Taylor Hits an ‘Old Town Road’ Block…again!

(June 25, 2019). It seems Taylor Swift did everything right in promoting the release of the second single from her upcoming album Lover

Taylor Swift in “You Need To Calm Down.”

“You Need To Calm Down,” her LGBTQ-friendly bop released June 14, came out during the right month with all the right messages about acceptance.  She paired the song’s release with a gay-friendly video featuring enough queens to populate the lead-float in pick-any-city’s Pride Month parade.  She even threw in a much-anticipated capper – a Happy Meal-branded, meme-generating reconciliation with longtime frenemy Katy Perry.

The video generated clickbait controversy about everything from whom she was targeting with her anti-hate messages to whether she was attempting to appropriate the LGBTQ culture, seemingly borrowing from the no-publicity-is-bad-publicity page of Pop Song Marketing 101 that Swift has mastered so many times before (see 2017’s “Look What You Made Me Do” for the most recent example).

She did everything, that is, except apparently heed the caution signs of a road she’s traveled once before…an “Old Town Road” that no one – including Taylor herself – has been able to pass for three months now.

On the new Billboard Hot 100 chart released Tuesday (June 25), Swift’s “Calm Down” debuts at No. 2, behind the juggernaut known as “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.  That genre-bending, country-tinged rap tune dominates for the 12th consecutive week, making it the longest-running No. 1 since “Despacito” (which led for a record-tying 16 weeks in 2017).

Taylor’s “Calm” thus becomes the sixth(!) casualty to be “Road”-blocked by Lil Nas X.  It follows “Wow” by Post Malone, “If I Can’t Have You” by Shawn Mendes, “I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, and Swift’s own “ME!” featuring Urie.

Swift might therefore be the first artist to have two songs blocked at No. 2 by the same No. 1 record in the history of the charts.

That unique place in the record books may be the only halfway good thing for Swift as the news doesn’t appear to get better from there. 

These days it’s rare for a song to debut in the runner-up position and maintain enough momentum to overcome its blocker the following week, especially an event-record like “Calm” whose first-week numbers are typically more hype than substance.  Chart watchers are expecting the usual drop in streams for the song’s second week, and the streaming numbers for “Calm” were already less than half that of “Road,” with “Road” having nearly four times as many airplay points.  It holds a 1.8-1 ratio in total chart points over “Calm.”

In fact, “Old Town Road” could gain additional streams and downloads from exposure on Sunday’s BET Awards (which is airing multiple times this week), where – alongside Lil Nas X – Billy Ray Cyrus became the first white country singer ever to perform in the show’s history.  That prospect almost guarantees a 13th week at No. 1 for this year’s surprise biggest hit – an unlucky 13 for any and all challengers thus far.

If “Calm” fails to ascend to the top, it will be the record-breaking sixth No. 2 song to be completely blocked by the same No. 1, with Swift owning two of them.  Before “Road,” two record-holders we’re tied at blocking five each: Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” in 1991; and Percy Faith’s “Theme From A Summer Place” in 1960.  (Adams did it most efficiently as he blocked five different No. 2s in just seven weeks.)

So what does all of this mean?

Well, with no end in sight for this hazardous “Road,” Taylor might want to wait a month or two before putting out Lover’s third single.  By then, the hype machine will be ramped up again for Lover’s anticipated release and the “Old Town Road” much traveled will have run its course.

At least, that’s what all signs and conventional wisdom indicate.

DJRob

Taylor Swift’ Lover is due in August

DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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