Jordanian teen singer Issam Alnajjar appears on Spotify's Times Square billboard

The singer scored a viral hit with the song ‘Hadal Ahbek’

Shining bright: Jordanian teenager Issam Alnajjar appears in Spotify's billboard in New York. Courtesy Spotify
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Issam Alnajjar is the latest Arab singer to appear on Spotify’s digital billboard in New York City.

The Jordanian teenager had his name up in lights on Friday thanks to a new single premiering exclusively on the platform.

Released as part of Spotify's emerging artist initiative Radar, Turning Me Up (Hadal Ahbek), is a club-ready remix of 2020's viral hit Hadal Ahbek and features Canadian artists, Ali Gatie and DJ duo Loud Luxury.

As part of the campaign, Alnajjar also appeared in another Spotify billboard at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre in Canada.

'Hadal Ahbek': the song that changed Alnajjar’s life

These moves continues Alnajjar skyrocketing success after Hadal Ahbek went viral at the start of the year.

Released last September, the catchy folk-pop tune went on to top the Global Viral 50 – a chart measuring how songs are shared on the platform, blogs and social media.

That rise to the top is the culmination of reaching several number one positions in similar country-specific charts on the platform, including in the US, UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and India. This means Alnajjar's track, the title of which translates to I'll Keep Loving You, was at the time being shared more than those of superstars such as Justin Bieber and The Weeknd.

As a result of the hype, Alnajjar recently signed a deal as the face of Universal Arabic Music, a fledgling boutique label co-launched by Wassim "Sal" Slaiby, the Lebanese-Canadian record executive and manager of The Weeknd.

In a recent in interview with The National, Alnajjar said he is busy writing new songs in Jordan under the guidance of Slaiby.

“I honestly feel like I am part of an A-list team,” he said.

“Working with (Slaiby) is great because he tells me to stay focused on making music and that’s the only thing I should worry about. He cares a lot about my feelings, and gives me advice to make sure I am in the right mental place to make music.”

How to get on a billboard 

Alnajjar is following some of the Arab pop music greats in getting featured in Spotify's marquee billboards.

In September, Mohamed Ramadan's image was projected in Times Square as part of the launch of new single Ya Habibi. He was was the second Arab singing artist to appear, following fellow Egyptian singer Amr Diab's appearance in November 2019.

Mohamed Ramadan's new single is promoted in Spotify's billboard in New York. Courtesy: Spotify

Meanwhile, as part of Spotify's Arab female music talent spotlight Sawtik, a number of independent artists, such as Saudi Arabia's Shahd El Shaarawy and Lebanon's Carla Chamoun have had their faces beamed on billboards across Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

Arab independent musicians shine:  Arabia's Shahd El Shaarawy and Lebanon Carla Chamoun appear in a Spotify Billboard in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

For an artist to get their name up in lights doesn't require a cheque or contact book. According to Wissam Khodur, Spotify's head of artist and label partnerships, to get the career-defining placement on any one of the platform's billboards, an artist just needs to keep working.

"Don't think that your music is not noticed, because I am telling you it is," he told The National.

“We have music editors that are so on point that they make sure to listen to the tracks that come through. We are always checking data to see how tracks are going and where it is being picked up. If we feel the artist is one to watch then we will definitely collaborate with them on all kinds of campaigns.”