The pop world was buzzing this week about the close race to No. 1 between a pair of high-profile remix collabs: Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” with Beyoncé as the Internet-stopping featured guest, and Doja Cat‘s “Say So,” with Nicki Minaj bringing the extra firepower. And at the final bell yesterday, it was announced that “Say So” had emerged victorious.
The chart-topper is notable for a number of reasons — as the 1,100th all-time No. 1 hit on the Hot 100, as well as the first No. 1 each for Doja Cat (three entries total) and Nicki Minaj (109 total), and the first collaboration between two female rappers to reach the chart’s apex.
How pumped are we about the new No. 1? And which version of “Say So” are we going to be playing most often from here? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.
1. After spending the first four months of 2020 as one of Pop Twitter’s favorite jams, “Say So” is finally No. 1. On a scale of lonely weekend, watching SNL with a sibling, cool friend’s birthday party or Studio 54 Saturday Night, how excited are you about it?
Stephen Daw: I’m definitely between options two and three — let’s say a solid “Saturday morning brunch date” — with this news. It’s nice to see! “Say So” was far and away my favorite song off of Hot Pink, and after all of the hype it’s received from Twitter and TikTok, it’s good to see Doja finally getting the No. 1 spot she’s been vying for.
Gab Ginsberg: Studio 54 Saturday Night. As Sue says: I’m so freakin’ excited. Not only are two ladies on top, but I’ve been a fan of Doja for a while now and it’s awesome to see her shine. Started with “Mooo!” and now we’re here — it’s enough to bring a tear to my eye.
Jason Lipshutz: Cool friend’s birthday party! “Say So” is a pretty perfect pop single that acted like a slow-motion tidal wave, creeping up the charts before crashing in at the top of the Hot 100 — looking back, this coronation has been inevitable for a while. It’s also exciting when this lightning-in-a-bottle moment happens to a newer artist — I found the experience of watching Doja Cat breathlessly thank her fans on Instagram Live after the song officially reached No. 1 to be a pretty moving one.
Andrew Unterberger: Cool friend’s birthday party. Might have been closer to Studio 54 Saturday night, but some of the specifics of this particular chart race I found to be a little charmless compared to No. 1 showdowns we’ve had in the past.
Denise Warner: Honestly, watching SNL with anyone I don’t live with sounds pretty exciting right now! I have to admit, I came to the song very late — I just had a baby, forgive me — but I’m always excited about a new No. 1, and even more so when it’s not one, but two women. And the song … slaps? (Do the kids still say that? Am I using it correctly?) I’d say I’m at the level of Studio 54 Saturday Night.
2. Nicki Minaj’s presence on the song’s remix undoubtedly helped lift “Say So” to the top, in more ways than one. Do you prefer her remix version or the solo original?
Stephen Daw: The song feels complete with Nicki’s verse — we’ve all known for a while now that she is one of the most skilled rappers in the game, and it feels good to hear her having fun on a verse while simultaneously flexing her undeniable skills. Plus, with Nicki’s presence, it allows Doja to actually show by comparison how talented she is as well; many would be willing to just write her off, but with Nicki’s cosign and her comparative verse, it allows Doja to say once and for all that she is more than capable of putting down some fiery bars.
Gab Ginsberg: Both are excellent in their own right, and I’m happy that the remix opens a door to a whole bunch of other opportunities. For example, I love the aesthetic and outfits in the “Say So” video, and a new visual (this time with 100% more Nicki Minaj!) could be a chance to extend that storyline. Not to mention, how wild are those joint awards show performances going to be, once those are a thing again?!
Jason Lipshutz: The addition of Nicki Minaj to “Say So” was a brilliant pairing of personalities, especially considering how Doja Cat’s flow in her rap verse is clearly influenced by the head Barb, but I personally prefer the solo original to the remix. Part of the reason why “Say So” works so well is due to the jolt of energy that Doja’s verse provides in its back half, unexpectedly rearranging the song’s molecules after a gentler first verse to create a pop-rap monster.
Andrew Unterberger: I think Nicki’s rapping on the song is pretty strong, but I don’t like the way her opening verse cuts the song’s early momentum by turning the song’s disco pulse into a spitting trap beat. If they’d saved her switch-up section for the song’s third verse, I think the remix could’ve been a worthy new edit, but as is I’ll stick with the blissful consistency of the original.
Denise Warner: I heard the remix first, and I’m such a loyalist in that way. Much like how I will always ship Dawson over Pacey because he was Joey’s first love, I have to choose the Nicki version because it was my introduction to the song.
3. Obviously much of the discussion surrounding the Hot 100 this week was about the race for No. 1 between “Say So” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” which was hugely assisted by its Beyoncé-featuring remix. As fans, which of the two songs would you have rather seen at No. 1 this week?
Stephen Daw: I am a Beyoncé stan through and through, and I would have loved to have seen Megan and Bey’s collaboration hit No. 1. That being said, Nicki has been chasing after her first No. 1 hit for almost a decade now — with over 100 entries in the Hot 100 and 18 top 10 songs, it’s mind-boggling that she hadn’t managed to reach that peak until this week. “Say So” is a great song deserving of the top spot for a lot of reasons, and Nicki Minaj is one of them.
Gab Ginsberg: “Say So” is my personal favorite of the two, but I would have been happy to see any pair of women on top. Whether you root for Nicki Minoja or Megan Bey Stallion, only five other songs by solo women teaming up have ever been No. 1 on the Hot 100 — so this would have been a win either way.
Jason Lipshutz: I’m a massive Megan Thee Stallion fan and still hope “Savage” has its day at the top of the Hot 100 chart, but for the sake of giving one of the most undeniable pop songs of the year its crown — and Nicki Minaj, a constant presence in the mainstream for the past decade, her first No. 1 — I’m thrilled that “Say So” reached the summit. This battle was a can’t-lose situation from a narrative perspective: In addition to Doja Cat and Minaj’s first career No. 1s, you had Beyonce potentially scoring a Hot 100 No. 1 in her fourth straight decade (counting her ’90s hits with Destiny’s Child), as well as the arrival of Megan, one of the most charismatic rappers in years, as a pop force.
Andrew Unterberger: I would’ve preferred to see “Savage” there, mostly because its Beyoncé remix felt like the song arriving as a genuine cultural moment, whereas the Nicki remix just continued the momentum of a song that was already one of the year’s defining singles. But both are clearly deserving of being No. 1 at some point.
Denise Warner: I love Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion. “Savage” is great. I just like “Say So” a little bit more. (But Beyonce absolutely needs to put out an entire rap album.)
4. Since between “Say So” and “Savage,” this is such a historic week for all-female rap collaborations on the Hot 100, give a shout out to another rap song you love with at least two female artists on it.
Stephen Daw: It’s gotta be Lizzo’s “Tempo,” featuring Missy Elliott. It’s such an infectious song that has me dancing through my apartment every time it comes on. The production is incredible, Lizzo’s matter-of-fact delivery is excellent, and there is something special about the way Missy enters with her iconic “Kitty cat, kitty cat, purrrr.” I haven’t stopped listening to it since it came out, and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
Gab Ginsberg: Gotta shout out the dream team that is Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande. “Bed,” their second collaboration (sandwiched between 2016’s “Side to Side” and “The Light Is Coming,” which was released only one week after “Bed”) is just perfectly silky.
Jason Lipshutz: I loved Missy Elliott and Eve growing up, and when they combined for “4 My People” on the former’s landmark Miss E… So Addictive album, it felt like a momentous occasion — taking the power of their previous collaboration “Ain’t Got No Dough” and amplifying it to an insane degree. When will someone let me travel back in time and help convince Missy and Eve to make a joint project in 2002?
Andrew Unterberger: Gotta give a shoutout to the original: Queen Latifah and Monie Love’s “Ladies First” from 1989. Certainly not the first all-female rap tag-team ever, but likely the first that many Gen X-ers heard on the radio or saw on MTV, and one whose breezy groove and effortless bravado remains a hip-hop gold standard three decades later.
Denise Warner: Lil Kim’s “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix),” featuring Missy, Da Brat, Left Eye and Angie Martinez. (I’m lucky to be isolating with my husband and my son, but I do miss being around women, and this is perfect for that itch.)
5. The success of “Say So” also marks the comeback of writer/producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald — producer of the song under the alias Tyson Trax, and co-writer under his own name — who scores his first No. 1 since Kesha first sued her former collaborator for sexual abuse and other offenses in 2014. How much does his involvement with the track affect your enjoyment of the song and this moment?
Stephen Daw: It’s definitely a massive bummer to find out that Gottwald is involved with a project that I really like — so much so that it usually forces me to rethink whether or not I’m willing to throw support behind the song every time. It’s a phenomenon that fans of Kim Petras have long been dealing with, considering Gottwald’s near-constant involvement with her music. You want to support the artist because you love their music, but you may not want to support someone who’s accused of sexual assault and abuse. And frankly, it’s a question that I still am struggling to answer for myself.
Gab Ginsberg: I believe Kesha, and I wish someone other than Dr. Luke had produced “Say So,” and “Say So” is an awesome song — all of these things can be true at the same time. Doja has declined to comment on why she chooses to work with Luke, so it’s unclear what went into the decision, or what other external factors might have been at play in its making. Regardless, I think it’s unfair to expect moral perfection from anyone, including artists. If Doja has her own reasons for wanting to work with Luke, I don’t have to like it, but that’s her deal. I do wish there was a way to support Doja and not Luke, but the fact is he helped her make a hit, and I do enjoy it.
Jason Lipshutz: To me, the ability to separate the art from the artist will forever exist on a sliding scale; we all have different thresholds for what we can enjoy and what we can’t ignore. Do I feel a little strange when I sing along to “Say So,” fully aware of the allegations faced by one of its creators? Yes, but it’s not the same level of repugnance that I feel when I’m in the grocery store and hear a song by R. Kelly, whose music I will never be able to listen to for enjoyment again. There are not hard and fast rules for these things, and emotional reactions naturally beget differing opinions on what can be tolerated. If anyone does feel uncomfortable with Dr. Luke’s involvement on “Say So,” though, I do not begrudge them one bit.
Andrew Unterberger: Not as much as it should, probably — which is just to say that when I hear “Say So” on the radio or whatever, my first reaction is still “Great song!” And it is a great song, just as so many of the pop hits Dr. Luke wrote and/or produced in the ’00s and ’10s were. I’m not in favor of trying to remove it (or Doja) from the culture for its association with a guy accused of doing some pretty terrible things, nor do I think that’s a practical option anyway. But I do think it’s something we have to keep reminding ourselves and each other about — and to continue to ask Doja and other present and future collaborators about — to make sure that everyone stays informed about Gottwald’s resumed presence in pop’s mainstream, and can respond and demand general accountability accordingly.
Denise Warner: This is an ongoing debate in my own head — on the ethical consumption of music and pop culture in general. Hearing that Dr. Luke was a part of this song makes me rethink my enjoyment, yes. How does one support the success of “Say So” without marginalizing Kesha’s accusations or story?