Now Passing For Nostalgia on the Billboard Charts: Circa-2007 Rock-Radio Staples
The No. 4 album on this week's Billboard albums chart, which is topped once again by soft-underbelly country act Lady Antebellum's Need You Now (93,000 sales, down 11% from previous week), is The Edge, a compilation of songs that you might hear on your local "active rock" station or at your local strip club. The comp, released by the nostalgia-compilation-happy outfit Razor & Tie, is stuffed with power chords, angst, and misspelled bad names; Staind, Korn, and Trapt are all in there, as are two tracks by the stealth rock-radio stalwarts Finger Eleven. (Somehow, Panic! At The Disco's syllable-stuffed "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" managed to fast-talk its way onto the comp, too.)
The Edge sold 53,000 copies in its first week, which in the grand scheme of record sales through the years isn't that great of a number. (During the week in 2006 when Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds debuted at No. 1 with 228,000 copies sold, 53,000 sales was enough to nab only the No. 15 spot.) But it's odd that in the era of single-serving songs moving boatloads more units than the albums to which they're attached, a compilation that isn't affiliated with the Twilight series moved a substantial number of units. What helped The Edge achieve this brief triumph? Blame television.
There are actually two versions of The Edge available to people who feel like their CD collection needs Drowning Pool's "Bodies." Razor & Tie is direct-marketing a three-disc version of the comp, touting that it wasn't available in stores. It costs $29.95 plus shipping and has 50 tracks, many of which are name-checked in the above commercial.
But there is a version of The Edge that's available to the ever-shrinking number of people who live near stores with music sections that don't just carry Taylor Swift albums; the version available at brick-and-mortar retail is a two-disc set that dispatches with apparently lesser hits like Hole's "Malibu" and Bush's "Swallowed" in favor of Finger Eleven's Franz Ferdinand-biting "Paralyzer" and Puddle Of Mudd's "She Hates Me."
There's no digital version of the compilation available, and it's worth noting that the semi-moldy rock tracks collected on The Edge don't have much of a critical mass as discrete downloads; Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" (No. 160, 8,800 copies sold) and Trapt's "Headstrong" (No. 181, 8,000 copies sold) are the only songs of the 50 to appear on the current Digital Tracks chart. (Newer songs by the bombastic Godsmack, the metallish Three Days Grace, and the sorta-wussy-in-this-context Lifehouse are currently bobbing around that chart as well.)
Could The Edge's relative success be a testament to a demand for physical product on the part of its target demographic? Or is 50 songs from $30 still considered a good deal by people who aren't quite ready to brave the murky waters of illegal downloading? Either way, the Razor & Tie press release crowing about The Edge's high placing seems to think that P.O.D.'s "Alive" and Seether's "Remedy" are now safe enough to become, against what some people would say are fairly massive odds, sources of fond memories:
The massive success of a set of older rock songs comes as no surprise to Razor & Tie, the company that pioneered this trend having sold millions of the Monster Ballads and Monsters of Rock compilations -- almost single-handedly making 80's [sic!!!] hair metal and power ballads cool again.
With the success of the first volume, Razor & Tie now plans to make The Edge a series of releases with future installments now being planned.
So it would seem that "active rock" is starting to slip into the mists of nostalgia, even though newer songs by some of its forebears continue to perform well on rock radio. Could this be a sign that the Phoenix and Muse-led charge to take the alt-rock mantle away from the post-grungers who have hung around that format for so long is finally working? Or has the nostalgia cycle just sped up so much that people are thinking back fondly to the biggest rock-radio hits of that long-ago year... 2007?