The latest music trend: Artists’ new songs are struggling to overcome their old ones (they just won’t leave)

(April 3, 2022).  Earlier this year, pop superstar The Weeknd released a new album Dawn FM (featuring his old-man persona on the album cover).  It was to mark the end of his historic After Hours era and the dawn of a new one.

The album had a respectable Billboard 200 debut (No. 2 in January) with 14 of its tracks not surprisingly denting the Hot 100 songs chart.

The Weeknd’s old-man makeover for ‘Dawn FM’ hasn’t prevented his old songs from lingering

The problem: all of those newer songs are now gone and a hit from his older album won’t leave.  “Save Your Tears,” the second-biggest single of 2021 and a track from After Hours, has ranked in or near the top 20 ever since January of last year.  With it now holding at No. 17 in its 64th overall week on the chart, “Tears” shows no signs of drying up anytime soon.

This is after the Canadian superstar all but declared the After Hours era over upon the release of Dawn FM’s first single “Take My Breath” last summer.  That song reached No. 6 in August and hasn’t been on the chart since February.  Similarly, while 14 songs from Dawn FM entered the Hot 100 upon the album’s release, only one of those new songs outranked “Save Your Tears” that week.  And now none of the songs from Dawn FM remain on the list.

Equally telling is the action on the album chart, where The Weeknd’s year-old hits collection, The Highlights, which includes “Save Your Tears,” has outranked Dawn FM for nearly all of their concurrent time on the list.

But The Weeknd doesn’t have this dubious distinction all to himself.  Several of today’s most popular artists are struggling to get past their older hits with newer ones.

Fellow Canadian pop icon Justin Bieber just established a record with his former No. 1 hit “Stay” (a duet with rapper The Kid LAROI).  The song currently sits at No. 2 on the Hot 100, after reaching No. 1 way back in August 2021.  Its thirteen weeks in the No. 2 slot (a record by the way) combined with the seven weeks it spent at No. 1 last year, means that it now holds the all-time record for most weeks spent in the top two positions.  It also holds the record for the top three with 22 total weeks in that echelon.

Justin Bieber (with Kid LaROI) has “stayed” in the top 2 of the Hot 100 longer than any other song in history

Bieber has released several singles since “Stay” (which debuted last July), but none of them have been able to surpass that juggernaut.  A track with Skrillex and Don Tolliver called “Don’t Go” did just the opposite and left the chart after peaking at No. 69.  A song with the late rapper Juice WRLD (“Wandered to LA”) only got as high as No. 49 before wandering off the list in January. 

The highest charting of the “Stay” followups is the song “Ghost,” which has made a good showing at No. 5 on the current chart, but it still has yet to overcome the undying popularity of “Stay,” which has certainly lived up to its name and could conceivably return to No. 1 more than six months after it relinquished that perch last fall.

British chanteuse Adele is having a similar problem with the songs from her latest album 30.  

The debut single “Easy On Me” shot to No. 1 in November and spent ten non-consecutive weeks there, tying her previous best performance (“Hello” in 2015/16).  As of this writing (April 3), “Easy On Me” was still in the top 10 on the most recent Hot 100 (in its 24th week on the list).

“Oh My God”: Adele competing with herself? Her followups to “Easy On Me” haven’t gained chart traction

Meanwhile, none of the other songs from 30 are anywhere to be found.  Even second official single, “Oh My God,” which got a chart boost after a video was released back in January, couldn’t be sustained on the list.   After rebounding to No. 18 following the video’s release (and after having debuted at No. 5 two months earlier when the album impacted), the song made a quick and steady descent down and off the chart, exiting last month.

The heavily buzzed track “I Drink Wine,” which had been originally slated as the second single from 30, has yet to receive promotion as an official single release, but one has to wonder if Columbia Records will even bother given the tepid chart action on the song (it debuted at No. 18 upon the album’s release in November and left the vineyard three weeks later). 

Other superstar acts are experiencing this phenomenon but to a lesser degree and with less drastic impacts for the newer hits.  

Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa are all riding the top 20 with their latest hits, while having to compete for chart space with their previous longer-running hit singles.

(Clockwise from top left): Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, and Ed Sheeran

Lil Nas X’s “That’s What I Want” only this week achieved a new peak (No. 8) while previous hit “Industry Baby” (with Jack Harlow) is hovering at No. 21 (35th week on the chart).  “Industry Baby” reached No. 1 way back in October.  

Doja Cat’s “Woman” similarly reached a new peak and is still climbing (at No. 9) while her previous smash “Need To Know” is hanging around at No. 15 (41st chart week).

Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” achieved top-five status (No. 4 in January) and has been around for a not-too-shabby 28 weeks, but recently was overtaken by its predecessor, the former No. 2 smash “Bad Habits.”  The older single sits at No. 12 on the current chart—one position above its followup hit—after having been in the runner-up slot as far back as August 2021.

And Dua Lipa’s “Cold Heart” with Elton John has had a highly successful top-10 run (giving Elton his first such hit in nearly a quarter century).  But lurking right behind it is the ever popular “Levitating,” the song Lipa took to No. 2 last May and which is still levitating in the top 20 (it rebounded from No. 19 to 16 on the last Hot 100 chart, just two slots behind the descending “Cold Heart”).  “Levitating” was the No. 1 song of 2021 (despite peaking at No. 2 on the weekly list) mainly because of its longevity.  It’s certain to achieve a high ranking on the 2022 year-end list as well.  

Other recent Dua Lipa singles (newer than “Levitating”), including “We’re Good,” “Love Again,” and her collabo with Megan Thee Stallion, “Sweetest Pie,” haven’t faired nearly as well (peaking at 31, 41 and 15, respectively, on the weekly charts).  

Of those, “Sweetest Pie,” released only a few weeks ago, could actually rebound given its freshness (it fell from No. 15 to 25 this past week).  But the fact that it’s contending with “Levitating,” a song that was first introduced two years ago on Lipa’s Future Nostalgia album, will be the real challenge.

Speaking of two years ago, one need look no further than at the top of this week’s chart to find the epitome of an older song that just won’t leave.  The British group Glass Animals is in its fourth week at the top with “Heat Waves,” a song from their 2020 album Dreamland.  “Waves” is now in its 62nd week on the Hot 100 singles chart.

Glass Animals recently set a record by moving to No. 1 in its 59th week on the Hot 100

Of course, “Heat Waves” is a bit unique in that it only recently reached its peak after a long, unsteady climb up the chart.  But that can’t be good news for any of the three or four followup singles from Dreamland that have already been released and fizzled in the U.S. and other territories.

Crying all the way to the bank?

It’s kind of a good problem to have when an artist’s older hits are so ubiquitous and timeless that they never leave the public’s consciousness.  Some of the songs mentioned in this article are likely to be around well into the summer and autumn and could easily break The Weeknd’s Hot 100 longevity record (90 weeks) set by “Blinding Lights” last September.

While this phenomenon of oldies sticking around forever makes for good blog fodder and contributes to chart longevity records being broken left and right, it must be a marketing nightmare for artists and labels who would equally like to see newer material succeed.

Of course, this was never a problem in the old days (the 1980s and before), where radio stations and record stores simply stopped reporting airplay and sales of hit records after record labels stopped promoting them (typically after only three months of release) before moving on to an artist’s next release.  This facilitated the more certain and rapid turnover of an artist’s hits that was characteristic of the charts back then (and prevented songs from routinely seeing 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-week chart runs that are so prevalent now. 

But that opens up a whole different can of worms—the apples and oranges of comparing today’s chart feats to those of yesteryear—which we’ll save for another article.  

DJRob

DJRob

DJRob (he/him/his) 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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