JNR Choi and Sam Tompkins’ viral hit “To the Moon!” simultaneously lands atop two Billboard radio charts, as the single advances to No. 1 on both the Rhythmic Airplay and Rap Airplay lists dated April 30. The ascensions mark the newest saga of a song translating from TikTok to success on mainstream radio.
The track jumps from No. 4 on Rhythmic Airplay after an 18% surge in plays to become the most played song at U.S. monitored rhythmic radio stations in the week ending April 24, according to Luminate, formerly MRC Data. On Rap Airplay, “Moon” rises from the runner-up spot following an 8% boost in audience in the same tracking period.
“Moon,” released through JNR Choi/Black Butter/Epic Records, gives JNR Choi and Sam Tompkins their first No. 1 hits on both airplay charts. The twin victories also return Epic Records to the top of both lists after significant time away – on Rhythmic Airplay, “Moon” is the label’s first leader since DJ Khaled’s “Popstar,” featuring Drake, reigned in September 2020, while Rap Airplay sees Epic at the summit for the first time since Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” ceded the throne in January 2019.
While now an established radio champ, “Moon” first came to prominence through TikTok after JNR Choi shared the song with some local DJ friends, as he detailed in his April 2022 Chartbreaker profile. Soon, the song was blowing up in London clubs. “I haven’t seen that reaction to any of my music,” he said. “That put in my head that this needed to be released right now.”
As an independent release at the time (JNR Choi signed with U.K.’s Black Butter and U.S.’ Epic Records in early March), the song’s move from the Internet to radio airwaves united both mediums, often pitted as competitors. “There was definitely a buzz on this song that translated outside of TikTok that got our attention,” says Emmanuel “DJ E-Man” Coquia, the programming director of Power 106 FM (KPWR) in Los Angeles, whose station was one of the first two Rhythmic stations to begin playing “Moon,” according to Luminate. “We played the song on our TikTok 5 Countdown on Tuesdays, and the buzz kept going from there.” The station has since remained a strong supporter, with “Moon” second among their most played songs in the week ending April 24.
Still, the cross between TikTok sensation and radio domination isn’t yet a guarantee. “Honestly, I have to admit I was not an early believer that “To the Moon” was going to end up as successful as it has,” says Michael “Big Mic” Buhrman, regional manager of KSFM in Sacramento, the station with the second-most “Moon” plays among the Rhythmic Airplay panel’s 51 contributors. “For every Megan Thee Stallion ‘Savage’ or Young T & Bugsey ‘Don’t Rush’ that took off from TikTok there are several other examples that did absolutely nothing at radio. If the only reason the song was big on Tiktok was because of the visual component, and not necessarily the song having a catchy melodic hook, I think you’re more likely to not have a song that will work. In the case of ‘To the Moon,’ I think that hook caught on with the audience.”
That catchy hook comes courtesy of Bruno Mars. “Moon” traces its origins to a 2010 track by the superstar, “Talking to the Moon,” from his 2010 debut LP, Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Sam Tompkins later covered the song, which serves as the base hook for JNR Choi’s drill hit. (For his pen, Mars collects his 14th No. 1 as a writer on Rhythmic Airplay and third in that role on Rap Airplay.) And while sampling older tracks for newer hits dates back decades, the story of Mars’ indirect presence likely played a key role in its radio appeal. “Any time you can have that familiar vibe whether by sample or production you definitely have the added advantage, because in radio, familiarity is key.”