Billie Eilish vs. Lil Nas X: Who’s the Supreme Newcomer of 2019?

With the 2020 Grammy game going strong, we took a peek at two of the “Best New Artist” nominees. While they are changing the music industry one fabulous outfit at a time (seriously, just googling their style returns over 140M hits), we checked out how Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X have been performing online for the past six months.
Battle of the Newcomers: Billie Eilish vs. Lil Nas X
Sara Mekinc

If you’ve never heard of these two, you’ve either just woken up from a refreshing year-long slumber or have finally been rescued from the depths of the Amazonian jungle. In either case: hi, congrats on your return, we’re honored you chose us as your go-to info provider. Here’s what you’ve missed.

Stream if you want to go faster

The recent award season and streaming services’ annual data wrap-ups confirmed pretty much all of our educated guesses – above all, Billie Eilish did indeed rock the globe this year. In December Spotify announced her as the second-most-streamed artist of the year (topped by Post Malone), and her debut album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” was crowned top-streamed release of 2019. Combining the 2019 Spotify, SoundCloud, and Apple Music numbers, Billie’s streams surpassed the incredible 7B mark.

If your track is the most Shazamed in 2019, meeting your idols isn’t complicated anymore. Get it, *complicated*? Source: Instagram

Lil Nas X managed to sprint out of left field and score a massive touchdown: “Old Town Road feat. Billy Ray Cyrus (Remix)” is among Spotify’s top 5 most-streamed tracks of 2019 and Pandora’s #1 thumbed-up track of 2019. After breaking all-time records by holding #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for an unbelievable 19 weeks, he was finally dethroned by Billie’s “bad guy” in July. Lil Nas X released his debut EP “7” a month before, and as of September 2019, his tracks have been streamed over 2.3B times.

Who run the world? Youth.

If you don’t find these feats bonkers enough, consider this – both artists achieved them before they even turned 21. Lil Nas X is seeing global fame at 20, and Billie Eilish, who has just turned 18, is the first artist born in the 2000s to climb to the very top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. From CMAs to AMAs to VMAs, both have had impressive awards coming out of the wazoo this year, so we won’t go into listing them at this point. 

Another advantage of growing up in the digital era is being very much aware of the power of social media. When boosting their online popularity, both flexed on Twitter and Instagram where they are already followed by industry powerhouses. Among Billie’s 44M Instagram followers are Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Nicky Jam, and Alicia Keys. Twitter is Lil Nas X’s home turf where he’s the stronger of the two, boasting 3.4M followers and delighting them with wacky memes and self-deprecating humor. 

As Lil Nas X himself puts it – almost as enlightened as changing his video title from “official video” to “official movie.” Source: Twitter

The Sounds of Summer

Moving from social media to SoundCloud and YouTube stats, we took a closer look at the musicians’ performance this past summer and back-to-school months – from May to October 2019.

Both artists (obviously) had songs topping the worldwide summer hit charts. The flow of their popularity can be seen on this interesting SoundCloud pattern. Lil Nas X started picking up engagement just as Billie’s fans started cooling down. Billie peaked at 44M plays after her hyped end-of-March album release then started dropping while Lil Nas X’s plays increased to 32M, first with the announcement, and later with the June release of his EP. Both artists saw a decrease in engagement until the end of August when they picked up again – most likely thanks to the wins at the MTV VMAs and the buzz preceding them. Since then and up until the official Grammy announcements, they remained pretty much neck and neck.

Billie Eilish’s and Lil Nas X’s genre-bending approach to songwriting proved to be popular on SoundCloud, reaching 259M combined plays in mere months.

When we take our horse to the YouTube Road (sorry not sorry), it becomes obvious who owned the summer playlists. Even though Billie’s videos reached an impressive 20M–40M monthly views, they were no match for Lil Nas X – he surpassed the staggering 120M-monthly-view mark. The flow you see on our chart shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise for two reasons: 

(1) The eponymous country-rap music video featuring Billy Ray Cyrus (which now holds over 400M views, mind you) was released on 17 May, so this summer chart could almost double as a hit song lifecycle study; 

(2) There are 4 more official remixes of “Old Town Road” to keep both engagement and chart positions high.

If poolside Bluetooth speakers could talk, they would probably beg you to refrain from mentioning horses in the foreseeable future. 

That isn’t to say that only Lil Nas X took to remixing his track in order to, pardon the pun, ride the wave ‘till he can’t no more. Soon after launching “bad guy,” Billie Eilish also introduced a remix that was “virally enhanced” with Justin Bieber and was rewarded for it with a couple more million views. In the streaming era quantity is equally important as quality since the current chart systems favor re-releases. For example, if a track meets certain parameters, Billboard counts all remixes as a single, original entity. As we mentioned above, both artists were the absolute chart-toppers this year, so “the remix arms race,” as Billboard editors themselves dubbed it, is an industry phenomenon that should be considered when discussing an artist’s impact.

In the streaming era quantity is equally important as quality.

Our Grammy verdict: 

Billie Eilish will take that crown. Yes, Lil Nas X had an incredible year considering he jumped on the industry trampoline almost literally 365 days ago and now already soars majestically as a music, LGBT+, fashion, you-name-it icon. But Billie is one of those few artists that can, in terms of popularity and personal integrity, flaunt an extraordinarily steady performance throughout time. Plus, to emphasize again, she’s 18. We’re more than excited to see how Lil Nas X’s viral sensation-turned-story-of-the-year pans out, but as the newcomer battle goes, we’re totally Team Billie. 


Cover photo: Billie Eilish, Apple Music Awards Publicity Photos 2019 

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Sara Mekinc

Sara Mekinc

Content Specialist at Viberate
Avid concert-goer, a sucker for creative wordsmithery, and 100 % biodegradable. Google "melomaniac".