Categories: Music News

Adele’s “When We Were Young” Fading at Pop Radio

Barring a sudden reversal of course, the follow-up to Adele’s chart-topping “Hello” will not reach the Top 10 at pop radio.

“When We Were Young,” the second single from Adele’s “25,” is down in pop radio spins this week. It received 4,397 spins during the first four days of the February 21-27 tracking week, which trails the count at this point last week by 8.0%.

The spin count positions “When We Were Young” at #14 on Mediabase’s building airplay chart, which is down from its official peak of #11. Insofar as it is decelerating — and is now below beneath rapidly rising songs like ZAYN’s “PILLOWTALK” and Rihanna’s “Work (featuring Drake)” on the building chart — it seems unlikely the song will even return to, let alone surpass, its official peak.

Blame for the pop underperformance will at least partially be attributed to strategy. “When We Were Young” did not receive an traditional music video (the live performance clip, which emerged prior to the “25” album release, continues to fill the role of “video”) and was only recently issued to streaming networks. While Adele has performed the song in several high-profile television environments, she has also taken an album-oriented approach to her promotion — and shined a particularly bright spotlight on album track “All I Ask” in recent weeks.

One cannot, however, discount the impact of a lukewarm audience reaction. The television exposure “When We Were Young” did receive never seemed to move the needle as well as expected. Though potentially impacted by some clear statistical limitations, a recently released Mediabase listener callout report reveals a tepid reaction from pop radio listeners. Considering the overall admiration music listeners have for Adele, it says something that an Adele song is below the median for “net positive” listener reaction at pop.

The smash successes of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and “Love Yourself,” moreover, prove that traditional single promotion is not a prerequisite for success at pop, particularly when the associated artist is one of the hottest names in the business. Neither Bieber song received a traditional music video — or a particularly heavy level of television promotion — but both soared to #1 on the pop airplay chart. “Love Yourself” just earned its fourth straight week on top.

— “When We Were Young” is still gaining at the hot adult contemporary (building #3) and adult contemporary formats (building #7), but it has not been performing as well as one would expect of a “Hello” follow-up — let alone as well as “Hello” — at those formats either.

Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002. Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]

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Brian Cantor