Why the Weeknd’s ‘Die for You’ Took Six Years to Hit No. 1 #TheWeeknd

variety November 30, 2023 The Weeknd 5
Why the Weeknd’s ‘Die for You’ Took Six Years to Hit No. 1 #TheWeeknd

How does a six-year-old song become a hit? In 2023, of course the short answer is TikTok, but it takes a lot more than that to make a song into a genuine hit single — let alone take the longest climb to No. 1 for a non-holiday song in the history of the Billboard Hot […]

How does a six-year-old song become a hit? In 2023, of course the short answer is TikTok, but it takes a lot more than that to make a song into a genuine hit single — let alone take the longest climb to No. 1 for a non-holiday song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. That’s the story of the Weeknd’s “Die for You” — No. 8 on Variety ‘s 2023 Top 25 — which was originally released in November of 2016 on his “Starboy” album. The song’s origin story actually goes back even farther than that, as “Starboy” saw the Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) reuniting with some collaborators from back in the day. “Being from Toronto, I’ve known Abel since almost the beginning of his career,” says Cirkut, who cowrote and coproduced “Die for You.” “I did a song called ‘High for This’ on his first mixtape, ‘House of Balloons.’ I guess he was sort of looking to reconnect with some of the crew from the early days for ‘Starboy,’ people like Doc McKinney and myself.” “Starboy” cemented the Weeknd as a superstar artist, and it speaks to the album’s depth that “Die for You” was the fifth single to be released from it, originally in September of 2017, peaking at No. 43 on the Hot 100, and appeared in the HBO series “Insecure” around the same time. He performed it on the tour behind the album, but the song did not see much further action until it started getting activity on TikTok in Southeast Asia in the summer of 2021. Republic’s streaming team quickly sprang into action. “We focus on catalog as we would a newly released project,” says Kevin Lipson. Republic executive VP of global commerce and digital strategy. “Being a relatively young company, it’s in our DNA to hit what moves in creates, streams and the charts.” The song was quickly flagged as a priority, the Weeknd’s management jumped in and a new video was filmed in November. Its popularity continued to grow, even though the Weeknd released a new album, “Dawn FM,” during that time. It saw another spike on TikTok early in the spring of 2022 and reentered the Global Spotify chart in April, rising into the top 50 by late July, where it would remain for the rest of the year. The song was reserviced to pop radio and returned to the Hit 100 in August, beginning a slow second build toward the top of the charts. It finally reached No. 1 at pop radio in February, and the remix featuring Ariana Grande — who had helped power the Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” to No. 1 in 2021 — was released shortly after. On the chart dated March 6, the song soared from No. 6 to No. 1 on the Hot 100 (and topped the Global Spotify chart), giving both the Weeknd and Grande their seventh No. 1s, some six and a half years after the song was first released. “I always thought it was a great song,” Cirkut says. “But I wasn’t like, ‘This is going to hit No. 1 seven years later!’ I mean, who could have predicted it?” Lipson, for one. “Our always-on strategy proves that great music can thrive at any time,” he concludes, “regardless of release date.” Songwriters: Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Martin McKinney, Prince 85, Dylan Wiggins, Magnus Hoiberg, William Walsh, Henry Walter Producers: Cirkut, Doc McKinney, the Weeknd, Cashmere Cat, Prince 85 Label: XO/Republic Hitmakers : Cirkut – songwriter/producer Dylan Wiggins – songwriter Wassim “Sal” Slaiby — CEO, SalXCo/ Weeknd manager Wendy Goldstein — co-president, Republic Records Allegra Chautin — VP digital marketing, Republic Records Publishers: Prince 85 (SACEM), Sony/ATV Ballad (BMI), Songs Music Publishing/LLC o/b/o Songs of SMP (ASCAP), Cirkut Breaker LLC/Prescription Songs (ASCAP), Infinite Stripes / Back Hair Music Publishing (BMI) / Administered by Universal Music Publishing (BMI), Mykai Music (ASCAP) administered by Kobalt Music Group Ltd, Billy Walsh / WMMW (ASCAP), Universal Music Group Corp. (ASCAP)/GrandAriMusic (ASCAP, Anthem Music Publishing II / EMI April Music Inc. / Kobalt Songs Music Publishing / Songs Of Universal, Inc. / Sony/ATV Ballad Read more


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