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MUSINGS ON MUSIC: FIVE POINTS TO PONDER


We’ve now completed a third of 2023, so I felt it apropos to look back at what we’ve learned and look forward to where we’re going. Out of consideration for your busy schedule, I’ve organized these thoughts into easily digestible nuggets. Not that I digest anything easily anymore.

1. Grammy Face-Off

The first third of the year has set up a possible confrontation of superpowers between the unstoppable “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus and SZA’s monster “Kill Bill” when Grammy nominations drop in the fall. If there’s such a thing as a lock for a nomination, these two infectious smashes should be at the top of the list for ROTY and SOTY. Then again, we (and most every other human on the planet outside the Grammy Secret Committees) felt the same about The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.” Only time will tell. Given its astounding run, I’d also expect to see Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” get some serious attention. But what do I know?

2. Eastern Promises

Speaking of Miley, whatever is going on in Southeast Asia with finding and energizing pop songs is happening once again with her 2020 track “Angels Like Us” (which she co-penned with Ryan Tedder). Though we can’t quite prove it (yet), it would seem DSP tastemakers in certain Asian markets are putting their own stamp on pop records and adding the regional nitro. We can’t say for sure that “Angels” is going to break in the U.S. like The Walters did with “I Love You So” (which also got an early boost in these territories), but the world of streaming is full of surprises. Will Florence + The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” from the new Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 be the next one? Stay tuned.

3. “Fast” & Furious

Streaming has also brought us unanticipated breakout hits this quarter from Luke Combs and David Kushner. Combs has stunned the marketplace with his irresistible take on the Tracy Chapman classic “Fast Car.” A Top 10 streaming winner in the U.S., it’s on its way to being his first Pop radio hit to date. Most radio chains have already signed off on this one at Top 40 and Hot AC as it starts its climb up the charts at both formats this week under the guidance of Peter Gray’s Columbia promo squad. At Country radio, the Sony Nashville team has been working a traditional format track, “Love You Anyway,” which is heading into the Top 20. However, Country stations have begun to spin “Fast Car” organically as well. Our guess is that it will cross back to the format much the way Maren Morris’ “The Bones” did after its Pop success. Luke should end up the big winner here, with multiple hits spinning on the radio.

Kushner’s “Daylight,” meanwhile, is a worldwide Top 10 streamer, having already soared past 100m streams at Spotify. It’s an intelligent and challenging ballad that’s earned comparisons to Hozier’s brilliant “Take Me to Church”—and it’s being similarly resisted in its early days. My bet is that Jacqueline Saturn’s team at Virgin will break down the walls over the coming weeks and months (as necessary) and give it the mass-appeal exposure it needs to achieve multibillion streaming status. It’s just too good—and too big—to ignore.

4. Peso Punches Above His Weight

Música Mexicana has become all the rage on DSPs, and the burgeoning format (which mixes and modernizes traditional song forms) now has its first major breakout star in Peso Pluma. The 23-year-old singer, rapper and songwriter from Zapopan, Mexico (on Prajin Parlay via The Orchard) is getting bigger and bigger. He’s on three cuts in the Spotify U.S. Top 10.

Though his moniker translates as “featherweight,” he’s clearly anything but. Read the numbers and check him out if you haven’t yet. The story is mind-boggling.

5. “Back” With a Vengeance

Bakar’s bouncy “Hell N Back” is surging again due to a sync in the trailer for the new Pixar film, Elemental. It’s a perfect pop confection. Kudos to the gatekeeper who remembered it from 2019 and sent it back to be all it can be. Rick Sackheim and Team Epic will have fun maximizing its potential.

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