Why Rema and Selena Gomez’s “Calm Down” Swept the Globe
BY EMMANUEL CHIDERA AMOKE
Rema is definitely not out to take all the credits for his success on his hit song ‘Calm Down,’ and its remix with the American songstress, Selena Gomez. He graciously acknowledges everyone who has contributed to the huge success the song has enjoyed, since its release in 2022.
Born Divine Ikubor, Rema’s journey to stardom began at 17, when an Instagram video of him rapping to D’Prince’s “Gucci Gang” went viral. His talent caught the attention of key figures in the Nigerian music industry, leading to his signing with Jonzing World and Mavin Records, led by D’Prince and Don Jazzy, respectively. Since his debut single, “Iron Man,” Rema has become a significant sensation in the Afrobeats soundscape.
“Calm Down” is a track off his debut album Rave and Roses, which hit the airwaves in February 2022. The song’s unexpected success led to a remix featuring Selena Gomez. Notably, according to Rema, he didn’t anticipate the song’s remarkable success, as he doesn’t place extraordinary expectations on his projects. However, the overwhelming reception of “Calm Down” prompted him to take it a step further by adding Selena Gomez’s voice to the remix. Her contribution extended the song’s reach and popularity.
The song has become a global sensation, amassing over $500,000 in U.S. sales and achieving top chart positions across Europe. It even reached number three on the Global 200 chart. On the Belgian Ultratop 50, it peaked at number one, the same on Dutch Top 40, and Dutch Single Top 100 charts. In the United Kingdom, the song peaked at number three and spent twenty-seven non-consecutive weeks in the top ten of the UK Singles Chart, and spent an astonishing 57 weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number three. In addition, among other Top charts, the song has also reached number one on the Canadian Top Songs chart.
Beyond its success on the Billboard charts, “Calm Down” has amassed substantial streams on popular music platforms. It boasts over 1 billion streams on Spotify and over 500 million streams on Apple Music. The music video for the original version has garnered over 513 million views, while the remix has reached over 587 million views as of August 10, 2023. The track has also received platinum certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other music associations.
In the U.S., “Calm Down” achieved significant milestones, topping the Pop Airplay, Adult Pop Airplay, and Radio Songs charts. It marked Rema’s first number-one song on each of these charts and was Selena Gomez’s first number one on the latter two.
Based on historical breakthroughs, Calm Down achieveed fits as:
• Longest-running song atop the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart
• First song to top both the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart and Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart in history
• Highest-charting hit from an Afrobeats lead artist in Billboard Hot 100 history
• First African artist-led track to achieve one billion streams on Spotify
• First song to spend one year on the Billboard US Afrobeats Songs chart
• First Afrobeats song to reach No. 1 on Radio Songs
• Longest-charting African song on the Billboard Hot 100
• First African song to spend an entire year on the Billboard Hot 100
• Most-watched music video by a Nigerian artist on YouTube
Rema’s success with ‘Calm Down’ has caused debates on the contributory factors. So far, his achievements with this song has been attributed to multiple factors. For some, the song’s popularity is aided by the growing popularity of Afrobeats music around the world. Others believe Rema’s rising global profile has been a major factor. According to Heran Mamo of Billboard, Rema’s decision to feature Selena Gomez on a remix of the song, bringing a familiar voice into his fresh Afro-rave sound was a smart move that has helped sustain its success. Many believe the timing of the remix was perfect, as it arrived just at the right time, to breathe new life into it, and expand its listening audience.
One opinion that stands out is that of Billboard’s Kyle Denis, who believes that ‘Calm Down’ has continued to grow in popularity because it is not tied to a specific cultural moment, unlike other Afrobeats hits. Songs like Burna Boy’s ‘Last Last’ and Wizkid and Tems’ ‘Essence’ saw a surge in popularity during the 2021 summer season, and the preceeding one, respectively. In contrast, ‘Calm Down’ has managed to sustain its popularity over time.
Importantly, while the focus has largely been on the remix of “Calm Down,” it’s essential not to overlook the success of the original version. The original version peaked at number one on numerous charts worldwide, including MENA (IFPI), Netherlands Dutch Top 40, Netherlands Single Top 100, Romanian Radio Airplay, Romania TV Airplay, Suriname Nationale Top 40, Switzerland Schweizer Hitparade, Turkey Radiomonitor, UK Hip Hop/R&B. The song has also performed well on several other global charts, including peaking at number 2 on the AFP chart in Portugal, number 3 on the UK Singles chart, number 5 on the US World Digital Song Sales chart, and number 7 on the US Afrobeats Songs chart, among others.
Rema’s achievement is a major win for Afrobeats music and for Nigerian artists. It signifies the growing influence of Afrobeats in the global music landscape. Remarkably, renowned artists like Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid, who have played pivotal roles in the Afrobeats movement, have yet to produce a hit of the same magnitude as “Calm Down.” Paramountly, this success only prefigures Rema as an emerging force on the Global musical scene.
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