(February 24, 2024).  Two weeks shy of 45 years ago, the late Bobby Caldwell’s quiet storm classic “What You Won’t Do For Love” climbed to No. 9, where it peaked, on the Billboard Hot 100.  (Kids, Google “quiet storm.”)

That was after climbing as high as No. 6 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart (then called Hot Soul Singles) earlier that winter, and No. 10 on the Adult Contemporary list (known as Easy Listening Songs at the time).

Today, 45 years after it first charted and nearly a year after Caldwell’s passing, “What You Won’t Do” finally gets a No. 1 Billboard ranking.  It debuts at No. 1 on a chart that Caldwell never lived to see in its existence: the TikTok Billboard Top 50.

That’s right, the TikTok Billboard Top 50!

Bobby Caldwell (1951-2023)

And, if Caldwell were alive today, he’d have a bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries and other assorted, yet totally unrelated, quirky items to thank for it.

That’s because, beginning around Valentine’s Day, millions of people have uploaded to TikTok (and watched) 12-second videos of themselves and others highlighting food cravings (like those strawberries or crepes with Nutella spread), favorite pets (including a cat with an apple on its head while holding a banana), love interests, etc., or basically the things they would do anything for, while the 1979 top-10 hit’s familiar opening horn rift plays in the background.

View “What You Won’t Do” TikTok content here: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZT8ofNVCy/

And we’re not talking small potatoes, err…strawberries here. Literally hundreds of millions of videos, likes, and comments have been generated based solely on the “What You Won’t Do” content… in just the past two weeks!

There are also now sped-up versions of the song populating TikTok content as well, because, well, there just is.  

Billboard inaugurated the new TikTok Top 50 chart in September 2023 to reflect the growing influence that TikTok has had on the music industry, with hundreds of millions of user-generated videos populating the social media platform since it blew up just before and during the pandemic.

In topping the TikTok Billboard Top 50, Caldwell, who was 71 when he died in March 2023, joins household names like Sexxy Red, Famous Sally & YB, Playboi Carti, Mitski, Lil Mabu & chriseanrock, Flo Milli, and Cat Janice as artists with No. 1 TikTok/Billboard hits.

Not familiar with those?  Well, maybe the over-a-certain-age crowd will appreciate this: Mariah Carey (“All I Want for Christmas Is You”) and the late Lesley Gore (“Misty”) have also topped the TikTok Top 50 in the past three months, demonstrating that you don’t have to be of the TikTok generation to be in it.

Billboard ranks the 50 most popular songs on TikTok by a combination of total user-video creations, views, and user engagement (e.g., likes and comments) tied to an official audio recording. The data used to create the TikTok Top 50 does not feed Billboard’s other main charts, like the Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Country Songs, etc. 

But that doesn’t mean that TikTok doesn’t influence those charts.  Several hits over the past six years have been made because of their exposure on TikTok.  The Hot 100’s longest-running No. 1 single ever — “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X — owes its initial popularity to the millions of user-generated videos of people doing their version of the song’s popular dance.

Even older, established hits have thrived as a result of TikTok exposure.  Famously, Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 No. 1 song “Dreams” returned to the Hot 100 in 2021 thanks to a popular user-generated video.  And, just this week, two spots below Caldwell, is Usher’s 2004 smash “Yeah!,” which leapt to No. 3 on the TikTok Top 50 because of its Super Bowl halftime show exposure and related content that people have generated since.  It also re-entered the latest Hot 100 at No. 20.

As studies have shown, most TikTok users (an estimated 67%, according to MRC Data) are likely to search a song on streaming services after hearing it on TikTok; and streaming, of course, does feed the other Billboard charts. 

Will the latest interest in Caldwell’s classic turn it into a Hot 100 hit all over again?

Well, the prospect of that happening is not guaranteed. The first No. 1 on the TikTok Top 50, Sexxy Red’s “SkeeYee,” only managed to reach No. 62 on the Hot 100 last year.  And Sexxy, with 21.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, is far more relevant to the social media generation than Caldwell (3.9 million listeners). “What You Won’t Do” would have to accumulate enough points to rank No. 50 or higher (a requirement for old songs to re-enter the Hot 100).

Of the remaining ten tunes that have topped the TikTok Top 50 since its inception less than six months ago, only “All I Want” by Mariah Carey has been a concurrent, bonafide hit on the Hot 100.

Plus, Caldwell’s old-school hit would have to strike while the irons are hot. The average lifespan for a song on the TikTok Top 50 is far less than that on the other Billboard charts.

Of this week’s top 50 TikTok songs, only six have been on the list for ten or more weeks (none more than 22 weeks), while a full 37 have been on the chart for less than a month (including this week’s 15 debuts), reflecting the fickle nature of TikTok and the short-attention span associated with viral videos.

And why do those videos go viral?

Well one content creator offered her view on the chocolate-covered strawberries phenomenon, attributing their popularity — and I’m paraphrasing here — to Valentine’s Day, a sense of community, a desire to want to be part of something bigger than one’s self, and the whole countercultural aspect of it all.

She also mentioned the song itself, which she noted as being “pretty popular.”

Whatever the reason, Bobby Caldwell — may he continue resting in peace — now has a No. 1 hit with a song we’ve known and loved for ages, on a chart that none of us could have fathomed 45 years ago.

Now wait until these kids today get a load of this red, heart-shaped plastic/vinyl 45 of “What You Won’t Do For Love.”

Or maybe they already have. 


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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One thought on “Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do” Finally Tops a Billboard Chart — thanks to a bowl of strawberries and other quirky things”
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