What makes a hit song a hit song? Almost by definition, this line of inquiry has no clear, single answer.
But then there's a reverse question. What can make a potential hit song not so?
I've listened to one, specific song—linked at the bottom of this piece—maybe two dozen times in the last week, trying to figure out the answer to this second question.
Admittedly, I'm the wrong person to write an article about Lil Uzi Vert. Every popular opinion had about him is the opposite of my own. I loved him through early 2016, up until 'Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World', his breakout tape. I find "XO Tour Llif3"—his signature single, one of the biggest hits of 2017, a.k.a. the one your mom listens to—almost unbearably irritating. I'd rather bump "Super Saiyan" or "Yamborghini Dream", any day.
So when I come to you and say: listen to this Lil Uzi Vert track (at the end of this article), I think it's the best one he's ever made...I imagine I'm already wrong.
What if I were to tell you about this song...made by a hugely popular artist at perhaps the height of his career, produced by one of hip-hop's hottest beatmakers—Don Cannon—featuring one of the greatest rappers alive—Young Thug. It features an overly repetitive hook (people like those) on top of a supremely chill and bouncy beat. Wouldn't you think that has the trappings of a hit single?
But then I'd tell you the track never got wide release. It was relegated to a throwaway mixtape of 5 B-sides that didn't make the very popular main album cut. Even worse, the song never really got put together. It's unmastered, and not just a little bit. Even the official released version sounds like a rough YouTube rip, in bad need of compression. It features a Moodymann sample already used in Drake's "Passionfruit".
I'd argue this song could've been big, if it hadn't been made not so. Kendrick Lamar's 'Untitled Unmastered' showed that sometimes rejected songs can be just as good as their album counterparts, if given the chance. This song wasn't given that chance. It wasn't hyped, and so it wasn't heard. The DJ tags in the song are loud and frequent, characteristic of lo-fi mixtape releases and hardly the sort of thing that'd position it as a hit single. In the end, there's a single root to the problem: nobody really cared enough.
So all I can say is: listen for yourself. Maybe I'm way off. After all, I have all the wrong opinions of Lil Uzi Vert. But is there no world where a polished version of this track, presented as a single from 'Luv is Rage 2', could've shot to the top charts? We'll never know now.
Here it is: "Bag" by Lil Uzi Vert, off of the '2 Luv is 2 Rage' mixtape. Enjoy...