Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Debuts At #1
Driven in large part by its buzzy, and socially-conscious video, Childish Gambino’s new single “This Is America” debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, launching as the most-streamed and top-selling song of the week, as it also arrives atop the Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales charts.
The track is the first Hot 100 leader for Donald Glover’s musical alter ego, who took the stage to unveil the song as the musical guest on the 5/5 episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (as Glover hosted); the song and its video were released simultaneously around midnight ET Sunday, 5/6.
“America” dethrones Drake’s “Nice for What,” which ruled the Hot 100 for its first four weeks on the chart, dating to its No. 1 debut. Drake’s reign halts at 15 weeks overall, as, prior to “What,” he led for 11 weeks with “God’s Plan,” which likewise launched at No. 1.
“America,” released on mcDJ/Wolf + Rothstein/RCA (as Childish Gambino’s first RCA single) is the 1,073rd No. 1 in the Hot 100’s 59-year history. Here’s a look at the song’s start.
No. 1 bow in streaming & sales: “America” opens atop Streaming Songs with 65.3 million U.S. streams in the week ending 5/10, according to Nielsen Music (covering its first five days of availability). Notably, with the song’s official video garnering much attention, video accounts for an extremely robust 68 percent of the song’s streaming total.
“America” also starts at No. 1 on Digital Song Sales with 78,000 downloads sold in the same tracking period, while drawing 9.4 million in all-genre radio airplay audience in the week ending 5/13 (as it enters the Rap Airplay chart at No. 20 and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay at No. 30).
Childish Gambino’s first No. 1: “America” is Childish Gambino’s first Hot 100 No. 1, or even top 10. He hit a previous No. 12 Hot 100 high last August with his fourth and most recent entry on the chart, “Redbone.” His three prior charted titles, in 2013-16, peaked between Nos. 64 and 86.
He likewise earns his first No. 1s on Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales, passing his prior respective highs of Nos. 10 and 14 with “Redbone.”
“America” concurrently begins atop Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts, also marking Childish Gambino’s first No. 1 on each chart (which, like the Hot 100, mixes streaming, airplay and sales data).
31st No. 1 debut: “America” arrives as the 31st No. 1-debuting hit in the Hot 100’s history. “America” and Drake’s “Nice” (which entered atop the April 21-dated chart) and “Plan” (Feb. 3) further make for the first trio of back-to-back-to-back No. 1 debuts since 1995, when Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” (that Sept. 30), Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (Nov. 25) and Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” (Dec. 2) all opened atop the chart in succession.
Back then, a strong first week in physical sales (via cassette and CD, primarily) could help a song begin atop the Hot 100; now, a lofty first frame of streaming can similarly spark a No. 1 Hot 100 entrance. “Fantasy,” “Exhale” and “Sweet” launched with 229,000, 125,000 and 205,000 physical singles sold, respectively; Drake’s “Plan” and “Nice” entered with 82.4 million and 60.4 million U.S. streams, respectively.
Three No. 1 debuts in 2018: As noted by reader Jake Rivera (@jjr4897), 2018 ties 1997 and 1998 as the years with the second-most No. 1 Hot 100 debuts (three each). 1995 leads, having supplied the chart’s first four No. 1 bows; before the three 1995 hits noted above, Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” became the first single to start atop the Hot 100, that Sept. 2.
Acts who act: Meanwhile, fellow insightful chart watcher @rock_golf notes that, even with Drake’s departure from No. 1 on the Hot 100 after 15 weeks, the streak of an artist first known for acting as a student on a TV series extends to 16 weeks. Drake played Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation, while Glover portrayed Troy Barnes on Community.
Glover is also the first Emmy Award-winning actor to top the Hot 100 since Justin Timberlake, who most recently led with “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” in 2016. Glover won two Emmys in 2017, for outstanding lead actor and outstanding directing in a comedy series for FX’s Atlanta, which he created. (Timberlake has taken home four Emmys, all for his music and/or acting on Saturday Night Live.)
‘America’ at No. 1: The Hot 100’s new leader is technically the first with “America” in its title, although three prior hits reigned with “American” in their names, all in the early 1970s: The Guess Who’s “American Woman”/”No Sugar Tonight” (three weeks, 1970); Don McLean’s “American Pie (Parts I & II)” (four, 1972); and Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band” (one, 1973). Also in that span, the band America topped the Hot 100 with “A Horse With No Name,” for three weeks in 1972 (while one act with “USA” in its name has led: USA for Africa, with “We Are the World,” for four weeks in 1985).
Childish Gambino’s “America” is additionally a rare socially-themed Hot 100 No. 1 (such as “We Are the World”) and perhaps the most pointed example since Lady Gaga’s equality anthem “Born This Way” in 2011.
A version of this article appeared on Billboard.