Music

Will Morgan Wallen Give Post Malone the ‘Help’ He Needs for Another No. 1 Debut?

The Contenders is a midweek column that looks at artists aiming for the top of the Billboard charts, and the strategies behind their efforts. Next week (for the upcoming Billboard Hot 100 dated May 25), even with huge breakout hits cluttering the top of the charts, a big new collab may threaten to zoom past all of them.  

Post Malone feat. Morgan Wallen, “I Had Some Help” (Republic/Mercury/Big Loud): Undoubtedly the biggest debut of the week will come from these genre-spanning Republic labelmates. While 2010s superstar Post Malone’s commercial fortunes have largely been declining this decade – 2023’s Austin became the first LP of his career to not spawn a single top 10 Hot 100 hit – he’s been buoyed this year by collabs with arguably the three biggest names in contemporary popular music: Beyoncé (the Cowboy Carter standout “Levii’s Jeans”), Taylor Swift (the Tortured Poets Department lead single and two-week Hot 100 No. 1 “Fortnight”) and now Morgan Wallen.  

Post’s latest star teamup looks like it might be on its way to following “Fortnight” to the Hot 100’s apex. “I Had Some Help” — apt title – reached the top of the daily and real-time charts on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes shortly after its release on Friday (May 10), which is no small feat in this crowded a time for pop music. And while brand-new songs usually struggle to be competitive in the radio department, “I Had Some Help” has received such an instantly massive embrace on the airwaves that it’s actually already ahead of most of its primary competitors there: It’s drawn 17.3 million all-format airplay impressions in its first four days of wide release (May 10-13), according to Luminate, and made immediate-enough impact on country radio to debut at No. 18 on this week’s Country Airplay chart with just one day’s worth of plays (May 9).

In another week – like, say, virtually any other week in May from 2020 to 2023 — “I Had Some Help” would be a no-brainer No. 1 debut. But of course, this has been an unusually loaded season for pop music, and “Help” will have to maintain its early momentum throughout the week to secure an entrance at pole position. If it does start atop the Hot 100, it will already mark the fifth different song to best the chart in the last six weeks, and the 13th different song total through 20 chart weeks this year – compared to both 2022 and 2023, where there were just seven total through the first 20 chart weeks.

Kendrick Lamar, “Not Like Us” (pgLang/Interscope/ICLG): It’s a little ridiculous that “Not Like Us” is really going to have to work to defend its title on the Hot 100 next week, since it debuted atop the chart with just five days of tracking this week and shouldn’t be slowing down much in its first full week of consumption. Ten days after its release and the song is still pulling over five million daily streams on Spotify in this country alone – a gargantuan number for most songs even on release day – and it remains atop both the real-time Apple Music and YouTube Trending Music charts, an absolute streaming juggernaut across the board.  

Where it’s lagging behind “I Had Some Help,” though, is in sales and on radio. The song has fallen out of the top three on iTunes, as “Help” has reigned on that chart since mere hours after its release, a clear front-runner to top Digital Song Sales next week. And while the rest of the culture has already adopted “Not Like Us” as the Song of the Late Spring, radio has been a little slower to get on board: The track drew 6 million in all-format audience from May 10-13, barely a third of the reach for Post’s and Wallen’s latest, although it’s a contender to make next week’s 50-spot Radio Songs listing.  

There are, of course, cards for Kendrick Lamar still to play to get the edge on “Help” — a video for the song has been rumored, and a potential remix featuring another of Drake’s old foes would undoubtedly do big business upon release. But with the headline-dominating feud largely dying down the past week, it may feel like overkill for Lamar to continue pushing his enemy-vanquishing smash – and once the first-week sales die down for “Help,” “Not Like Us” may regain the advantage after next week anyway.  

Tommy Richman, “Million Dollar Baby” (ISO Supermacy/PULSE Records): “Don’t forget about me!” croons Tommy Richman in smooth, rich falsetto. As much as next week’s Hot 100 race is a showdown between longtime chart heavyweights in Kendrick Lamar and both Post Malone and Morgan Wallen, you can’t count out the No. 2 song in the country in the decision, either. “Million Dollar Baby” has actually regained the top spot on Spotify’s daily chart – also with over 5 million plays daily — while remaining in the top three on Apple Music and iTunes, already rivaling Teddy Swims’ “Lose Control” and Benson Boone’s “Beautiful Things” for the biggest breakout hit of 2023 from a previously chart-unproven artist.  

However, radio has been a little slower to get the memo with Richman than with those other two artists’ breakthrough smashes. The song is growing on the airwaves, but only gradually: The song drew just 3.4 million radio impressions from May 10-13, already up from 1.9 million over the prior week (May 3-9), but still well short of its primary competitors. It seems near-impossible that top 40 can resist “Million Dollar Baby” forever, so its moment may still be coming down the line — it could debut on the Pop Airplay chart next week — but while it is at its (truly insane) streaming and sales peak, it may still be difficult for the song to find its way over the top.  

IN THE MIX 

Shaboozey, “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” (American Dogwood/EMPIRE/Magnolia Music): Another one of the feel-good breakout stories of 2024 is country singer-songwriter and Cowboy Carter alum Shaboozey, whose “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” has reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 and remains one of the best-streaming and best-selling songs in the country this week. Radio, again, is just joining the party: “A Bar Song” drew 5.5 million radio impressions from May 10-13, up from 5 million the prior week, and in a pop landscape this crowded (and only getting more crowded), it will likely need an extra boost to further break through.  

Sabrina Carpenter, “Espresso” (Island/Republic): Want a growing hit that radio is fully embracing? Look to Sabrina Carpenter’s “Espresso,” already a No. 4 hit so far on the Hot 100, which climbs 20-13 on the Pop Airplay chart this week, and is up 21% in all-format audience May 10-13 over the equivalent four-day period the prior week. Radio should only continue to grow for that song as the weather heats up, but its streaming and sales are slipping behind the competition – and with a new major release joining the mix seemingly every week this season, “Espresso” may need to make a big move while it’s still hot. 

Taylor Swift feat. Post Malone, “Fortnight” (Republic): Remember her? Taylor Swift’s blockbuster The Tortured Poets Department only got a week of cultural ubiquity before the Drake-Kendrick Lamar feud stole back the spotlight, and while “Fortnight” has reigned on the Hot 100 for two weeks already and is still streaming and selling fairly well (and also moves into the top 10 on Pop Airplay this week), it does feel a little like its moment has already passed. Whether Swift’s next move is to continue to push “Fortnight” or try to boost one of the certified fan-favorite Poets tracks up to its level — “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” ranks second-highest on this week’s Hot 100, at No. 15 – remains to be seen, but you’d be a fool to assume you’ve seen the last of Swift in this discussion this season. 

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