The Top Ten Most Blatant Sell-Out Attempts Ever Recorded!

This list is a collection of albums seemingly created for the sole purpose of selling a shitload of records and returning the artist in question to the top of the charts.  In most cases, such an attempt comes on the heels of a particularly worrisome commercial dry spell and is intended to ward off the inevitable pink slip from the record label.  In other instances, the artist is merely envious of those artists who enjoy platinum success and wishes to have a little taste of such success themselves.  In all but a few instances, though, such commercial success seems to come at the expense of artistic integrity and one cannot help but wonder if such success is beneficial or hurtful to one's career in the long run.  So, without further adieu, we compile our list of the Ten Most Blatant Sell-Out Attempts Ever Recorded.

Rod Stewart - It Had To Be You - The Great American Songbook

After releasing two albums that missed the Top 40 entirely, Stewart teamed up with Clive Davis to create It Had To Be You - The Great American Songbook, an album of pre-rock pop standards that breezed into the Top 5 and completely revitalized Stewart's career by taking him out of the rock genre altogether.

While it might seem an unlikely recipe for guaranteed success, Stewart's raspy voice actually works very well in a more serene setting.  In fact, he shows himself to be quite adept at interpreting songs like George and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "The Way You Look Tonight" (made famous by Fred Astaire).  The formula would work so well that Stewart would release a total of seven American Songbook albums, with every single one of them landing in the Top 5 on the US album charts.

Nelly Furtado - Loose

The singer-songwriter who gave the world the irresistible singles "I'm Like A Bird" and "Turn Out The Lights" had succeeded at crafting music that was both artistically challenging and commercially viable.  None other than noted British novelist/music lover Nick Hornby raved about Furtado in his book "31 Songs", praising the song as one of his favorite modern pop tunes.  Furtado stuck to the formula for her next album, Folklore, and saw the album bomb.  Not wanting to take any such artistic risks at the expense of commercial success, Furtado dropped the singer/songwriter schtick and decided to shake her ass full-time instead.  The resulting album, Loose, was an assembly-line pop effort featuring nine of the hottest dance/pop producers and very little of the charm that had made Whoa Nelly so likable.  Of course, the album was a huge worldwide smash and the single "Promiscuous" became her first U.S. #1 hit.

Scorpions - Eye II Eye

What does an old school German heavy metal band do to remain relevant in the year 1999?  Make an electro-pop album with producer Peter Wolf (not to be confused with the J. Geils Band singer of the same name).  Wolf, of course, is best known for writing the Starship hit "We Built This City" as well as "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung and "These Dreams" by Heart.

Needless to say, the album was an unlistenable mess that even die-hard fans couldn't wrap their heads around and ultimately cratered the band's popularity around the world.

Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob

Taking a page from the Nelly Furtado playbook, Canadian indie pop sister act Tegan and Sara traded in their Sainthood for a shot at being a pop Heartthrob.  Ditching their more angular pop tendencies for straight-up cookie-cutter electro-pop, the duo may have hoped to reach a mass audience.  Instead, they confounded their own fan base and have been apologizing to audiences on an almost nightly basis for the overly commercial sound of their latest effort.  While the album entered the US albums chart at #3, sales quickly dropped off after Warner Brothers' initial promotional push.

Aerosmith - Permanent Vacation

This once-vital hard rock act that gave us such rock classics as "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way" fell into a musical and chemical abyss in the '80s.  Done With Mirrors, the first album the band recorded after they reunited with Joe Perry only succeeded in revealing the band's inability to write memorable material. Rather than call it a day, the band instead chose to call in a few song doctors to help them find their way back to the charts.

Writing with Desmond Child (co-writer of numerous Bon Jovi hits), Jim Vallance (best known as Bryan Adams' co-writer), and Holly Knight ("Obsession"), the band scored three Top 20 hits with "Dude (Looks Like A Lady", "Rag Doll", and "Angel".  The album itself went multi-platinum, forever becoming the poster child for blatant sell-out attempts.

Cheap Trick - Lap Of Luxury

Coming off of 1986's dreadful album The Doctor, which flopped so badly that the band found themselves opening for the equally floundering Ratt, Cheap Trick not only reunited with original bassist Tom Petersson, but also allowed their label, Epic Records, to suggest cover material.  The resulting album, Lap of Luxury, is an album with a severe multiple personality disorder, but, hey, at least the band was back on the radio and the pop charts.  In fact, they scored their first #1 single with "The Flame" (which they didn't write) and went Top 5 with "Don't Be Cruel" (which they also didn't write).

For their follow-up effort, Busted, the band tried to repeat the exact same formula, going so far as to cover yet another tune by Nick Graham, who'd co-written "The Flame".  The resulting album spawned the forgettable Top 20 hit, "Can't Help Falling Into Love" (which the band DID write), but the album stalled at #48 and would be their last record for Epic Records.

Shania Twain - The Woman In Me

After her dreadfully saccharine debut effort failed to ignite interest even on the country charts, Shania underwent a complete career overhaul, which included a sexy makeover and a partnership with rock producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange (AC/DC, Def Leppard).  The resulting album had virtually nothing to do with country, yet it became a gigantic country smash that quickly crossed over to the pop side, where the album went to #5 on the strength of gal-power anthems "Any Man Of Mine", "The Woman In Me", and "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under".

The partnership between Twain and Lange was so strong that they would become romantically linked and later marry, only to divorce two albums later.

Ramones - End Of The Century

After four critically-acclaimed albums that had, through no fault of their own, failed to connect with a mass audience, the Ramones decided to make an unabashed pop album.  Enlisting 60's pop genius Phil Spector to produce the album.  Tumultuous sessions aside, the resulting album pushes the Ramones' pop sensibilities to the forefront, eschewing punk power for Spector's multi-dimensional "Wall of Sound".  The end result is an album with a decidedly polished sheen and tons of studio bells and whistles that seemed to exist only to camouflage the mediocre material.  Previous album Road To Ruin was a more consistent effort, song-wise, but failed to dent the Top 100.  End Of The Century, by comparison, peaked at #44, for what that's worth. It would be the closest the band ever got to the Top 40.

Linda Rondstadt - Mad Love

For a number of '70s soft rock acts, the '80s brought about a sudden sea change in musical tastes at the mainstream level.  For soft-rock acts like Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and others, the decade was spent looking (and sounding) decidedly out of place or trying halfheartedly to update their sound.  For Linda Rondstadt, who was already a musical chameleon with a voice of gold, the switch to new wave was sudden and all-encompassing.

On Mad Love, she not only covered three Costello songs ("Girls Talk", "Talking In The Dark", and "Party Girl"), but also updated her image to resemble that of a brunette Debby Harry (who, ironically, is a brunette in real life).  She would score two Top 10 hits with "Hurt So Bad" and "How Do I Make You" and the album would hit the Top 5, becoming her seventh million-seller.

Santana - Supernatural

While a previous similar attempt had been made by producer Val Garay (who produced Linda Rondstadt's "Mad Love" album, which also made this list) to update Santana's sound for mass consumption in 1985 on the album Beyond Appearances, it was Clive Davis who would sign the legendary guitarist to Arista and come up with the idea for Supernatural.

Davis hoped that by teaming Santana's guitar prowess with modern pop artists such as Dave Mathews, Everlast, and Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas he could revive Carlos Santana's career.  The resulting album is a hodge-podge of different musical styles that add up to a confusingly unfocused album, but the popularity of one song, Rob Thomas' ethnic-flavored "Smooth" that would rocket Santana to the top of the charts.

Of course, if it works once, it will work again, right?  While there was no song as infectiously catchy as "Smooth" on the follow-up album Shaman, which included collaborations with Nickelback, Seal, Macy Gray, and Michelle Branch, the album still found its way to #1.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

No comments:

Post a Comment