Adam Lambert’s 2016 Breakthrough

Things are looking up for Adam Lambert, in probably his busiest year to-date, as he is finally apparently transitioning into a permanent celebrity fixture independent of his role on American Idol. Here is the list:

  1. Adam just signed with a UK modeling agency. It’s about time.
  2. Adam is judging the next season of X Factor Australia (after “Ghost Town” reached #2 for 2 weeks there following a well-received performance on the Australian version of “The Voice”).
  3. Adam is playing Eddie on an upcoming remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
  4. Adam recently released two non-album singles, “Can’t Go Home” and “Welcome to the Show.” While neither has been a major international smash, (or much of a hit in the US), “Can’t Go Home” has had some success in Germany, while the new music video for “Welcome to the Show” has been getting quite a bit of buzz (35 articles show up in a Google News search, and 0.5M youtube views in its first 3 days — competitive with other recent Adam Lambert releases “Ghost Town” [which was an international hit], and “Another Lonely Night” [which was not]). Is the music video the first step of a full promotion campaign to US radio?
  5. Adam featured vocals alongside Mary J Blige, Jason Derulo, Britney Spears, Tyler Glenn, Selena Gomez, Halsey, Ty Herndon, Imagine Dragons, Juanes, Jennifer Lopez, the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Kacey Musgraves, MNEK, Alex Newell, P!nk, Prince Royce, Nate Ruess, RuPaul, Troye Sivan, Jussie Smollett, Gwen Stefani, and Meghan Trainor, and Mary Lambert (quick shout-out: who just released a super-cute and probably under-appreciated new music video about her love for her dog and her girlfriend), in charity single “Hands,” to raise money for survivors of the Orlando nightclub massacre.
  6. Adam has “The Original High Tour” PLUS more tour dates with Queen + Adam Lambert.
  7. Adam is apparently already working on his fourth studio album, and he is doing it with hitmakers Max Martin and Shellback.
  8. Adam has been featured in major recent advertising campaigns by Macy’s and Oreo.
  9. Adam was the biggest-earning American Idol alum of 2015 with $10M (largely due to touring with Queen). With all of his projects this year, coupled with more Queen tour dates, Adam could see an even bigger paycheck in the wings.
  10. Oh, yeah. Also, somehow, Adam has basically become the token gay of country music, despite having never released a country single. Adam performed “Girl Crush” alongside Leona Lewis at the CMT awards last year on December 2nd. Now, he has been nominated for a CMT award for “Performance of the Year” for that performance. Either he is the token gay, or country music misinterpreted the performance as the first successful case of conversion therapy.

All of this follows Adam’s true post-Idol breakthrough success with “Ghost Town,” which the New York Times said was “perhaps his best single to date,” before it went on to sell over 1 million copies worldwide (including half a million in the United States), charting in dozens of countries, and reaching the upper rungs of several major music markets (#2 in Australia, #11 in Germany, #1 in Poland, and top five in Russia [of all places!]). Yes, “Whataya Want From Me” was legitimately a bigger international hit, and “If I Had You” was at least a bigger hit in the United States.  But, both of those singles were released in the afterglow of American Idol. Typically, artists have their strongest sales with their first project after the talent show — then they slowly fade away to obscurity.

After 2012’s Trespassing, a person could have been forgiven for wondering if that was what was happening to Adam Lambert. The initial sales bump was just enough to give Adam the first ever #1 album by an openly gay male artist, but the singles largely flopped, and album sales dropped like a rock. The media talked less and less about Adam, despite an album that was chock full of what I would consider some of the best music that Adam has ever made. To some extent, that isn’t just me, either. Billboard wrote a 2015 cover article explaining why music aficionados should give Trespassing a second glance, saying “The majority of the album is pure kinetic energy, with Lambert delivering its choruses rapidly and squeezing over-the-top sexuality into every tawdry syllable.”

“Ghost Town” was Adam’s breakthrough single. It a sleeper hit with a long life, whose success was driven by its own catchiness. And the fact that two of pop music’s biggest hitmakers (Max Martin and Shellback) are still working with Adam Lambert for his next project bodes well for his future. But stacked up next to everything else that Adam Lambert has going on this year, it is just one sign among many that Adam has become a permanent fixture, and that he has finally outgrown his origins on American Idol.

Could Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” Be Song of the Summer 2016?

Today, on the strength of stronger-than expected radio acceleration, Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” made it onto my short list for possible Songs of the Summer for 2016.

The catchy second single off of Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear followup, This Is Acting, has already reached the top 10 on the overall hits lists of almost every other country in the world: Australia (#6), Austria (#1), Belgium (#1 or #3), Canada (#5), Croatia (#1), Czech Republic (#1), Denmark (#2), Europe (overall, #1), Finland (#2), France (#1), Germany (#1), Hungary (#2), Ireland (#1), Israel (#1), Italy (#2), Latvia (#3), Lebanon (#2), Netherlands (#3), New Zealand (#3), Norway (#3), P0land (#2), Portugal (#1), Scotland (#1), Serbia (#1), Slovenia (#1), Spain (#1), Sweden (#1), Switzerland (#2), and the United Kingdom (#2). Note that of the largest music markets, only Japan and the United States are absent from the list (of course, data is not available for many small countries). Note also, that the song peaked at #1 as often as not.

Still, the song got a slow start in the United States after fallout from the absence of Maddie Ziegler in the music video from “Alive.” Another contributing factor to radio’s initial unease with this song when it was released clear back on the 11th of February was that Sia had portrayed this album as the reject pile, the place where songs that had been written for other artists but rejected for whatever reason went to die. Maybe the songs went to the trash heap for good reason?

Finally, after months on radio’s back-burner with little-to-no growth, AFTER the song had done extremely well in almost every other market in the world, US radio finally started to ease up on “Cheap Thrills,” and as it did so,  the song gradually started to accelerate.

Songs of the Summer

So what is the Song of the Summer, anyways? 

With over 100 charts, Billboard ranks songs on almost every metric imaginable — twitter trending, streaming, sales, radio airplay, genre-specific sales, streaming, and radio airplay, youtube streams, on-demand streams, etc. The most-important ones are the overall singles and album charts — the Hot 100, Album Sales, and the Billboard 200. They also recently debuted a chart called the Artist 100, which ranks artists based on their overall performance in terms of sales, streaming, and radio airplay amongst all of their songs and albums.

The Billboard 200 used to be the album sales chart, but split off when Billboard decided to start counting streaming and track sale album equivalents in the main album ranking chart. Album sales just counts traditional digital and physical full album sales. The Hot 100 ranks songs based on a secret formula that weights streaming, sales, and radio airplay.

The Songs of the Summer Chart quite simply agglomerates the data points from the Hot 100 for all charts that occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Whichever song is at #1 when the agglomerate chart ends is crowned the Song of the Summer.

Needless to say, perfect timing is incredibly important. Past Songs of the Summer have typically lead the Hot 100 for at least 6 weeks, and have had their peaks in early-to-mid summer. Frequently, debut huge breakout hits for new artists have been more likely to take the crown than new hits from established huge artists: Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl;” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe;” Iggy Azalea’s and Charli XCX’s “Fancy;” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines;” Omi’s “Cheerleader;” LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem;”  The most-recent songs to crown the summer by non-breakthrough acts were Katy Perry’s 2010 “California Gurls” (the first of 5 #1 singles from Teenage Dream, a record Katy now shares with Michael Jackson); the Black-Eyed Peas’ 2009 “I Gotta Feeling” (and #2 “Boom Boom Pow”) (the Peas had previously had 3 top tens in 2003-2005, including 2 #3 hits on immediately preceding album, Monkey Business, which produced 2 additional top 20 hits); and Rihanna’s 2007 smash “Umbrella.”

Why? Sales (and to a much smaller extent streams and radio airplay) from established big-name artists are typically front-loaded, whereas everything is peak-loaded for a new breakout hit. In order to take the crown, you want to peak-load stats and have the peak timed correctly, so that the song is in surge in early summer and in collapse in late summer, with the highest peak for at least a little while for a time during mid-summer.

Songs that debut during the summer typically do poorly because they have 0 stats during some early weeks, whereas songs that peak early in the summer typically do better because even after they peak, they continue to move a lot of units for the rest of the summer. So, for an established A-list artist to take the crown, they ideally need to release their song exactly during the first week of the chart so that the massive early sales spike counts towards the overall total without leaving any empty weeks, and then their song has to take off like a rocket at radio to ensure that the song can avoid a sharp second/third week dropoff and have an early-enough radio peak that the bulk of the song’s strength is crammed within the tracking period.

Alternately, the artist could release a song earlier, without a lot of fanfare, and then let it grow organically as summer approaches, and then time promotion of the song such that it has surprisingly strong peak-loaded stats that are centered right in the middle of the summer.

“Cheap Thrills”

“Cheap Thrills” is the greatest-gainer overall at radio today, with 60.828 million running weekly impressions (+3.423M today). It rises from #29-#23 in a single day, four months after its release. In fact, it is now growing at twice the rate of the #2 fastest-growing song on radio, Pink’s “Just Like Fire.” In short, it is growing at the rate that one would expect it to grow if it were poised to eventually reach #1 on radio and on the Hot 100.

Even if it does reach #1, it will need to reach #1 within the next 4-8 weeks and stay there for several weeks to even be in the running for Song of the Summer. On the plus-side, it doesn’t have any zero-weeks, and it appears that the bulk of its peak will be contained within the sunny months. Should the song retain its current extraordinary rate of growth at radio, it would be expected to enter the top 3 within a month. Around that point in time, it would become a contender for the top slots on the Hot 100, depending on how its streaming and sales numbers were to hold up.

Conclusion

Sia has no easy road ahead of her. “Cheap Thrills”‘s streaming numbers are far weaker than those of Drake’s “One Dance,” which have kept it ahead of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” despite clearly weaker sales and radio airplay. However, Drake’s streaming numbers are slowly weakening. His song has already peaked. The biggest questions are how quickly Drake’s and Justin Timberlake’s songs will collapse and how quickly (and how far) Sia’s song will rise.

REVIEW: Haley Reinhart’s “Better” is Better LIVE

I’m sorry. I LOVE Haley Reinhart. She is, without a doubt, easily one of the best vocalists to EVER come off of American Idol. And, I want few things more than to see her musical career take off.

But the studio recording of her new single, quite frankly, shouldn’t have made it past the cutting board.

I don’t mean to suggest that it is a bad song–on the contrary, it is a pretty decent song, ESPECIALLY when Haley delivers one of her signature STUNNING LIVE VOCAL PERFORMANCES. But somehow, when she got into the studio, AMAZING melted into FORGETTABLE.

Let’s be clear: this is NOT a new problem. This is EXACTLY the same problem that haunted the commercial underperformance of Haley’s debut album, Listen Up. Haley delivered solid vocal performances while for some reason leaving out the wow factor that her audiences have come to expect from a live performance.

Ironically, the studio version of “Better” sounds very much like it could have been a featured track on Listen Up. In its current incarnation, it just doesn’t have a chance.

Every time Haley has found success, it has been when she opens up and delivers a stunning raw performance.

That is how she found success on American Idol.

That is how she found success with her one-take viral covers with Postmodern Jukebox.

That is how she was able to bring an old love song to life for a viral Extra gum commercial.

And that is why she FAILS when her producers accept a bland studio performance from her.

Conclusion

Maybe Haley’s label can’t or won’t give her access to high end producers who are extremely talented at extracting an optimal vocal performance from her. My hope is that Haley will read these words and take them to heart, so that she can “listen” to the sound of her own voice.

So take one more listen at what could have been, and tell Haley that she can do “Better.” Bad pun intended.

THE END… & some more detailed critique for the masochists–

Just to be clear, the problem is NOT that Haley’s performance is sub-par relative to a typical current popstar. In fact, it would be a perfectly acceptable performance on a Demi Lovato track. BUT, this is NOT current music. This song is out of its time. It doesn’t fit alongside current hits. If Haley wants to pull this music into a time where it doesn’t “belong,” then she has to fight against gravity. She HAS to produce something that stands out, that grips the audience emotionally, and drags them into her circle.

To quote my boyfriend, “It is perfect background music. I can totally ignore it.”

He was referencing the end of the studio recording, where Haley repeats “I’m feelin’ better feelin’ better feelin’ better now” ad nauseam.

She uses the softer, growly, lower tonalities to build into a breakout point that never comes. At peak, she is still using growly lower register, just louder. It doesn’t work. Then, she just kindof falls back into that pattern at the end & puts it on repeat.

The studio version fails to make full use of Haley’s range & vocal technique. I want to hear some signature Haley vocal acrobatics around the bridge. The song generally fails to make use of the upper part of Haley’s range. It is positively BEGGING for a vocal breakaway at the high point of the song.

The lack of a breakaway into higher tonality detracts from the emotional capacity of the song. Physiologically, real emotions cause the vocal range to move higher. By not breaking out into higher parts of her range, Haley precludes herself from FEELING and CONVEYING the full potential emotional impact of the song. We can passively enjoy it, sure, but it isn’t going to grip our attention and drive us in droves to the iTunes store a la Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece” performance a few weeks ago.

Haley’s strength is in her attention to detail.  In short, she needs to focus on FEELING the song that she is singing, and she needs to feel free to improvise.

The instant you start listening to “Creep,” the quintessential example of optimal Haley vocal performance, you hear her move into clear, full, multi-tonal that are drawn emotionally with a kind of crystal clear and lattice-like subtlety, which neglects no part of her range.

She needs a sharper cleaner intonation rising into blissful high notes.She needs to be free to improvise. She needs to focus on the details and really feel what she is singing, so that she can really connect with the song and with her audience.

When she does, there is no stopping her.

Haley Reinhart BETTER album to be released tomorrow; single available for streaming NOW

Haley Reinhart delivered an early surprise for her fans, as she dropped the audio to her new single for YouTube streaming–at least for those with the secret LINK.

Haley Reinhart is dropping a new album tomorrow. You might know her from
— her cover of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” on Extra’s viral gum commercial (~35.7m views from combined official youtube vids +15m spotify)
— her viral cover of “Creep” with Postmodern Jukebox (almost 17m views)
— her viral cover of “All About That Base” with Postmodern Jukebox (over 14m)
— her viral covers of “Seven Nation Army,” “Love Fool,” “Oops I Did It Again” and “Habits” with Postmodern Jukebox (4.8-6m views)
— her cover of “Mad World” with Postmodern Jukebox (2m views)
— her voiceover of a little boy on the Netflix original animated comedy “F is for Family”
— her debut album, Listen Up
or
— her days on American Idol.

Personally, I think she is the most talented vocalist ever to have been featured on the show. Her cover of “Creep” went viral (almost 17 million views) solely because of her sheer vocal talent. If you haven’t heard it before, you should google it.

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Weekly Recap 4/1/2016

First of all, here is the obligatory April Fools-oriented post. Please feel free to trend #SpinTheBottle on twitter & con as many #Glamberts as you can on social media and chat fora. Now, on to the weekly recap —

Ariana Grande just released a new music video — the first in a series? — for “Dangerous Woman.” If she is indeed doing something clever on the music video angle, she could have an incredibly intelligent management team plotting a path to #1 on the Hot 100. Step 1: Great music => spotify streams and easy radio promotion. Step 2: Early music video-type material to spur streams and attention. Step 3: Release new music-video style material on TOP of that which has already been released when the song seams to be at its peak, in order to give it that little extra kick that it needs to make it over the finish line and give Ariana her first #1 hit.

In fact, it seems to be a similar strategy to that being currently pursued by Sia and Iggy Azalea, both of whom released music video-like material (more than a lyric video, but less than the full music video) earlier to drum up the stream-count.

Speaking of music videos, Rihanna also dropped a new one yesterday, and it already has over 5 million streams on Youtube. “Kiss it Better” is a killer single and an excellent followup to “Work,” which has finally clearly peaked at #2 on Radio songs with 164.909 million audience impressions. “Work” loses 0.883 million audience impressions today and drops to 162.626 million over the past week. Couple those stats with the substantial lead that Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” retains (it is still getting over 192 million audience impressions) and the fact that “Sorry” retains a substantial advantage in Callout survey results of pop listeners, and the chances begin to approach 0% that “Work” will ever reach the #1 slot on the radio chart.

Nick Jonas (feat. Tove Lo)’s “Close” (89) is today’s greatest radio gainer, with 24.844 million audience impressions over the past week (+2.602 million today).

Lukas Graham‘s “7Years” (#8) is today’s second-greatest radio gainer with 102.265 million audience impressions over the past week (+2.245 million from yesterday).

Mike Posner‘s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” comes in third, with a 1.65 million increase today (96.562 million over the past week).

Zayn‘s new album, Mind of Mine, is set to top the Billboard 200 next week, but without nearly the level of sales that One Direction was used to. One Direction has typically sold 300,000-600,000 copies of their albums in the first week. Zayn’s Mind of Mine looks like it might have sold 125,000. It’s fascinating, because Zayn’s lead single debuted at #1 on the Hot 100, thereby nominally becoming a bigger hit than anything 1D ever put out.

Meghan Trainor‘s sleek new single, “No” is set to vie with Ariana Grande‘s “Dangerous Woman” for song of the summer, given that both should be peaking around memorial day. Will both or either make it to #1 on the Hot 100?

A few other songs that I think might blow up in summer time? 

Hey” – Fais ft. Afrojack

The Original High” – Adam Lambert

Can’t Go Home” – Steve Aoki & Felix Jaehn ft. Adam Lambert

Team” – Iggy Azalea

Cheap Thrills” – Sia

BeFoUr” – Zayn

Close” – Nick Jonas ft. Tove Lo

Rock Bottom” – Hailee Steinfeld v. DNCE

Low Life” – Future ft. The Weeknd

Piece by Piece” – Kelly Clarkson

Desire” – Years & Years ft. Tove Lo

 

 

 

 

Adam Lambert’s Spicy New Kesha Collab “Spin the Bottle” Just Smashed in at #1 on iTunes in Select Markets!!!

Adam Lambert may be in the middle of TWO world tours (one as a soloist & one as de facto frontman of Queen), he may have recently been cast in a major role in a Fox reboot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and he may have some semblance of a love life besides, but he has still found time to release THREE new songs within the span of a week and a half.

First, it was passé “Welcome to the Show,” which starts slow, but which features an excellent vocal interplay with featured artist Laleh. “Welcome to the Show” made an initial dent at iTunes, but unfortunately failed to catch on radio — so far.

Then Adam dropped the deliciously catchy “Can’t Go Home” with Steve Aoki & Felix Jaehn. Felix Jaehn was, of course, one of the geniuses behind the #1 Song of the Summer last year, Omi’s “Cheerleader.” 

Now, Adam has sent shockwaves through his global fanbase with a new pop masterpiece which he pairs with none other than his good friend, Kesha. “Spin the Bottle,” the first new music from Kesha since her (key) featured role on Pitbull’s 2013 #1, “Timber,” was, of course, an instant success, reaching #1 on the global iTunes chart within hours of its release this morning.

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iTunes data scraped by kworb.net.

ORIGINS OF THE SONG

Adam was really there for Kesha during the lawsuit. Kesha thought it would be fun to record music together, and lo and behold, someone was waiting in the wings with a killer song. Next thing you know, we have a beat drop!!!

How can this be? I thought Kesha was mired in a lawsuit and couldn’t release new music?

Unfortunately, Kesha is still mired in litigation IN THE UNITED STATES. BUT, due to some clever lawyering, Kesha was able to find a loophole that allowed her to release new music INTERNATIONALLY.

Unfortunately for US fans, this means that the song is only available via seedy torrent sites and the like. BUT, for those lucky few Glamberts in select markets overseas where this song IS available, this song is THE FREAKING BOMB, and you have our undying jealousy.

BUT NOT TO FEAR — Kesha’s team has assured us that they are currently in negotiations to get this song released in the US. It is only a matter of time before Greedy Dr. Luke agrees to take a paycheck for what is sure to be a HUGE HIT!!!

 

Taylor Swift Radio Airplay Update

If you add up all current Taylor Swift radio airplay for her 7 1989 singles, she has just barely less radio airplay than the current #1 radio song. 188 million (TS) compared to 192 million audience impressions for Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”

That consists of: 47.5m from TS’s current single; 3m from last single; 60m from 3 singles ago, 14m from 4 singles ago; 26m from 5 singles ago; 20 million from 6 singles ago; and 19 million from 7 singles ago.

I have italicized the singles that each peaked at or near #1 on radio (178m+). The two most recent singles have peaked at 68.8m and 47.5m, respectively.

The one italicized song that did NOT reach #1 (which peaked at #3 with 178m), is “Style” (5 singles ago), with 26m in current weekly audience impressions.

1) I find it fascinating that the one song of the first 4 with the lowest radio peak and worst commercial performance (the one song that did not reach #1 on the Hot 100) is the song with the strongest continued radio airplay.

2) I find it fascinating that the two most-recent singles have had such a dramatically smaller radio peak than did TS’s prior singles.

It seems that TS’s label is continuing to release radio singles to generate passive revenue, but is no longer interested in spending money to promote said singles beyond TS’s inherent celebrity. If so, then this is a fascinating data set which can be used to calculate the true value of/return on label promotion for a single. However, it is not necessarily the case that the label did absolutely nothing to promote these singles (it created a music video for “Out of the Woods,” for example). Unfortunately, we can never know the full extent of label promotion, short of the label actually telling us. However, I still think this is a fascinating data set, and it is likely the closest we will ever get to a perfect data set.