Is Lady Gaga her own worst enemy at pop radio? As the numbers show, her endless promotional tour and deep price discounts at Amazon resulted in more than 1 million copies of “Born This Way” being sold in its opening frame. So far so good.
But the weak link is radio. The star, whom BMI named songwriter of the year two weeks ago for having the most played songs at radio in 2010, is having a bit of a hiccup there.
While the title track to “Born This Way” reached No. 1, second single “Judas” never got any traction at radio and sank like a stone. Third single, “The Edge of Glory,” dropped from 3-12 on the Hot 100 in its second week (expect it to rise later this week due to digital sales).
“It comes down to one basic flaw: [the new songs] just aren’t as catchy as her previous hits,” says a Top 40 DJ from the Midwest, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The highest praise ‘Judas’ seemed to get was ‘Meh, it’s alright.’ ‘The Edge of Glory’ seems to have its fans, but I’m not sure about its long-term viability as a radio single. We dropped ‘Judas,’ but we’re still playing ‘The Edge of Glory.”
“The songs aren’t nearly as catchy,” agrees Cash, a DJ at Pulse 102, a rhythmic-leaning Top 40 station in Raleigh, N.C. “The first time I heard ‘Poker Face,’ it blew me away. ‘Just Dance’ was another ‘one listen’ song.”
Like our midwest DJ, Cash his high hopes for “Edge of Glory,” which, despite dropping on the chart last week is still reacting well in call-out research at the station, unlike “Judas,” which got “lots of negatives on the request line.” (To be fair, Cash says “Born This Way” got negative responses too).
As our album review stated, Lady Gaga seemingly (and fearlessly) disregarded current pop radio trends when it came to making “Born This Way” and made an album that didn’t pander to radio in any way. That’s fine, that’s what a real artist does, but it can have consequences. Plus, she promoted the album primarily via television, appearing on everything from “The View” to “The Tonight Show” and back again for months. The campaign also relied highly on tweets and her website. There was no semblance of any kind of regular radio promotional tour, although we’re the first to say the lack or airplay didn’t seem to hurt album sales.
Plus, radio is still feasting on tracks from “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster.” In fact the Midwest DJ said the only past hit not in rotation is “Alejandro.” On Pulse 102, “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” both still garner a lot of spins, while “Paparazzi” gets trotted out from time to time.
Is there hope? Absolutely and it’s too soon to ring any true alarm .There’s still some life in “Edge of Glory”— how much remains to be seen. And our Midwest DJ has high hopes for piano ballad “U and I,” which was produced by Mutt Lange, best known for his work with Def Leppard and Shania Twain. “I think [it] will be a big hit in the Midwest, as it’s Gaga doing Nickelback,” he says. We’re not so sure what LG would think of that comparison.
Mr. Midwest also suggests one sure-fire way that we’ll know if Interscope, is starting to get a little twitchy about a lack of radio play: “Right now, the spectacle is keeping her above the fray, but if her next single suddenly has a featured artist added, you’ll know her label is starting to get uneasy.” Maybe they should put Nicki Minaj on speed dial.
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