Lil Nas X: How to recover from a "one-hit wonder"

The history of music is full of one-hit wonders: artists and bands who achieve mainstream popularity thanks to one song and are forever labeled to that single track. A single so successful that ends up overshadowing their upcoming releases. However, despite the immediate boost in popularity these hits generate, most of the time this phenomenon is a blessing in disguise. This seemed to be the case for Lil Nas X at first.


Summary

  • While an extremely successful single can guarantee immediate visibility for an artist, chances are it can become a threat for follow-up releases.
  • Labels and artists need to skillfully invest their resources in establishing a compelling narrative and distance themselves from their "one-hit wonder" formula.
  • Monitoring the evolution of a song's first two weeks of radio airplay can give us great insight about how a single will perform on the long run.
  • Cross-country performance is becoming significantly more important for artists as a solid international fanbase is a sign of their careers' healthiness.

Old Town Road vs MONTERO

Lil Nas X had an incredible head start with his single “Old Town Road”: the song remained at the top spot of Billboard’s Hot 100 for more than 17 consecutive weeks, was certified 14-times platinum by the RIAA, and currently has more than 1,1 billion streams on Spotify alone! With such impressive numbers on his debut single, everybody had lots of expectations for Lil Nas X’ follow up singles. However, it did not go as planned. His latest track MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) might be the single that will free Lil Nas X from the cumbersome legacy of Old Town Road... MONTERO has already made its way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Global 200. Moreover, the track’s controversial marketing campaign got it a lot of attention online. The music video shows Lil Nas X giving a lap dance to Satan. Even more, the artist released a limited edition of 666 pairs of sneakers featuring a drop of human blood. We cannot really quantify the campaign’s overall effect on the song’s success, but looking at its radio airplay we can predict how successful MONTERO will be.

A detailed look into Lil Nas X’s most famous singles

Let’s compare the first 14 days of each release: MONTERO, Old Town Road, and Panini. By looking at their airplay data, we can get some great insights. First of all, although MONTERO did not match Old Town Road’s performance, the track is way ahead of Panini, with a total of 10,555 total airplays vs 6,085.

Secondly, MONTERO has great potential because it shows similar growth to Old Time Road (just a bit more regular). Thirdly, the geographical distribution of airplays is quite different from song to song. Old Town Road’s airplay came mostly from the US (10,497 out of 14,784 total airplays), whereas MONTERO’s airplay comes more from the UK. The fact that the rapper was able to establish a solid presence outside of his own country is sufficient for him to get rid of the “one-hit wonder” title. It shows that he is able to capture the attention of an international audience.

The promise of MONTERO

The new single has only been on-air for 3 weeks, but see its potential (when looking at our data). Its success may not be comparable to Old Time Road’s but will represent an important milestone in Lil Nas X’s career. He will no longer be a “one-hit wonder” but a relevant artist for the years to come. An artist who gathers radio airplay across the world.

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