Doja Cat’s “Paint the Town Red” May Be First Hip-Hop No. 1 of 2023 – Billboard

The Contenders is a midweek column that looks at artists aiming for the top of the Billboard charts, and the strategies behind their efforts. This week (for the upcoming charts dated Sept. 16), the last four singles to top the Billboard Hot 100 have all been led by country artists – and white guys – but both streaks may be coming to an end with the rise of a returning pop-rap star’s latest.  

Doja Cat, “Paint the Town Red” (Kemosabe/RCA): It feels almost quaint in 2023: A big pop release that makes a solid debut, and climbs from there. Doja Cat’s “Paint the Town Red” entered at a good-not-great No. 15 on the Hot 100 in August, but it has only grown since then, jumping into the top five last week and hitting a new peak of No. 3 this week. With the song still gaining on all three Hot 100 component charts – Streaming Songs (up 3-2 this week), Digital Song Sales (11-6) and Radio Songs (24-17) — it should be a threat to take the top spot on next week’s chart.  

If it does, it will be notable for reasons beyond becoming Doja Cat’s second career Hot 100-topper, following 2020’s “Say So” featuring Nicki Minaj. It would be the first non-country No. 1 on the chart since Jung Kook’s Latto-featuring “Seven” debuted atop the chart dated July 29, seven weeks earlier. In the time since, a record four consecutive country songs (defined as songs deemed eligible for Billboard’s Hot Country Songs ranking) have claimed the top spot: Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night,” Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town,” Oliver Anthony Music’s “Rich Men North of Richmond,” and this week’s new No. 1, Zach Bryan’s “I Remember Everything,” featuring Kacey Musgraves.  

A much longer streak would also be ended if “Paint the Town Red” hits No. 1: It’s now been 55 weeks since a rap song last ruled the Hot 100 (“Super Freaky Girl,” by Doja Cat’s “Say So” co-star Nicki Minaj), the longest such run since the turn of the century. While Doja’s rap bona fides have long been the subject of (often ridiculous) internet debate as she crosses further into the top 40 world, “Paint” has scaled Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart – currently sitting at No. 1 there for a second week – meaning the genre’s Hot 100 drought may soon be over.  

Zach Bryan feat. Kacey Musgraves, “I Remember Everything” (Belting Bronco/Warner): The No. 1 debut that few saw coming last week should not be due for a particularly huge drop off in its second week. Zach Bryan‘s “I Remember Everything,” featuring Kacey Musgraves, has been holding fairly strong on both streaming (still No. 1 on Apple Music’s daily charts and No. 2 on Spotify) and sales (in the top five on iTunes) — and without any major debuts or gainers (aside from Doja) coming from behind it, it should still be in contention for one of the Hot 100’s top few spots this week.  

The question for “Everything” will be how much radio embraces it. Bryan’s American Heartbreak Hot 100 top 10 hit “Something in the Orange” ultimately elbowed its way into the top 20 on Country Airplay, but Bryan’s stardom has mostly come independently of radio and the Nashville machine, and it’s not clear yet if “I Remember Everything” will prove an exception. So far, the song is nearing the Country Airplay chart, with 272,000 audience impressions at the format Sept. 1-4, according to Luminate, up from 175,000 in its entire first week.

Luke Combs, “Fast Car” (River House/Columbia Nashville/Columbia): It’s probably an overstatement to say that you have to feel for Luke Combs – when he first decided to cover Tracy Chapman’s alt-folk classic “Fast Car,” he probably never expected to get anywhere near the top spot of the Hot 100 with it. At this point, though, the song has now spent eight weeks idling at No. 2, while seemingly every other male country singer-songwriter speeds just ahead of him – and it’s starting to look like it might not ever get there himself.

“Fast Car” does finally lead the Radio Songs chart this week – Combs’ first No. 1 on that listing – while still hanging in the top 10 of Digital Song Sales and Streaming Songs. But “Car” seems to have stalled on all three component charts, so if Doja zooms by it this week, it might be tough for it to catch up again.  

IN THE MIX 

Taylor Swift, “Cruel Summer” (Republic): Labor Day Weekend came and went without any final promotional efforts for Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” which remains at No. 4 on the Hot 100 this week, after reaching No. 3, but is nearing its peak at radio and might not be able to hold in streaming and sales to remain a true No. 1 contender for much longer. All that remains now is the potential boost from the already blockbuster-certified Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour movie – but with that film not due still for over a month, it’s likely that “Summer” will have cooled off too much by then anyway.  

Nicki Minaj, “Last Time I Saw You” (Young Money/Republic): Speaking of Minaj: It’s likely that she will have the week’s best Hot 100 bow with her much-hyped new single “Last Time I Saw You.” The song got off to a typically strong start in sales and streaming upon its Friday (Sept. 1) debut, but has already faded pretty quickly on the daily Spotify and Apple charts. Given the song’s top 40-friendly crossover sound, though, it might not be too long before radio starts picking up the slack there.

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