Can lightning strike twice? We may soon find out thanks to Psy’s new song, “Gentleman.”
While the South Korean rapper’s original world-beating hit, “Gangnam Style” had a slow, then meteoric rise to YouTube dominance last year on its way to an unprecedented 1.5 billion views, in its first five days “Gentleman” is actually outpacing “Style” by a mile. (It took “Gangnam” more than a month to reach 100 million views.)
At press time, “Gentleman” was about to blow by the 125 million mark in YouTube views after tallying more than 20 million in its first 24 hours, easily beating the previous record set by Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend,” which attracted eight million views on its first day.
“51 million views in 40 hours!! My God!!” Psy tweeted on Monday as the video began to take off. The song has also made its way into the top 10 in England and Australia, though it sat just outside the top 10 at #11 on the iTunes chart at press time.
But can it move the 4.5 million downloads and #2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart put up by “Gangnam?”
“He set the bar pretty high to match the success of ‘Gangnam Style,'” said Billboard Director of Charts Silvio Pietroluongo. “That song had so many elements going for it: it was catchy, it had a spectacular video, the novelty of being in Korean … it was like lightning in a bottle … To get close tot hat would be considered a success. Even a fraction of those numbers would be a success.”
While “Gentleman” is catchy, it doesn’t quite have the novelty aspect of “Gangnam” and Pietroluongo said it’s a bit early to tell if radio will mobilize behind it, or if pop stations will be receptive to another song sung in Korean.
He said radio programmers were slow to catch the “Style” tail, with most beginning to spin the song well after it had already reached serious viral impact. But this time, with the help of a label and the backing of Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, there is likely to be a stronger, more organized push to radio.
“We [satellite radio] were not slow to play that song,” clarified Kid Kelly, Vice President of Music Programming at SiriusXM satellite radio and program director for the Sirius Hits 1 and 20 on 20 pop stations. “We don’t follow, we lead and we’ve already started playing it and we’re playing it heavily.”
The 20 on 20 station has already put the song into heavy rotation at 50 times a week, meaning listeners will hear it every three or four hours and Kelly said it’s slated to go into rotation 10-15 times a day on Sirius Hits 1 this weekend.
With video views and downloads now intertwined on the Hot 100 in a way they weren’t when “Gangnam” was making its run — the song peaked at #2 on the chart last year before YouTube data was integrated — Pietroluongo said it’s possible that thanks to the hearty YouTube numbers “Gentleman” might have a chance at matching or surpassing the “Gangnam” peak.
“Radio will play the song and we will know pretty quickly through research whether it’s resonating with the audience,” he said. The song will debut on the charts this week, but he said it won’t be until next week that we will have a full seven days worth of data to gauge audience interest.
Kelly isn’t waiting to see what happens before making his prediction. “I believe this artist has his own audience, period,” he said. “He may or may not be a flash-in-the-pan, but with the audience he’s cultivated it wouldn’t have 120 million hits in a week without radio play if he didn’t.”
But is it really possible for “Gentleman” to strike the same pay dirt? “In the ‘Art of War’ you never underestimate your opponent,” Kelly said. “Anything is possible. Yeah, I believe that it could surpass ‘Gangnam Style.’ I don’t know that it will, but it could.”
Do you think “Gentleman” will be as big a hit as “Gangnam Style?” Let us know in comments below!