It may not officially be stick season anymore — the New England-area expression refers to the late fall, before the winter snow hits — but you certainly wouldn’t know it from looking at the Billboard charts.
On the Billboard 200, alt-folk singer-songwriter Noah Kahan‘s Stick Season album climbs back up to No. 5, having previously hit No. 3 last June. Meanwhile, its title track climbs 18-14 on the Billboard Hot 100, resulting in a new peak for the set’s lead single, which was originally released back in August 2022.
How has Kahan continued to grow his breakout LP this long into its album cycle? And how much further should he keep trying to maximize its impact before he officially changes seasons? Billboard staffers answer these questions and more below.
1. Stick Season returns to the top 5 of the Billboard 200 this week — 15 months after first debuting on the chart and six months after peaking at No. 3 with the release of its We’ll All Be Here Forever deluxe edition. What would you point to as the primary reason that the album is still doing so well this late in its run?
Eric Renner Brown: The steady drip of remixes has kept Stick Season in the cultural consciousness, while exposing Kahan to new fanbases. Kahan’s prominence in the discourse only continues to grow, by way of his high billings on festival lineups and his December turn as Saturday Night Live‘s musical guest, putting him on the radar of still more consumers. And fall just ended – prime time for our autumnal alt-folk king.
Hannah Dailey: I can’t remember the last time another artist approached collaborations with as much consistency and volume as Noah Kahan has, but every month since September he’s been giving new life to songs from the album by inviting other musicians to duet on them – Lizzy McAlpine, Kacey Musgraves, Gracie Abrams, Hozier, and next up, Sam Fender’s remix of “Homesick,” set for Friday (Jan. 19). This draws new listeners from other fanbases into the album while keeping his own fans excited about the material.
Kyle Denis: I’d have to say it’s Noah’s commitment to working the album. A lot of his contemporaries tend to abandon albums and eras after 1-2 singles, and some of them pump out multiple LPs within a calendar year. While he’s kept a steady stream of new releases, they’ve almost all been additions to the Stick Season universe. His strategy of updating the album’s songs by way of duets with different artists is doubly effective: His core fans have another incentive to revisit the album, and listeners who may only be familiar with the featured artist have a reason to check out Stick Season.
Lyndsey Havens: I can’t quite recall the last time an artist has done so well at staying spotlight-adjacent. It’s a fine line to walk between staying top-of-mind and over-saturation to the point of turning fans away, and Kahan has done it perfectly. Since the release of the album’s deluxe edition, he has continued to churn out clever collaborations. He’s performed on Saturday Night Live and his name keeps popping up on summer festival bills. All of that would be enough on its own, I think. But then when you also consider the time of year – winter, in many parts of the country – Stick Season was made for this moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a combination of holiday streams and the usual slow start to a new year in terms of major new releases that have helped push this album back up the chart.
Andrew Unterberger: Kahan has done the most valuable thing you can do as a singer-songwriter enjoying a breakout moment in 2024 — built a whole world around his project. Between the reissues, the remixes, the live performances, the social media posting and teasing and the coherent, specific recurring lyrical themes, Kahan has made Stick Season into something more than just an album. How many other alt-folk singer-songwriters have you ever talked about in terms of “album eras”? (Well, outside of You Know Who in 2020.)
2. The set’s title track also climbs inside the top 15 of the Hot 100 this week, reaching a new peak of No. 14 a full year and a half after its July 2022 release. Why do you think the song continues to grow, even after so many other subsequent singles from Stick Season have been released and promoted in the meantime?
Eric Renner Brown: “Stick Season” is Stick Season‘s title track because it’s an encapsulation of the album and Kahan’s Whole Thing: The verses are intimate (and timely, given the COVID reference), the choruses are propulsive and anthemic, and, naturally, it’s about autumn. He knocked the song’s performance on Saturday Night Live out of the park, too. It’s fascinating to me that Kahan’s highest-charting Hot 100 success as lead artist is the one single he didn’t release a remix of with a famous guest.
Hannah Dailey: When a song is both catchy and well-written, there’s no limit to how far it can go. Noah is simply really talented at writing songs that stick in your brain without you getting sick of them, and that skill really shines on “Stick Season.” It also helps that the song is fairly cynical and self-deprecating, two traits that have become hugely trendy in pop lyrics as of late (as pointed out by our very own Kyle Denis).
Kyle Denis: Honestly, it’s probably the hook. Save “Dial Drunk,” there isn’t a hook as immediately arresting as the title track on Stick Season. Moreover, the song benefits from how different its sound is in comparison to the dominant sounds of the mainstream: Afropop, house music influences, Jersey club, etc. Of course, a years-long TikTok-focused marketing campaign also helped matters; Kahan first teased “Stick Season” back in 2020, finally released the track in 2022 and has continued to relentlessly promote the song even in the midst of subsequent releases. He’s been persistent in pushing the song in a way that has fostered a remarkably intimate relationship between his audience, himself and the song’s lyrics.
Lyndsey Havens: I suppose it really is the season of the sticks right now. There are certain albums that have a cozy feel to them, and Stick Season definitely delivers – as does its title track. Yet, its genius is that it sounds just as much at home blasting from an amphitheater stage in the warmer months, too. And right now, we’re in that middle ground of wanting to nest while also looking ahead to warmer festival days.
Andrew Unterberger: “Stick Season” may have gone lightly viral back in 2022, but it never really got a full mainstream moment — not like it’s having now, with Kahan now firmly in the spotlight — and continued to plug away at streaming. So now it probably feels like a brand-new hit to a lot of people, and it’s perfectly situated to capitalize on the ground that “Dial Drunk” and its accompanying Post Malone remix broke in establishing Kahan as a top 40 proposition.
3. While many of the tracks on Stick Season have received new remixes co-starring big-name guests, its title track has not yet been so revised. If Kahan wanted to boost “Stick” to the Hot 100’s top 10, who’s an artist you’d advise him to reach out to as a new co-star?
Eric Renner Brown: Kahan couldn’t have pulled this off earlier in the Stick Season cycle, but now that more people know who he is and he’s staked out some turf of his own: Marcus Mumford. You know you want to, Noah!
Hannah Dailey: Olivia Rodrigo!!! It feels pretty much written in the stars at this point, given how she’s already covered the song and they’ve both publicly said they want to work with each other. Besides her, I’d love to hear Noah’s voice collide with Jeremy Zucker or Bon Iver, or maybe get back in the studio with Chelsea Cutler for a “Crazier Things” sequel. I also think he could make something epic with one or all of the members of Boygenius, of whom he’s said he’s a big fan.
Kyle Denis: I think the obvious choice is Olivia Rodrigo. Her BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge cover of the song garnered millions of likes when it hit TikTok last October; I’d imagine an official duet would pull in some monster streams.
Lyndsey Havens: Oh, it would have to be Olivia. She already knows the song, as evidenced by her cover for BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, and the two artists have made their fandom for the other clear. I’d say it’s only a matter of time.
Andrew Unterberger: Rodrigo is no doubt the home-run choice — but if the busy (and traditionally remix-averse) Rodrigo is unavailable, how about going a little more old-school with Adult Alternative fixture Ray LaMontagne, arguably New Hampshire’s greatest musical export of the pre-Kahan 21st century? His voice would sound pretty mighty growling that chorus.
4. With the Stick Season era now being 18 months old and still gaining momentum, would you advise Kahan to keep going with its promotion and revising as long as the album continues to build its audience? Or would it be in his best interest to quit while he’s ahead in the near future and move onto what’s next?
Eric Renner Brown: The Stick Season era may be 18 months old, but many people have been aware of Kahan for far less time than that. And many people still don’t know who he is at all! Stick Season is a juggernaut and has so many good and successful singles – I think he should continue to ride this wave for as long as he can.
Hannah Dailey: My instinct would be to move onto the next album as soon as possible, while he still has as many eyes on him as he does now. I can’t even imagine how big the hype is going to be for his next project. On the other hand, I think it’s really beautiful how committed he is to seeing Stick Season through with all of his touring, remixes, and social media activity. It shows how much he loves and believes in the album, and how genuinely he appreciates the reception it’s gotten.
Kyle Denis: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I would advise Kahan to continue doing what he’s doing. Nonetheless, if another album track isn’t showing signs of single potential by the time “Stick Season” hits its commercial peak, it might be time to start teasing music from a new project – even if it doesn’t actually materialize for another few years.
Lyndsey Havens: I say keep going. I really do commend him (and his team) for how well they have balanced this predicament – if you can even call it that – and with festival season ahead, he should continue to lean in. But hey, if he were to toss some new music into the set I wouldn’t be mad.
Andrew Unterberger: This is always the question, isn’t it? It’s tempting to tell him to just keep extending Stick Season for as long as the weather allows, but there is something to be said long-term for pulling back before he absolutely has to, and before he gets forever pigeonholed as The Stick Season Guy. I wouldn’t mind him using 2024 as something of a quasi-gap year — closing out his Stick Season touring and writing intermittently, while maybe keeping his name out there by returning the karmic favor on a couple peer remixes and maybe dropping a one-off single or two. Then in 2025, return in full force with the proper Stick follow-up.
5. With Zach Bryan and Noah Kahan experiencing extended breakout mainstream success in back-to-back years, who’s another rootsy singer-songwriter you might expect to have a similar breakout in 2024?
Eric Renner Brown: Tyler Childers has already amassed a huge live following; he’s headlining arenas and amphitheaters this summer, including two nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden. But he hasn’t had Kahan-level crossover chart success yet – his sole Hot 100 entry, “In Your Love,” peaked at No. 43 in August, even if it did also rack up three nominations at the upcoming Grammys. Childers is a bit more traditionally country than Bryan, who draws on rock sounds, and Kahan, who channels Mumford and Lumineers vibes – but he’s prolific and could hit new heights soon with the right single.
Hannah Dailey: It’s a band, but I think Mt. Joy could be poised to follow on Noah’s trail. Briston Maroney, too.
Kyle Denis: Yola!
Lyndsey Havens: I’m rooting for Brenn! this year. I think he is walking a similar path as Zach and Bryan, but with a touch more pop sensibility that could help sustain folk music’s resurgence while also widening the fanbase to an even younger demographic.
Andrew Unterberger: Not the boldest prediction perhaps — you can currently find his “Pretty Little Poison” just 16 spots below “Stick Season” on the Hot 100 — but Warren Zeiders seems on the precipice of something pretty major.
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