Watch out for the
The quartet from Las Vegas will transform from new-new wave
curiosity to serious rock band, as well as major priority for
Island Def Jam Records, with the upcoming release of its
sophomore album "Sam's Town."
funny how a
5-million-selling debut and a string of hit singles changes
But Island Def Jam's massive, marathon push for "Sam's Town"
(the album won't be released until October) isn't just a vote of
confidence for the Killers. It's a rare sign of faith for a
young rock band - a bet that new rockers can still sell albums,
even as the previous establishment for building them continues
Across the country, rock radio is in disarray. (Not in New York,
of course, since it doesn't even have a new rock station.) The
once rock-leaning MTV and VH1 are now reality-show-filled, while
their more musical little brother MTV2 splits its time more
evenly between rock and hip-hop than it used to.
Rock acts - such as indie-rockers and underground hip-hoppers -
have become even more dependent on the Internet and street teams
to build buzz and word of mouth in their new releases. And, more
than ever, rock bands are looking for alternative ways to let
their fans know about new releases - from cell phone and iPod
commercials to slots in teen-oriented TV shows - along with the
old-fashioned standby of extensive touring.
Of course, a lot of these problems could be solved by money -
large checks for big marketing campaigns; big-budget, flashy
videos; and monster promotions (the kind New York Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer has his eye on). However, record labels,
pressured by declining sales and profits, don't have a lot of
cash to throw around these days. And if they do decide to spend,
you can bet the multiplatinum hip-hoppers and pop divas get that
marketing money first since they can generate far more sales
than the average rock band.
All of which makes the campaign around "Sam's Town" seem so
spectacular. Everything about the "Sam's Town" rollout screams
high profile, from the Anton Corbijn photography and the band's
new scruffy-glam styling to the high-powered guests in
attendance for the album's listening party debut last month.
Def Jam Records' own president Carter (aka Jay-Z) was there,
parked at the impossible-to-miss intersection of Open Bar and
Hallway to the Men's Room. L.A. Reid, chairman of the Island Def
Jam Records Music Group as well as superstar producer, was the
Reid said "Sam's Town" was "groundbreaking and important" and
has grand expectations for it - just as the first single, "When
You Were Young," has been released to radio.
"It deserves this kind of attention," Reid said, adding later,
"Any other record companies looking to release albums on Oct.3
should think about moving them. If they want the No. 1 album,
they're absolutely not going to get it."
It's a bold statement, considering "Sam's Town" isn't as
immediately pop-oriented as the danceable, synth-driven hits
such as "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside" from the
Killers' debut, "Hot Fuss." However, Reid isn't worried. He said
the album shows the band's improvement as songwriters and
"They now have the talent to complete the vision they had for
the first album," Reid said. "It's an amazing album."
On first listen, "Sam's Town" is a solid album, chock-full of
potential hit singles, as the Killers develop the more
rock-oriented sound of its hits "All These Things I've Done" and
"Smile Like You Mean It." However, it's unlikely to meet the
hype of being called "one of the best albums in the past 20
years," as singer Brandon Flowers told MTV recently.
Nevertheless, good for Flowers for thinking so.
And good for Island execs for treating it like it could be.
If Island Def Jam's big bet pays off, developing rock bands of
all types would benefit from the Killers' success. We could all
be Mr. Brightsides then.