Going into my interview with Shaggy last week, I expected him to bash his former record labels, but express optimism over his current situation.
Shaggy called three days after his album, “Clothes Drop,” was released, and minutes after rehearsing for his performance on that night’s Tonight Show.
Last summer, I interviewed him when he was in town for a reggae festival, and he said the recording process was “trying” and he was upset with himself over how it was unfolding.
So when he got on the line, I said that he must be happy to have things going his way, with the album finally in stores and appearances like his Leno performance lined up for the next couple weeks.
His answer: he wants a hit single so he can tour. Without one, the album will be a failure.
Artists make about $1 off an album, so the real money is in touring. To tour though, the artist needs a hit single. With a hit single, not only can they tour, but more people will buy the album. If more people buy the album, the record label is making more money, and is happy to assist with lining up a tour. So the magic is in the single.
Shaggy’s first single in a song called Wild 2Nite, featuring Olivia from G-Unit. I suppose it is good enough to be played in clubs, with its infectious repetitive beats and a rhythm that can heat up a dance floor. But rarely does a single become massive by being played in the clubs alone. It needs airplay on radio stations and its video needs to be played on MTV. This single doesn’t have that because it does not translate well onto radio.
It was clear Shaggy was struggling with the single, since it’s not a fixture on the Billboard charts like “Angel” was for weeks and weeks. But I didn’t think he was having this many problems.
Shaggy told me how hard it was for him to promote this record, because he was not feeling the effects and was not getting the help from his label. This is his first album with Interscope, after his last label, MCA, folded. Both however are part of the Universal Music family, so it’s not a drastic change.
He was hesitant to come out and say “this album is going to fail,” but did say a few times that he really needed that hit single.
The sales charts for that week came out five days after our interview. I expected it to debut in the 40-50 range, which would translate into about 25,000 copies sold. It would have been a big flop, for the second straight album.
To my surprise, it sold just 7,000 copies, debuting somewhere in the 100th-place range.
The question is why?
When his last album flopped three years ago, Shaggy blamed his record label. He said since it folded, he had no way to promote it.
This time, he is saying he doesn’t have the single.
Sometimes when an artist flops, the answers are obvious. They could be old news, they could be a walking joke, their fans could have all grown up faster than they did.
But Shaggy is not the laughing-stock of the reggae scene. Some will say there are more credible reggae and dancehall artists than Shaggy, and that he lost some of that credibility by attempting to get all his music onto mainstream radio. However, that leaves the whole mainstream music scene?which obviously has more fans than the reggae scene alone?which ignored his past two albums.
Remember, Shaggy sold 10 million copies of Hot Shot.
Perhaps he’s just not relevant anymore. He’s in his late 30s in a scene now dominated by youngsters like Sean Paul, but he’s still singing about the ladies as if he were in his 20s. Maybe he needs to change his music a bit.
But going from 10 million to a few thousand is puzzling.
How’s he going to convince another record label to let him do another label?
Shaggy, I wish you luck.
Next week, I’ll talk about how the media has mishandled interviewing Shaggy this month.