The Weeknd

What’s Old Is New: Why A Weeknd Song From 2016 Is Now A Chart Hit

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TORONTO – If The Weeknd’s new hit “Die For You” sounds all too familiar to you, it’s likely because it first shot up the radio charts five years ago.

The moody, melodic song from the Toronto pop superstar is climbing the upper ranks of the Billboard Hot 100, a chart where new singles reign supreme. This week, it moves up to No. 6 from No. 8.

But it’s hardly a new song, having appeared three studio albums ago on The Weeknd’s 2016 hit record “Starboy.” Around that time, it was released as a radio single and became a Canadian hit long before its most recent comeback.

“Die For You” is part of an increasingly frequent phenomenon in which an older song climbs the music charts after a blizzard of attention on social media makes it impossible to ignore.

It almost always involves TikTok, which doesn’t take a song’s Billboard chart position into account, and that momentum bounces back through other places that do affect the charts, like streaming outlets and radio stations.

The most famous, Kate Bush’s 1985 single “Running Up That Hill,” got a surprise boost last summer when it was featured on Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” prompting online creators to use it for TikTok videos. , music lovers to stream the track, and radio DJs to add to their rotation. The song peaked at number 3 on the Hot 100.

Sia experienced a similar boost last fall after her 2016 song “Unstoppable” was played in a TV commercial and later found its way to more TikToks. Radio stations then placed it in heavier rotation, taking it to number 28 on Billboard’s main chart.

Earlier this month, Lady Gaga’s 2011 song “Bloody Mary” also jumped onto the Hot 100 after a TikTok dance sensation inspired by the Netflix TV series “Wednesday” used the song’s hook. pop.

Old songs becoming new chart sensations is unprecedented, but it’s happening faster and more often than ever, suggested Rudy Blair, a veteran music reporter and industry event host.

“It can happen overnight,” he said. “Someone takes the song, puts it in the right place at the right time, and then it just clicks.”

Before TikTok, Hollywood movies used to be the vehicle that brought classic tracks back onto the charts.

It came after the 1955 Righteous Brothers ballad “Unchained Melody” featured in the pottery-making love scene of 1990’s “Ghost.” Its revival peaked at number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And when Mike Myers and Dana Carvey headbutted Queen’s 1975 single “Bohemian Rhapsody” nearly 20 years later in the comedy “Wayne’s World,” the rock classic took off again in a boom in airplay and record sales. records that took him to a high point of No. 2

The difference now is that social media has made those bursts of cultural relevance more sudden and unpredictable, especially as the influence of traditional record labels fades and listeners’ tastes take over, manager Sarah Fenton suggested. .

She saw it firsthand when Mother Mother, the Vancouver rock band she helps manage, felt the hit from TikTok in late 2020.

Seemingly out of nowhere, their 2008 song “Hayloft” became a favorite on the app, and in the months that followed they were quick to cash in by making a new music video and follow-up song titled “Hayloft II.”

Now another older Mother Mother song called “Verbatim” is gaining attention online, he said, but this time the band is doing everything they can to capitalize on the song’s resurgence as it happens. His team is making lyric videos in multiple languages, inspired by data drawn from the countries where the song has the most listeners.

Even if “Verbatim” doesn’t shoot up the Hot 100 charts like a Weeknd track would, there’s a lot of potential in the attention, said Fenton, part of the Watchdog Management team.

“There’s a whole new global audience that we have access to… whenever we have a new trend on TikTok or other social media,” he said.

“If you’re smart, you just throw some gasoline on the fire and see what happens.”

Promoting older songs can seem counterintuitive because “artists want to focus on what’s new and what’s next,” Fenton added. But if done right, he said the renewed popularity can bridge the silent gap between a musician’s latest album and his next project in a crowded market.

That’s effectively what happened in late 2021 as the Weeknd’s crew marked the fifth anniversary of their defining album “Starboy.”

Fans had already embraced “Die For You” as a lost favorite, so when the singer filmed a late music video, the song was given a jolt of energy that carried throughout his North American concert tour. . He included the song on his show’s set list, which was packed with his biggest singles.

When The Weeknd’s early 2022 album “Dawn FM” proved to lack massive hits, a combination of TikTok speed and radio support sent “Die For You” climbing the charts.

Blair worries that so many old tracks appearing on the charts suggest that the music industry is failing to connect with its audience, which can cause even musicians themselves to react to trends and not necessarily inspire them.

Since music online has never been easier to access, listeners and the industry alike are navigating through a bottomless pit of content to take advantage of anything that resonates, he said.

“Songs that are good enough to be classic always come out on top, and right now there’s a drought of new songs that listeners feel represent their experiences,” he said.

And so everything old is new again. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 17, 2023.

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