Social Media is fickle. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May. Shaun Reynolds & Esmée Denters are both musicians who made their initial impacts on YouTube, yet in the last few years their YouTube audience has fallen, despite both of them having achieved enough success to earn Wikipedia entries. Even so, anyone who follows music knows that an artist can be a single release away from a hit.
34-year-old, Netherlands-born Esmée Denters started posting song covers in 2006. Success came early for the teenager. According to Wikipedia, by mid-2008 she was one of the first musicians to have more than 100M YouTube views. 32-year-old, Portsmouth-based Shaun Reynolds first posted on YouTube in November 2011. His most popular video, Rihanna’s Work has 12M views. Here is Reynolds & Denters:
Many Music Man readers will know the original recording even if they don’t know the artist who released it. Sunflower, by Post Malone and Swae Lee, is a single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) soundtrack. It is also a track on Hollywood’s Bleeding (2019), Post Malone’s third studio LP. In February 2022, the song achieved the record for the most weeks on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart, which was started in 2013. In November 2022, Sunflower became the biggest song of all time!
Now that’s a big claim and I’d better back it up quickly! In November 2022 Sunflower went 17x-platinum, becoming “the highest-certified single in RIAA history.” On YouTube, the original video has 2.1B views on Post Malone’s channel. A second video of the song on his channel, without Spiderman footage, has 72M views. Many older Music Man readers might be put off by Post Malone’s association with rap and by his facial tattoos. It’s a pity, as he really is a music phenomenon. Here is Sunflower:
Before briefly introducing Post Malone to readers who need such, I’m overdue some comments on the Shaun Reynolds and Esmée Denters cover of Sunflower.
Given the massive popularity of the original song, the opinions on the cover are strong. On the one extreme, there are those who are so enamoured with the original that they don’t like the cover. On the other hand, there are a great many fans of the Reynolds and Denters reworking of Sunflower into a less-beat-driven, more dreamy pop song. The Reynolds and Denters video has 1.6M views.
For me, the best thing about the cover is the confidence of the stripped-down backing tape, but there is no doubt that Esmée Denters can sing. Vienna Roselyn comments: “She has a beautiful voice, and also the beat is awesome!” Yuki-ov writes: “I really love this version. The difference makes it better and unique.” An Understated Infinity comes directly to the defence of Reynolds and Denters: “Needless of what the other comments are saying, I love this cover! Totally different from the original and that’s what makes it great on its own.”
Esmée Denters’s music career peaked between 2008 and 2011 when she was signed to Justin Timberlake’s now-defunct Tennman Records label. She released her debut LP, Outta Here, in 2009. Since then she has released singles and EPs. Her last YouTube upload was in September 2020.
Besides his YouTube uploads, Shaun Reynolds is best known for his song writing on Tyler Ward’s track The Way We Are (2013) and for his collaborative album with Black Prez (Up All Night, 2017).
Finally, a few words about Post Malone. His stage name came from a “rap name generator” (his actual surname is Post) when he was 14 or 15. His music crosses genres, and includes rap and hip-hop elements, but he cites Bob Dylan as his major inspiration and music idol. He is also inspired by Kurt Cobain and Johnny Cash and he’s cited 50 Cent, Kanye West, and Key! as influences. His fifth studio album, Austin, is due to appear on 28 July 2023.
Hopefully, after hearing these two different versions of Sunflower, Music Man followers who have been averse to Post Malone due to their perceptions of his image will give him a chance.