Monday, March 29, 2010

FootColumn: What may have gone wrong with "The Beautiful Letdown"??

Hey friends! Today's FootColumn will focus on the recent news about the next two singles off of "Hello Hurricane." Some of you have been excited that "The Sound" will be the next single, while others are not so thrilled. So, here's a humble attempt at straightening things out and hopefully offering a new perspective on the radio strategy for "Hello Hurricane" moving forward.

First off, as many of you know, I was a huge proponent of "Needle and Haystack Life" becoming the next single. I still would've preferred it, but "The Sound" is also a great choice (and probably the beter choice at this point) for a couple of reasons. If we look at what happened to Switchfoot during "The Beautiful Letdown" days, we can see that the Switchfoot guys may have learned some valuable lessons from those days.

Exhibit A: "The Beautiful Letdown"

In hindsight, I think that Sony rushed Switchfoot off to Top 40 way too quickly. "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move" both got successful alternative/modern rock chart runs before crossing over into Top 40/Pop radio. While this in and of itself isn't bad at all, it may have done some damage along the way, because what began to happen was that the industry-wide perception of the band became "radio-friendly," "adult pop," "soft rock," and "pop rock."

In reality, Switchfoot really aren't a Top 40-sounding band. With the singles the band has put out to this point, things haven't really been done to really change that perception. I do think one more rockish/upbeat single from “The Beautiful Letdown” (like "Ammunition" or even "Adding to the Noise") before or after "Dare You to Move" would've been the best choice. Instead, Sony went with "This Is Your Life" to try to build on the soft-pop reputation of Switchfoot; but we all know they're a rock band at heart.

Exhibit B: "Nothing Is Sound"

This is probably why "Stars" tanked. It was a rock song that didn't quite appeal to Top 40 crowd that was used to the likes of "Meant" and "Dare.” However, modern rock radio didn't support “Stars” much either because of the overall perception in the music industry that Switchfoot is a "pop band." Granted, the copy protection fiasco with NIS didn't help either, but you get the picture.

Sony then, trying to save "Nothing Is Sound," put out the most poppy song on the album: "We Are One Tonight." In what is decidedly a rock-and-roll, melancholy album, they chose the happiest, brightest, lightest second single to represent the album. Can you begin to see the flaws in Sony's approach? People who rushed out to buy the album after hearing "Stars" or "We Are One Tonight" were probably highly disappointed by the "depressing" themes on the album. What would have represented "Nothing Is Sound" better as aw hole? Probably anything from the following list: "Lonely Nation," "Stars," "Politicians," "Easier Than Love," "The Blues," and/or "Happy Is a Yuppie Word." Sony could've really changed their approach after “Stars,” focusing instead on modern rock radio again and putting down Switchfoot back to their rock roots. But seeing as how Top 40 is far more lucrative than rock radio, Sony tried to make the money grab, and go for the pop charts with "One Tonight." Pure business; nothing wrong with that, but the move probably wasn't the wisest decision in the grand scheme of things.

So, after the relative failure of "Nothing Is Sound," Sony probably began to jump ship on this band, and that is why "Oh Gravity." got virtually nothing in support.


Flash forward to present day: new album, new record company. Atlantic and Switchfoot are playing this perfectly, in my opinion.

Exhibit C: "Hello Hurricane"

It would've been easy for Atlantic to see "Mess of Me"'s decent success at modern rock radio as an under performing of expectations (considering the type of promotion it was getting). The label could’ve panicked and released "Your Love Is a Song" or "Needle and Haystack Life" to grab the Top 40 crowd and sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

But, Atlantic is really showing their commitment to Switchfoot and really working on this album, and re-establishing Switchfoot as a rock band at Modern Rock radio before finally crossing over into Top 40. We want there to be loyalty from Modern Rock radio, in the same way Christian radio has and will play new Switchfoot singles like crazy 'til kingdom come. But to get the sort of support single-after-single that Green Day, Linkin Park, and Three Days Grace get from modern rock, we need to ship songs their way!

"The Sound" was always the band's choice for the second single, as Tim Foreman told me last week, so I'm fully stoked to back this next release. So, take heart, my friends, and let's get ready to promote Switchfoot like never before. Who knows; if "The Sound" and (later) "Your Love Is a Song" take off, we might still see "Needle" become a single yet!


Dan said...

Good insights. Politicians is a great song. It could have been a good rock single I think.

Job said...

I didn't use to think so, but in hindsight, I definitely think it should've been released.