Eminem Returns to Alternative Airplay Chart After 21 Years With ‘Houdini’

Eminem’s “Houdini” achieves a feat that no single from the rapper had in over 20 years: make Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart.


The song bows at No. 35 on the ranking dated July 13, marking Eminem’s fifth appearance on the survey and first since “Lose Yourself,” which peaked at No. 14 in December 2002.

“Lose Yourself” logged an 18-week run on the chart, through February 2003. As such, the break between Eminem’s Alternative Airplay hits numbered 21 years and five months. That’s the longest between appearances since Kate Bush went over 28 years between January 1994 (“Rubberband Girl”) and June 2022 (“Running Up That Hill [A Deal With God]”), the latter charting after the 1985 classic’s synch in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Eminem’s respite is the third-longest in Alternative Airplay’s nearly 36-year history, behind only Bush’s and Debbie Harry’s; the latter waited almost 29 years between “Kiss It Better” in 1990 and her featured turn on Just Loud’s “Soul Train” in 2018.

Eminem’s Alternative Airplay history extends before “Lose Yourself,” though it’s his highest peaking entry on the tally. He first reached the list with “My Name Is” in 1999 (No. 37), followed by “The Real Slim Shady” (No. 19, 2000) and “Without Me” (No. 15, 2002).

“Houdini” has been described as evocative of many of those earlier Eminem singles, which is not lost on Kevin Weatherly, Audacy senior vp of programming and program director of KROQ Los Angeles. “This Eminem song has an instant familiarity, and it resonates with a large segment of our audience that was there when he arrived 20-plus years ago,” he tells Billboard. “Much like when we played him in the past, the response is mostly positive, but there are also some negatives. That said, we recognized the pop-culture moment and wanted to reflect it and be a part of it.”

KROQ played “Houdini” 21 times in the latest tracking week (July 28-July 4), sixth-most among stations on the Alternative Airplay panel, according to Mediabase.

KTCL Denver spun the song 29 times in that span, the fourth-most on the panel in that stretch; KKDO Sacramento led all stations with 38 plays. “One of my Jocks, B-Large, brought it to our music meeting for discussion,” KTCL program director Jeb “Nerf” Freedman tells Billboard. “We play four Eminem songs in catalog, so it makes sense to take a listen to the new song – but not every artist has a comeback this late in their career. Lucky for us, we constantly engage our audience with online surveys. When we tested it and it went through the roof, we knew they didn’t think of Eminem as just a part of history. Slim Shady is alive and well!

“It sounds a little weird hearing that Steve Miller melody on our station, but it certainly jumps out of the speaker at you. So far, it’s a massive hit.”

The Miller melody Freedman references is that of “Abracadabra,” the 1982 hit from The Steve Miller Band that topped the Billboard Hot 100; “Houdini” interpolates the song’s melody in its chorus.

Concurrently, “Houdini” lifts to a new No. 29 high on the all-rock-format, audience-based Rock & Alternative Airplay chart via 1.2 million audience impressions, up 21%, according to Luminate. Upon its debut in late June, it became Eminem’s first song on the list, which began in 2009.

“Houdini” boasts multi-format approval; in addition to its Alternative Airplay rank, it has so far reached No. 8 on Rhythmic Airplay, No. 16 on Pop Airplay, No. 18 on hot-rap-tracks and No. 32 on Adult Pop Airplay.

The track launched at No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts dated June 15, as well as No. 2 on the all-format Billboard Hot 100. It holds at No. 16 on the latter list’s latest edition via 20.9 million radio audience impressions, 15.7 million official U.S. streams and 6,000 downloads sold.

“Houdini” is the lead single from The Death of Slim Shady (Coup de Grace), Eminem’s 12th studio album, due Friday, July 12. One other song was released ahead of the album: “Tobey,” featuring Big Sean and BabyTron, which bows at No. 95 on the Hot 100.

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