Radio Hits One: Playing Armchair A&R With The Singles From 2011's Biggest And Best Albums


Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne and André 3000, "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)"

There's a huge gap between my enthusiasm for Lloyd's great summer release King of Hearts and its latest single, "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)." After two great R&B radio hits, "Lay It Down" and "Cupid," preceded the album, "Dedication" was crass in every sense of the word, matching profane lyrics to a kitschy retro soul track in a shameless attempt to make a formula from the success of Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You." It didn't work too well—the track only got to No. 30 on the Pop 100 while faring no better than Lloyd's other recent singles on the R&B chart and the Hot 100. Meanwhile, the album is still ripe with would-be urban radio hits like "Jigsaw" and "Shake It 4 Daddy," if his label hasn't already given up on the record.


Beyoncé, "Countdown"

I have an even wider enthusiasm gap for Beyoncé's 4 and what I consider probably the worst singles campaign of 2011. The underperforming lead single "Run The World (Girls)" was widely regarded as a lousy choice, but I'll go further and say that the more warmly received follow-ups "Best Thing I Never Had" and "Party" are both among the album's worst and most unrepresentative songs. Now that the wonderful "Countdown" is finally a single, it's still lagging behind the more popular "Party," leaving me to grumble that perhaps it would've had enough momentum to be a serious hit if released earlier in the album cycle. Meanwhile, great songs like "Love On Top" and "1 + 1" have had videos and minor radio airplay, but never really felt like they had major hit potential.

You know something's wrong with 4's run of singles when Beyoncé, one of the most reliable hitmakers of the past decade, can't get a top-ten hit. Five of her seven previous albums, as a solo artist or as a member of Destiny's Child, featured at least one chart-topping Hot 100 smash, and the other two had songs that reached No. 3. By comparison, the highest any single from 4 has gotten is "Best Thing"'s modest peak at No. 16. Beyoncé has always taken chances flooding the market—2006's B'Day spun off a new single every two months for nearly a year—and this was back when most pop artists were still obeying the old three-month standard—and singles from 2008's double album I Am... Sasha Fierce were released two at a time, one from each disc. But those albums had huge overnight smashes like "Irreplaceable" and "Single Ladies" riding high while the follow-up singles made smaller waves. When it became clear "Run The World" wasn't going to be that kind of song for her this time around, it doesn't seem like Beyoncé had a backup plan.

If the music industry let me loose like a kid in a pet store, setting all my favorite songs of the year free to be heard on the radio, there are countless others I'd happily send directly to the airwaves. Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV has only been out for a couple of months, and already feels like it's been bled dry of any halfway decent singles it had in it. I came around to somewhat enjoying "How To Love," but lately I'm just disappointed that its counterpoint on the album, "How To Hate" featuring T-Pain, wasn't released as the follow-up. J. Cole's "Nobody's Perfect" is a standout on Cole World: The Sideline Story, and its great Missy Elliott hook would help clear the path for her impending comeback. Kelly Clarkson's fiery "You Can't Win" would make a nicely aggressive change of pace to promote of her relatively mellow new album, Stronger. Similarly, the only really uptempo song on Incubus's If Not Now, When?, "Switchblade," would sound great on rock radio.


Patrick Stump, "Explode"

And of course, some albums that deserve hits have none at all. We're big fans of Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump's solo album Soul Punk around here, and it's been dispiriting to watch the album's underwhelming commercial performance. The single "This City" with Lupe Fiasco is a low point of the album and perhaps a bit too on the nose as a pop single, seemingly calculated as Chicago's answer to "Empire State of Mind" ("Sears Tower of Mind"?) with an obnoxious little pinch of Jefferson Starship. I've heard "This City" on my local pop station a couple times, but it's just not doing much damage on the charts, and I'd like to imagine that "Everybody Wants Somebody" or "The 'I' In Lie" or "Run Dry" would have better luck. "Greed" could possibly capitalize on the Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist for a left-field hit. Even if Stump's solo work doesn't have much rock radio potential, the album's most aggressive cut, "Explode," could still stand to be pushed to the alternative stations that still play Fall Out Boy's early hits. In any event, Stump shouldn't languish outside the Hot 100 while the likes of Gym Class Heroes and Cobra Starship are celebrating top ten hits.

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4 comments
TJ
TJ

Worth noting that Foo Fighters dropped "White Limo" a pre-release single, so they did throw something in hard rock's direction. Also, am I crazy or would "Back and Forth" have a chance at crossing over if it got a chance?

Al Shipley
Al Shipley

 yeah "White Limo" was an early leak/video but it was never pushed to radio (although it did just get a hard rock/metal Grammy nomination). "Back And Forth" is OK but as far as the more poppy uptempo songs on the album go I prefer "A Matter of Time."

KT
KT

Thank you for this. I thought it was just me dumbfounded by Clarkson's and Beyonce's singles campaigns (in my mind the same Sony employee must have been responsible, but that's just conspiracy theory). But you're right, there seems to be a lack of people who understand how to work this, this year. Meanwhile Katy Perry might have a 6th number one? That person's/team's phone should be ringing off the hook.

Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

Co-sign your paragraph on Gaga—including your on-the-money assessment of the album as a whole. In retrospect, I think the misstep might've been the great-but-weird "Judas" as the second single. "Marry the Night" sounds more like a second single to me, and that would've allowed "Edge of Glory" to remain a summer single, where it belonged (and did quite well, even despite a modest peak—radio played "Edge" for months). Both of those songs, plus lead smash "Born This Way," were all '80s throwbacks of one kind or another, which would've been more stylistically consistent, radio-wise; "Judas" was a too-innovative slice of post–Fame Monster Gaga that tried to mix things up too much.

Second singles are vital, and there's a long Hot 100 history of second singles almost killing album momentum, which third singles had to correct: the great-but-too-bizarre "If I Was Your Girlfriend" off Prince's Sign 'O' the Times, forcing third single "U Got the Look" to charm radio on its own; the also-great "Bug a Boo" off Destiny's Child's Writing's on the Wall, which nearly killed the momentum of "Bills, Bills, Bills" before "Say My Name" saved the day; and Beyoncé again, with "Ring the Alarm" off B'Day, which missed the Top 10 before (as you alluded above) "Irreplaceable" roared in.

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