Columbia Becomes First Label In History With 20-Week Run To No. 1 On Top 40 Radio
Without a little help from Adele, Columbia Records made staying at the top of the charts seem “easy” — not only with its indomitable success, but also with big hits from Kid Laroi and Lil Nas X. these three artists, Columbia has held the No. 1 spot on Mediabase’s Radio Top 40 for 20 consecutive weeks…a longer run than any label has ever enjoyed before in Mediabase’s history.
The three songs that contributed to this unprecedented five-month streak: Adele’s “Easy on Me,” Kid Laroi’s “Stay” (featuring a featured appearance by Justin Bieber), and Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” (featuring a guest photographed by Jack Harlow). Just to put into perspective, the last time any of these three Columbia songs weren’t on top was just before Labor Day 2021.
In the case of “Stay” – speaking of perseverance – Kid Laroi’s song set its own record, staying atop the Mediabase Top 40 chart for 12 weeks, longer than any single before it.
“Easy on Me,” meanwhile, has been No. 1 in the Top 40 for the past seven consecutive weeks – a personal best for a superstar as big as music right now.
“Industry Baby” spent just one week at the top, but no one had reason to feel sorry that Lil Nas X didn’t have a longer run, given that it was between those two other blockbusters. .and given the entirely satisfying news that this represented Nas’ second consecutive single to reach No. 1 in the Top 40.
Peter Gray, Executive Vice President/Head of Promotion at Columbia, joined the team at the end of 2019, having left his position as Executive Vice President/General Manager at Warner Records. Needless to say, he gave Sony no reason for buyer’s remorse, reaching this historic milestone just over two years after his tenure there. Gray is hesitant to bang his chest too much — “We have a lot of other titles we’re chasing this year,” he says, and he doesn’t want to jinx 2022 — but setting an all-time record is not. not t nothing to keep secret either.
“Radio stations don’t necessarily want more songs,” says Gray. “They want more confidence in the songs they play. There are only a limited number of spots on a playlist. So if something works out that way” – speaking specifically of Kid Laroi’s three months at No. do not go. ‘
“Our fundamental responsibility is to bring out new artists and elevate the careers of superstars. And in this race to No. 1, we’ve done all of those things. You’ve got Leroi exploding onto the scene to become a household name. Adele is Adele, and now she’s had the longest-serving No. 1 of her career. And somewhere between veteran and rookie, “you’ve got Nas X going from the early stages of a pop artist to a fully realized superstar. , in this case, with back-to-back No. 1s on pop radio. You know, it’s like love at first sight plus a lottery ticket.
When you’re representing a single label that has multiple artists on their way to becoming or staying at No. 1, there’s a science to working with radio and timing promotion to make sure no one misses a claim on the first place, assuming the public is first involved in the fact that these planes stacked above LaGuardia, so to speak, all arrive to land in the right place.
“We orchestrated the move to the top of the board,” Gray says. “‘Stay’ had been around for so long, it was important to us that Nas had his moment, too – knowing full well that Adele was heading to the top of the rankings without anyone’s help. So we had to work to manage the top of the leaderboard to make sure Nas got that shot, which he richly deserved, so we gave ourselves three different No. 1s – and in fact, “Stay” returned to No. 1 for the second time. So there was a really fun, unprecedented juggling act at the top of the leaderboard to make sure all three got their turn. That’s a lot of people, a lot of cities, a lot of time zones, and a lot of math. And our team is great at handling all of these things.”
America doesn’t draw public attention to the idea of a “Christmas single” the way the UK does, giving some prominence to a non-celebratory song that captured the national mood around the end of December. But if the United States thought in those terms, it might seem ironic that the American Christmas spirit was exemplified by… Adele being sad.
“Yeah, exactly,” Gray laughs. “If there’s a sequel to ‘Love, Actually’, there should be a Christmas scene with Adele singing ‘Easy on Me’.”
Seriously, though, it was fun watching the Mediabase or Billboard charts throughout the holiday season and seeing the top ranks populated almost entirely by Christmas alumni — plus, “Easy on Me” and “Stay,” songs that proved not only able to survive the apocalypse but to survive Burl Ives.
“We know what happens to listening behavior during these critical holiday weeks: everyone gets thrown over the top, and you know, it’s Mariah (Carey) and Bing Crosby. So to keep these things still hanging around in the hoop in this way and be as strong, it is incredibly powerful.
Adele’s song survival instinct really can’t be understated: it’s essentially a piano ballad with almost no rhythm tracks to speak of, in a format that’s all about the beat. Nowadays. Gray says he had no question marks in his mind as to whether the Top 40 would play an unqualified ballad outside the gate, but it was up to the audience whether “Easy on Me” kept the public’s imagination once the door is opened. well back in the rear view mirror.
“The world was waiting and there was great excitement (for the start of the song), period. But yeah, to keep it enduring, especially given how young the music is – and by that I mean how fast, young, fresh material is squeezing its way to the top of the charts – for that Adele has that level of being able to stay is obviously very, very meaningful, to have a world-class superstar… I don’t mean to recover, but to maintain that stature. It’s competitive there.
In this case, Sad Adele has held onto the top spot for seven weeks so far, even though Bop Adele is waiting backstage, getting plenty of airplay on her own. “Once the album (’30’) was released, based on the success of ‘Easy on Me’, we knew that radio would be very keen to play a number of songs from the album, so it was essential that we We were finding a way to number two relatively quickly. It’s ‘Oh My God’, which is also doing well on radio in multiple formats, while ‘Easy on Me’ is parked at the top of the charts. It’s really just a storyline awesome where you have a successful, moving, multi-format following, while your original single is literally locked in the top spot for months.Those are rare scenarios where it works this well.
The odds would suggest that the Columbia streak would end shortly, but then they would have suggested a month too. If there’s destined to be a gap between “Easy on Me” being #1 and, say, “Oh My God” possibly having its own moment OMG that’s OK – Gray has faith in all singles upcoming follow-up from her, Laroi, and Nas X. The latter artist now has the popliest song on his album, “C’est ce ce ce que je really want”, which is climbing into the top 10, and which could be the Columbia’s next number 1.
When it comes to choosing singles from these albums and their overriding order, Gray states, “Our promotion department is very good at delivering them, and our A&R department is even better at choosing them.”
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