I’ve seen it for months now, and I understand why. People are bothered or confused as to why RCA and/or Adam chose a single like “Better Than I Know Myself” as the all-important first release from the equally important sophomore album. It’s a gorgeous song, but it’s safe, almost “WWFM” like, and the response from radio has been lukewarm, which shows that it was not the best choice. Moreover, once we heard snippets of the much more powerful songs on the rest of the album, the pick seemed even worse. With gems like “Cuckoo” and “Shady” available, why BTIKM?
To add to the confusion, the entire release has been odd. It was released to digital sale December 20, right in the middle of the radio freeze and the Christmas season, at a point when Adam himself was out of the country. Yes, I joked at the time it was a Chanukah present (which began December 21 last year) but it just was very, very odd. There were iTunes banners, and radio stations posted the song on their websites or had contests, but it seemed to be otherwise ignored. It wasn’t even sent for radio adds until the end of January, and there was confusion as to the dates – they changed at least once. Meanwhile, Adam was in China and then in Finland, where he made headlines of a sort we’d all rather forget.
The song, despite the efforts of fans and Adam’s own tireless touring, not to mention an innovative video, never took off, which added to the frustration. It would eventually peak at 17 for Hot Adult Contemporary and never made it past top 50 for CHR – Contemporary Hits Radio, or Top 40. And now it seems it doesn’t even fit the album, so why THAT song and why THAT roll-out?
This is my guess, but I’m not alone in it. I’ve seen it in several places – Tess who posts on MJSBIGBLOG, for example. It just feels right to me.
It’s all the fault of Beg for Mercy, the bootleg album released in November of 2011, with the single of the same name released a month or so earlier. Or, rather, it’s the fault of the people who remixed and marketed it (and sued Adam to boot. That, by the way, was settled.)
All of a sudden, there were ads everywhere for this rock song that Adam didn’t want to see the light of day. Radio stations were playing it; a dj in Britain remixed it. And people were talking, some favorably, but many not, about the “new Adam Lambert album” on Twitter and elsewhere.
And where was Adam’s own album? The one that was supposed to have been released “Octoberish”? With his label’s support, he’d changed from the more traditional Idol album to something very, very different. Instead of having a collection of twelve finished songs plus bonuses, he had what I assume were a couple of dozen songs – remember, he’d cowritten about fifty, plus whatever songs others had written than he’d liked – in various conditions of completion, but none actually DONE, and while he had decided on the album format and some of the songs which would be on the album, he didn’t know all of them yet.
But he needed to counter this other album. He couldn’t afford to let people believe it was his REAL baby, the one he’d mostly co-written, the one he’d executive produced, was this production of old demos that had nothing to do with his current efforts. He couldn’t block the sales – that was what the lawsuit was about. He had to do something.
So he did. He announced the name of his REAL album, using a song he was certain to be on it. He did so in the most dramatic way he could – going back to the award show that nearly aborted his career two years earlier to present another performer, and have the album name announced right then. He also announced it to his million plus followers on twitter. They also chose a reasonable date for the album – all the way in March.
But they needed something else because of the early announcement – they needed a single. And I’m guessing that they needed one as soon as possible because once you have a title and a date, you need to publicize it somehow – you can’t let it be forgotten. And they had nothing – they had a collection of unfinished songs, and they weren’t sure which ones would even make the cut.
But BTIKM came to them already written and maybe at that point it was mostly done. It was from the first batch of songs, the ones before he changed direction, but Adam liked it enough to keep it, liked it enough to be okay with putting it on the album. Maybe he even got the idea for the theme of his album from this song. I have no idea. And at that point, RCA wanted SOMETHING. Maybe they liked that it resembled WWFM, and that it was safe. Or maybe they’d have been happy to pick something else, something more top 40, but there wasn’t anything ready enough
It had a great pedigree, though, and Adam was spectacular, and they needed something. So they decided on a soft drop – release it late in the year, have a couple of performances on TV to reintroduce Adam to the world as a singer as opposed to a reality show judge and mentor, and make a good video. We kinda realized this when it was just used as buzz in the UK.
But also? It made a great excuse for Adam to tour first Europe to introduce the album, and then visit US radio for one long, long month, where he sang songs along with his single – but also where he played tracks to program directors and, on a couple of occasions, clubs, and performed two private concerts where he introduced his songs to live audiences. He even had a listening party for the gay press – sounding them all out for his next single. Because THIS would be the important one, the one that would bring him back to CHR, the one he’d sing on American Idol. This one had to be right, had to show who he was now, not who he was in 2009.
No, it wasn’t a great first single but it did the job – it put him in touch with the people he most needed in radio while showing off his considerable talent. Would they have been happier had it smashed? Of course. Would they have been happier if he hadn’t delayed either time? Probably. But this way he had time to correct the single and with the knowledge that radio WANTS this song, and to finish the album the way he wanted.
So, maybe it wasn’t the best thing in the world, but good things came out of it anyway. And we have a new single and an album full of amazing songs, and even a new band line-up. Nothing’s perfect, but it’s all good. (And, hey, top 17 in HAC is not the worst thing, either.)
Again, this is pure guesswork. But it feels right to me.