(November 10, 2021). Just two weeks ago, Bryson Gray’s “Let’s Go Brandon”—one of several new anti-Biden songs bearing that title—was the darling of right-wing conservative media and Donald Trump fans everywhere. The right trumpeted the song’s rise to the top of the Apple iTunes charts where it displaced Adele’s runaway No. 1 hit, “Easy On Me” for about a week and a half, and the left didn’t like it so much.
I’m sure you recall the stories. It was only two weeks ago when Fox News and other conservative outlets were calling it the “Number One song in the country” by virtue of its brief iTunes win. (Note to readers: being No. 1 in iTunes in 2021 is like having the best-selling cassette single in 2001, those once-important indicators simply don’t mean anything years past their relevance.)
You see, while Biden’s detractors were rushing to add “Brandon” to their iTunes libraries, Adele’s song continued to win the streaming and radio airplay battle (along with having respectable download numbers), and thus maintained its No. 1 grip on the more telling, all encompassing Billboard Hot 100 chart, which factors all of those components—streaming, radio play and, yes, even those pesky downloads—into its rankings.
In fact, despite the opportunistic song’s iTunes victory, twenty-seven other tunes outranked “Let’s Go Brandon” on the Nov. 6-dated Hot 100, which tracked the period that included the political rap’s No. 1 iTunes rank. So, “Brandon’s” top-download status translated to a modest No. 28 on the big chart…respectable, but certainly not “Number one song in the country” material.
Now, only a week later, “Let’s Go Brandon,” the Bryson Gray version, sits at No. 99 in the country, having tumbled 71 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 from where it was just seven days ago. Also, a companion but completely different “Let’s Go Brandon” by another rapper (Loza Alexander) tumbles from its peak of No. 38 last week to 96 this week.
In the music biz, there’s a common saying that the second (or third) week of a song’s existence usually tells the story. In this case, it’s the age-old story that pop music and politics don’t always mix well, or more specifically, hip-hop music and conservative politics make strange bedfellows.
As a meme, “Let’s Go Brandon” was pretty clever. Okay, maybe it’s kinda dumb and a little offensive, but it’s about as clean a way that you can say “f**k the president” without actually saying it, and everyone who’s paying attention will know what it means.
Ideally, even young kids can get away with saying it around their parents or teachers without the fear of being placed in “time-out” or worse, having their mouths washed out with a bar of soap. (Note to working adults: If you’re in a largely apolitical job that involves serving the general public, you should probably refrain from shouting this phrase while in the course of doing said job—like piloting a commercial jet full of paying customers, for example. Just sayin’.)
So convenient was the meme—Joe Biden is clearly not a popular president at this juncture and his approval ratings are at all-time lows—that as many as five different “Let’s Go Brandon” songs dotted the iTunes chart on November 1, including four by rappers and one by a country singer (up-and-comer Cameron Byfield).
These “Let’s Go Brandon” songs, all extensions of the sentiment that was heightened when a sports personality inaccurately stated that a crowd at a NASCAR race event was shouting those three words instead of what they were actually saying (“f**k Joe Biden”), were appealing to conservatives not only because of their messages, but also who was doing the rapping.
The rappers who’ve charted in iTunes with it are Black males, an unlikely demographic that has increasingly embodied anti-Biden/pro-Trump sentiments in recent months. Some big-name rappers in general have courted or been courted by conservatives in the past year or so, as several (see Nicki Minaj) have been vocal against Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine stance and other policies.
In full disclosure, the song was banned from YouTube for perpetuating misinformation about COVID-19, which certainly didn’t help its chances in Billboard, but you’d think that would only extend its life at the top of iTunes, right? Not so.
The four different rap versions of “Brandon” were all ranked No. 48 or higher in iTunes just nine days ago. Now only two remain on the 200-position list and the highest of those—by Loza Alexander—is at No. 102. Bryson Gray’s conservative headline-grabbing version sits at No. 113 on iTunes as I type this.
“Let’s Go Brandon,” despite its titular songs all suffering precipitous drops on the charts just weeks after their releases, will likely remain a pop culture fixture for weeks and months to come—maybe for even as long as Biden remains in office.
People in general who loathe the sitting president and his politics have co-opted “Let’s Go Brandon” into their latest catch phrase as code for the more vulgar f-bomb statement. It’s the very definition of the term “euphemism” and it’s one that will likely stick for a while.
For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I began penning this article, I’ve seen “Let’s Go Brandon” signs mounted on the tops of pick-up trucks, on car bumper stickers, and on t-shirts and baseball caps everywhere. With an important gubernatorial election just in the rear-view mirror—one that was largely seen as a referendum on Biden’s politics (if not also Donald Trump’s), the “Let’s Go Brandon” sentiment was running high here in the Old Dominion as Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin pulled out a victory.
But as songs go, “Let’s Go Brandon”—take your pick of version—is about as much of a time stamp as any fad-chasing, politically motivated tune could be. Months from now, or maybe even sooner, you’d likely have to Google the title just to see which rappers recorded the songs (even if you were among those people—many of whom are admittedly not rap fans to begin with—who purchased one of them).
Many won’t remember these songs as anything more than mere footnotes in the overall context of divisive 2021 politics when all is said and done. You either loved it from the right or hated it from the left.
Oh, and the Adele song “Let’s Go Brandon” ceremoniously beat just a fortnight ago? Well, “Easy On Me” is right back at No. 1 in iTunes, matching the position it’s held on the more important Billboard Hot 100 for the past three weeks (and counting).
By the next chart—given their Hot 100 plummets this week from 28-99 and from 38-96, respectively—the two remaining “Let’s Go Brandon” songs by Bryson Gray and Loza Alexander will be lucky if they’re still even listed.
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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