As the sensational number from ‘Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo’ crosses 550 million views on YouTube, we ask the man behind the song to decode its success
When Armaan Malik finished recording ‘Butta Bomma’, he did not feel the electricity coursing through his veins or stars exploding in his gut. It was normal; like any other song recording, he says. He had no idea that the track, composed by S Thaman for the Allu Arjun starrer Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, would be viewed over half a billion times on YouTube within a year of its release.
‘Viral’ is perhaps among the most liberally used words on the Internet. But should there be a benchmark? When Anirudh Ravichander and Dhanush’s ‘Why This Kolaveri Di?’ crossed over three million views on YouTube within a week of its release, it was a big moment in Tamil pop-culture. But that was 2011. Now, crossing a million views is common.
However, you can’t find the right ingredients to make a song that will get 500 million views on YouTube like how ‘Butta Bomma’ did. On occasions, one gets a hunch if their creation will be popular. Dhanush predicted, based on the use of ‘Tanglish’ words and the beat pattern, that ‘Kolaveri Di’ would be popular. But it far exceeded his predictions.
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A happy beat
Armaan also thought people would like ‘Butta Bomma’. “The song makes you happy; you feel like dancing when you hear it,” he says, adding, “But you cannot pinpoint one reason that made the song viral or a hit.”
Armaan, however, offers his theories. “Allu Arjun’s large fan-following helped.” This is an important reason: all of the film’s songs have at least 40 million views. “The way the song was shot and choreographed was quite catchy.” People imitated the song’s hip-rotation-with-the-palms-stretched step the most. This was particularly seen on TikTok. “When the song was released, it first exploded on TikTok before moving to other platforms,” he remarks.
Armaan’s criteria for a good song are: “It should transcend the language barrier. And it should be timeless — people should want to listen to it even 50 years later.”
We have to wait half a century more to see if ‘Butta Bomma’ can pass the time test. But the language test, it certainly has. The most unexpected and perhaps the most amusing version of the song was by Australian cricketer David Warner, who plays for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. Wearing the franchise’s jersey, he danced to the song with his wife and his little daughter. “The song went from a hit to a blockbuster when he shared it. He again did the step on the field as well during a match,” says Armaan.
For someone who is from North India and sings English pop, Armaan is delighted that the biggest hit of his career is a Telugu song. “I have been singing in different languages (other than Hindi and English) for the last six or seven years. And I have always loved singing in South Indian films.”
His recent set of releases — ‘Guche Gulabi’ (Telugu), ‘Yaare Yaare’ (Kannada), ‘Hey Manasendukila’ (Telugu), and ‘Maamazhai Vaanam’ (Tamil) — are from South Indian films.
‘Butta Bomma’ apart, his singles in Hindi and English did well in 2020. One of them, ‘Control’, put his face on the famous Times Square billboard in New York. This year, too, he expects to release a few non-film songs. He also plans to launch a music label this year. “I have a certain sound and a type of music that I want to make. With my own label, I will have the complete freedom to do that. A lot of artists are doing this in the West. If it grows big in the future, I would like to associate with more upcoming talents,” concludes Armaan.