Oh, wow. Things have been FUN in Adamland lately. After months and months and MONTHS of frustration and delays and Mr. Perfectionist changing directions midcourse and consorting with legends and being on our tvs three Sundays in a row, plus a change in band lineup, we finally have STUFF.
We had stuff before – we had the name of the single (and the orginal demo) and we had the name of the album. This made it feel just a little more real – that maybe this album would actually exist someday.
Okay, fine. Adam doesn’t lie outright. We knew there would be a second album, and it would probably be in March, but we’d been promised things before.
And then things got interesting a couple of weeks ago, when all of a sudden, radio people and Sony twitters around the world started hinting about the single, and about big news and a press release, and we got excited. We also got trolled – someone pretending to work for a radio station claiming they’d heard the “dance-pop dubstep” song that would mean Adam was a high priority and rule the charts.
Which made it very confusing when someone else called it a midtempo song that would fit on either CHR or HAC. Then we realized we’d been trolled. A fandom on the edge, as we were, is such an easy target.
So when we got real information – a single cover, a date, a snippet and then the whole song streaming and so everything really was REAL. And everything was also very, very good – that song is amazing.
Okay, confession time. I’m a rock fan. I like a beat and a melody, and I want to be able to bang my head to it. I think Adam has the best rock voice of his generation and he BELONGS in front of Queen. But that also means I’m NO judge of pop music. I’m also no judge of any song Adam sings. I have no critical facilities when it comes to him.
But I’ve asked people who can judge both, and they say that it’s a perfect pop song. So do the reviews – mature, complex with song that tells an honest-feeling story with lyrics people can relate to. And while friends of mine think it’s “safe” because it’s midtempo and on the same emotional theme as WWfM (reasonable), those same reviewers think it’s risky because people think of Adam as dance-pop. This is because his last hit was dance-pop AND because that’s what they heard was on the album.
He certainly sings it the way no one else can, and to my ears, it doesn’t sound like his other songs. It just feels like a hit – and that’s exactly what he needs. This is the album that will show if he’s just another Idol or the star I believe he is, and this is the single that will determine if people are interested in the album at all. And therefore, he can’t take a chance with this one. The next one, and the next one if we get it – he can do dance-pop and take risks but this one – he needs it to sell.
And it’s a gamble, and more so for an Idol. See, here’s the thing about American Idol – it’s a TV show. And as a TV show, it has fans. The fans pick out who they like the best in each season, and root for them and vote for them. And if their choice gets to make an album, they might even buy it. But next season, they settle in to choose someone else, and maybe have some mild interest in their favorite from the year before. Now, sometimes people do become actual fans of this favorite, and follow his or her career and buy subsequent albums but this will always be a subset of the original fanbase.
This is as true of Kelly and Carrie and Daughtry, who are acknowledged as the three most successful Idol alumni as it is of Lee, who couldn’t even maintain interest between his win and his album. But the big three lost fewer Idol fans AND they managed to get non-Idol fans as well. Carrie is especially well endowed with fans. And this is the goal of all who go on American Idol – to parlay their Idol fanbase to a real one. This takes work and publicity and really, really good music in their chosen genre.
If they don’t – well, David Cook was a popular winner his seasons. He’s a smart, nice guy with a gorgeous voice and some songwriting ability, and his post-Idol album did VERY well, as did his first two singles. His coronation song has become a radio staple. And he had terrific publicity for his long-awaited second album and its first single and it failed. The song did not catch on and only the remnants of his Idol fanbase (including me, by the way) purchased the album. David Archuleta, who had the same problem with his second pop album, was dropped by his label and management.
And this is what Adam is facing now. And they need to know the state of his fanbase. There are two things to note – he came in SECOND. There are rumors and so on that there were shenanigans, but that is so easily checked and even accounted for, and one book says Kris won in a landslide. I’m certainly not interested in being negative about Kris Allen. So Adam maybe did not have the largest fanbase of his season leaving Idol. The other thing is that he had a highly controversial performance on national television that did not fit the normal wholesome Idol image. This plus an album that was NOT the classic rock he performed on the show probably lost him fans. Hey, even the campy cover probably didn’t help.
There are indications that he still has a fanbase and even new, non-Idol fans. He has an international presence in countries that do not get American Idol, and sold out shows all over the world. While his album did NOT sell as well as others in the past, it did sell well for that year. And, anecdotally, I know people who became fans BECAUSE of the controversial performance and others who became fans during his tour. Fans who didn’t watch a moment of his season on Idol while it was airing.
And there are other indications, too, that Adam has not lost fans – his 1.3 million twitter followers, his continued sales, however small, of his singles and his album, his sold-out tour. But twitter followers mean relatively little, and people do go to multiple concerts and buy multiple copies. Not that those are usually significant, but fans can be rabid.
And this brings me to the one very confusing thing about this current release – the timing. First of all, this is the time in American radio is called “the freeze.” Program directors go on vacation, and playlists become “frozen” – nothing added except in “request hours.” And for very many stations, they play mostly Christmas music until the 25th (it’s very lucrative – they often increase listenership enormously, some of whom stick around afterwards) and pretty much ALL of them do countdowns the last week of the year. No song gets added to playlists now. There isn’t anyone to do it, and if there were, there isn’t room for them.
That’s plenty, but the other fact is we have the add dates for the single. Dates plural because it’s being sent to two formats on different dates – Jan 23 for HAC and Jan 30 for CHR. These dates are both more than a month after the single debuted. They could have added as early as Jan 10 or 17, but they chose to wait a little longer. So why did they debut at this time of year, and why so far in advance?
Let’s add this – outside of radio buzz and VERY occasional plays, there has been no publicity at all. Adam isn’t even in the US – he went to China on Friday and he’s in Finland now, visiting his boyfriend’s family for the holidays.
This is all very odd. But I have conjecture – and it is pure conjecture.
They dropped an excellent and important song COLD right now – and put it on iTunes and other digital retailers immediately. They did it internationally, too. Whatever radio play it’s had has also been international. Not worldwide, but spun in a large number of countries all over the planet.
One thing is holiday sales. Kids get iTunes cards. So do teachers and counselors. They’re easy and popular gifts. They also get Amazon cards and general gift cards. And it starts now, with Chanukah or before the school year ends, and will increase on Dec. 25 (I think they get put in stockings. I don’t know from such things.) If they released later, they’d lose these sales.
And having a month to do promo and make a video (Adam says they’ll make the video in early January) before impact can’t be a bad thing – Adam is an excellent interview and he’s fun on television, and selfishly, I want to hear that song live. When it does get added, it’ll be more familiar – a good thing – and maybe more stations will add it at once. And, of course, the stations can add it anytime they want.
But I have a further hypothesis. I think they’re testing the fanbase. That’s why the nearly cold drop – the only people really aware of the song’s existence, at least to a degree, are the fans. By tracking how well the song is doing, they can get a fair estimate of the size. Oh, there ARE radio spins, and there is a banner on pop, and a postage stamp on the front page, and ads on Facebook, and Adam’s pimping it on his twitter (we’re so proud of him!) but mostly, it’s going to be fans – the rabid ones who know everything and maybe the ones who are more casual who notice the spin or the ad or the banner.
And how did we do? I’d say we passed. The song got up to 19 overall on US iTunes, and higher elsewhere (number one in Finland, but he’s their national son-in-law), and eleven on pop. According to people I know, the songs above it on Pop are getting a lot of radio play, whereas Better Than I Know Myself has practically none. And it spent the greater part of today at 21 overall. And, again, this is to the core fanbase only.
I think it’s safe to say that we passed the test. His first first single, Time for Miracles, with movie promo and the advantage of being fairly soon after Idol, only reached 25. His other singles didn’t even get that high – FYE wasn’t popular and WWfM was released almost the same time as the album. This says that he certainly retained fans, and probably gained a lot more. This is valuable information, information that his label and management can put to good use as they design and budget promotional compaigns. They won’t be entering the field of battle blindfolded. It also increases the likelihood he’ll have a successful second era and tour.
In short, it’s a brilliant move.