The Week In Pop

The Success Of “I Love It” Puts A Perfectly Perverse Bow On Kanye West’s Batshit Year

Poor Icona Pop. The shouty Swedish singing duo don’t have much to hang their hat on, historically speaking. In the moment, I thought their 2013 debut album was pretty good, but time has mostly forgotten them. The one thing they could definitely claim is SEO dominance for the phrase “I Love It” thanks to the mega-hit Charli XCX gifted them back in 2012, which became the cornerstone and template for their first record. If nothing else, they can be confident they’ll be remembered as the one-hit wonders who don’t care they crashed their car into a bridge.

Except along comes Kanye West in a ridiculous oversized box costume, rapping about how he’s a sick fuck who likes a quick fuck, cheesing like a child who’s being playfully scolded by his parents while Adele Givens wags her finger. In this absurd music video — which premiered last Thursday night during the inaugural Pornhub Awards, an event creative directed by none other than Kanye West — he’s flanked by Lil Pump, a SoundCloud rapper who was three years old when Kanye dropped The College Dropout. (Born 8/17/2000 — too young to even be a ’90s bitch!) Pump is also in one of those large earthtone outfits that resembles a new Yeezy line commissioned by David Byrne and Spongebob Squarepants, sing-rapping the hook, “You’re such a fucking ho.” It’s one of the most tasteless singles in recorded history, and also maybe one of the catchiest. At 2:07, it’s also one of the shortest.

Stupid though it may be, the song is a massive hit on impact — possibly Pump’s biggest ever, definitely Kanye’s biggest in years. The video shoots to #1 on YouTube, racking up close to 70 million views in its first week, but the phenomenon is not confined to YouTube. People are also playing the shit out of this track even without the gimmicky video. It’s soon #1 on Spotify both domestically and globally. Ditto Apple Music. The public apparently cannot get enough. A press release from Def Jam declares it “the #1 song in the world.” Although we’ll have to wait until Monday for official word from Billboard, it’s undoubtedly a smash. And what is it called? “I Love It.” Sorry, Icona Pop.

Kanye, we should note, has not had a lot of culture-saturating hits lately. The man himself has perhaps never been more inescapable, and every album he releases becomes a protracted media event. But of his 25 biggest hits on the Hot 100, only four have been released since 2013. He went to #12 with Yeezus closer “Bound 2,” the only song that sounded like “the old Kanye” on an otherwise abrasive and experimental record. Two years later he climbed to #4 with the Rihanna and Paul McCartney collab “FourFiveSeconds,” a winsome pop-rock tune that was perhaps boosted by its unlikely celebrity convergence. Although The Life Of Pablo single “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1″ went to #1 at rap radio in 2016, it couldn’t permeate the mainstream at large, topping out at #37 on the Hot 100. “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2″ failed to chart on the Hot 100 at all; meanwhile Desiigner’s “Panda,” essentially the same song minus Kanye, went to #1. Upon the release of Ye earlier this year he landed “Yikes” at #8 and “All Mine” at #11, but those songs had no legs; as soon as the album’s initial streaming rush wore off they plummeted down the chart.

Kanye hasn’t hit #1 since a guest spot on Katy Perry’s “E.T.” in 2011. He hasn’t done it with one of his own songs since “Stronger” in 2007. Even 2012 posse cuts “Mercy” and “Clique,” which in hindsight represent Kanye’s last stand as a pop music powerhouse, didn’t crack the top 10 — “Mercy” peaked at #13, “Clique” at #12 — but those songs lingered in the ether forever in a way Kanye songs rarely do anymore. They were pervasive. Conversely, when was the last time you heard a song off Ye or Kids See Ghosts in the wild? Those albums came out three months ago.

Although the cult of Kanye remains strong, he no longer has the stranglehold on pop music that characterized the first half of his career as a recording artist. This is a guy who once altered the sound of rap with every release, one of the most influential, acclaimed, and commercially successful artists of his generation. He is still all of those things, but his music is finding an audience outside his core fanbase less and less often. For Lil Pump, who went to #3 last year with the also relentlessly catchy “Gucci Gang,” the success of “I Love It” indicates potential staying power beyond his SoundCloud rap peers. It’s not totally shocking to see a guy continue to make hits while riding hip-hop’s dominant wave. For Kanye to release a song this popular in 2018, when most of the public seems more attuned to his publicity stunts than his music, is truly surprising.

On the other hand, what is “I Love It” if not a Kanye publicity stunt in song form? That he would score his biggest hit in years with a single and video this perverse is somehow perfectly in keeping with the 2018 he’s been having, to say nothing of the 2018 we as a society have been enduring. After constant praise for his Dragon Energy brother Donald Trump, an assertion that antebellum slavery “sounds like a choice,” a loosie about scooping poop, a political-debate-as-song that made the poop-scooping track seem insightful by comparison, a subpar slapped-together album with cover art he snapped on his phone on the way to the listening party, and another trash single on which he expressed his desire to fuck all four of his wife’s sisters, sending “I Love It” to #1 would be just about perfect punctuation.

Now, will “I Love It” actually go to #1? That depends on how you measure it. As mentioned up top, by some metrics the song is already #1: on YouTube, on Spotify, on Apple Music, etc. The #ILoveItChallenge, a supposedly grassroots movement in which fans are filming themselves wearing boxy costumes like the ones in the video, may propel the song to even higher streaming figures. But Billboard’s Hot 100 formula also accounts for sales and airplay. “I Love It” is nowhere to be found on the iTunes chart, and it’s hard to imagine a workable radio edit. It would take a lot of streams to unseat Drake’s “In My Feelings,” a song that has remained at #1 long past its viral prime partially thanks to steady sales and radio support. But in this upside-down smiley face of a year, it’s oddly appropriate to see Kanye return to the top by completing his transformation into a human meme.

CHART WATCH

Eminem’s surprise album Kamikaze becomes his ninth #1 on the Billboard 200 this week. Per Billboard, the album racked up 434,000 equivalent album units and 252,000 in traditional album sales, far outpacing the 267,000 units and 197,000 sales Em’s prior release Revival tallied in its first week last winter. He joins BTS, Logic, and Migos among artists who’ve scored two #1 albums within a year this year. Also, with 168,000 of his units deriving from streaming, it’s his biggest streaming week ever.

After Travis Scott at #2 and Drake at #3 comes the #4 debut of Troye Sivan’s Bloom with 72,000 units and 59,000 sales. Then comes Ariana Grande at #5, Post Malone at #6, Nicki Minaj at #7, and BTS at #8. Young boy band Why Don’t We enter at #9 with 44,000 units/37,000 sales for their debut full-length 8 Letters, and Juice WRLD rounds out the top 10 at #10.

You already know who has the #1 song on the Hot 100, but I will tell you anyway: It’s Drake. With the ninth straight week of domination for “In My Feelings,” he ties Usher’s record for most weeks at #1 in a calendar year, with 28. Drake’s latest frame at #1 also bumps him past Usher for the most weeks at #1 all-time by a male solo act, with 48. As previously noted, he still trails Boyz II Men (50), the Beatles (59), Rihanna (60), and Mariah Carey (79) in that category.

Once again Maroon 5 and Cardi B’s “Girls Like You” remains at #2 while Cardi, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin’s “I Like It” is at #3. 6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj’s “Fefe” rises to #4, sliding Post Malone’s “Better Now” back to #5. Then comes the first of 11 new Eminem tracks on the Hot 100, two of them in the top 10. “Lucky You” featuring Joyner Lucas” enters at #6, becoming Lucas’ first top-10 hit and Em’s 18th. After Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams” at #7 comes the other new Eminem track, “The Ringer,” at #8, his 19th top-10 hit. Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” which technically but not officially features Drake, is at #9. Tyga and Offset’s “Taste” is at #10.

POP FIVE

Mariah Carey – “GTFO”
Late period Mariah continues to be way better than most people realize. “GTFO” is a lovely little computerized slow jam, and its hook — “How ’bout you get the fuck out?” — is the stuff memes are made of. If you don’t like this song, you, too, can GTFO.

Mike Posner – “Song About You”
A lot less annoying than “I Took A Pill In Ibiza”! And if it still reminds me of the corniest late-’90s hybrid pop-rock, at least it also reminds me of “Heart Shaped Box.”

Black Eyed Peas – “Big Love”
Black Eyed Peas just announced their new album Masters Of The Sun, out 10/12. At first, the group’s new single “Big Love” seems to find a workable midpoint between their backpacker roots and the cornball pop pop-rap that made them superstars in the aughts, but by the first chorus it’s firmly on the cornball pop side. They’re basically ripping off their own “Where Is The Love” here, albeit in a more stylish fashion that reminds me of early Kanye. In other words, this could be a lot worse.

Elle King – “Good Thing Gone”
Elle King also just announced a new album: Shake The Spirit, out 10/19. She already tried to recycle her “Ex’s And Oh’s” with previous single “Shame,” so instead here she goes for something far subtler and more tasteful. “Good Thing Gone” is a retro soul ballad with an expertly deployed brass section and gospel choir. I never expected King to release something so obscenely pretty.

Noah Cyrus & Gallant – “Mad At You”
SMDH, where was this song when Christina Aguilera needed it?

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • A few weeks after his plane had an emergency landing, Post Malone emerged unscathed from a car crash in West Hollywood. [The Blast]
  • Post Malone’s former house was then burglarized, and the new owner was pistol whipped as the thief asked, “Where’s Post Malone?!” [TMZ]
  • Beyhive members are debating whether Beyoncé is Team Nicki or Team Cardi. [E!]
  • Paul McCartney said his new anti-bullying song “Who Cares” was inspired by “Taylor Swift and her relationship to her young fans and how it’s sort of a sisterly thing.” [BBC]
  • Cardi B and Drake lead nominations for the American Music Awards with eight each. [People]
  • Iggy Azalea announced a North American tour with CupcakKe. [That Grape Juice]
  • Heidi Klum turned down a date with Drake. [Billboard]
  • Shawn Mendes and Zac Brown Band are teaming up for a CMT Crossroads that airs 10/24. [The Tennesseean]
  • Luke Bryan opened a restaurant in Nashville, Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink. [The Tennesseean]
  • 6LACK’s East Atlanta Love Letter, out tomorrow, features J. Cole, Future, Offset, and Khalid. [Hypebeast]
  • Rihanna unveiled her new Savage x Fenty collection in an immersive NYFW show in Brooklyn on Wednesday. [AP]
  • Kelsea Ballerini is joining The Voice as a fifth coach. [Taste Of Country]
  • Here’s Marshmello doing the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course. [Instagram]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME: “I LOVE IT” EDITION

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