As Summer Heats Up, Taylor Swift, Post Malone, and Morgan Wallen Continue to Dominate the Charts

Post Malone (left) and Morgan Wallen on the red carpet at the 57th Annual CMA Awards on November 8, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn.

Post Malone (left) and Morgan Wallen on the red carpet at the 57th Annual CMA Awards on November 8, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

We’re trying out something a little new here: Each week, we’ll be taking a quick look at the newest Billboard charts to see, in the immortal words of Shakespeare, “who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out.” (Thankfully, the stakes are far lower here than in King Lear, despite the potential for high drama.) Even in this impossibly fickle era, when the days of a homogenized pop music culture are long gone, the weekly charts published by Billboard still give some indication of what listeners are turning to, what social media trends are running the game and who’s currently riding high. What we’re hoping to do is to provide some context that helps us ground and understand the current data — and maybe even help us divine larger narratives about what we’re listening to. So here we go.

TOP SONGS

As NPR Music’s critic Ann Powers observed over the holiday weekend on All Things Considered, the summer of 2024 seems to be leaning toward country — or at least country-flavored bops. The Billboard Hot 100, which ranks the top singles (via a combination of data from streaming, digital and physical sales and radio airplay) is dominated this week by the uptempo country breakup tune “I Had Some Help” by Post Malone featuring Morgan Wallen.

Post Malone made his name as a hip-hop/pop guy, but in recent months, he’s collaborated with both Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. In his current bid for song of the summer, he’s teamed up with Morgan Wallen — who remains perhaps the biggest star in Nashville, despite (or maybe in part because of) a string of controversies. This is the second week at the top spot for “I Had Some Help.”

At No. 2 is one of Kendrick Lamar’s many recent Drake diss tracks, “Not Like Us,” followed by Tommy Richman’s “Million Dollar Baby” at No. 3. Richman, a largely unknown singer and rapper before last month, teased his vaguely funk-tinged song on TikTok, where it found huge viral success and racked up millions of views even before he released the full single.

Billie Eilish's third album, created as always alongside her brother and collaborator Finneas, is titled Hit Me Hard and Soft.

MUSIC

Interview: Billie Eilish finally remembers who she is

Two of Ann’s other predictions for summer hits round out the Top 5 singles for the week of June 1: Shaboozey’s hybridic country/hip-hop/rock anthem “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” at No. 4 and, debuting at No. 5, Billie Eilish’s woozy, seductive “Lunch.” As Eilish recently said to Morning Edition about “Lunch”: “It’s so fun and it’s silly and it’s … I don’t know. Life is so unserious. It’s important to remember to have a little fun with it.” If ever there was a time for such a thing, wouldn’t it be summer?

TOP ALBUMS

Speaking of Eilish: She and her record labels, Darkroom and Interscope, pitched a fierce battle to knock chart queen Taylor Swift out of the top spot of the Billboard 200, the weekly albums chart. Swift’s album The Tortured Poets Department had already spent its first four weeks perched at No. 1. Eilish’s new album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, did not do quite well enough to push royalty off the throne, but according to Luminate, the company that puts together the data for the Billboard charts, Eilish earned 339,000 “equivalent album units” — her biggest week ever. (Stay with us for a moment. An “equivalent album unit” is industry-speak for an enigmatic formula: the combination of tracks streamed or downloaded, plus physical or digital album sales, expressed as an approximation of what decades ago would have been a simple transaction — one album sold.)

Nevertheless, Swift won a fifth week at No. 1, with a total of 378,000 album units. How did she prevail? In short, by knowing exactly how to fire up her fanbase on the marketing front. Team Swift launched a marketing counteroffensive that included six new digital versions of Tortured Poets and a new CD version — all of which were sold exclusively on Swift’s website. She also released a remix of her song “Fortnight” — the biggest single from Tortured Poets, and the one that happens to feature a fellow named Post Malone.

This is a game that Eilish knows too: For the race up the chart, she released nine colored vinyl editions and her own digital version of Hit Me Hard and Soft that included isolated vocal tracks for each song, as well as a new remix of her song “L’Amour De Ma Vie.” The complete album was also promotionally priced as an iTunes download at $4.99. It’s a move that recalled industry marketing campaigns of the pre-streaming era — that is, back when Eilish was just a tween herself. (Given how easy and cheap it is for listeners to inhale whole albums these days, it’s not that surprising that all 10 tracks from Hit Me Hard and Soft have individually hit the Hot 100.)

All of these fevered machinations took place under the umbrella of a single corporate behemoth: Universal Music Group, which distributes both Swift’s and Eilish’s music. Cynics might note that no matter which individual artist made it to No. 1, Universal was guaranteed to clinch the top spot.

WORTH NOTING

The fourth studio album from Zayn Malik, Room Under the Stairs, finds the former One Direction star taking a turn toward Americana and country, aided by Nashville producer Dave Cobb. (Clearly, this is the sound of 2024, even for a fellow born and raised in Bradford, England.)

The album — Malik’s first in three years — hasn’t quite resonated with a large public: It enters the Billboard 200 chart this week at No. 15. But it’s also given Malik an intriguing career first: an entry on the Americana/Folk Albums chart, positioned at No. 5.

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