It all used to be so simple. You had a song on the radio and an album in stores, you were famous. If you didn't, you weren't. No longer.
2016's increasingly fractured landscape means that it's both entirely possible to avoid songs that are inescapable for some—until a month ago I had somehow never heard "Lean on Me," it has almost 2 billion views, that's billion with a "b"—and for songs to be huge that completely circumnavigate the usual channels of fame.
Welcome to Aminé's "Caroline."
I first heard "Caroline" about five months ago, and it was instantly and undeniably addictive. The DJBooth staff talked about how he could be perfect for Top Prospects, I thought he had a bright future, but I won't front, I didn't see any of this coming.
Any of what? Whether you realize it or not, in just the six months since the video was first posted on YouTube, a bouncy anthem to the joys of feminine company from a previously unknown Portland rapper has been jockeying with the likes of Drake for chart supremacy.
- "Caroline" is currently the number 12 song in the country overall and rising and impressively is charting on 16 separate Billboard charts, from Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs to the Spotify Viral 50.
- "Caroline" peaked at number three on the iTunes charts behind only Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles" and Drake's "Fake Love" (it currently sits at number five).
- The song has racked up over 75 million Spotify streams, nearly 50 million YouTube views, and millions more on Apple Music, SoundCloud and other platforms.
- Aminé has signed to Republic Records, is now touring the country and recently performed "Caroline" on Jimmy Fallon, seizing the opportunity to make an anti-Trump statement and proving he's an artist of true courage and integrity in the process.
That's a hell of a six months.
In looking for some precedent, I'm struck by another song that's just above "Caroline" on the charts, D.R.A.M.'s "Brocolli," but, at least in that case, D.R.A.M. had already laid some groundwork with the success of "Hotline Bling" "Cha Cha." Desiigner similarly came out of nowhere, but "Panda" clearly had some help from a famous friend or two, so I'm not sure that's the best comparison here either.
Or maybe there really is no true precedent. Maybe Aminé's proof that while success never comes overnight, and songs unexpectedly blowing up is certainly not a new phenomenon, we're living in a time where the line between national renown and making a music video with your friends is thinner and blurrier than ever.
Aminé could certainly prove to be a one-hit wonder, the popularity gods giveth and the popularity gods taketh away. But something tells me that even if he doesn't become a superstar, Aminé's going to be here for the long run, even if he doesn't want to hear about what the future holds.
By Nathan S, occasional keyboard hitter and beard maintainer. This is his Twitter.
Photo Credit: YouTube