The Week In Pop

Let’s Pause To Appreciate This Moment In Ty Dolla $ign History

Ty Dolla $ign gets around. The R&B lothario releases quite a bit of his own music — 11 full-lengths and two EPs since 2011, plus a joint project with Jeremih called MihTy dropping later this month — but the collaborative section of his discography sprawls as endlessly as his native LA. At the end of 2016 I counted 45 guest features in total. In 2017 I could have easily published a similar list, and in 2018 he’s been just as busy. Seemingly every artist in rap, pop, R&B, and even EDM recognizes Ty as the perfect seasoning for their project.

It’s easy to see why other artists want this guy on their tracks. Ty is one of the great vocalists and hook writers in music today, a limber yet gritty gospel-inflected soul singer with a rapper’s sensibility — both classic and modern, like some evolutionary version of R. Kelly minus Kelly’s soiled reputation. Lyrical substance is not Ty’s forte, but it hardly matters. God blessed the man with a voice that could turn government documents into poetry. Whenever he appears on a song, his presence provides an instantly recognizable dopamine squirt.

And he appears often. As Ty told Zane Lowe last month, “I stay recording like constantly. I can’t wait. With the songs that I have, I can’t wait for a new album. They have to come out now.” He was promoting the addition of new bonus tracks to last year’s Beach House 3 — a tour de force that demonstrated his adaptability across genre — but he seems to stay even busier knocking out work for other acts. New Ty features materialize constantly, increasingly for some of the highest profile artists in the world.

Despite hopping on tracks with all kinds of A-listers lately, Ty hasn’t stopped lending his Midas touch to seemingly anyone who asks. The full list of acts he’s released songs with so far this year is long, and it ranges from monolithic celebrities to complete no-names: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Post Malone, Migos (and Quavo solo), Gucci Mane, Travis Scott, Big Sean, 21 Savage, Christina Aguilera, 2 Chainz, Jeremih, Khalid, French Montana, Trey Songz, Tank, Tinashe, Ashanti, 6lack, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Stephen Marley, Wiz Khalifa, Anderson .Paak, Arin Ray, Smoke DZA, Buddy, Elvana Gjata, Zaytoven, OJ Da Juiceman, Quentin Miller, Stanaj, Taz Arnold, P. Rocx, Reese LAFLARE, Vory, PC, Nathan Palmer, Abe Arnold, Joey Stylez. Oh, and Bhad Bhabie — yes, that Bhad Bhabie.

It’s like his name is written across the sky and hidden under every rock. If you pay attention to any corner of pop music, it’s impossible to miss the guy. But as more and more superstars develop a taste for Ty’s special sauce, one of the most ubiquitous voices in popular music has been reaching a new plane of visibility. This month alone he scored his first #1 hit and sang on three of summer’s biggest blockbuster albums — and the month’s not even over yet. Here’s a breakdown of his activities in June so far:

  • 6/1: Kanye West releases his new album Ye. It features Ty’s vocals on three of seven tracks.
  • 6/7: Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign share “The Light,” the lead single from their collaborative album MihTy due later this month.
  • 6/8: Kanye and Kid Cudi unveil their self-titled debut album as Kids See Ghosts. Ty features on “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2).”
  • 6/11: Post Malone’s “Psycho,” a duet with Ty, reaches the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Ty’s first career #1 hit. (He previously reached #4 thanks to his appearance on Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home.”)
  • 6/14: Bhad Bhabie, the teenage rapper born Danielle Bregoli — aka the “Cash Me Ousside” girl — releases her new single “Trust Me,” featuring none other than Ty Dolla $ign.
  • 6/15: Christina Aguilera releases Liberation, her first album in six years, which includes Ty in especially raspy mode on lead single “Accelerate.”
  • 6/16: Beyoncé and Jay-Z surprise-release the collaborative album Everything Is Love as the Carters; “Boss” is embossed with Ty’s voice.
  • 6/20: Ty releases the video for his own recent single “Pineapple,” featuring Gucci Mane and Quavo.
  • 6/20: Rising rapper Buddy drops his new single “Hey Up There,” with guest vocals by you know who.

Citing Ye, Kids See Ghosts, and the Bey/Jay album plus Nasir and Drake’s imminent Scorpion, The Ringer’s Rob Harvilla recently wrote, “History may well remember June 2018 as the month when nobody did their best work, but everyone felt compelled to do something.” Ty Dolla $ign is not operating at the peak of his powers this month either — his artistic pinnacle will probably always be “Paranoid,” the Mustardwave delight about worrying his various sidepieces are plotting against him, The Other Woman-style — but in the background of all these superstar power moves, don’t miss him leveling up, reaping the benefits of his hustle.

Ty’s spotlight moments on these new event albums are usually brief, but he’s making the most of them. Although he lends churchy warbles to “Didn’t Leave” and “Violent Crimes,” his big showcase on Ye lasts only about 10 seconds — and man, those are 10 satisfying seconds of music. At the song’s outset, Ty’s weathered croon darts and weaves across Ant Clemons’ nimble, whispery sing-song, a stunning vocal choreography involving both sexual braggadocio and the medulla oblongata. On Kids See Ghosts centerpiece “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2),” Kanye and Cudi hand over the reins to Ty at the eye of the storm, letting him wild out over thunderous prog samples and crest into smooth gospel elation when the beat drops out. It sounds like jumping off a cliff only to find yourself soaring upward to heaven.

All these Kanye bit parts are nice, but “Psycho,” the biggest song of Ty’s career and one of the best, is doing more to raise his profile than the rest of these tracks combined. Hitching your wagon to an unstoppable behemoth like Post Malone is good business. Thankfully, in this case it also yielded good music. “Psycho” is one of the warmest, wooziest singles in Post’s discography, easy-listening trap music both hypnotic and amniotic. Ty uses this backdrop to show off his melodic gifts, diverging from the baseline cadence established by Post into passionate flourishes just often enough to keep you from zoning out. He punctuates a verse filled with flexes on a surprisingly sentimental note: “Girl, you look beautiful tonight.” It adds up to one of the finest and most addictive pop songs of the year, one that has hopefully won Ty an audience large enough to make him a superstar in his own right.

Look, I don’t want to oversell the moment Ty is having. He’s strictly a background player on Everything Is Love. He’s the third-billed artist on a summer package tour headlined by G-Eazy and Lil Uzi Vert. He’s one half of a celebrity romance with former Fifth Harmony singer Lauren Jauregui, but the paparazzi aren’t exactly stalking them like Bieber. To record a song with Bhad Bhabie at this juncture is to concede you have yet to become untouchable royalty. I recognize all that. I realize Ty may spend his entire career as the musical equivalent of a character actor. I’m just excited to see so many leading men and women — and in turn, the listening public — paying Dolla $ign the attention he so richly deserves.

CHART WATCH

Dave Matthews Band become the first band to debut seven consecutive albums at #1 this week. Per Billboard, the group moved 292,000 equivalent album units of new album Come Tomorrow, a whopping 285,000 of them in traditional sales. Either number represents the biggest debut for a rock album since Coldplay’s (underrated!) Ghost Stories opened with 383,000 in sales in 2014. Also, 285K is the biggest pure sales week of the year, besting Justin Timberlake’s 242,000-copy first week for Man Of The Woods, though when you factor in streaming and individual track sales Post Malone (461,000) and J. Cole (397,000) both logged bigger opening frames.

Opening at #2 is the self-titled debut from Kids See Ghosts, the duo of Kanye West and Kid Cudi. The project racked up 142,000 units and 79,000 in sales, which would have been enough for a #1 debut some weeks. Another debut that could have gone #1 in a different week: Dierks Bentley’s The Mountain, entering at #3 with 102,000 units/94,000 sales, some of them accrued via album/ticket bundles. Post Malone, Kanye, and Cardi clock in at #4, #5, and #6. Juice WRLD, The Greatest Showman, Lil Baby, and Shawn Mendes round out the top 10.

Over on the Hot 100 singles chart, Drake’s twice-dethroned “Nice For What” rebounds to the #1 spot yet again. According to Billboard, it’s the first single since the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” to hit #1 three separate times. Although it was replaced by Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” for two weeks then Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign’s “Psycho” last week, “Nice For What” has now spent seven weeks total at #1. That gives Drake 38 career weeks at #1, pushing him past Michael Jackson for second most weeks among solo males. Usher leads that category with 47 weeks at #1, but none of these guys are anywhere close to the all-time record according to this handy list Billboard put together:

79, Mariah Carey
60, Rihanna
59, The Beatles
50, Boyz II Men
47, Usher
42, Beyonce
38, Drake
37, Michael Jackson
34, Elton John
33, Janet Jackson
33, Katy Perry

“Psycho” slides back to #2, followed by Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin’s “I Like It” at #3, Drake’s “God’s Plan” at #4, and Maroon 5 and Cardi B’s “Girls Like You” at #5. Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams” rises to a new #6 peak — also his career best — which bumps Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” down to #7. The last three songs in the top 10 all enjoy a slight climb back upwards after beginning to descend in recent weeks: Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey’s “The Middle” at #8, Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left To Cry” at #9, and Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be” at #10.

POP FIVE

Ariana Grande – “The Light Is Coming” (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
After the triumphant glide that was “No Tears Left To Cry,” I like Grande’s attempt at something truly weird for Sweetener single #2.

Bebe Rexha – “I’m A Mess”
Poor Rexha had to credit the songwriters behind Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” on this song due to the chorus: “I’m a mess, I’m a loser/ I’m a hater, I’m a user/ I’m a mess for your love, it ain’t new.” What do y’all think — is it a ripoff, legally speaking?

Kygo & Imagine Dragons – “Born To Be Yours”
It takes a lot to make me long for the likes of “Radioactive” and “Believer,” but if this Kygo x Imagine Dragons song accomplishes anything, it’s making standard Imagine Dragons songs seem a bit more tolerable. Dude’s clenched-sphincter bellow sounds even worse when trying to cram a zillion syllables into a stanza.

Alessia Cara – “Growing Pains”
This is a perfectly competent Alessia Cara song, but I am not sure I could differentiate it from all the other Alessia Cara songs at gunpoint.

PRETTYMUCH – “Summer On You”
Ed Sheeran already penned a song for Why Don’t We, and now he’s done one for their boy band competitors PRETTYMUCH. What’s more, the Why Don’t We song, “Trust Fund Baby,” was about how the male protagonist doesn’t want to date a rich girl, and “Summer On You” is about a couple who are having a romantic summer despite not having money. Besides nearly identical Sheeran songs, these newfangled boy bands are partially relying on old folks’ nostalgia for the late ’90s, and this song has little DJ-scratch punctuations to drive home the point. It’s almost like the boy band version of a Sugar Ray ballad.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Instagram is rolling out long-form video functionality and one of those videos will be a horror movie starring Selena Gomez. [Refinery29]
  • Rihanna is in the studio working on new music. [The Fader]
  • DJ Khaled is teasing another song with Justin Bieber, who helped him get to #1 with “I’m The One.” [Billboard]
  • Meghan Trainor announced her new album Treat Myself is out 8/31. [Billboard]
  • Zayn Malik says he’s been asked to guest on Atlanta. [The Fader]
  • Pharrell is working on a Juneteenth stage musical with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris. [Deadline]
  • Kesha announced a four-day concert cruise sailing from Tampa, Florida, to Nassau, Bahamas in February. [Twitter]
  • Logic released a video for “Contra.” [YouTube]
  • DNCE released the People To People EP. [DNCE]
  • Hayley Kiyoko took “He’ll Never Love You (HNLY)” to Seth Meyers. [YouTube]
  • Halsey shared a video for her Lauren Jauregui collab “Strangers.” [YouTube]
  • Marshmello’s new album Joytime II is out tomorrow. [Twitter]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME: EVERYTHING IS LOVE EDITION