Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: Pop Near Misses Vol. 01

More than anywhere else, pop music is ruled by the weird and wonderful world of the single. Having a hit single is the lifeblood of many a chart act and still a vital tool for an artist to capture any kind of audience. You only have to look at how the likes of Katy Perry can sell 2.5 million downloads per single in the US but only 1.5 m of the album those singles come from to see that the single wields more power than ever.

One of the frustrating things about being a pop fan is when you pick up an album by an artist that has more than it's share of singles or the very least that one song you just know would be a huge smash. Sometimes it's a song almost too good for the artist in question, sometimes it's one that never makes it to the charts due to the album flopping. Whatever the reason there are many a song that should have, could have, would have been huge. Here I'm starting what I hope can be a regular look at a handful of tunes that never quite got the glory they deserved. From singles that flopped to album tracks that never got a release at all, here is a chance to give a few songs a their moment in the sun.

(1) Breathe On Me - Britney Spears

image via Coverlandia
Britney's 2003 release In The Zone was an attempt by Team Britney to have the starlet grow up, growling her way through a mish mashed of sexy club cuts, R&B bangers and the odd ballad. In The Zone contains some of Britney's finest moments including Toxic and Everytime and some of her worst (The Hook Up was Britney's first and only entry into the cod reggae genre thankfully). There were a handful of gems scattered throughout the album that would have marked an interesting chocie single wise (Showdown, Early Mornin') but the pick of bunch is Breathe On Me. An icy Kylie style synth riff, a trademark breathy-y Britney vocal and a slinky chorus mash together for one of the most mature and interesting tune in Spear's back catalogue. Still sounding fresh today, in the current David Guetta dance friendly radio landscape a song like Breathe On Me would still do good business. Hands down one of Britney's best tunes.

(2) Fire Bomb - Rihanna

Image via Coverlandia
Rihanna's Rated R was considered something of a commerical misfire despite being her best album yet. Rude Boy was the obvious smash hit of the set and a signifier for where RiRi would end up with her next release. The moody textures of Rated R yielded a few chart misfires (Rockstar 101, Te Amo) but it's hard to fathom why somebody at her label didn't give Fire Bomb a shot at chart glory. A huge stadium ready chorus, a yearning vocal from Rihanna and plenty of music video friendly imagery (just imagine the girls go on the road video that could have been. Sigh) make this pop-rock number one that could have shown another side to Rihanna's chart personality.

(3) Janet Jackson - Enjoy

The last decade has not been kind to the sales of former chart juggernaut Janet Jackson. I caught her recent live show in Dublin and was suitably blown away by the presence and energy Janet still exudes. Her hit-making powers may have diminished somewhat but Janet has had plenty of strong material over the last decade but post-Superbowl has found it hard to connect with radio programmers and a wider audience.

2008's Feedback almost turned the tide, managing a decent performance Stateside but never quite did the big business many expected it would. Enjoy, a cut from her underrated 20 Y.O. set, is in many ways the biggest missed opportunity of the bunch. A chirpy, euphoric slice of soul pop it's got an uplifting, cheery quality last seen in her late 90s megahit Together Again and a sleek groove that recalls her heyday. Enjoy would have been the perfect antidote to how Janet has been ignored by radio playlisters were it not for her then label Virgin getting cold feet with how the 20 Y.O. project had performed. It's a shame, Enjoy would have sounded great on advertisments, blaring out of radios and reswizzed for the clubs. As it stands it falls into a pile of lost classics provided by Miss Janet.

There are many many more tunes in this vein to think about so we'll hopefully look at some more soon. If you have some ideas feel free to suggest below.


  1. Pretty Boy by Danity Kane (RIP) That song was basically much the soundtrack to my summer 09...