A Tale of Two Singles: How ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Yellow Hearts’ Went Viral
Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne” soared this week, jumping to Number Six on the latest Rolling Stone Top 100 Songs chart on the strength of 15.3 million audio streams. The song also took the top spot on the Trending 25, which ranks new songs that are seeing the greatest gains in on-demand audio streams each week.
“Roxanne” sounds like a Post Malone demo that accidentally ended up in Zervas’ inbox. Like many artists currently racking up streams by the million — blackbear, Juice WRLD, Iann Dior — Zervas likes to stretch syllables and add a light quaver to his vocals. But while Post Malone and blackbear are prone to gloom and distrust, Zervas remains breezy and upbeat: “Roxanne, Roxanne, all she want to do is party all night/Goddamn, Roxanne, never gonna love me but it’s alright.”
Zervas’ breakout hit perked ears almost instantly. The single was streamed roughly 7,000 times on October 9th, the first day it was available to stream, according to the analytics company Alpha Data, and daily streams jumped past 28,000 on day two. A week after release, “Roxanne” was already gaining traction on the app TikTok, where it has since been used in hundreds of thousands of videos.
Once it passed the million-a-day mark, Spotify started to add “Roxanne” to its curated playlists, starting with Internet People (106,000 followers) on October 29th, according to the data company Chartmetric. Just one day later, it was added to Today’s Top Hits (24.6 million followers), Hot Rhythmic (1.94 million), and Pop Rising (1.8 million). The track is currently on 45 different Spotify-run playlists.
“Roxanne” is also the fourth most popular song globally on Apple Music, behind Lil Baby’s “Woah,” Travis Scott’s “Highest in the Room,” and Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey.” But Apple was slightly slower to embrace it, adding “Roxanne” to Today’s Hits on November 3rd, according to Chartmetric data.
“Roxanne” is not the only viral song moving quickly on this week’s charts: Ant Saunders’ “Yellow Hearts” also debuted on RS 100 at Number 70 with 5.3 million audio streams and also hit Number Two on the Trending 25.
Saunders’ single is much older than “Roxanne” — it originally came out back in June — but the two songs share a lyrical focus (unattainable women) and sonic building blocks (bright, plinking keyboards, never-ending chains of programmed hi-hats). And like “Roxanne,” “Yellow Hearts” started to perform well on TikTok recently, reaching over 600,000 total videos on Monday.
“Yellow Hearts” appeared on Spotify’s Pop Rising on Halloween, just a day after “Roxanne.” Apple Music began to support the song in the final days of October as well, giving it play on rankings like Feeling Happy and Pure Pop 50, before moving the track into Today’s Hits on November 3rd Saunders climbed slightly slower on Spotify’s ladder of playlists, but he made it into Today’s Top Hits on November 7th, a little more than a week after “Roxanne.”
Both Zervas and Saunders are faced with a complicated task: Maintaining momentum while also putting the infrastructure in place to ensure they do not become one-hit wonders.
Zervas may be in a good position to capitalize off the success of his breakout single. That’s because he has been uploading songs to Spotify since 2016 — new listeners who like “Roxanne” and want to try to hear some of Zervas’ other music have plenty of options. Last week, as “Roxanne” continued to surge, Zervas also had nine other songs earning more than 100,000 streams each.
In contrast, Saunders has just three songs available on streaming services. Last week, “Yellow Hearts” was the only track that garnered substantial interest.
Many artists have had a viral single in 2019. But not many of those acts have had two.
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