Five Burning Questions: The Kid LAROI’s ‘Thousand Miles’ Scores Top 20 Debut on Hot 100

Five Burning Questions: The Kid LAROI’s ‘Thousand Miles’ Scores Top 20 Debut on Hot 100

After breaking through last year with his single “Without You,” then scoring a No. 1 smash alongside Justin Bieber with “Stay,” The Kid LAROI returned last month with “Thousand Miles,” his first new song of 2022. The single, which precedes the 18-year-old phenom’s proper debut album, launches at No. 15 on this week’s Hot 100 chart, becoming his fourth career top 10 hit on the tally and angling for an extended run this spring and summer.

How big could “Thousand Miles” become? And what do we want to hear from The Kid LAROI’s debut LP? Billboard staffers answer these questions and more below.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how are you feeling if you’re The Kid LAROI now that your first big single of 2022, “Thousand Miles,” has debuted at No. 15 on the Hot 100? (Please include a number in your answer!)

Christine Werthman: At first, I would be a mere 5. What can I say? I got used to that sweet life at No. 1 with “Stay,” and this feels so far from that. But then I would come around to an 8 because this is my highest debut on the Hot 100 as a solo artist, and No. 15 is not too shabby for ya boi.

Jason Lipshutz: A 6. “Thousand Miles” scoring a top 20 debut is good news for The Kid LAROI, who continues to establish himself as a dynamic presence in mainstream pop. Yet the fact that “Stay” with Justin Bieber has grown into one of the biggest hits of the past 12 months, as well as a multi-platform radio juggernaut, suggested that LAROI’s next single could have scored an even bigger bow than the top 20 of the chart. I have faith in “Thousand Miles” as a slow-growing smash, keeping in mind this hot-if-not-scorching launch.

Josh Glicksman: 7.5. The new single technically marks The Kid LAROI’s second solo entry in the top 15 of the Hot 100, though the first trip came after “Without You” received a post-Miley Cyrus remix boost. “Thousand Miles” signals to LAROI and his team that he has more than enough pull to make a splashy debut without a star-studded collaboration or any other bells and whistles. Sure, a top 10 arrival may have bumped this score up a point or two, but keep in mind this is an artist without an album out still that is releasing his first solo single since late 2020.

Katie Atkinson: I would say a 9. This is a pretty low-key song, so I would assume that he wasn’t expecting it to shoot straight into the top 10. It feels more like the song that sets up a new era (and possibly bigger, poppier things to come) than the smash single. The No. 15 debut just shows how much momentum he’s built as an artist that anything he puts out could end up in the top 20.

Lyndsey Havens: I’d be at about a 6.5-7. A top 20 debut is pretty great, especially considering how few songs have managed to debut at No. 1 this year as the chart’s top 10 has been mostly made up of year-old (or even years-old) hits. That said, given the runaway success of LAROI’s collaboration with Justin Bieber, “Stay,” if I were him I may have been anticipating more… anticipation for my first single since.

2. A little over a week after its release, what is your impression of “Thousand Miles,” both from a musical standpoint and as the latest step in the evolution of The Kid LAROI’s voice?

Christine Werthman: “Thousand Miles” continues to walk the Post Malonian road: relaxed tempo, bad-guy lyrics, husky vibrato. Though “Without You” had more direct moments of vulnerability (“But I’m scared to be alone”) and a softer beat, this track swerves toward bigger pop balladry thanks to that melodic line that leads into each chorus and LAROI’s more confident vocal performance. The piano chords give it a bright, hopeful sound, even as he’s dashing that to bits: “And I will never change/I couldn’t even if I wanted to for you,” sings the hardened heartbreaker.

Jason Lipshutz: Its hook may not be as instantly memorable as the chorus of “Without You,” but “Thousand Miles” posits The Kid LAROI as a sort of genre-hopping troubadour, his personal problems cautioning against romantic entanglements as his understanding of pop songwriting casts a magnetic spell. Working with Watt, Louis Bell and Billy Walsh on the track, LAROI stays in the center of his sound while also gaining confidence as a vocalist and storyteller, which bodes well for future releases.

Josh Glicksman: I’m actually not sure how much it indicates to me about how LAROI’s voice has evolved in the past year! “Thousand Miles” has been in the can for a long time: even when he was playing shows late last summer — many months before using the song to poke fun at former manager Scooter Braun in a viral TikTok strategy — he’d already teased the song enough to the point where fans in the crowd could sing along to its hook. I’m more interested in hearing more recently recorded releases before weighing in on the evolution of his sonic direction.

Katie Atkinson: This has elements of his biggest hits – the melancholy of “Without You” joined with a very slowed-down version of the “Stay” backbeat – so it feels like he’s continuing to work with his known strengths. On the lyrical side, he’s even continuing the theme from “Stay” – this time saying “I will never change” as opposed to “I told you I changed, even when I knew I never could.” My man has found his lane and is owning it.

Lyndsey Havens: It’s both a departure and a return — he’s stepping back from the high-energy, electro-pop sound of “Stay” and returning to the earlier, more familiar success of his breakout hit “Without You,” a similarly downtempo, acoustically driven song. That said, “Without You” seemed to pack more of a punch — and perhaps that’s just because it was unexpected, as was LAROI rocketing to superstardom at the time. I do appreciate that he isn’t eager to abandon the sound that helped break him entirely, though I do hope the rest of his album sees him taking some more sonic risks.

3. After The Kid LAROI songs like “Without You” and “Stay” spent months dominating radio and streaming playlists (and continue to do so), do you foresee a similar fate for “Thousand Miles”?

Christine Werthman: “Without You” peaked at No. 23 initially and then went to No. 8 with the Miley Cyrus remix. “Stay” was a joint venture with Justin Bieber that debuted at No. 3 and sat at No. 1 for seven weeks, but who knows how it would’ve fared without the Bieber boost. I have high-ish hopes for this LAROI track, since it’s his biggest debut as a solo artist, and the fans are feeling it. And if someone hops on a remix, this sucker will be around for months.

Jason Lipshutz: Yeah, this sounds like a summer-defining smash to me, all moody melodies and that blend of guitar strumming and trap beats that seems to make so much sense within modern pop. The Kid LAROI has tapped into a sound that amplifies his angst with maximum digestibility, and “Thousand Miles” is going to be bellowed in a lot of festival fields and during a lot of late-night hangs this year.

Josh Glicksman: I think “Stay” remains the biggest hit of the three, but there’s little doubt in my mind that “Thousand Miles” will enjoy a lengthy run in rotation at multiple formats. The song is radio-friendly both in its lyrics and its reliance on its hook, which it employs early and often. I’m less sure of it being a mainstay across streaming playlists, but given his track record of spinning songs into massive hits on DSPs, I’m not putting anything past him on that front, either.

Katie Atkinson: I definitely see “Thousand Miles” picking up steam at radio, just like his biggest hits, and eventually climbing to the top 10. This sort of midtempo song will get eaten up across a lot of formats, even making its way to adult contemporary eventually, just like “Without You” and “Stay,” which means we’ll be hearing it for months on end. Every Australian teenager dreams of AC hits, right?

Lyndsey Havens: For the ways in which it’s similar to “Without You,” I can see it having a staying presence on radio and DSPs… though not necessarily dominating either. It’s a comfortable, easygoing song that can fit nicely wherever it’s placed — and that’s both a positive and negative.

4. “Thousand Miles” is the first taste of The Kid LAROI’s upcoming official debut album, following his highly successful F*ck Love mixtape series. What’s one thing you’d like to hear from his first proper LP?

Christine Werthman: I get that he’s grown and perhaps less inclined to frame himself as the victim than the villain, but I hope he keeps some of the openness he displayed on F*ck Love and doesn’t hard pivot into “Sorry you can’t handle me, girl” music. Continue to feel something, LAROI!

Jason Lipshutz: More synth-pop! Part of the reason why “Stay” became such a smash was the meshing of The Kid LAROI’s jaded wail with elastic, fast-moving production, which pushed his personal dissatisfaction downhill to riveting effect. “Thousand Miles” remains more alternative-leaning by placing guitar so high in the mix, but “Stay” deserves a proper follow-up or three, and let’s hope his upcoming album boasts them.

Josh Glicksman: Part of what I’m hoping for is to hear many things: throughout his short career, LAROI has kept listeners guessing on what sort of sonic elements they’ll hear in his next release. I’d be willing to bet that he’s been in the studio throwing everything at the wall just to see what sticks. Above all else though, I’m hoping that such experimentation yields a great, straight-up rock jam. Aside from the perfectly-suited raspy vocals and rockstar hairdo, his manager Adam Leber told Billboard last year that LAROI is “heavily into artists like [INXS’] Michael Hutchence and Kurt Cobain.” Lean into that inspiration!

Katie Atkinson: His style worked so well at the breakneck speed of “Stay,” so I’m hoping for more uptempo jams. The Justin Bieber collaboration gave him permission to lean fully into the pop sound, and I think he can take that baton and run with it solo on his first proper album.

Lyndsey Havens: What I loved to much about “Without You” was that it surprised me — just this raw, spoken-sung vocal and some guitar. And while I didn’t immediately love “Stay” as much, in hindsight I now appreciate that song for having a similar impact: one of pleasant shock. My only hope for LAROI on his proper debut full-length is that he loves what he’s made — and for me, that would result in an exploration of sounds and themes in his writing. (And… perhaps a collab with Post Malone, who recently gave LAROI a new tat.)

5. The Kid LAROI’s “Thousand Miles” or Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” — what’s your karaoke go-to jam this summer and why?

Christine Werthman: The Kid LAROI’s “Thousand Miles,” as I too am a hardened heartbreaker. Also, LAROI’s song is under three minutes, a perfect karaoke length, while Carlton’s is nearly four, an eternity in karaoke years.

Jason Lipshutz: Gotta give it up for VC, especially after digging deep into “A Thousand Miles” a few months ago. Yes, I play air-piano whenever I sing “A Thousand Miles” at karaoke, and no, I won’t stop.

Josh Glicksman: Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” by a considerable margin, but it’s hard to fault LAROI much there — Carlton has one of the greatest karaoke jams of the 21st century.

Katie Atkinson: I’ll choose option C: The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” Vanessa promises to walk a thousand miles and LAROI is telling you to walk a thousand miles away, but The Proclaimers are the only ones breaking the trip up into reasonable, 500-mile chunks.

Lyndsey Havens: So sorry LAROI, but Vanessa all the way. Only one of the two can be belted at the top of your lungs — as any “good” karaoke participant does.

Five Burning Questions: The Kid LAROI’s ‘Thousand Miles’ Scores Top 20 Debut on Hot 100 After breaking through last year with his single “Without You,” then scoring a No. 1 smash alongside Justin Bieber with “Stay,” The Kid LAROI returned last month with “Thousand Miles,” his first new song of 2022. The single, which precedes the…