(August 19, 2019). We’re going to be all over the map on this one, but then the artist in question deserves all this shine.
When singer Billie Eilish first climbed to No. 2 on the Hot 100 back in early June with “Bad Guy,” her quest to get to the top spot seemed daunting at best, as the song ahead of hers, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, sported a more than two-to-one points lead with very little letup in sight.
That was eleven weeks ago.
Now that old horse rides no more as “Old Town Road” gets toppled by Eilish’s “Bad Guy” from No. 1. In fact, LNX and Cyrus tumble down to No. 3 behind the new No. 2 song, “Señorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, which means if Eilish hadn’t displaced “Old Town Road,” then Mendes and Cabello would have.
In other words, it appears the “Old Town Road” – after four remixes, at least three music videos, and enough promotional gimmicks to rival Geico – is finally done after 19 weeks at the top.
Billie Makes History!
The significance of Eilish’s ascension to the top cannot be overstated in the historical context. First and foremost, she’ll always be known as the artist who finally dethroned the longest-running No. 1 song in history, which at 19 weeks will likely not be matched or topped any time soon (it took 23 years to beat the previous record of 16 weeks!).
Eilish is also the first artist born in the 2000s (and the first born after 9/11) to have a No. 1 Hot 100 hit; she turns 18 this December.
Even less talked about, however, are the two bullets she dodged in nudging her hit up to No. 1 on this week’s Hot 100 chart.
The first had to do with the song at No. 2 that she narrowly beats this week. Just look at this week’s top two tunes and the three metrics Billboard uses in calculating the chart:
|1||“Bad Guy”||39.1 million||93 million||20,000|
|2||“Señorita”||36.2 million||96.1 million||23,000|
Clearly, “Bad Guy” holds a small advantage in streaming while “Señorita” slightly leads in both airplay and digital downloads. It is only by a quirk of Billboard’s mysterious formula that “Bad Guy” actually holds the overall lead, and by the slimmest margin the chart has seen since before any of us even heard of Lil Nas X.
Billie Went Old-School
What’s ironic is the last-minute boost that reportedly gave Eilish the edge this week, especially given her youth. In addition to a “vertical video” being released towards the end of the streaming tracking week, a cassette single – of all things – was made available via the singer’s website.
The last time a song needed a cassette single release to push it to the top of the Hot 100, we were still anticipating the apocalyptic dawning of Y2K.
(For the unenlightened, Eilish is also doing quite well in the vinyl albums department. She is the only contemporary artist – i.e., one who started recording within the past 30 years – to have an album ranked in the top ten vinyl album sales list year-to-date as of June 30…and she has two!)
Then there’s the notion that this week’s chart was likely the last chance Eilish actually had at the top, as next week she would have competed with the first-week numbers on Taylor Swift’s third new single from her upcoming album Lover, specifically, the title track.
“Lover” is a surefire No. 1 on next week’s chart, particularly with Swift no longer having to face “Old Town Road” in its prime. Her first two Lover singles, “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” both debuted and peaked at No. 2 earlier this year, unable to get past the LNX/Billy Ray Cyrus juggernaut.
Noteworthy also, with Eilish’s climb, is the unique club she gets out of this week – and the dubious part of history she avoids in the process.
No Longer a Member of the No. 2 Club
Before the new chart was released Monday, Eilish was one week from tying an all-time record for most weeks at No. 2 among songs that peaked there. Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” spent ten weeks at No. 2 in 1981-82, a record that was tied by rapper Missy Elliott‘s “Work It” In 2002-03. (By the way, Missy is being honored with MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at next week’s VMAs…this blogger will be on it!)
As it stood before Monday, “Bad Guy” was tied with the 1996 ditty “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis with nine weeks at No. 2.
All four songs (“Waiting For A Girl,” “I Love You Always Forever,” “Work It,” and “Bad Guy”) had the misfortune of bad timing as all were stuck behind iconic No. 1 singles.
In Foreigner’s case it was Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” For Donna Lewis it was the Bayside Boys remix of “Macarena” by Los Del Rio, and in the case of Missy’s “Work It,” she had Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” to contend with during her entire ten-week runner-up status.
Except, while the first three songs were unable to overcome their Goliaths, “Bad Guy” finally did just that this week, and escapes the dreaded Number Two club in the process.
And while “Bad Guy” will now and forever be known as a No. 1 song, there are still some No. 2 distinctions it holds that are worth mentioning.
First, Eilish’s dark, quirky pop tune now holds the record for longest time spent at No. 2 before climbing to No. 1, eclipsing songs by The Weeknd (“Starboy”) and OutKast (“The Way You Move”), which each spent eight weeks baking in the runner-up spot before finally getting their No. 1 cream at the top of the chart.
Secondly, “Bad Guy” is now second amongst all No. 1 songs for most time spent at No. 2 (either before or after reaching the top). In 1995, Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop, Shoop)” debuted at No. 1 for one week before falling to No. 2 for an amazing eleven weeks straight (the all-time record and all eleven spent behind yet another iconic No. 1 hit, “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men).
If your head isn’t spinning yet from all of this useless trivia, then wait, there’s more…
The Billie/Billy No. 1 Club
Eilish joins the long list of Billie’s or Billy’s – either by artist’s name or song title – to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Notable other No. 1 Billy’s in artists names include Billy Joel, Billy Preston, Billy Vera, Billy Paul, Billy Ocean, Billy Idol, Billy Davis, Jr., Billy Swan and the man she replaced at No. 1 this week, Billy Ray Cyrus.
(Billie’s or Billy’s that have appeared in song titles include “Billie Jean,” “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” and “Ode to Billy Joe.”)
Then of course there was “Philadelphia Freedom,” the 1975 Elton John No. 1 hit that was inspired by tennis legend Billie Jean King, even if her name wasn’t in either the song’s lyrics or its title.
That’s probably too much of a stretch for this story.
Regardless, Billie Eilish (and her brother Finneas O’Connell who co-wrote and produced “Bad Guy”) deserve all the love they’re getting this week.
Congrats to them both on their first No. 1 hit!
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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