With streaming services overtaking sales and radio as the most dominant aspect of the music business, it has put the traditional annual schedule on its head. What once used to be the most important time of the year to release music, November and December, has switched to January as people activate their streaming gift cards and holiday music opens up space on playlists for new songs. Because of this, major labels are throwing their most valuable artists at us this January with multiple songs vying to be the Shape of You or Despacito of 2018.
Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, The Chainsmokers, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar have all released new singles to try and capitalize on the schedule shift. All of these artists are backed by major labels and all are high priorities for their label to promote. But which song is leading the pack and who is going to come out on top in 2018.
Justin Timberlake, who is slated to perform at the Superbowl in early February definitely has a leg up performing on the biggest stage in music. He has been using social media only mildly to augment his music and has appeared on Beats 1 to promote his work, but it seems that his music has not stuck with the public as the song is the 71st most streamed in the country after just 17 days.
Bruno Mars is using social media to his advantage, learning from younger artist and collaborator on the song Cardi B, he was able to capitalize on the strength of his song and aesthetic combined with her ubiquity. The song has been out for 18 days and is sitting at number 5 on the Spotify USA chart holding pretty steady over the past couple weeks.
The Chainsmokers are really looking for a new sound, as they had an incredible 2016 and early 2017 proving they have the know how to scale the charts again and again. However, as the public gets more bored with EDM music and tastes change they need to pivot, their resulting sound is more of a test than a lead single so that might explain its sound blend of Marshmello producing Twenty One Pilots instrumentation. After 4 days the song sits just inside the top 40 and it might be too early to predict it’s success.
Drake has been quiet for a long time doing small features but no new songs by him since More Life last spring. His new song God’s Plan immediately was the most streamed song in the country, but it did not reach the same heights of his One Dance debut week in 2016. Whether Drake has another smash up his sleeve will be seen, but his adoption of Spotify as compared to his business partner Apple Music is telling of where the streaming industry is at right now.
Lastly, Kendrick Lamar and his recruited help SZA both up for many Grammy Nominations this spring is still sitting in the top 10 after 18 days. Kendrick is pretty silent over social media and is not using his platforms to promote the song All the Stars, but with an action-packed winter and spring for both SZA and Kendrick, it is hard to count them out for the next song to capture the ears of America.
It is hard to say which song will prevail, the easy guess is Drake’s God’s Plan but it still is just too early. With streaming music there is also the high possibility that new upstarts could outshine these label priorities as the music these artists all released does not sound that innovative or inspiring. My favorite release? Filthy by Justin Timberlake