Grande’s single quickly climbed up the Apple Music charts, along with Spotify and YouTube, but often it’s the former, which is the most surprising as pop music tends to struggle on the premium only service. I’ve never subscribed to the thought that pop music wasn’t prepared for the streaming era; no, rather the audience for pop music remains splintered across platforms. Pop stars can still find money in the ever shrinking world of digital song downloads and radio will still pick-up on potential pop hits well before those same programers will take a risk on a non-pop single. This differs from rap where earlier this year Future’s Beast Mode II was only available through streaming with no other legal means of consumption. This shrinking of consumption options put a premium on controlled streaming numbers while limiting power to both artists and fans over the music being released.
Earlier this year I wrote in a newsletter
, which is still improperly formatted my apologies, about the history of digital downloads as a foreshadow of what could happen with streaming:
A decade ago, when the digital download was first added to the Hot 100 charts some of the first major hits came from what was dubbed “Ringtone Rap.” The catchy and digitally sounding southern rap that wasn’t gonna break into Top 40 through normal airplay, but was aided by digital sales…When D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” hit no. 1, it was already a top song on the digital sales chart
, but still needed that extra radio push to make it to the top.
Eventually, the pop world with acts like The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry caught up and surpassed rap, but the shift took time.
“thank u, next” hints towards another pivot, where pop’s audience doesn’t so much want to stream, but is rather funneled further down streaming only paths.
That attempt to corral fan interest happened directly with the music video launch. Billboard
reported that “thank u, next” used the new YouTube Premiere tools to allow fans to chat and eagerly wait for Grande’s video to drop. The video, which premiered at 3pm on a Friday, scored over 829,000 concurrent viewers a record for the platform and even more than Drake / Ninja got with their surprise Twitch stream. Yet it’s what happened next that brings this trend full circle, as Claire Shaffer writes
One theory for why so many people were searching for “thank u, next” directly on YouTube stems from the highly involved social media discussion surrounding its release. In the hours following the premiere, plenty of GIFs, brief clips, and memes of the video were being shared on Twitter and Instagram, but not as many links to the video itself, meaning those who wanted to participate in the moment would have to seek out “thank u, next” on their own.
This is where “thank u, next” feels increasingly like the new normal for pop. Meme the lyrics, tease the video, meme the teases, build-up to the premiere, and finally meme the video. The song isn’t the end point of music consumption, but rather just the beginning.