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

Al Shipley | February 20, 2008 11:50 am

Since 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.