What Radio Rock Hopefuls Will Get To Say “Thanks For The Add”?

Feb 20th, 2008 // 6 Comments

thanks4tehadd.jpgSince many people find it hard to tell the great from the godawful when it comes to 21st-century mainstream rock, welcome to “Corporate Rock Still Sells,” where Al Shipley (a.k.a. Idolator commenter GovernmentNames) examines what’s good, bad, and ugly in the world of Billboard‘s rock charts. This time around he grades six modern rock bands looking to get their new singles added to radio playlists, both on their chances for hitting big and the relative suckiness of the songs in question.

Instead of bitching about how little the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts have changed since the last time I bitched about them, this week I thought I’d take a look into the charts’ near future, the new slate of songs that are, in radio biz parlance, “going for adds” on Modern and/or Active Rock formats in the coming weeks. (As you may have guessed, this means they’re currently up for consideration from station programmers looking for tracks to add to their playlist.) I’ll try to evaluate each song’s odds of becoming a hit, as well as whether it’s any good. (Since, as we all know, those are frequently not the same thing.) If nothing else, I’ll be able to laugh at how wrong I was about at least one of my predictions in a few months.

Seether, “Rise Above This”

With “Fake It,” the biggest single of their career so far, still entrenched at the top of the Modern Rock chart, Seether should have no problem getting attention for their follow-up single. But even with the added
emotional tug–it was written by frontman Shaun Morgan about his brother’s suicide–”Rise Above This” is such a bland midtempo slog that I can’t see it matching its predecessor’s success. And on rock radio, big hits can linger so long that a band’s next release often gets swallowed, as evidenced by Finger Eleven’s inability to capitalize on the momentum of “Paralyzer.”

Panic At The Disco, “Nine In The Afternoon”

Although it’s officially going for adds this week, this is arguably already a hit; it’s at No. 18 in its second week on the Modern Rock chart. I’m going to go out on a short limb, though, and predict that while its momentum will shortly catapult it into the Top 10, it won’t stick around the airwaves very long, and that even an initially successful lead single can’t fully stave off an inevitable sophomore slump. Panic At The Disco, now punctuation-free, followed in the footsteps of My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy a couple of years ago in bringing histrionic eighth-generation emo to the TRL crowd. But even with a platinum plaque for their first album, they never had the same foothold in rock radio as their peers; only one of their five singles broke the Modern Rock Top 10, and it wasn’t even their iconic video hit, “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.”

Having taken longer than their peers to follow up their initial success, it’ll be harder to maintain it, since an extra six months is an awful long time to make a fickle tween fanbase wait. And with this bouncy, lightweight track foregoing the darker undertones that colored the band’s previous hits–plus its garish Sgt. Pepper’s nightmare of a video–the bands true colors as overly ambitious drama club nerds are showing. And I don’t think alt-rock radio, now leaning more toward meat-and-potatoes power chords than ever before, will continue to embrace them once the debut’s afterglow fades. This may all be wishful thinking, however, since I fucking hate this band.

Coheed & Cambria, “Feathers”

I always kind of felt like these guys, if you could ever get past the nerdy sci-fi backstory of their songs and the grating helium vocals, could be a good, hooky radio band. And this song is remarkably free of
most of the proggy quirks that people tend to find off-putting about C&C; it’s a simple verse-chorus-verse tune, the squeaky singer reins in his higher register, and even the video is refreshingly devoid of graphic novel bullshit. I kinda hate to say it, but I’m rooting for this song to do well, although I’m officially predicting it’ll be another moderate hit.

3 Doors Down, “It’s Not My Time”

Though not as inexplicably durable as Nickelback, 3 Doors Down are about as much a sure thing as exists on the Mainstream Rock landscape these days. I can’t say the lead single from their forthcoming album has left much of an impression on me, but neither has anything the band’s done besides “Let Me Go.” That hasn’t stopped a ton of their songs from becoming massive hits.

Story Of The Year, “Wake Up”

Story Of The Year are a whiny “punk”-with-quotation-marks band that I frequently confuse with Hawthorne Heights. And after one successful album on Maverick Records and another that failed to do quite so well, they’ve been kicked back down to Epitaph. That’s probably the best possible label for a band like SOTY, but Epitaph hasn’t broken a band on the radio in a decade now. I can’t picture “Wake Up” becoming popular, but then, I probably would’ve said the same when I first heard their 2004 radio staple “Anthem Of Our Dying Day.”

The Cribs, “I’m A Realist”

British bands have been a hard sell on American rock radio for a good long while now, even bands breaking U.K. sales records and being hailed by the NME as the second coming. (Which only happens once a year, maybe twice.) So The Cribs, who seem to be only moderately popular in their home country, don’t stand much of a chance. I can picture radio programmers reaching for the skip button after the first heavily accented couplet. Hell, I wanted to hit the skip button.

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  1. The Van Buren Boys

    I hate to say it but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that 3 Doors Down will have another hit. They timed this perfectly to release a new song just as Nickelback finally doesn’t have any more songs on the radio. Considering they are essentially the same band, 3 Doors Down will fill the void left by Nickelback until they decide to put out another album. *sigh*

  2. Al Shipley

    Yeah, like I said, 3DD are a sure thing relatively speaking. But they had 5 singles that hit #1 on one chart or another on their first two albums, and none on their third, so their momentum may be slowing down.

  3. Rob Murphy

    Great piece as always, Al.

    Apropos of nothing, really, but…

    I don’t find myself in a position to listen to a lot of radio, as I don’t drive very often. But yesterday, I and a colleague had to drive to a data center, and we decided to check out some tunes in our zipcar. I know he prefers “lite”/AAC stuff, whereas I usually head for the “hits”/”top 40″ station, so as a compromise, we found Fredericksburg VA’s WBQB “B101.5″. Wow, but that was one great mix of stuff. Everything from Rihanna to Nickelback to Underwood to Timberlake to Caillat to Furtado to Finger Eleven — back-to-back with The Wreckers! I was impressed and entertained.

    And yes, I know that list reads kinda lame, but it was an impressive array of hits mixed all together with no “guilty pleasure” shame.

  4. Anonymous

    is the panic song on itunes yet? i’d be pretty surprised if it wasn’t entrenched in the itunes top 10 for 3-4 weeks, personally. (side note: are itunes purchases only counted towards the hot 100, or the sub-charts as well?).
    maybe you’re right about fickle tweens, but if i know fickle tweens it means they love the fuck out of panic.

    dunno if this has any significance either and doesn’t pertain at all to this post, but my chem is touring again in the next few months so we’ll probably see a new album from them by fall (black parade’s probably my favorite major label rock album of the decade.)

  5. Rob Murphy

    @jordan_s: Yeah, it’s already there, and because you’re obviously a fan, you may be interested to know that you can “pre-order” a deluxe version of the album with all sorts of extra goodies (videos, alternate mixes, etc.).

  6. Chris Molanphy

    @jordan_s: The Panic song has been emerging remarkably slowly, as I noted in my column a couple of weeks ago. It only ranks 49th on iTunes right now, and on SoundScan’s all-store digital-sales chart, it’s down in the 70s as of last week.

    It’s weird, because if you take label-mates/fellow TRL-friendly emo guyliner dudes Fall Out Boy as the model for second-album-first-single, they should be positively exploding right now (cf. “This Ain’t a Scene…,” which opened in the Billboard Top 10 a year ago, almost entirely on the strength of first-week iTunes sales).

    Bottom line, this all supports Al’s theory that Panic is about to smack into a fairly thick sophomore wall.

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