January 9, 2012

The Biggest Impact Songs on Urban Radio in 2011

No doubt the two songs that had the biggest impact on urban radio were “Rolling In The Deep” from Adele and "Otis" from Jay-Z and Kanye West.

Adele's first major hit became a sensation not only on Top 40 radio in America but across all formats throughout the world. The song was popular enough to be played on stations that featured Katy Perry, Drake or Nicki Minaj but also on soft rock stations as well. It also made an impact on many urban/rhythmic outlets that were OK with playing the song right after or before a Rick Ross and Lil' Wayne track like D.C.'s WPGC or Atlanta's V-103.

The record did so well that it caused more than a few urbans to add other crossover tracks that would never have been heard on urban stations' playlists in the past. The cross cultural impact of the song was evident in its use as the opening theme of the 2011 NBA draft. See video below. Expect this song to be named Grammy's record and song of the year.

On the other hand it's been a long time since a record like “Otis” has come along. But not for its crossover appeal (that did not happen), but for the buzz it created in a very short period of time. The song, very simple in production, premiered on a Wednesday evening on Hot 97's Funk Master Flex Show in New York City. By the next day the song was in heavy rotation on every urban station in the country. The song redefined heavy rotation. It was not unusual to hear it at least twice or even three times an hour EVERYWHERE by Thursday morning and at least once an hour for the following 48 from New York to LA.

With the popularity of twitter, the impact across the nation was enormous and spawned blog posts and debate all over the internet. We're sure quite a few people were even inspired to learn more about Otis Redding and the sample from his song "Try a Little Tenderness" based solely on airplay. Was the track actually a great song? Well judging by the number of spins it was getting by late August per week was a telling sign. Virtually none. Despite the hype by Flex on premiere night, the song did not have the staying power until December as he predicted. But "Otis" definitely gets the award for most hyped song in urban radio history.

Funk Master Flex Premieres "OTIS' on Hot 97 July 20, 2011

Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" snippet

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