Scrolling through this week’s Hot 100 it seems like business as usual: Lorde holding onto the top spot for the ninth week, One Direction grabbing a block of spots in the teens after the release of their new album. Then about halfway down you run into a 13-year-old Enya song sitting at number 43, in between Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” and Joe Nichols’ forgettably breezy country-pop cut “Sunny and 75” like it’s no big thing, and your brain locks up for a second while it tries to figure out exactly what’s happening.
It might take a second, but your brain might finally put two and two together and come to the correct conclusion that “Only Time” is suddenly a semihit again because of the mind-blowing commercial featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between a pair of moving Volvo semi trucks that went viral recently. Although putting Enya, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Volvo trucks together seems completely random and arbitrary, it kind of works, with the song’s pastoral, New Age-y plucked strings and synth pads underlining the ad’s weirdly effective inspirational theme.
As of this writing, the Volvo ad’s had over 56 million views on YouTube, which thanks to Billboard‘s new methods for counting digital streams is enough to put it ahead of most of the songs that are currently being promoted using all of the new and old methods that the record industry has for promoting music—which probably has some executive somewhere tearing out his hair in frustration. Virality is notoriously difficult to predict, never mind control, which is why a decade-plus New Age song is right now handily dominating singles like August Alsina’s “I Luv This Shit” that have “hit song” written all over them but have yet to engage the mainstream’s attention in any significant way.
Billboard‘s policy for counting digital streams towards Hot 100 placement also brought Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” back to number 42 early last month as a result of the massive number of online plays it had around Halloween. The digital age has thrown an endless number of new hurdles in the path of the people who make and promote pop music, and it seems to have added yet another: random incursions from the past.