Big In Japan

Dinosaur Jr scored a Billboard Top 20 hit in Japan with a 25 year old song that was never released as a single.

How?

Piracy!

Last week, an alt-rock mystery puzzled the music press. Almost 25 years after its release, the Dinosaur Jr. song “Over Your Shoulder” appeared at number 18 on Japan’s Hot 100 chart, beating out major new releases like Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings.”

The fuzzy, mournful closer to Dinosaur Jr.’s 1994 album Without a Sound, “Over Your Shoulder” is an unlikely candidate for a hit single. Indeed, it was never released in that format. Stranger still, the track rocketed up Japan’s charts thanks to over eight million video plays—earning the country’s top spot for video streams—despite no YouTube upload of the song having anywhere close to that many views.

In the end, no one factor made “Over Your Shoulder” a Billboard hit in Japan. Nearly 25 years ago, it was released. More than 15 years ago, it was used on a Japanese reality show about boxing bad boys. Six years ago, Billboard started counting YouTube plays. And just days ago, YouTube apparently began recommending pirated episodes of that reality show to Japanese users, who seemingly binged it in the thousands, playing “Over Your Shoulder” over and over again in the process.