Overall, the song has a robust view-curve with a clear positive trajectory, representing substantial and increasing international attention. Since radio airplay for the single is increasing in the United States, we should expect continued growth for the foreseeable future. At this time, there is insufficient data on US radio airplay over time to predict the song’s long-term trajectory.

However, unless the song begins to accelerate substantially, I would hesitate to forecast a much stronger long-term performance than for Sia’s recent David Guetta collaboration, “Bang My Head,” which peaked at #76 on the Hot 100.

“This Is Acting” Album Review

There is a reason that Sia Furler is the genius behind a substantial number of the biggest pop hits of the past half-decade. There is a reason that fame dragged her unwilling, wigged blonde main out of the shadows, first as the essentially anonymous lead female vocalist on David Guetta’s “Titanium,” and later in the global smash that has become “Chandelier” (whose music video is a member of the tiny and exclusive billion-view club (with a B)). Sia is both a prolific songwriter and an incredibly talented vocalist. Both talents shine through in the pile of shining gems that she had not YET managed to sell to the likes of Adele and Rihanna when she decided to record This is Acting.

Billboard issued a scathing review of Sia’s latest album,titled, “Sia Struggles to Find Herself on This is Acting.” I completely disagree.

Sia is a professional song-writer. She literally writes disingenuous, radio-friendly pop singles for other artists as a living. By opening up the sausage-making process to allow the public to gaze in, Sia presents the truest version of herself conceivable. Certainly, she presents a truer version of herself on this album than does the hypothetical other popstar who performs one of her custom hits as though its simple and crafted lyrics emanated directly from the depths of a shallow soul.

Billboard closes by saying, “That isn’t acting — it’s just affectation.” But that is precisely the point. Sia is revealing her truth, ugly and beautiful, and at the same time exposing the true actors in the industry for the frauds they are.

The album is an amalgamation of carefully crafted lyrics paired with soaring, emotional vocals and varied background instrumentation.

Each individual song stands on its own– one might almost listen to the entire album straight without getting bored, a rare feat for those of us under the age of 30.

Billboard’s high-minded critic actually attacks the lack of boring, downbeat songs without compelling choruses or catchy beats–that could never be singles. You know what I call such songs? Fillers. I say kudos to Sia for not tossing a bunch of songs at us that really just sound like a continuation of one ridiculously long song. Maybe it’s just my millennial impatience, or my millennial disdain for the outdated practice of actually shelling out change for an “album” as an independent piece of artistry that will actually be listened to straight through, but if I am going to buy an album, I kindof want to get 12 DIFFERENT songs at least most of which are actually worth listening to.

Oh yeah. What was it that Billboard said when Taylor Swift released an album of nothing bit hit singles? That’s right. Nothing… Except praise. Seriously massive heaps of praise. I think they called her something like “Glorified and Almighty Savior of the Music Industry in it’s Most Dire Straits of Peril.”

“Bird Set Free” and lead single “Alive” sound like something that could have been on 1000 Forms of Fear. “Cheap Thrills” sounds more playful, like some of Sia’s pre-“Chandelier” releases. Sia migrates through a range of vocal and sonic stylings while expressing a range of emotions.

If this is the kind of work that Sia produces off-the-cuff, then my vote is for her to drop an album every year. 

Sia’s album is basically sonic bliss, at least in parts. It isn’t perfect. I obviously like some of the songs more than others. And, there are songs that I absolutely loved on 1000 Forms of Fear (see, e.g., “Cellophane”) that don’t have an equivalent here. But, I really think there is something here for just about anyone. Sia pulls through with a lead single featuring the massive vocal display that we all expected after “Chandelier,” and she drops a load of other interesting and generally well-crafted songs.

The worst I can say is that some of the songs sound almost unfinished, almost as though they were made to be revamped by an end-artist. But it is this aspect of the album–the peak into the sausage-making process that it affords–that is one of the biggest draws. One can’t help but imagine what might have been had the songs been finished and released by other artists.

In the end, of course, we have the limited perspective we are born with, and we take This is Acting with the understanding that we are buying Sia as-is, straight from the sausage factory.

What did you think about This is Acting on your first listen? Do you agree with Billboard? Or are your expectations for Sia satisfied?

(Kinda) Weekly Recap

What I’m Watching This Week – 

Gwen Stefani/The Voice

The Voice seems to be making a habit of taking over iTunes once a week. Performers locked up almost the entire top ten of iTunes for a while, leaving only Justin Bieber and Adele untouched. If you agglomerate The Voice‘s sales over time, and think about it as a single artist, you’ve got a pretty consistent top-tier artist.

After Voice judge Gwen Stefani performed her current single “Used to Love You” on the show, it also saw a serious sales spike. Now, after most of the actual contestant’s songs have started dropping, increasing radio airplay and a second sales spike has propped Gwen up to #3 on iTunes.

“Used to Love You” sits at #24 on Pop airplay (3852 weekly spins, +52 today, +407 past week; 15.967 million weekly audience impressions, +390,000 today); #14 on Adult Pop/HAC (2100 weekly spins, +45 today, +284 past week; 10.134 million weekly audience impressions, +120,000 today); and #47 on Adult Contemporary (37 weekly spins, -2 today, -20 past week; 155,000 weekly audience impressions, +3,000 today). It is at #63 in terms of overall radio audience impressions (27.510 million weekly audience impressions, +605,000 today; 6846 all-format spins, +138). At its current rate of increase, it would be a top-20 radio hit within 2 months and a top-20 radio hit within 5 months.

On the song’s release, I said “Used to Love You” would be Gwen Stefani’s comeback hit, and today I stand by that prediction.

Adele

Basically she broke all the records. Almost. Seriously, though, there are a few more amazing ones that she looks about to break. See all the Adele articles. Radio audience impressions for “Hello” are still rising,  and youtube views have barely slowed at all, still over 10 million/day even as the clip has already been viewed more than half a billion views globally.

Elle King’s fabulous “Ex’s and Oh’s”

Still rising on radio; #4-#3 today with a 1.8 million weekly audience impressions gain to 134.9 million.

Canadian Domination

Thanks mostly to Justin Bieber, Canadian artists are still dominating 70% of the top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100. With Brit, Adele, still raging at #1, the top American act in America is currently Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” at #8.

Meghan Trainor

Speaking of which, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” reverses a dangerous trend of declining singles for burgeoning global superstar Meghan Trainor. Frequently, for a number of reasons, the lead single from an album peaks highest, and each subsequent single has a lower peak than the last. After breakout single “All About that Base” spent 8 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100, Meghan Trainor’s other singles seemed to be merely riding that single declining wave. But, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” A) was released more than a year after “All About that Base,” and B) has pushed well into the top 10 with continuing strong gains at radio even after previous singles “Dear Future Husband” and “Marvin Gaye” peaked at #s 14 and 21 respectively. Admittedly, “Marvin Gaye” was technically a Charlie Puth song that just happened to feature Meghan Trainor. But, it follows up Charlie Puth’s “See You Again,” which you might recall was one of the biggest #1 hits of this year and a rival to 2014’s “All About that Base.”

“Like I’m Gonna Lose You” moves #9-#8 today in overall audience impressions (119.9 million, +1.218 million). It is one of the ten greatest gainers.

Justin Bieber‘s “Sorry

Basically, this entire album is an apology to the American people for growing up to be such a douchebag. But, the apology was accepted. It may not be clear from the whole Adele overshadow thing, but Justin Bieber practically the biggest success story of the year. After “What Do You Mean” became Bieber’s first #1 hit on its debut, and then followed up with sustained massive radio airplay, Bieber took his album Purpose to the biggest debut of the year (until Adele happened the next week), seriously trouncing One Direction in what many thought was going to be a close fight (One Direction had an early pre order lead, but their music is basically shit, and Justin Bieber’s current album is grudgingly sonic bliss). Bieber’s album (unlike 1-D’s) had a relatively modest second-week drop-off, and will end the year on a strong note. Bieber’s second single “Sorry” debuted at #2 on the Hot 100 on similar strength to “What do You Mean” because Adele decided to drop a single the same week and literally shatter all-time records. But, as testament to Bieber’s strength, he has now become one of a tiny handful of artists to have three songs in the top five of the Hot 100 AT THE SAME TIME, as non-single “Love Yourself” debuted with massive sales. Then, Bieber decided to make a new record for # of songs in the Hot 100 at once, when literally every single song off of his album decided to chart during his debut week, most of which are still there for a second week.

Anyways, “Sorry” is currently getting 6-8 million global views/day on YouTube, while “What do You Mean” is still getting about 4 million/day. “Sorry”at #7 is the greatest gainer on radio today (125.587 million weekly audience impressions, +3.393 million; 20,093 weekly spins, +716 today). “What Do You Mean” is at #10 on radio, overall, and is dropping. “Sorry” is charting on Pop, HAC/Adult Pop, Rhythmic, and Spanish formats.

Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love” 

I’m seriously obsessed with this song. It just speaks to my soul (sonically). Anyways, it nears 100 million audience impressions for #12 on overall radio (+1.688 million today, for 5th greatest-gainer). It has also risen to #6 on iTunes, and might sell 70k for the week ending 12/3.

Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” 

As the solo artist with the most all time #1 US hits, Mariah Carey has just one song that still sells well and gets airplay. Every Christmas, the classic song comes back to invade the public consciousness once more. The question on my mind is: how big will its bump be this year? How much will it sell? How many YouTube views will it get?

On iTunes, it it already at #21, just below Shawn Mende’s recent #1 pop hit “Stitches.”

Here is basically a picture of the Christmas season over time. For reference, the song got about 700,000 views on December 1st.

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Adam Lambert’s “Another Lonely Night”

Adam Lambert continues to post modest gains on the Adult Pop radio format (crossing the 2 million audience impression/week threshold today), and he has been getting sufficient ads at pop stations that he should start charting on that format within, perhaps, the next week. Here is Adam Lambert’s performance to date on Adult Pop with “Another Lonely Night:”
11/13 Friday: #NA; 235 weekly spins; +108 week-over-week weekly spins; 895,000 weekly audience impressions.
11/14 Saturday: #50; 252 weekly spins (+17); +109 week-over-week weekly spins (+1); 903,000 weekly audience impressions (+8,000).
11/15 Sunday: #48 (+2); 275 weekly spins (+23); +113 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 949,000 weekly audience impressions (+46,000).
11/16 Monday: #41 (+7); 297 weekly spins (+22); +119 week-over-week weekly spins (+6); 993,000 weekly audience impressions (+44,000).
11/17 Tuesday: #39 (+2); 314 weekly spins (+17); +121 week-over-week weekly spins (+2); 1,035,000 weekly audience impressions (+42,000).
11/18 Wednesday: #38 (+1); 328 weekly spins (+14); +117 week-over-week weekly spins (-4); 1,023,000 weekly audience impressions (-12,000).
11/19 Thursday: #37 (+1); 350 weekly spins (+22); +128 week-over-week weekly spins (+11); 1,066,000 weekly audience impressions (+43,000).

11/20 Friday: #35 (+2); 372 weekly spins (+22); +137 week-over-week weekly spins (+9); 1,114,000 weekly audience impressions (+48,000).
11/21 Saturday: #34 (+1); 389 weekly spins (+17); +137 week-over-week weekly spins (+0); 1,221,000 weekly audience impressions (+107,000).
11/22 Sunday: #33 (+1); 416 weekly spins (+27); +141 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 1,376,000 weekly audience impressions (+155,000).
11/23 Monday: #32 (+1); 437 weekly spins (+21); +140 week-over-week weekly spins (-1); 1,439,000 weekly audience impressions (+63,000).
11/24 Tuesday: #32 (+0); 455 weekly spins (+18); +141 week-over-week weekly spins (+1); 1,521,000 weekly audience impressions (+82,000).
11/25 Wednesday: #32 (+0); 476 weekly spins (+21); +147 week-over-week weekly spins (+6); 1,586,000 weekly audience impressions (+65,000).
11/26 Thursday: #32 (+0); 491 weekly spins (+15); +141 week-over-week weekly spins (-6); 1,629,000 weekly audience impressions (+43,000).
11/27 Friday: #32 (+0); 523 weekly spins (+32); +151 week-over-week weekly spins (+10); 1,707,000 weekly audience impressions (+78,000).
11/28 Saturday: #31 (+1); 544 weekly spins (+21); +155 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 1,838,000 weekly audience impressions (+131,000).
11/29 Sunday: #31 (+0); 548 weekly spins (+4); +132 week-over-week weekly spins (-23); 1,799,000 weekly audience impressions (-39,000).
11/30 Monday: #30 (+1); 564 weekly spins (+16); +127 week-over-week weekly spins (-5); 1,857,000 weekly audience impressions (+58,000).
12/1 Tuesday: #30 (+0); 576 weekly spins (+12); +120 week-over-week weekly spins (-7); 1,824,000 weekly audience impressions (-33,000).
12/2 Wednesday: #30 (+0); 583 weekly spins (+7); +107 week-over-week weekly spins (-13); 1,902,000 weekly audience impressions (-33,000).
12/3 Thursday: #29 (+1); 608 weekly spins (+25); +117 week-over-week weekly spins (+10); 2,009,000 weekly audience impressions (+107,000).

Sia’s “Alive”

After a maddeningly slow start, and continued stagnant radio airplay, Sia’s “Alive” finally seems to be finding success on some level after a well-received performance on Ellen, featuring (you guessed it) Maddie Ziegler. If you didn’t guess it, Maddie was the girl who danced in all of Sia’s prior music videos before “Alive,” and, in my opinion, 1/3 of Sia’s viral success (the other two parts are Sia’s song-writing and Sia’s voice). Anyways, “Alive” jumped from about #100 into the top 10 on iTunes just in time for the holiday shopping season.  “Alive” currently sits at #9.

Here is the clip of Maddie Ziegler performing Sia’s “Alive” live on Ellen. And here is Sia NOT revealing her face on TV. And here is the official music video for “Alive,” featuring some random girl who isn’t as good as Maddie. And here is Sia’s “Chandelier,” which recently crossed 1 billion global views.

The Chainsmokers’ “Roses” feat. Rozes

Remember that song “Let me take a #SELFIE?” You know, the one that got 387 million YouTube views and rose to #16 on the Hot 100 on sheer viral success?

Well The Chainsmokers are back with a followup, “Roses,” featuring Rozes. The song may have only 1.7 million views so far, but it has climbed to #22 on iTunes, driven by its #21 rank on Pop Songs and #38 rank on Rhythmic. Overall, the song climbs to #75 on radio songs today with 24.131 million audience impressions (+896,000). It is the 13th fastest-growing song on radio. It is at #15 on US Spotify and #39 worldwide. It is #12 on US shazam and #46 on worldwide shazam.

This song is an emerging hit.

Who is Fancy’s “Boys Like You” feat. Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande

Speaking of emerging hits, label execs are quite clearly trying to groom a new superstar. Emerging gay artist Who is Fancy nabbed not one, but TWO A-list artists to feature on his second single after debut single “Goodbye” reached #29 on pop and #98 on the Hot 100 without much help. “Boys Like You” is certainly getting star treatment with a fancy music video, a debut performance on Dancing with the Stars, and its verse by fancy artists.

The song itself has the makings of a pop hit with a clearly cognizable hook and solid early performance on iTunes and YouTube. On iTunes, the song has surfed around the middled of the top 100 since its release, while the music video has been viewed 2.3 million times in just over one week, with only modest declines in daily views.

I’m watching for a debut on Pop Songs in coming weeks. Once we start getting airplay data, then we can start making predictions about future performance.

Ariana Grande’s “Focus”

After an extraordinary initial run on radio, a mediocre sales start, and a fantastic YouTube view curve, Ariana’s latest single got strongly negative audience reaction from listeners who felt inundated by a song that hadn’t yet grown on them. People like songs that they already know, but that haven’t been overplayed. Too many early spins for a song that could have grown on people if given more breathing room can be the death knell of what otherwise could have been a bigger hit. But, after a sharp reversal in fortunes, Ariana’s hit stabilized with her much-lauded performance at the AMAs.

Ariana is still stalled with about 55 million weekly radio impressions. The question is whether modest declines will accelerate or eventually reverse course.

With a negative rating from a full 40.3% of the 62.9% of pop listeners who were familiar with the song in the most recent callout report, I’m skeptical. But, I also don’t think it is that bad of a song. Without any information, I would have bet that the song would be a sure hit, and it seems radio programmers across the country agreed with me. Certainly, the performance on the AMAs was one of the best live performances o any current pop star. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Haley Reinhart’s Cover of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is charting on Adult Pop 

See my main article on Haley Reinhart’s radio success.

Haley Reinhart has a new album of original material coming out soon, and in the meantime, she is starting to really get some attention for her amazing vocal technique.

First, she crowd-funded herself into a seriously underrated music video for her original song, “Show Me Your Moves.” Then, she signed a new record deal with Ole and started collaborating with Postmodern Jukebox. She almost instantly became the star of Postmodern Jukebox, as her cover of “Creep” amassed over 12.6 million views (still about 40,000 views/day, 7 months after release), and all of her videos (except the one released 3 hours ago) have pulled in at least 3 million views (only seven of their videos released in the past year not starring Haley Reinhart have been viewed at least 3 million times, and three of those were released before Haley’s first. Besides “Creep,” Haley also stars in the second most-viewed Postmodern Jukebox cover of the past year, “All About that Base.”).

Then, she became the the honey-coated voice of the most heart-wrenching ad campaign of the year for Extra Gum, in which she sings a perfect cover version of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

This image captures the most emotional moment in the commercial, after she sees that he kept the gum wrappers from their first date and all their other dates and drew pictures to remind him of those moments. The last picture is him proposing, and she just starts turning around, with a hesitant tear leaking out of her eye.

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If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, you should. Here. If you don’t cry even the fourteenth time you see it, then you should probably see a doctor for your broken tear ducts.

This Week: RECAP – Adam Lambert; Ariana Grande; Chris Stapleton; Adele; Gwen Stefani; Haley Reinhart;” and MORE

Here’s a bunch of stuff that caught my attention this week. Did I miss anything? The comments section awaits!

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert’s (global) smash single “Ghost Town” was just certified double-platinum in Australia for 140,000 sales. It has also been certified gold in Denmark, platinum in Poland, double-platinum in Sweden, and triple-platinum in The Netherlands. for a total of about 350,000 certified shipments. “Ghost Town” has also sold about 354,000 copies in the United States as of November 5th, 2015. Considering that it was a pretty big hit in Germany (peaking at #11), I would assume that it is at least close to gold status there (200,000) and in a number of smaller European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Belgium, Hungary…)

So, by my estimate, “Ghost Town” has now sold over 1,000,000 copies worldwide.

Watch Adam Lambert lead a revolution against monotony and tear gas with the power of gay and color-music here.

Ariana Grande

The new music video for “Focus” is a hit. It has already racked up about 50 million youtube views in a little over a week, which puts it in competition with the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. Really, only Adele is in a higher tier of stardom at the moment.

“Focus”‘s initial sales looked similar to those of Justin Bieber’s recently released singles, but they dropped quickly. It peaked at #2 on iTunes (behind Adele’s record-breaking “Hello”), but is now sitting at #27. “Focus” sold about 95,000 copies in its first week of release.

At radio, Ariana’s new single has been competing with Adele’s massive increases in audience impressions. Both have been increasing their weekly audience impression count by about 5-5.5 million EACH DAY. Normally, it is rare for ANY song to be gaining more than 3 million weekly audience impressions in a day. Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” and Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams,” for example, each spent most of their radio growth at around 2 million additional weekly audience impressions per day.

Today, of course, Ariana Grande saw her weekly radio airplay decline by a massive 11 million audience impressions. But fear not, this is not a case of massive Ariana-dumping by radio programmers. On the first day of release, a bunch of radio stations do hourly plays for a new release, giving it massive first-day airplay numbers. So, the next week, when her audience impressions increase an ordinary amount, it looks like a massive drop-off. Of course, by the same token, her daily audience gains look artificially massive during the first week of release even if they are completely stable after release day, because the comparison is with audience impressions pre-release. So, the real test of the strength of Ariana’s new single will be the daily gains over the coming week.

Ariana Grande still hasn’t experienced the joy of having a song crown the Billboard Hot 100 (her massive 438,000-sale “Problem” debut landed her at #3, virtually tied with #s 1 and 2, “All of Me” and “Happy”; she dropped down to #4 the next week before rising to a 5-week peak of #2 behind “Fancy”). But, after literally every song she released from her last album became a hit, it is clear that she has at least built up some goodwill among radio programmers. Look to see a solid debut from “Focus” on the Hot 100.

I will note that some people are comparing “Focus” to “Problem Part 2,” and that is why they aren’t getting excited about it. Sia seems to be facing similar difficulty with “Alive”/”Chandelier” comparisons. There is some legitimacy to the criticisms, but I, for one, happen to like all of the above-mentioned songs. I kindof feel like there should be another hit reminiscent of “Chandelier” once in a while. Nobody other than Sia can really do the Sia thing, so why not get behind her? Sure, it would be nice to see her do other things too, but why bash her for playing on that part of “Chandelier” that really dug into our souls? “Problem” was a real hit. It did things musically that other songs weren’t doing at the time, and it did them well. If it created a new space in the music industry, it only seems fair to me that Ariana should be allowed to partially occupy that space. But that’s just my two cents.

Anyways, “Focus” is going to be a hit no matter what. The only question is how big it will be. I think it will be a top ten hit at least. Maybe top five. Maybe as high as #3. Probably not #1 or #2.

Watch Ariana Grande be the center of attention here.

Chris Stapleton/Justin Timberlake

Who?

That’s what I said when I looked at iTunes the other day and noticed that this guy was all over the place, with one single almost competing with Adele’s “Hello” in terms of sales!

Apparently, this random, not-particularly famous (even within country) country singer out of the blue asked Justin Timberlake to sing with him at the CMAs and Justin Timberlake, who happened to be a fan, said yes. So they sang Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” (from The 20/20 Experience Part 2/2, which peaked at #9– on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Chart), and Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” (which peaked at #46— on the country airplay chart). Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton blew all the country fans in the country away — leading to massive, fraction-Adele level of sales.

Sales have tamed down a bit. Now “Tennessee Whiskey” is only selling half an Adele-minute/minute. Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” is still selling 1/3 of an Adele unit.

To put this into perspective, Justin Bieber’s new single, “Sorry,” and Drake’s huge hit, “Hotline Bling,” which are next in line, are each only selling about 18% of the number of copies that Adele’s “Hello” is still selling. So, if Adele hadn’t just basically taken over the world, Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton would look like they had.

This goes to show also that Justin Timberlake has retains serious star-power, and that he is successful for a reason. I’m watching for his next album, to see how many opening week copies it sells. The 20/20 Experience sold almost a million copies in its first week. Can his next album match or top that in a declining album market?

Watch Justin Timberlake come to peace with his dick-size here.

Adele

Everyone is watching Adele. Here’s a quick numbers recap.

“Hello” has 269.5 million views. It earned 15,197,727 views on Thursday, up from 14,827,387 views Wednesday and views 14,290,930 on Tuesday. Youtube views should see a bump for the weekend when Friday’s views are finalized tomorrow.

The continued massive youtube views are partly driven by skyrocketing radio airplay. “Hello” reached 113.528 million radio audience impressions over the past seven days, up 5.461 million weekly audience impressions from yesterday. That places Adele at #7 on the overall chart.

“Hello” is still #1 in most of the world’s countries, and #1 on the global Spotify chart.

What I’m really watching: how many copies will Adele’s 25 album sell in its first week. For my full analysis of this question, including my predictions (based on analogies to #s from Taylor Swift), check out this article.

Watch Adele make tea improperly here.

Meghan Trainor

“Like Gonna Lose You” is BREAKING A TREND.

Normally, the lead single from an album is the biggest hit, and then each successive single does a little worse. Why? 1) Later singles are sometimes released after a lot of the fans have already bought the album, so they aren’t going to buy the single unless you make a special remix (like Taylor Swift a la “Bad Blood,” or Katy Perry with “ET”). 2) People lose interest in the artist over time, and want something fresh. 3) Later singles from the same albums sometimes sound like “Original Single: Part 2,” and although Part 2 may be a hit, it is rarely as big of a hit as the Part 1 on which it is based. 4) Labels aren’t stupid. They pick the best songs to release first.

Sometimes an artist will break the trend, finding more success as singles progress. Paramore did this with their last album, as did Maroon 5, Sam Smith, and The Weeknd. When this happens, the artist is generally growing in fame and popularity. It is not necessarily that the first hits weren’t as good as the later hits. It could be that the first hits built a fanbase that kept growing as the artist reaches successively larger audiences. In other words, a song’s popularity is only part of the picture; the artist’s personal popularity can also play a huge roll in the song’s success.

In the case of a new artist with a massive breakthrough hit (like “All About that Base”) they frequently have to wait until the lead single from their next album before we can really see if there is more to them as an artist than that one hit. Look at, for example, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lorde, and Iggy Azalea. All had strong starts. Apart from their respective breakthrough hits (“Call Me Maybe,” “Royals” and “Fancy”/”Problem”), they each had other songs that were big hits in their own rights (“Good Time,” “Team,” and “Black Widow,”). But, successive hits did successively worse, and none has had a really big hit since.

Meghan Trainor was a quintessential breakthrough artist, with a massive cultural movement-style first hit, “All About that Base,” a contemporaneous huge but lesser hit, “Lips Are Movin,” and successively less successful followups: “Dear Future Husband” and a featured role on Charlie Puth’s “Marvin Gaye.”

But, with the fourth single off of Title (“Marvin Gaye” is on Charlie Puth’s upcoming debut album), Meghan Trainor breaks the trend, as “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” bounds 18-13 past the peak of “Dear Future Husband.” With such strong gains, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” could be a solid top ten hit in coming weeks. Depending on how it holds up, it could even have a Top Five peak in store.

“Like I’m Gonna Lose You” sits at #11 on radio songs, with 89.665 million weekly audience impressions (+1.361 million over yesterday). Sales increased 67k-73k from the week ending 10/29/15 to the week ending 11/5/15.

Watch Meghan Trainor find out she’s a witch here.

Gwen Stefani

Is Gwen Stefani still a thing?

After all, she hasn’t really had a hit song in like a decade, almost. She actually hasn’t has a solo top 40 hit on the Hot 100 since “The Sweet Escape” peaked at #2 in 2006, and she hasn’t had a top 33 hit at all since then. To be fair, she hasn’t really been releasing music since then. But, the stuff she released very recently hasn’t really done well. Until now, at least.

As I argued here (on its release), Gwen Stefani’s “Used to Love You” may well grow into a substantial hit.

At the very least, it is charting on pop and adult pop formats, and making gains. Overall, the song got 8.854 million audience impressions over the past week, a 334,000 weekly audience impression gain over yesterday (a #198-#193 move). She now ranks at #25 on Adult Pop, and #36 on Pop. She is charting on iTunes at #96 (she peaked at #2 on the song’s release).

So, why do I think it will be a hit? Because I want it to. Duh.

Watch Gwen look at the camera sadly here.

Haley Reinhart

We haven’t really heard anything new about Haley Reinhart recently, since she stopped putting out songs for Postmodern Jukebox and became an integral part of one of the world’s most successful advertising campaigns.

But, speaking of the ad campaign, Haley’s cover just jumped back onto the US iTunes chart! “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” apparently got some airtime as an actual ad, because sales popped up from 6k the week ending 10/29, to 9k the week ending 11/5. Assuming that the ad keeps running, it would be very interesting to see how many copies of Haley Reinhart’s song she could ultimately sell. A steady stream of sales over a long period of time can ultimately result in a large number of total sales.

Daily US iTunes chart positions, starting with the most recent: 172, 123, 106, 72, 85, 144, 198, 169…

Get your heart broken here.

Shawn Mendes

“Stitches” took over atop pop radio today, by spins. It looks poised to take over on audience impressions in a few days. On the overall radio airplay chart, “Stitches” passes Justin Bieber’s outgoing hit “What Do You Mean?” #5-#4, with an increase of 1.151 million weekly audience impressions, and a total of 146.382 million weekly audience impressions.

“Stitches” is also sitting at #5 on the global Spotify chart and #12 on US iTunes. It’s sales are down 76,000-70,000 for the week ending November 5th, 2015.

Just how high is this song going to go?

Watch Shawn Mendes get beat up by literally nothing here.

Justin Bieber

Massive Youtube views. Mountains of sales. Consistent massive hits by streaming, radio airplay, and sales.

I’ll admit I am digging “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean.” Justin Bieber deserves his success, when he’s not being a douche. Other than all that, Bieber-world is kindof boring right now, and I also kindof want to minimize the amount of ink devoted to Bieber. So, enough said!

Watch Baby Bieber sing “Baby” (which “Blank Space just barely overtook as the second-most viewed video on Youtube) here, then watch older Bieber pull a douchy prank on his baby here.

Elle King

For a song whose music video has only received 11.5 million views since May 1st, Elle King’s debut single sure is turning into quite the sleeper hit. “Ex’s and Oh’s” is now at #7 on Pop radio, and #6 on overall radio, with 117.150 million audience impressions (+1.774m). It rose #15-#12 on the most recent Hot 100. Will it be an official Top Ten hit next week? I hope so. This song is seriously on my short list.

Watch Elle King be weird in the desert with men here.

Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding’s “On My Mind” is still making strong gains at radio. #14 overall. 76.217 million audience impressions; +1.676 million.

Watch Ellie develop her mind-powers here. “On My Mind” is obviously about how sad she is that she no longer has such magic.

Selena Gomez

I’m seriously digging Selena Gomez’s new music. Specifically, “Same Old Love,” is turning me into a Selena fan. Apparently, I am not alone, because “Same Old Love” is the #3 greatest gainer at US radio today (+2.512 million weekly audience impressions). It rises #24-#21 today. At its current rate of increase, it will rise to #14 with 80 million audience impressions in a week.

Prior single “Good For You” peaked at #4 on overall radio (#1 at pop) with almost 133 million radio audience impressions. Can Selena’s second single top the success of the first?

“Good for You” peaked at #5 on the Hot 100. “Same Old Love” drops #16-#18, but with an increase in chart points. Weekly sales for the single dropped 55,000 – 50,000, offsetting gains at radio. On US Spotify, “Same Old Love” sits at #13 (#15 globally), while global YouTube views remain largely stable at about 800,000/day.

Watch a pop star riding in a pop star cab here.

Taylor Swift

Three-ish questions:

  1. How many copies will 1989 sell before the end of the year? How will it stack up against Adele’s 25? Will someone else release a competitive album? Will Rihanna pull a Beyonce next month?
  2. How is her next single going to perform, and when will she release it, now that “Wildest Dreams” appears to have peaked?
  3. How many copies will her next album sell in its first week (next October, presumably), after the massive success of 1989? 

Watch the first song Taylor Swift ever uploaded to Youtube here.

Sia

“Alive” music video released. Boring?

I love Sia. I love “Alive.” But seriously, the new video is NOT interesting. It is just some girl in a wig practicing (what looks like) karate.

“Alive” is meandering around the bottom of the charts. It is being called “Chandelier Part 2.” I love the song. It has that stunning, emotional vocal performance that you expect from Sia. It should be doing better than it is. But seriously, check out some of these comments:

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Watch some of Sia’s amazingly weird and creative music videos that she made before she was famous, and watch “Chandelier” again.

New Sia Single Review: “Alive”

Sia fully delivers expectations on her new single, “Alive.” At heart, Sia became famous by combining formidable pop songwriting with powerhouse vocals driven by raw emotion. Fans who can still hear Sia swinging from a chandelier will not be disappointed when Sia’s pitch-perfect voice cracks from the sheer intensity of her emotional high notes. Jon Blistein, of the Rolling Stone, described Sia’s vocals as “devastating, electrifying.”

If “Alive” sounds like something that should be on Adele’s upcoming album, that’s because it almost was. Adele has a co-writing credit on the song, along with Sia and Tobias Jesso Jr. Luckily, Rihanna also rejected the song. Nothing against Rihanna, of course, but this song fits Sia like a glove.

Listen here, and then tell me you aren’t excited for the rest of Sia’s upcoming album, This is Acting.

Then, take a second to think about what Adele is brewing up, if this didn’t even make it onto her album.