Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go” takes over atop a pair of Billboard radio airplay charts, the mainstream top 40-based Pop Songs survey and the all-format Radio Songs ranking (dated Sept. 26; all charts will update tomorrow, Sept. 22, on Billboard.com).
The track, released on Vertigo/Capitol Records, completes the longest journey to No. 1 on Pop Songs since the chart began in 1992, reaching the top in its 37th week. Having debuted on the chart dated Jan. 18, it surpasses the 31-week climb of Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid’s “Eastside” in 2018-19.
On Radio Songs, “Go” dethrones the longest-reigning No. 1 in the chart’s history, which dates to 1990, as The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” dips to No. 2 after a record 23 weeks on top.
Capaldi joins an elite club of acts to have led in their first two appearances on each chart, as “Go” follows his breakthrough hit “Someone You Loved,” which topped Pop Songs and Radio Songs for three weeks each last October-November. Previously, Mariah Carey (beginning in 1990), Beyoncé (2003) and Bruno Mars (2010) ruled both lists with their first two entries each as lead artists.
Capitol Music Group executive vice president of promotion Greg Marella credits multiple departments among the label, from bookers to those working with DSPs and more, for the rise of “Go” and states that any airplay success story begins the same: “The artist created a great song.”
From there, the 23-year-old Glasgow, Scotland-born Capaldi has conducted around 150 interviews with radio. “Everybody he comes in contact with, they wrap up that interaction going, ‘I love this guy,’ ” Marella says. “He is so humble, warm and self-deprecating. He’s having fun. He’s enjoying the process.”
Marella believes that an artist’s personality and connection with programmers can help a worthy song go further. “When you have a hit song and everybody buys into the artist as a human being, the fight is different at that point,” he says. “You are now fighting the traffic of all the other songs that come and go. You get to a point where you are no longer fighting with people about whether they’re going to support you. Then it’s about getting through a very crowded playlist and chart.”
Marella — who notes that while most top 40 stations are playing the original, shuffling version of “Go,” a more uptempo Edessa remix has also gotten traction — adds that the success of “Someone” paradoxically played a part in its follow-up needing time to establish at radio. (When “Go” debuted on Pop Songs at No. 40, “Someone” was still in the top five.)
“That was an obstacle,” Marella says. “Stations that were early on ‘Someone You Loved’ were the same ones that were early on ‘Before You Go.’ We are first met with a bit of pessimism about ballads, in particular. Then programmers said, ‘It’s difficult for me to have two songs from [Capaldi] on the air at the same time, so we’re just going to play ‘Someone You Loved’ for now.’ “
Marella estimates that it wasn’t until around June that the focus among radio decision-makers shifted more fully to “Go,” a steady growth with which he finds no fault. “Some stations shouldn’t be early on ballads,” he admits, citing those that are rhythmic-leaning. “That’s just not how those stations are built.”
To date, “Go” has drawn 1.2 billion in cumulative radio audience and 330.4 million U.S. streams and has sold 186,000 downloads, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.
“The beauty of songs that take this long is that they don’t go away quickly,” Marella muses. “I’m confident that this song is going to carry through the remainder of 2020.”