Music

Teddy Swims’ ‘Lose Control’ or Benson Boone’s ‘Beautiful Things’: Which Big-Voiced Breakout Hit Will Be Bigger in 2024?

Nearly a month into the new year, we’re finally getting a sense about what the popular music of 2024 is going to look like. And based on some of the new and rising entries this week, a common theme is emerging: white male singer-songwriters with enormous voices.

Teddy Swims’ soul-rock lament “Lose Control,” a 2023 hit that has continued to grow into 2024, reaches the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time this week, rising 8-4. Meanwhile, Benson Boone scores a No. 15 Hot 100 debut for his viral power ballad “Beautiful Things.” (Much lower on the chart, the deep-voiced David Kushner hits the Hot 100 for the second time with his No. 70-debuting “Skin and Bones.”)

Which song will be the bigger 2024 hit? And what does it all mean for the year in pop? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. Teddy Swims’ “Lose Control” has been the little song that could on the Hot 100 the past half-year, climbing for most of the last 24 weeks and now finally hitting the top 5. What do you think has been the biggest reason behind its slow-release success?

Katie Atkinson: It’s a great song but not an obvious hit sung by an obvious hitmaker, so this one had to have word of mouth, organic streaming and enthusiastic radio programmers on its side to make this climb – and it had all of that. “Lose Control” makes me think of a Ray LaMontagne song from the late 2000s, but LaMontagne only scored one Hot 100 hit (“You Are the Best Thing”) and that peaked at No. 90. So Swims seems to be benefiting from an overall mainstreaming of growly country voices (looking at you, Chris Stapleton and Zac Bryan) and bringing it into the pop space.

Kyle Denis: I think “Lose Control” is just one of those songs that takes a minute to catch on. He’s a brand new artist to most listeners, “Lose Control” doesn’t lean on controversial lyrical tropes or the hottest production trends of the moment, and there isn’t an accompanying dance or trend to go along with the track. 

To his credit, Teddy has relentlessly promoted the track – particularly on TikTok where clips of him performing the song have been going viral since June of last year. I’d say the biggest inflection point in the song’s journey so far is his Kelly Clarkson-assisted rendition of the track on the OG American Idol’s talk show. Getting a national platform to showcase the raw emotion and vocal prowess of the song set off the final fuse for its current ascent. In a way, this feels a bit reminiscent of how Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” earned a whole new life after his performance of it at the 2015 CMA Awards alongside Justin Timberlake. 

Josh Glicksman: Having a carefully curated rollout strategy. In early fall, shortly after “Lose Control” first debuted on the Hot 100, Teddy Swims’ manager Luke Conway stressed letting the song build in the coming months rather than jam through follow-up content. “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the peak,” he told Billboard at the time.  We could be having the conversation in January or February being like, ‘Have we gotten to the place with this song where we have it cemented in culture?’” Sure enough, he was right: Planning for this kind of extended shelf life in advance has allowed his team to press all the right buttons at the best time with regard to alternate versions, radio pushes and more.

Jason Lipshutz: “Lose Control” burrows into your brain, its finger-snap tempo, universal theme of chasing an emotional high and Teddy Swims’ full-throated “contr-O-O-o-O-o-O-OL” sneaking up on the listener with disarming earnestness. “Lose Control” has found an audience on TikTok and streaming, but it sounds like a traditional pop radio hit to me, with an accessible structure and durable hook that will help the song continue receiving spins for months.

Andrew Unterberger: Swims’ voice has that Wow factor that makes folks reflexively go “Who is this?” — as evidenced by the fact that the song has been reigning on Shazam’s U.S. top 200 for some time now — and inspires younger and older listeners alike, as shown by the fact that the song has topped the Digital Song Sales chart in addition to hitting the top five on Streaming Songs. Throw in a belated embrace from pop radio (No. 16 on Pop Airplay this week) and it’s no surprise Swims’ breakout hit is now lapping the competition.

2. Benson Boone had some minor Hot 100 success earlier in the decade with his songs “Ghost Town” and “In the Stars,” but nowhere near the impact — especially right upon release — of “Beautiful Things” debuting at No. 15. What do you think the biggest reason has been for its immediate popularity?

Katie Atkinson: I immediately thought of Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” when I heard “Beautiful Things” for the first time, where you think a song is going one jangly, sweet direction and then it takes a much rawer turn. I think that surprise factor is what accounts for its immediate impact, because you want to relisten to hear that transition another time. And once again, like Swims, Boone is benefiting from this sound being much more prevalent on streaming playlists and top 40 radio. In addition to Swims and Boone, we still have Zach Bryan and Noah Kahan floating around in the top 15 too.

Kyle Denis: This feels like a “right time, right sound” situation. Obviously, Boone has already secured a fanbase for himself, but there’s a larger context for the immediate success of “Beautiful Things.” From David Kushner to Noah Kahan, folk-y singer-songwriters armed with guitars and sweeping choruses are having a moment on TikTok. “Beautiful Things” consciously plays into that, and — based on TikTok comments drawing comparisons to both aforementioned artists – consumers are well aware and gladly eating it up. 

Josh Glicksman: It’s not the first time an artist has achieved it — and it surely won’t be the last — but creating a sizable hype level for the song on social media, and specifically TikTok, ahead of the song’s release. Prior chart hits have grown Boone’s following, and he utilized it in full force, teasing “Beautiful Things” time and again at the end of 2023 until fans were clamoring in his comment section for the track’s release with every post. As a result, the song debuted at No. 5 on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart and at No. 2 on Digital Song Sales.

Jason Lipshutz: “Beautiful Things” has become another TikTok Tease success story, after Benson Boone previewed snippets of the track for weeks and stoked enough excitement for the song to score immediate streams and downloads upon its release. The soft-to-loud dynamic is compelling, and “Beautiful Things” clearly fits in with this latest wave of folk-adjacent pop — the opening recalls Passenger’s top 10 hit “Let Her Go,” from the last folk boom — but the rollout is the biggest reason why Boone has earned his first top 20 hit.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s TikTok for sure, but more specifically, it’s Benson knowing the kind of moments that play so well on the service — teasing the song’s midway guitars-and-vocals explosion like an eye-popping movie-trailer action sequence and making fans desperate to know the larger context behind the captivating moment. “Happier Than Ever” is a good comparison, and Boone can probably thank Eilish for priming younger audiences not so familiar with the tropes of classic rock power balladry for the thrills of such moments.

3. When all is said and done, which of the two songs do you think will end up being the bigger 2024 chart hit?

Katie Atkinson: This feels like cheating since we already know that “Lose Control” is at an impressive No. 4, but I’m going to bet that “Beautiful Things” won’t climb higher than that. I can see it having Swims’ longevity beyond this initial No. 15 burst, but I’m picturing “Lose Control” being played for the whole year on AC stations.

Kyle Denis: I feel very confident that the answer here is “Lose Control.” 

Josh Glicksman: The smart money is on “Lose Control.” With the song building in its 24th week on the Hot 100 — and at multiple formats — it’s not going anywhere any time soon. “Beautiful Things” may very well enjoy an extended run too, but it’s going to have to play some catch-up, and more importantly, latch on at radio in a big way.

Jason Lipshutz: “Lose Control,” for sure. That’s a slight cop-out since Teddy Swims’ smash already has the higher peak and the longer chart run, but in a vacuum, “Lose Control” sounds like a more well-rounded hit, capable of crossing over to different platforms and audiences. We’ll see if “Beautiful Things” can sustain its hot start — I wouldn’t be surprised if it lingers in the top 20, but “Lose Control” sounds like it’s primed for a months-long run in the top 10.

Andrew Unterberger: “Control” will probably last longer simply because it’s got its hooks in pop radio, and it’s difficult to see Boone’s purposefully uneven breakout hit really finding similar top 40 success. But “Things” is off to such a fast start — and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down much in week two — that it’s hard to bet against it from here. If it picks up a little extra momentum from a big performance or co-sign or remix or something, it might not be so far away from joining “Control” in the top 10, or even the top 5.

4. If you had to predict one of these two artists to become a reliable star-level hitmaker and/or touring attraction over the next few years, which would you bet on? 

Katie Atkinson: I’m going to go with Swims again. He’s been kicking around for so long, and one of his superpowers is his magnetic covers of other people’s songs and how his elastic vocals seem to enhance every track. Now that he has this new audience thanks to “Lose Control,” I can see his live shows having a revolving door of Teddyoke covers that he switches up each night, a la Kelly Clarkson.

Kyle Denis: Boone has already seen chart success, so he wouldn’t be an unwise choice. Nonetheless, I see Teddy Swims having a run where he notches 1-2 more major hits and parlays that success into becoming a reliable touring force. People love a big, bluesy voice and big, bluesy songs. 

Josh Glicksman: Given his other chart history and proven ability to draw such strong pull toward a song prior to a release, I’ll take Benson Boone as far as reliable hitmaking is concerned. But I’m taking Teddy Swims as the more bankable touring attraction: he spent years growing his fan base on the shoulders of his live set, particularly with his ability to pull to bob and weave between catalog hits and crowd-pleasing covers.

Jason Lipshutz: Benson Boone has had Hot 100 hits prior to “Beautiful Things,” but Teddy Swims’ voice — burly, soulful, tender enough to power a heart-wrenching single and powerful enough to entertain sprawling audiences — transcends “Lose Control” in a way that could feasibly yield more hits. Teddy Swims has bounced around the music industry prior to this recent breakthrough, but he sounds ready to seize this monumental opportunity; maybe “Lose Control” remains the biggest hit of his career, but I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the coming months.

Andrew Unterberger: Both seem unlikely to disappear after their breakout hits — they’re too well-grounded with their pre-existing fanbases to dismiss them as TikTok one-hit wonders — but if I had to bet on an artist to replicate this kind of chart success, I’d definitely go Boone. A No. 15 Hot 100 debut for an artist without much prior chart history usually indicates an artist about to go overground in a major way: Think Noah Kahan’s (lower but still impressive) “Dial Drunk” chart debut from last year, and how that presaged a year of seemingly continuously crescendoing momentum for him. Not saying Boone is quite on that track, but just saying… watch out.

5. Do you think these two songs — big-voiced power ballads of sorts from white male singer-songwriters — tell us anything particularly interesting about where pop music is going in 2024, or where it’s been the last couple years? Or do you not ultimately think the songs are that telling / have that much in common?

Katie Atkinson: I think this can be directly traced to the 2023 chart year, when we saw four Hot 100 No. 1s from male country singers (Morgan Wallen’s 16-week chart-topper “Last Night,” plus Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town,” Oliver Anthony Music’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” and Zac Bryan’s “I Remember Everything,” featuring Kacey Musgraves), not to mention Luke Combs’ No. 2-peaking “Fast Car.” Country music — specifically male-fronted country music – is mainstream, so it only makes sense that these growly voices that straddle the line between pop, country, rock, soul and Americana are popping off right now.

It will be interesting to see where these voices find support on radio, because Swims seems like a natural fit for adult pop stations, but Boone seems more like alternative would make sense. But beyond genre, these are just great songs from great voices that people obviously want to hear. And I’m all for pop having a shake-up from the norm.

Kyle Denis: I think that the success of these two songs – in addition to hits from the likes of David Kushner, Noah Kahan and Zach Bryan – show that there’s a palpable appetite for real instruments in the mainstream right now. I kind of view it as an extension of that blip in 2021 where pop-rock made a legitimate mainstream comeback to the upper half of the Billboard Hot 100. Pop music has been glued to the dance floor for the entire 2020s decade so far, and these slower, more analog power ballads are keeping things balanced for this moment in time. Hopefully, the next phase of that balance-keeping is kinder to groups and bands! 

Josh Glicksman: I’m not reading into it too much beyond the fact that people still love a tear-jerker of a ballad. The mainstream uptempo pop chart hit is alive and well — and more than ever, the pop-adjacent chart hit — but don’t forget the pull of a put-your-phone-flashlights-in-the-air-and-sway song. They take a little more traction to get rolling, but there’s always one or two waiting in the wings.

Jason Lipshutz: The success of “Lose Control” and “Beautiful Things” demonstrate the continued crossover appeal of folk and country music into the pop realm, following a year in which Morgan Wallen, Noah Kahan and Jelly Roll were all familiar voices on top 40 radio. Teddy Swims and Benson Boone’s respective approaches have little in common, but their hits capitalize on a moment in which genre matters less than ever in the upper reaches of the Hot 100, so that “Lose Control” and “Beautiful Things” can intermingle with rap by 21 Savage, R&B by SZA, pop by Tate McRae and Afropop by Tyla in the top 20. There’s room for big-voiced power balladry, too, whether they lean toward country-soul like “Lose Control” or folk-rock like “Beautiful Things.”

Andrew Unterberger: It does seem like these rootsier, less obviously pop- or hip-hop-based singer-songwriter types simply have the inside track in 2024. With rap’s cultural dominance and chart supremacy slipping since the turn of the decade, pop being reinvented in the mold of Taylor Swift and SZA, and the Zach Bryans and Jelly Rolls of the world pointing the way to country’s future, this is just kinda where we are — and I’d expect a whole lot more Benson Boones and Teddy Swimses to emerge as the new stars of 2024 before all is said and done.

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