Lauren Spencer-Smith Is Gen Z’s New Favorite Breakup Balladeer

Danica Cederberg/Wild Ceder Creative

Lauren Spencer-Smith Is Gen Z’s New Favorite Breakup Balladeer

Danica Cederberg/Wild Ceder Creative

If 2021 belonged to Olivia Rodrigo, 2022 is already about searching for the next Olivia Rodrigo. To that end, the pop machine is currently fixated on 18-year-old Canadian singer Lauren Spencer-Smith, who American Idol fans might remember from Season 18, where Spencer-Smith, then just 16, made it to the Top 20 singing P!nk’s “What About Us” and Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way.”

What’s nice about the TikTok era, though, is that you don’t even have to crack a talent show’s top 10 anymore in order to build a fanbase or even get a song to chart. TV talent shows are barely even launching pads anymore, and it’s easy to see why: Reality shows, especially the ones that air on major networks like NBC and ABC, are so heavily edited, the narratives already so predetermined, that they lack the organic word-of-mouth buzz that forges so many of today’s younger pop stars.

Since her time on American Idol, the Vancouver Island native received a nomination at the Juno awards and has been releasing music as an independent artist, dropping an EP in 2020 (Mixed Emotions) and a smattering of singles, such as “Back To Friends,” “For Granted,” and a soaring, “Driver’s License”-esque breakup anthem called “Fingers Crossed.”

Though “Fingers Crossed” officially dropped in early January, Spencer-Smith began dropping breadcrumbs around it back in November when she posted a super-casual 47-second clip of her jammed in the studio. That clip now has more than 23 million views, effectively building up hype for the eventual release of a fleshed-out “Fingers Crossed” studio version.

In a way, Spencer-Smith is a hybrid model. Because of its algorithm-friendly likeness to “Driver’s License,” “Fingers Crossed” is catnip for industry execs hungering for another Rodrigo success story. And yet “Fingers Crossed” also has organic fan support; Spencer-Smith currently has almost 3 million TikTok followers, and creators are using “Fingers Crossed” to soundtrack everything from their romantic dissolutions to being ghosted and even parting ways with ex-best friends. “Everyone has that one person — whether it’s a family member, friend, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend — who they feel they spent time on for no reason,” Spencer-Smith said when the track debuted. (Ironically, she has said that she wrote “Fingers Crossed” after entering into a newer, healthier relationship that caused her to reflect on a previous one.)

Tab over to Spotify and you’ll see how “Fingers Crossed” has more than 32 million streams, putting Spencer-Smith at #1 on Spotify’s Pop Rising playlist. It’s currently among Spotify’s top 20 songs globally and briefly cracked the streaming service’s American top 10. On YouTube, the track has nearly 2 million views. In the UK, “Fingers Crossed” is charting in the top 5, right up there with Adele. While introducing it to her followers, Spencer-Smith said, “This is for anyone [getting] out of a toxic relationship, OK?” Seeing as how TikTok is where people under 25 go to broadcast mental health struggles, “storytime” their breakups, self-diagnose, and call out narcissistic parents and exes, it makes total sense that “Fingers Crossed” would take off on that particular platform. (Her team maintains that they have “not put a single dime behind marketing this song”.)

Then there are the myriad similarities to “Driver’s License.” Musically, “Fingers Crossed” is also a slow burn but leans harder on Spencer-Smith’s vocals, which are layered into billowing harmonies. Thematically, the two songs have a lot in common, too: Both are about betrayal — pretty words said in the heat of the moment before fading away and ultimately amounting to nothing (“All you did was prove me wrong / When you said you loved me / Well, you must’ve had your fingers crossed”). These are gripping coming-of-age stories about someone’s first real brush with dishonesty in the romantic context. As Sheryl Crow once said, “The first cut is the deepest.” God, it’s brutal out here.

Adding to its rise is a “Fingers Crossed” remix by buzzy TikTok singer Elijah Woods (not to be confused with Lord Of The Rings actor Elijah Wood), who gives Spencer-Smith’s track a gentle boost with a touch of rhythm and his own vocal on the second verse. She doesn’t have any other collabs (yet), but Spencer-Smith is known to sing cover songs in TikTok-friendly locales, like in the front seat of her car. Her rendition if Adele’s “Easy On Me” currently has more than a million likes. (Rising) stars: they’re just like us! They blast Adele in the car! They have singalongs with friends — sorry, besties! Fans no doubt feel a kinship with Spencer-Smith, and it’s more than just her Taylor Swift-adjacent confessional lyrics. Her entire presentation is comfy-cozy and totally approachable; a typical video will have Spencer-Smith lounging around in sweats, turning an otherwise average setting — like a car or a living room — into a concert hall.

Clearly, Spencer-Smith is on the precipice. “So much is happening!” she recently told Billboard. “Just today, Ryan Tedder messaged me and said he liked my song. I was freaking out about that. Dan from Dan + Shay messaged me today too. I said to him, ‘I tried to get tickets to your concert when I was 16 and I cried when I couldn’t! I love you!'” However you feel about names like Ryan Tedder and Dan + Shay, those are some significant co-signs. And as 2022 unfolds, don’t be surprised if you spot Spencer-Smith’s name dotting more of the pop-music landscape.

Disney

CHART WATCH

After being bumped downward by Gunna and the Weeknd for a week, the Encanto soundtrack has returned to #1 on the Billboard 200 for a second nonconsecutive frame. Per Billboard, the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned Encanto tallied 104,000 equivalent album units, including 17,000 in sales. It’s the first soundtrack to spend multiple weeks at #1 since A Star Is Born in 2018 and 2019. It’s also the first Disney soundtrack to last more than a week on top since Frozen went 13 straight in 2014.

Gunna’s DS4EVER and the Weeknd’s Dawn FM fall to #2 and #3 respectively, followed by Adele at #4 and Morgan Wallen at #5. The Lumineers debut at #6 with Brightside, which netted 37,000 units and 26,000 in sales to become their fourth top-10 album. The Weeknd’s greatest hits collection The Highlights is at #7, followed by Drake at #8, Olivia Rodrigo at #9, and Doja Cat at #10.

On the Hot 100, Adele’s “Easy On Me” reigns for a 10th nonconsecutive week, tying “Hello” as her longest-standing #1 hit. Billboard says “Easy On Me” is only the 41st song in chart history to spend that many weeks on top. She’s now up to 34 weeks at #1 in her career, tying Bruno Mars and Elton John for ninth most all time. Adele is also the only artist to have two albums spend 10 weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 and two songs spend 10 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100.

Up to #2 is the Encanto hit “We Need To Talk About Bruno,” credited to Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz, and the Encanto Cast. It’s enjoying this surge without Disney even promoting it to radio — if they did, you have to wonder if it could become their first #1 hit since Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle’s version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin in 1993. Another Encanto track, Jessica Darrow’s “Surface Pressure,” is up to a new #10 peak as well. The rest of the top 10: Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” at #3, the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” at #4, Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin” at a new #5 peak, Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” at #6, Gunna, Future, and Young Thug’s “Pushin P” at #7, GAYLE’s “abcdefu” at a new #8 high point, and Elton John and Dua Lipa’s “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)” at #9.

POP FIVE

GAYLE – “ur just horny”

I imagine it’s a lot of pressure to follow up a TikTok viral hit like GAYLE’s “abcdefu,” but the anthemic “ur just horny” gets the job done. I really wish the lyrics “You don’t wanna be friends/ Ur just horny” had existed in my dating app days.

Griff & Sigrid – “Head On Fire”

The room-filling vocal harmonies here absolutely sound inspired by Lorde’s “Green Light.” I could see “Head On Fire” closing out a future Euphoria episode.

Shenseea – “Lick” (Feat. Megan Thee Stallion)

Is this the most absurdly fun ode to cunnilingus since Khia’s “My Neck, My Back”?? Ice-cream cones for everybody!

Lennon Stella – “Hey Beautiful” (from How I Met Your Father)

This sounds a little like if Alvvays merged DNA with the Sundays and Sixpence None The Richer. Definitely the right vibe for a gender-reversed sitcom revival starring Hillary Duff.

Charlie Puth – “Light Switch”

I have a hard time talking about Charlie Puth without referencing how he’s always hungies. But this ultra-groovy pop bop is (almost) enough to make me forget that ever happened.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Twenty One Pilots did “The Outside” on Kimmel. [YouTube]
  • Jamie Lynn Spears discussed her new memoir and her sister Britney on the Call Her Daddy podcast. [Us Weekly]
  • Katy Perry will be SNL‘s musical guest on 1/29 with host Willem Dafoe. [Twitter]
  • Lorde spoke with Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer on the A24 podcast. [Spotify]
  • Cardi B paid for the funeral costs of victims of a tragic Bronx fire that killed 17. [TMZ]
  • Silk Sonic announced a Las Vegas residency. [Variety]
  • Justin Bieber and Drake will perform at private Super Bowl weekend parties for h.wood Group. [Billboard]
  • Here’s a preview of Megan Thee Stallion’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Super Bowl commercial. [YouTube]
  • Tove Lo co-wrote “Punish,” the new song from Pussy Riot. [YouTube]
  • Harry Styles cancelled his Love On Tour tour dates in Australia and New Zealand, but didn’t tweet about it or anything and fans are angry. [NewsHub]
  • Taylor Swift released a Fat Max G remix of “Message In A Bottle” from Red (Taylor’s Version). [YouTube]
  • Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra welcomed a baby via surrogate. [Instagram]
  • Adele FaceTimed fans in Vegas after she postponed her residency. [TMZ]
  • Halsey revealed the original demo for “Nightmare” featured a sample of Tatu’s “All The Things She Said.” [TikTok]
  • Måneskin played SNL. [YouTube]
  • The Weeknd dethroned Justin Bieber as the most-streamed artist on Spotify. [EW]
  • Charlie Puth is hungies for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Doritos in a new Super Bowl ad. [YouTube]

CLOSING TIME

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