You can’t rock a stage — or the studio for that matter — if you don’t truly believe you’re God’s gift to the music world. Where would guys like Kanye West and Kid Rock be without their titanic reserves of self-confidence?
But sometimes the hype fails to reach the reality, and artists who promise to change the axis of the earth’s rotation with their musical gold wind up filling out the $1 bins at the local used-record shop — or at least getting the cold shoulder from fans and critics.
We looked at a few recent examples of burst hype bubbles and tried to figure out what went wrong.
Who: The Killers, Sam’s Town
You can quote me on that: “I can’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder all the time. I have to realize that people aren’t going to like us,” said frontman Brandon Flowers before the release of the band’s second LP. “We just have to make the best album that we can. And we’re doing it. This album is one of the best albums in the past 20 years. There’s nothing that touches this album. And that sounds like I’m being cocky, but I’m just so excited. I hope that helps people. I hope people hear this album and realize that you don’t need to worry about the second album.”
Then again …: Flowers, commenting on the backlash to the pre-album hype, said, “People ask if we were trying to be funny with this record, and my answer is, ’I don’t think Beethoven was trying to be funny.’ ”
Chart debut: #2 with 315,000 copies, for the band’s highest chart position ever. Their first LP, Hot Fuss, opened at #59 with 23,000 and never got beyond #7. Sam’s Town suffered a 68 percent drop-off in its second week, falling to #6 on sales of almost 102,000.
Critical mass: Rolling Stone magazine said, “On their second album … the Las Vegas party boys ditch their cheerfully fake Bowie moves and try to get heavy by copying Bruce Springsteen. Yes, that means glockenspiel solos. Yes, it means anthems about the road and looking for America and girls named Mary. No, it’s not a good move. … All over Sam’s Town, the Killers leave no pompous arena cliché untweaked in their quest to rewrite Born to Run — even though one of the reasons Springsteen’s a genius is that he’s never tried to rewrite Born to Run himself.”
Mitigating circumstance: Flowers later explained the “20 years” quote was simply an acknowledgment that bands don’t seem to be trying as hard these days.
Maybe next time: Ditch the Western outfits and the funny mustaches if you want to be taken seriously. Or, do what the Hold Steady did on their new record, Boys and Girls in America, and actually make the best album Springsteen never recorded.
Who: Jet, Shine On
You can quote me on that: Two songs into a recent Hollywood show, one of the first U.S. dates in support of the Aussie band’s second album, drummer Chris Cester yelled, “We’re the best f—ing band in the world, and here’s the proof,” before launching into the new song “Holiday,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, which described the song as consisting of “reprocessed riffs.”
And that: In a posting on their official Web site earlier this year, the bandmembers said they were hard at work on a “raucous rocker” that they promised “is going to destroy your constitution.”
Chart debut: #16 with 51,000 sold. Their 2003 debut, Get Born, opened at #79 with 16,300. Their latest fell hard in its second week with a 70 percent drop off, sliding down to #56 on sales of 15,500.
Critical mass: Again, talking about the L.A. show, the Reporter said, “As long as there are bands like Jet, rock will never die, but it won’t be incredibly inspiring. During its 85-minute set … the Aussie quartet did everything possible to keep rock alive by recycling some of its classic elements, but the band’s by-the-numbers approach proved to be ultimately unsatisfying.”
Mitigating circumstance: First single “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” has more cowbell than a pasture full of Holsteins.
Maybe next time: Take less direction from your pals in Oasis and more from the humble dudes in the Arctic Monkeys, who brought it, but didn’t brag about it.
Who: Angels & Airwaves, We Don’t Need to Whisper
You can quote me on that: “[An Angels & Airwaves show] really feels like an ascension to heaven. People are lifting off the ground. There are people crying. … It’s incredible,” said frontman Tom DeLonge.
And that: “I put the record on and listened to it, and I had this overwhelming rush of emotions. I was like, ’Oh my God, this is going to be huge,’ and I started having these panic attacks thinking about every country in the world wanting us there multiple times,” DeLonge said. “Conquering the globe is a pretty large endeavor.”
Okay, one more: Before former Blink-182 singer/guitarist DeLonge unleashed A&A on the world, he also promised he was “preparing the greatest rock and roll revolution for this generation,” one that he swore in a subsequently removed Web site post was “the best f—ing album anybody has heard in 20 years.” In fact, the music was so good, so much better than Blink, that at one point, DeLonge said, “I am currently sh—ing my pants.”
Chart debut: #4 with 126,800 — 417,000 have sold to date. The debut-week numbers were about half the amount of first-week sales for the final two Blink albums, both of which went on to sell more than 2 million copies.
Critical mass: Drowned in Sound said, “I really just cannot believe that he’s getting away with this example of self-indulgence in quite such monstrous measures. Why isn’t it just called Tom DeLonge’s Band? Why is it called anything? Why is there anything at all? … By aiming to sound like U2 and Pink Floyd, A&A ends up sounding like an emo version of an even more plodding Coldplay.”
Mitigating circumstance: Hopefully DeLonge got to keep all those cool, futuristic clothes from the videos for “The Adventure” and “It Hurts.” Plus, he and Flowers have something to bond about when they get together at radio holiday shows this winter.
Mitigating circumstance number two: DeLonge recently promised he’s got a top-secret plan for the next “layer” of the multimedia Angels project, which he said would unfold over a three- to five-year period. “When people laugh and say, ’Oh, yeah, what a big revolution that was!’ … they have no idea. I have access to developing this record far beyond what people can understand.” DeLonge said he was laughing when he made the “20 year” comment, realizing it would get “everyone talking.” The truth, he said, is that “people underestimate me, they always have.”
Maybe next time: There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, but even Pink Floyd saved the concept album with accompanying high-concept action/ war flick until 10 albums in.
Who: Pharrell, In My Mind
You can quote me on that: On the single “Number One,” Skateboard P and his equally humble friend Kanye West sing, “Number one/ Smash hit/ Off the charts/ Classic … World’s … world’s … world’s famous.”
Chart debut: The album bowed at #3 on sales of 141,000 — 330,000 total so far. By contrast, N.E.R.D.’s Fly or Die came in at #6 its first week on sales of 119,000 and has sold 414,000 to date, so he’s in the ballpark, though In My Mind has already dropped off the top 200 on the Billboard albums chart. “Number One,” however, didn’t quite live up to its title. The song debuted at #85 and clawed all the way up to #10 on sales of about 3,000 copies.
Critical mass: Pitchfork said, “It’s all pizzazz, no pathos … The less said about ’Number One’ — perhaps Kanye West and Pharrell’s lowest four minutes ever — the better.”
Mitigating circumstance: OK, so the song is using chart position as a metaphor for love, but if you are promising her she’ll be #1, you gotta bring the track that will get her there.
Maybe next time: If you’re gonna boast about hitting the top of the charts before the album’s released, save some of those killer beats and hooks for yourself, P.