Lil Baby’s Bigger Picture Empowers The Music Charts

In normal times, labels and artists release albums on Friday and the most popular albums can totally change the music charts. But these are not normal times. Since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, and the subsequent protests, almost no major artist has dared to release a new album in the midst of the struggles on the streets over race and justice.

For example, according to Music Maven’s proprietary technology, which provides the most current and accurate data on the performance of all artists and songs in daily music charts, no artist released any new album that significantly altered the charts last week. This meant that despite all the conflicts and changes in the nation and the world, the same artists and songs that dominated the charts before the protests still dominated weeks later.

Those conflicts and changes intensely involved the music industry. While music industry insiders began the campaign that made Blackout Tuesday, June 2, a digital force of millions, artists like Lil Nas X, Drake, and The Weeknd pressured the industry to donate millions. On June 3, Warner Music created a $100 million fund “to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism,” and Sony Music matched those funds for similar purposes on June 5.

At the time, this had zero impact on the music charts, partly because many labels also publicly refused to release new albums because of the protests. Whether or not they deliberately withheld their albums, no label or artist released any album that made any substantial difference to the charts. This week was the same in that no major artist released any album that changed the charts much.

The difference was that one of the artists already at the top released a song that finally addressed the protests and represented them with a real message. That artist was Lil Baby, and his song, “The Bigger Picture.”

Lil Baby began this week with 7.3M streams, at number four on Music Maven’s Most Streamed Artist chart. The others then were DaBaby at number one with 9M streams, the late Juice WRLD at number two with 8.8M, Post Malone at number three with 7.8M, and Drake at number five with 6.2M. Those are still the top five Most Streamed Artists, and in that exact same order, except that Lil Baby is now number one. Partly because of the absence of any new major album release, which tends to reduce listenership at the top over time, these same five have also declined in total streams, for example, with Drake still at fifth place, though now with only 3.2M.

Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” released on Friday, June 12, quickly became the Most Streamed Song with 2M streams, and made Lil Baby the Most Streamed Artist at 6.1M. The fact that Lil Baby was already in the top five, because of the success of his album, My Turn, released on February 28, facilitated this rise. What made the difference was the quality and message of the song in response to the protests. For example, DaBaby just released a remix of his reigning number one “ROCKSTAR,” featuring Roddy Ricch called “BLM Remix,” also in response to the protests, but that song only debuted at number 30 Most Streamed, with 895K streams, and did not compete with the song’s original, now at number two with 2M streams.

Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” debuted at number one, with 30K more streams than DaBaby’s “ROCKSTAR — BLM Remix.” With lyrics like these in the chorus, Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” empowered the music charts:

It’s bigger than black and white

It’s a problem with the whole way of life

It can’t change overnight

But we gotta start somewhere

The music video for the song displays recent footage of the protests already viewed by millions on news media outlets and social media platforms, but is overlaid with a meaningful lyrical voice from the protests themselves. The video also represents Lil Baby’s own participation in the Atlanta demonstrations. There he is on a bike, draped in black with his “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt and matching mask with the words of resistance, “No Justice, No Peace.” Now at 3M views on YouTube in only two days, the “The Bigger Picture” video is now the fourth highest trending on the platform.

In more direct representation of the struggles on the streets than either the music-industry originated Blackout Tuesday online, artist donations as enticements for change within the music industry, or the hundreds of millions pledged by labels, Lil Baby’s authentic image and sound resonated more with listeners. That song’s sound waves vibrated the music charts, but did not change them the way that new album releases usually do.

By Vince, June 14, 2020