Perspectives, News & Opinions From The Researchers At Edison

Slower Charts and the Summer Song Of 2007

Entry by Sean Ross | Thursday, August 30th, 2007 | Permalink

In May, when the candidates for Summer Song of 2007 were last examined, it had to be pointed out that Justin Timberlake “SexyBack” had come out of nowhere a few weeks “after Memorial Day 2006″–the biggest in a slew of mid-summer superstar releases, and ultimately the biggest Top 40 record in a long time.
As it turned out, there was no need to hedge my bets. The superstar rush that brought us new Beyonce and Christina Aguilera along with Justin last summer did not materialize this year. There are fast-breaking Top 40 hits that have emerged since May–Sean Kingston’s “Me Love”; Will.I.Am’s “I Got It From My Mama”; T-Pain’s “Bartender”; Justin’s follow up, “Lovestoned;” Kanye West’s “Stronger”–but nothing that has reached “SexyBack” status by summer’s ending.
If any such SexyBack-tracking was required this year, it would be on behalf of songs like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” that I thought would run their course sometime during June. Instead, “Umbrella” held on for most of the summer, all but outlasting its follow-up, “Shut Up And Drive.” Similarly, Pink’s “Who Knew” needed the entire summer to finally emerge from “U + Ur Hand’s” shadow, at least in some markets.
If the hits of summer 2007 often felt like the hits of spring 2007, it says a lot about the state of Top 40 radio, which has felt for a while like it was holding on to records longer and creating fewer hits for a variety of reasons. Financially strapped labels have been putting fewer records out there. Tastemaker stations have dwindled down to a relative handful. Songs often show their biggest spin increase weeks after they hit the Top 10–meaning that the best way to have a hit is to already be a hit.
If any record illustrates this, it’s “Me Love.” It came out when Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” was dominating the format. It was as obvious and accessible a hit record as its predecessor. You might have thought that it would explode on impact–rushed in to “power new” rotation on to every Top 40 and Rhythmic in America. But on the day after it first surfaced, “Me Love” was on only a relative handful of stations–most of them in major-markets, igniting over the course of weeks, not days.
There was a similar slow ramp-up, by the way, for Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend,” which surfaced in the twilight weeks of “Keep Holding On”), “Who Knew,” and “Shut Up And Drive” (not ultimately a smash on the order of the others, but a record that did pick up speed eventually). All of which makes you wonder: Has Top 40 developed a fear of playing two songs at a time even by core artists? Do impact dates actually determine when even the obvious hits get played? Are PDs so constricted now that even playing the follow-up to “Beautiful Girls” out-of-the-box invites corporate scrutiny?
The only possible positive explanation is if Top 40 PDs just felt that there were so many hits they couldn’t get to them all right away. Through the summer, 2007 remained good to both Top 40 music and the stations that played it. That said, going through the candidates at summer’s end, there isn’t a lot of tempo–always a hallmark of a healthy format–among the true smashes.
If it weren’t for my rule that a true summer song has to be uptempo, the biggest summer song would clearly be Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the runner-up would be Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah.” Both had the sort of multi-format ubiquity that one looks for from the summer song. Both pleasantly surprised the industry–”Big Girls” turning Fergie from increasingly legitimate hitmaker to sudden CHR core artist. But neither song feels like it had to be a hit in summer.
What of some of the other candidates? Kat DeLuna’s “Wine Up,” the most calculated of the entries in terms of content and timing, languished mid-summer. Epic is now going after it again, citing resurgent callout, but even if it rebounds, the timing keeps it from being the summer song.
Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” a record that Top 40 PDs might have dismissed, like Lily Allen, as too exotic, instead got the airplay it deserved but ran its course quickly, without even a boost at the end from its artist’s real-life notoriety. But it will be one of the two songs by which I most fondly recall the summer, along with …
Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” which, as previously stated, worked out better in terms of timing than expected. And as hit singles went, it was beautifully crafted with that repetitive hook that straddled the line between irritating and irresistible. It also built to the sort of end-of-the-bridge explosion that you more often find in R&B records from 35 years ago.
But for multi-format domination and seasonal feel, our summery, summary judgment ultimately has to go to DeLuna’s label-mate Sean Kingston. “Beautiful Girls” is barely more uptempo than “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” but the Caribbean feel instantly made it a summer record. And in New York, it played everywhere from Urban WQHT (Hot 97) to AC WLTW. And as with “SexyBack,” Kingston’s ability to immediately squeeze off another hit provides a little extra legitimacy.
And now for your thoughts: What was the Summer Song of 2007? And is Top 40 indeed getting slower and why?

7 Responses to “Slower Charts and the Summer Song Of 2007”

  1. Hey Sean -
    Miami is, as always, in its own little world when it comes to music. And I still cannot escape “Say It Right” by Nelly Furtado. Hell, it is not only the summer song of 2007 in Miami but might as well be anointed the 2007 Top 40 Song of the Year. This song will not die. It’s been spun so many times and still hasn’t been fried. Hell, even Mega 94-9 is playing the track. Still.
    Another song that’s been hot, albeit 10 months after it peaked elsewhere around the world, has got to be Bob Sinclar’s “World Hold On.” This is such a South Beach Euro-groove and Y-100 has embraced it after Power 96 stopped spiking the track. It has proven to be one of those records that has helped Y-100′s resurgence under Rod Phillips.
    Lastly, it is amazing to see how “Party Like A Rock Star” lit up and burned in South Florida so quickly. It was hot for three weeks and then people got sick of it.
    And yet Nelly Furtado’s three-chord diddy is still being pounded down here.
    Kudos for B103.9 in Ft. Myers for adding “Cry For You” by Swedish dance band September. It’s a bit out of the ordinary for a dance song to get a bunch of spins like that, but it’s a stronger track than “Satellites” and makes for a nice piece of variety between Daughtry and Carrie Underwood, whose presence on Y-100 is mindboggling.
    Is Top 40 in its purest sense back?

  2. gillette says:

    When the people think back to the Summer of 007, they’ll fondly remember songs like “Big Girls,” “Delilah,” “Umbrella” and “The Way I Are.” The definitive “winner” may not be decided until the 2nd week of September, when high schoolers and college kids alike reassmble and share their Summer experiences with one another. Since the selection isn’t as clear cut this year, THEY will be the final arbiters(as they should be)…but at the end of the race instead of at the turn…
    Check the iTunes singles chart next week…see if anything has “popped” back up…

  3. CHR In Slow Motion (But Not Garth)

    Wrapping up the summer of 2007 at CHR radio, it says something about the format that the biggest hits of summer were all in position and ready to go by Memorial Day and just how few new hits have emerged…

  4. Damon says:

    The summer of 2007 was not a strong year for CHR. There seemed to be a good variety of songs. Daughtry, Kat Deluna, Sean Kingston..But..will those songs be memorable when they hit the general rotation in your music scheduler? I think the weak summer will benefit country radio. In the early 90′s listeners decided to switch formats (including me as programmer)because.. to be frank CHR was weak. With Garth having a new single, pop stars crossing over to country, and of course Carrie Underwood. CHR…Top 40 etc, needs to wake up and get with the program. A interesting note on Miami, when I programmed in South Florida we broke NEW Records, so did New York LA..etc..I don’t think the big boys are giving PD’s the opportunity to do that anymore. Note to stations, if you have the authority to break that new single..DO IT. Use your research to monitor if that song is going to make it. Your listeners will tell you, and who knows you might create a hit. One more note.. we have not seen a good dance floor record in sometime. It was good to hear the Cupid Shuffle It is was one of those fun records that all demos could relate to. Until next summer……

  5. Adam Jacobson says:

    Damon – I absolutely disagree with your statements regarding the summer of 2007 not being strong for CHR. On the contrary, I think this was strongest summer in years for CHR. Now, regarding whether or not there is product that will be scheduled in recurrent and gold categories come 2008 and 2009? Look at the history of pop music and tell me how many hits from a season get scheduled – four to six, perhaps? “Beautiful Girls” may be a novelty hit, but “Say It Right,” “What Goes Around Comes Around,” and “Umbrella” are songs we’ll probably hear on AC stations in five years.
    Country music has major issues – especially in markets that are becoming more Hispanic. Education and awareness can only go so far. Marketing will help. But the fact that Carrie Underwood is a major part of the Y-100 current list in Miami tells you of the format’s potential in a Hispanic marketplace.
    Lastly, on the subject of breaking records – radio as an industry doesn’t break records anymore. You want to hear new music first? Go to You Tube or MySpace.
    And sometimes what you think is a hit isn’t a hit. When Sirius Hits 1 went extremely early on Sandi Thom last year, I was stunned. Sure, it was a No. 1 smash in the UK but it was very slowly worked globally and didn’t really gain traction in the states. So Sirius Hits 1 had a “hit” that wasn’t a hit.
    Gut instinct has been long gone in programming circles, and it would be nice for it to return. But with consultants and group PDs and the play-for-promotion dollars mentality that has seeped into U.S. commercial radio stations, would you rather take a chance and start playing some obscure Euro CHR hit like Sunrise Avenue’s “Fairytale Gone Bad” or get $15,000 toward your ad budget by adding the new Hilary Duff record?

  6. Chuck says:

    Wow, it seems so obvious but I haven’t seen it mentioned. “Summer Love” by Justin Timberlake was in power rotation from Memorial Day until after July 4th in my city. Does it not qualify for summer song status? Of course Fergie’s “Big Girls” was the true biggest hit.

  7. Cynthia Milnes says:

    I can’t believe you haven’t even considered Elliott Yamin’s “Wait For You.” No, it is not uptempo, but it has hung around high on the charts since it’s debut in March. It is STILL going strong! This is Elliott’s first out of many future hits.

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