In numbers released today, “Elusive” sold 58,000 in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s Carey’s lowest opening weeks sales ever for a non-holiday album since the 1991 birth of SoundScan.
So what went wrong here?
*The title. Not only is it unwieldy, it’s three titles in one. It’s memorable for being awkward and egotistical and just strange… and that’s even knowing the too precious backstory of the title coming from a drawing she did when she was little. And who has referred to her as “the elusive chanteuse?” That seems self-appointed. Including your name in that album title only works once— on your self-titled debut—and she’d already gotten away with it doing it again on “The Emancipation of Mimi.”
*The project ran out of steam even before it came out: Originally titled “The Art of Letting Go,” the new album was first slated to be released sometime in 2012 or early 2013 following the release of first single, “Triumphant (Get ‘Em)” in 2012…. a song that’s not even on the new album, by the way. Then it just kept getting moved back for nearly two years. Add that to it seemed a sure shot for May 6 and then it mysteriously got moved to three weeks later and everyone just seemed confused about the actual release
*No killer single: By the time the album was came out, it was more than a year since the track that had received significant mainstream radio play, “Beautiful,” featuring Miguel, had gone to radio. People’s memories are short and subsequent singles, while they may have had success at other formats, particularly dance, didn’t gain traction at radio.
*Lack of promotion: If you combine everything Carey did over the past 18 months, from appearing on “American Idol,” to performing on “Good Morning America” and “Today,” and assorted other shows and her primetime special with Matt Lauer last Saturday (yeah, I had no idea about it until after the fact either… ), it may have added up to significant exposure, but the appearances were scattered over so long a period of time, her casual fans can’t be blamed for having no idea that the album had actually dropped on May 27.
*Tone deaf publicity: Carey kept showing up in the press but for the wrong reasons, like her Norma Desmond-like ride on a New York subway last week clad in a formal gown and white gloves. That doesn’t make her seem street or one with the people, it makes her seem confused about where she is and out of touch. If she wants to ride the subway, something I imagine she hasn’t done in decades, as a publicity stunt, that’s fine, but don’t do it in a way that only makes you seem even more unrelateable.
So what happens next? It would be nice if her label found a way to keep working the album because there are some really strong songs on there that could be radio hits, including “Cry” and “Make It Look Good.” (read our review here) The album is better than the opening week sales reflect and here’s hoping that it finds the audience that it deserves.