Why Rihanna Turned Down the Number One Song in the Country
For the first time since May, the Billboard Hot 100 has a new Number One. Sia’s Sean Paul-assisted ode to low-cost nights out, “Cheap Thrills,” finally knocked aside Drake’s U.K.-funky-nodding “One Dance,” which had topped the chart for 10 weeks.
Sia’s long ascent to the top — “Cheap Thrills” has been on the chart for 23 weeks — brings some life into the competition for the “song of the summer,” an unofficial race to see which song will rule clubs and car radios between Memorial Day and Labor Day. While “Cheap Thrills” has the minor-key moodiness that has become a signature feature of Sia’s biggest songwriting triumphs — from Rihanna’s storming 2012 single “Diamonds” to her own blazing “Chandelier” — it also has a caution-to-the-wind vibe and an assist from a joyous gang-screaming of the song’s titular phrase. The summer feeling is amplified by a remix featuring Jamaican dancehall star Sean Paul, who last hit the Hot 100’s Top 10 in 2009, when he was featured on Jay Sean’s similarly summery “Do You Remember.”
“Cheap Thrills,” however, was initially written for Rihanna, whose manager had asked her for “another ‘Diamonds.'”
“I went to Greg [Kurstin, a frequent collaborator of Sia’s], and that’s what we came up with. I realized just as soon as I was cutting it that it sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her. It’s more Icona Pop. We did actually send it to her, but they passed on it, and then I just couldn’t stop listening to it in the car,” Sia told Rolling Stone last December.
Sia kept listening to the track’s gentle rumble and fun-on-a-budget lyrics — an anomaly for someone who’s written scores of songs for artists, not to mention those she kept for herself. “But I wouldn’t normally be just jamming out to my own tunes,” she told RS. “There’s something really uplifting about it that put me in a good mood, and I would just pretend it wasn’t me singing. It felt very summer and fun, and I was like, ‘I’ll put that on there.'”
The track’s long road to the top was helped along by TV appearances and a music video featuring Maddie Ziegler, the 13-year-old dancer who’s become a muse of sorts for Sia since appearing in the “Chandelier” video. Ziegler performed alongside Sia on The Voice and the series finale of American Idol, and on Monday the singer’s social media team announced that Ziegler would be “joining the Nostalgic for the Present Tour dancing alongside Sia each night!” The 23-date arena tour opens in Seattle on Sept. 29 with R&B polymath Miguel and the electro-chill act AlunaGeorge as guests.
Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Metallica, Selena Gomez and Major Lazer will headline this year’s Global Citizen Festival. Watch here.