We’ve all heard about the “sophomore slump”, but such an integral part of creating the perfect storm that is the “slump” is the dreaded wrong first single.
When you think of the wrong first single (WFS), you think about the act that really could’ve blown it out of the water with an amazing banger, but then released a lukewarm single instead. The single turns out to be a non-event. The cookie crumbles.
A non-event would be something similar to any of Mariah Carey‘s latest singles. I Don’t, Infinity, The Art of Letting Go, You’re Mine (Eternal), all songs were non-events. Mariah still carries weight twenty years into her career; however, she keeps releasing the wrong song. Her sound isn’t consistent and as many have said she sounds like she is trying to stay relevant, even though she still is.
Emeli Sande had a huge first album campaign. It sold massively, and every single was an event. She performed anywhere she could. She hustled. Her second album took years to complete and was set up to be an event. Hurts was released as the first single from the new collection. Though Hurts is actually rather good, it was not the single the album needed to set it off into the stratosphere as we, her legion, expected. Hurts hardly charted at all, peaking at no. 28. The album reached no. 2, but the sales were 1/5 of the sales her debut album achieved in its first week. No successful single followed, but the album was critically lauded and was truly a collection of soulful and fulfilling songs.
The Saturdays perfected the method of releasing the wrong first single. Their debut album campaign set them up for complete follow-up success. Five top ten singles and a Children in Need moment all preceded their sophomore album. After recording completed nearly a year later, they released Forever is Over. FIO was a complete change of pace and sound for them. Threw everyone the-fuck off. The album was dead on arrival even though there was SOLID material on it. Wordshaker could’ve been massive had they released Ego as the first single instead. The label is partly to blame for the trajectory their career took after Wordshaker was released as they also stopped promoting the album and shifted gears towards releasing an EP in order to attempt to save the Saturday’s ship.
Missing You was chosen as the first single off the Headlines EP, released less than 3 months after the Wordshaker album fizzled on the charts. Let’s go back to FIO and Missing You for a second: both singles actually charted well, but they were just not the right singles. Higher was truly the gem that Headlines held within its heart of hearts. By the time it was released, the momentum had been ruined by Missing You and the confusion the label created with Wordshaker and Headlines. Higher did reach no. 9 on the UK charts and sold rather well.
With that being said, let’s take a minute and have a moment of silence in The Saturdays’ name. Wordshaker only exists on Amazon now. It doesn’t even live on iTunes. The label just completed tried to erase it. The Saturdays carried on releasing a string of top 10 singles, including their first and only UK No. 1, What About Us; but the momentum created by Chasing Lights petered once their second and third acts blurred their success. They’re now on “hiatus”.
I could go on and on about how The Saturdays are a missed opportunity within the BritPop realm, but we have to move on.
Britney Spears, much like Mariah, still carries enormous weight in her name. Glory, her latest album, though having been met with some of her best critical reviews to date, has sold rather poorly. The singles she has released have also been met with minimal airplay and sales. Make Me was the mistake that began the mess of this album campaign. “Make Me…” was met with the highest of hopes, but was a let down to fans. Britney said she had “really been listening to a lot of Selena Gomez“, and all Britney did was copy bits and pieces at an attempt of making her own sound within the Revival realm. The song wasn’t anything significant, and came and went without more than two performances. The album debuted with the lowest sales in her career.
Taylor’s new album roll-out was such a fucking mess. “Look What You Made Me Do” went to Number One on it’s first week; however, quickly slid down the charts. “Ready For It…” was a nice save, but didn’t have staying power. “Gorgeous” and “Call It What You Want” all suffered from the same lack of charm. The songs also had different sounds, leaving Swifties confused. The album went on to make Taylor the first artist to have four consecutive albums sell over a million copies in its first week; however, succeeding weeks have been lacking in power when compared to 1989, Red and Speak Now. She’s also barely doing any publicity.
Summary: The whole package matters. At this point, the way it’s presented onto the world via social media, the sounds associated, your reputation, the mounting pressures of stardom – it all matters. What you do when you’re busy and in between album cycles matters. Taylor Swift’s reputation (no pun intended) proves it. Emeli Sande’s loss of steam proves it. Everyone’s always waiting, and watching while they wait.