Feat. Who? Meet The Chart-Climbing Guest Singers Vying To Become Actual Pop Stars
Sometimes pop stars come at you from the side.
There are many routes to mainstream music celebrity: Hitting it big on social media like Shawn Mendes, building a grassroots following with vigorous live shows like Twenty One Pilots, riding the pipeline from preteen TV like Ariana & Selena & Demi & Nick & Joe & Etcetera. (Etcetera Díaz, hot property out of Nickelodeon, get to know her! Just kidding, I think.) There are viral phenoms who rocket to ubiquity out of nowhere and Chosen Ones whom the music industry ushers to the front of the line for whatever reason. But there are also dozens of would-be stars hanging around the fringes of the promotional machine, trying their damnedest to drift toward the center of the frame.
As I wrote two weeks ago, nowadays that journey often involves weaseling your way onto a producer’s prospective hit song as a featured artist. That column focused on the producers who are increasingly ruling the pop charts, cashing in on EDM’s cultural runoff by putting their names front and center and relegating even superstar vocalists to featured players. When someone as famous as Bruno Mars sings on a Mark Ronson track, it registers as a Bruno Mars song in the public eye. But a lot of the people singing on tracks by brand-name producers are not actually stars, at least not yet. Consider, for instance, the voices on recent top-40 radio mainstays like “Middle” and “Lean On” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” Quoth Jerry Seinfeld, who are these people?
I will tell you who they are.
Who is she? 17-year-old Pittsburgh native Grace Martine Tandon. Her stage name is the Hindi word for “grace,” a nod to her Indian grandfather.
Where do you know her from? Daya went to #23 with her own “Hide Away” last year, but what really thrust her into the pop spotlight was the Chainsmokers’ inescapable summer smash “Don’t Let Me Down.” You may recall her increasingly impassioned vocals weaving with some smartly minimal guitar and keyboard lines and a cavernous Eastern-tinged bass drop.
Is she taking off? As someone who spent last week driving around the Western US in a rental car equipped with SiriusXM, yes, she’s really going places. Both “Don’t Let Me Down” and Daya’s own “Sit Still, Look Pretty” are in constant rotation on Hits 1. The latter song is only up to #56 right now, but if terrestrial radio takes to it like satellite radio has — and really, they’d be foolish not to — Daya will have a top-10 smash of her own very soon.
Who is she? Philly-born former Temple undergrad Elizabeth Mencel, who scored some minor blog success collaborating with Just A Gent on 2014 single “Limelight.”
Where do you know her from? Another Chainsmokers song, last year’s popping future bass hit “Roses,” one of last year’s very best tracks.
Is she taking off? So far, not really. Her debut EP landed with a thud, and “Hangin’ On,” which would totally fit in on this summer’s island-inflected radio playlists, is stuck at just over 17,000 YouTube plays. She did show up on a Big Gigantic track with the perplexingly popular Logic this week, though, so maybe that one will put her back in the spotlight.
Who is she? Albanian-American upstart Bleta “Bebe” Rexha, a former member of electronic duo Black Cards with Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and one of the songwriters behind Eminem and Rihanna’s #1 single “The Monster.”
Where do you know her from? Chances are Rexha’s colorful wail first grabbed your attention alongside David Guetta, Afrojack, and Nicki Minaj on last summer’s “Hey Mama,” and there’s no way you missed her slinging the hook on G-Eazy’s “Me, Myself, & I” if you’ve spent any time with top-40 radio in 2016.
Is she taking off? Yup. Rexha’s Minaj-assisted “No Broken Hearts” is well beyond 100 million YouTube views.
Who is she? Danish singer Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen, a mover and shaker in the European dance-pop world who was a critical darling about three years ago.
Where do you know her from? If you follow the music press, maybe you already knew MØ before she guested on Iggy Azalea’s #27-peaking 2014 single “Beg For It.” If not, you’ve definitely heard her voice on Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s world-conquering “Lean On.”
Is she taking off? Slowly but surely. Her singles “Kamikaze” and “Final Song” have both gone over 20 million plays on YouTube, which is not nothing, but she didn’t really crack American radio after “Lean On” until linking up with Major Lazer again on “Cold Water.” Justin Bieber is the real headliner on that one; still, the fact that MØ is back in heavy rotation a year after “Lean On” is a good sign for her long-term career prospects.
Who is he? Manchester singer Adio Marchant, the son of Jamaican parents and a former member of the duo Kid British.
Where do you know him from? Although Marchant has made a name for himself in his native UK, particularly with 2015 single “Daydreamer,” his smooth vocal presence didn’t find its way onto American airwaves until DJ Snake’s sleek, wistful “Middle” became a top-40 mainstay this year.
Is he taking off? It’s hard to say — Marchant hasn’t released anything since “Middle” besides another track on DJ Snake’s album, so we’ll have to see whether his follow-up bid makes a run up the charts.
The Week In Pop was on vacation last week when DJ Khaled’s Major Key supplanted Drake atop the Billboard 200 albums chart. Congratulations, Khaled; you did not play yourself! This week, however, another star-studded compilation debuts at #1: the Suicide Squad soundtrack, which generated a whopping 182,000 equivalent units based on 128,000 in actual sales. Per Billboard, it’s the biggest soundtrack debut since Fifty Shades Of Grey topped 200K in March of last year.
Drake’s Views holds strong at #2 with 73,000 units, followed by the debut of Christian rockers Skillet’s Unleashed with 62,000. Now 59 enters at #5 with 49,000, and DJ Snake’s Encore bows at #8 with 32,000. As for Khaled, Major Key is down to #7 this week with 43,000, a 54 percent decrease from last week’s 95,000 total.
Over on the Hot 100, Sia and Sean Paul hold on to #1 for a fourth straight week with “Cheap Thrills.” The Major Lazer/Justin Bieber/MØ behemoth “Cold Water” rebounds from #5 back up to its #2 peak. Calvin Harris and Rihanna stay strong at #3 with “This Is What You Came For,” while Rihanna’s own “Needed Me” falls to #10. Also with two songs in the top 10 are the Chainsmokers, up to #6 with Halsey collab “Closer” and falling to #8 with Daya-fronted “Don’t Let Me Down. And there’s actually a third act with two songs in the top 10 this week thanks to Suicide Squad.
Yes, Twenty One Pilots rocket from #11 to #4 with the movie soundtrack hit “Heathens.” It’s their third top-10 hit of the year, and along with “Ride,” which falls from #6 to #7 this week, it gives them two concurrent top-10 singles. Some stats from Billboard:
- Twenty One Pilots become the first alternative duo or group to ever land two simultaneous hits in the Hot 100 top 10. (Lorde is the only other alternative artist to achieve this feat with “Royals” and “Team” in 2014 — and in case you’re wondering, Billboard dubs you an “alternative” act if you get airplay at alternative rock radio.)
- They’re the first rock act to do it since Santana with the suddenly resurgent “Smooth” and “Maria Maria” in 2000.
- They join the Chainsmokers as the only other duo or group to score three top-10 hits this year (“Stressed Out,” “Ride,” and now “Heathens” for Twenty One Pilots; “Roses,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “Closer” for the Chainsmokers).
- As mentioned above, Twenty One Pilots, the Chainsmokers, and Rihanna all have two songs in the top 10 this week. The last time three artists double-dipped at the same time was only two years ago, when Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX, and Ariana Grande pulled it off. And because you’re probably wondering…
As for the most acts with two simultaneous top 10s in the same week? The record is four, tallied in two weeks in 2008. On Sept. 27, 2008, T.I., T-Pain, Lil Wayne and Kanye West each sported two top 10s; on Dec. 27, 2008, T.I. and West repeated the feat and were joined by Beyonce and Britney Spears, also each with two top 10s that week.
DJ Snake and Bieber’s “Let Me Love You” debuts at #12 this week, by the way, so it’s possible next week’s chart could match the record for most artists with two hits in the top 10, with Bieber joining Twenty One Pilots, the Chainsmokers, and Rihanna. In order for that to happen, though, Rihanna’s #10 “Needed Me” would have to either stay put or make an unexpected upward jump while Justin Timberlake’s #9 “Can’t Stop The Feeling” would need to tumble out of the top 10.
One more noteworthy chart feat: With “One Dance” posted up at #5, Drake ties Ace Of Base for the second most consecutive weeks in the top 10 at 48. He’ll have to stay there for another 21 weeks to match Katy Perry’s astonishing 69-week run from 2010-2011, though.
Britney Spears – “Clumsy” & “Do You Wanna Come Over?”
Am I crazy or is this new Britney Spears album shaping up pretty nicely? Also, whoever made the word “Oops!” the focal point of a 2016 Britney Spears song (“Clumsy”) is a genius. ALSO, whoever built a 2016 Britney Spears song around a “SexyBack” knockoff beat (“Do You Wanna Come Over?”) is a maniacal super-genius.
Tinashe – “Superlove”
I have no idea what’s going on with Tinashe’s eternally delayed LP2, but I am all for more songs that sound like “Super Bass.” And few songs have sounded more like “Super Bass” than “Superlove.” (Tinashe should release a cover of Charli XCX’s “Superlove” as the B-side.)
OneRepublic – “Kids”
Tim Cook’s favorite band is back with more blandly catchy indestructible radio bait. Stereogum’s own Michael Nelson heartily approves of the drum sound, so maybe he and Cook have at least some common ground.
Bon Jovi – “This House Is Not For Sale”
Bon Jovi are washed up as a hit-making entity, sure, but they were washed up when “It’s My Life” hit big too. So there’s no reason “This House Is Not For Sale” couldn’t rocket up the charts, except maybe that it makes “It’s My Life” sound like a “Livin’ On A Prayer”-level masterpiece.
Porter Robinson & Madeon – “Shelter”
Robinson follows the path from last year’s stellar Worlds across the galaxy toward something like a cyborg version of Troye Sivan’s “Wild.” I like it!
NEWS IN BRIEF
Two weeks of news to make up for a week off:
- Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, and Usher were among the guests at President Obama’s 55th birthday party.[People]
- Drake leads the 2016 BET Hip-Hop Awards nominations with 14. [Billboard]
- Demi Lovato apologized after Twitter dragged her for sharing a Zika virus joke her mom made on Snapchat. [E!]
- Zayn is reportedly working on a memoir about his time in One Direction. [NME]
- Hillary Clinton met privately with Paul McCartney before his show in Cleveland this week. [Twitter]
- Tove Lo shared provocative cover art for her new album Lady Wood out 10/28. [Headline Planet]
- Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps had a cute little interaction with Eric Church’s social media team on Twitter. [Twitter]
- Lady Gaga is now officially attached to star in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born remake. [Twitter]
- Gaga also wrote the foreword for her father’s new Italian cookbook. [V]
- Still more Gaga: A previously unreleased Azealia Banks collaboration called “Red Flame” surfaced. [New Now Next]
- Fetty Wap will appear in the third season of VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop Hollywood. [YouTube]
- Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei quit Twitter over abuse that stemmed from her perceived slight of bandmate Camila Cabello on Facebook Live. [NYT]
- Adele told a San Jose audience that her credit card was declined in H&M earlier that day. [Mirror]
- The Weeknd donated $50,000 to the University Of Toronto to start an Ethiopic Studies program. [The Star]
- In other Weeknd news, he’s working with Cashmere Cat. [Instagram]
- Mariah Carey’s long-rumored cameo on Empire has been confirmed. She’ll play a superstar singer named Kitty on the 10/5 episode. [E!]
- Sia will headline a free abortion rights awareness concert for the the All Access Coalition in Cleveland next month. [Billboard]
- All of ‘N Sync got together in NYC for JC Chasez’s 40th birthday. [Instagram]
- Justin Timberlake also crashed a golf course wedding photo shoot at the insistence of the bride’s father. [TMZ]
- Jessica Simpson has a new song in a commercial for her activewear line. [YouTube]
- Jennifer Lopez will play druglord Griselda Blanco (aka “The Cocaine Godmother”) in an upcoming HBO movie. [THR]
- Taylor Swift made a generous donation to African parks according to a tweet Taylor Swift retweeted. [Twitter]
- Pitbull has been sued for $1M by his former manager Charles Chavez. [Yahoo]
- Charli XCX is playing a free show in Vegas next month for beverage company SoBe’s 21st birthday. [Foxtail Pool]
- Britney Spears will perform with G-Eazy and the MTV Video Music Awards. [Twitter]
- Spears will also do Late Late Show’s Carpool Karaoke on 8/25. [The Wrap]
- Cash Money (whose artists include Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj) will make a documentary with Apple Music but did not sign over exclusive albums as some have speculated. [Bloomberg]
- Rihanna loves to leave bars while still carrying her wine glass. [MTV]
- She also visited the giant headless Rihanna statue in Berlin. [The Fader]
HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME
I need to share with you all that I am eating the best burrito of my life. It is an explosively joyous moment
— Adele (@Adele) August 15, 2016