Thursday, May 7, 2009

FootColumn #4: Part 3 in an analysis of past singles and what that could mean for this new album

“Oh! Gravity.” It was the 10th year Switchfoot had been together, and was the sixth studio recording they had done. Little did they know that it would also be the last time they would be releasing a full-length studio album under a major label. Now, the band had been touring in support of nothing is sound “Nothing Is Sound,” from the end of 2005 to the beginning of 2006, and had begun writing for a follow-up to the record.

The band spent the summer in the studio tracking the new record, which eventually would be called “Oh! Gravity.,” a triumph of a record in terms of musical exploration, creativity, and freedom. By September, the album was completed, and Switchfoot was ready to release a brand new single to the world. The premise behind the singles choices was great, in my book. “Dirty Second Hands” was deployed at the tail-end of the month, and prompted mostly positive reviews by long-time fans, as well as ushering in a new a group of fans who dug the “new” Swtichfoot: eclectic, artistic new rock.

Curiously though, this wasn’t going to be promoted as the lead radio single for the record. Instead, Switchfoot released the title track, “Oh! Gravity.” to Modern Rock radio in October. Great move by the label and the band, choosing yet another song to showcase the new side of Switchfoot. It was also a great move to promote the single directly to Modern Rock radio first, just as in days past, and the single got a lukewarm reception, peaking at No. 36 on that format.

Now, whether the label knew this wasn’t going to be an accessible, radio-airwave-grabbing hit or not is a mystery. What we do know is that once again, MTV and Vh1 failed to pick up the video, and there was little, if any, crossover into the mainstream formats for this single. Whatever the reason, there was little to worry about because there were other potential radio-explosive singles on the record. There was still the sure-fire hit that was “Awakening” just waiting to explode onto radio – or so we thought.

In March of 2007, “Awakening” was apparently “impacted” to radio, mainly the Hot AC and Modern Rock formats. What quickly became clear however, despite the music video’s viral success on Youtube, was that the label had committed no effort behind this single. It saw virtually no play on any radio stations on any format but for two Hot AC stations that span it heavily for a couple of months. It became arguably the lowest charting single by far that the band has released up until that time. The label again failed to work hard at the “foundation format” for the band, Modern Rock, and the single flopped majestically (or... not so majestically).

In retrospect then, it is not that big of a surprise that the band just a few months later decided to sever ties with Columbia record and go at it independently. Ultimately, this would turn out to be the best move, as we’ve seen countless projects from Jon Foreman, from his solo work to Fiction Family, to now Switchfoot’s looming, and upcoming seventh studio album, "Hello Hurricane."


Part 1
Part 2

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