Seems like for at least the past few years, we’ve always had an international solo act that writes and sings their own material and dominates the charts with a breakup anthem that you just can’t escape. In 2011, it was Adele‘s “Rolling In The Deep”. In 2012, it was Gotye‘s duet with Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used To Know”. Both sold bucket loads and won awards for their compositions, even if each act didn’t have the same level of success after their signature songs. While we have acts like Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé climbing the national surveys today, I’m inclined to think that there may be another act in the wings waiting to breakout and attain that same level of success. With that, let me introduce you to the singer and song that may do it: Passenger and his international hit, “Let Her Go”.
Passenger is a one-man band, 28-year-old British singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg. He started performing at age 16. Rosenberg previously fronted a band baring the same name that broke up in 2009, and he decided to carry the name with him as he began his solo career that same year. His first albums came and went with little notice, but it’s his third album, All The Little Lights, that seems to have everyone interested him. (It’s been out in the U.S. since late August of last year via Nettwerk Records.) A first single, “The Wrong Direction”, didn’t chart in any territory, but his second release, the aforementioned “Go”, became a major hit in Europe beginning in the summer of 2012. It’s already gone to #1 in Austria, Sweden and The Netherlands and now it’s securely at #1 on iTunes in Australia, which will likely take it to the top of the ARIA Singles Chart there. (UPDATE: It rose 23-2 in its second week on the chart, but is still #1 on iTunes.) In total, it’s charted in over a dozen countries so far, most within the top ten. His album has also been a top ten seller in countries like Germany and Ireland. He recently toured in Australia and New Zealand as the opening act for Ed Sheeran and is now on his own headlining tour in the same region. How fast those things seem to grow.
As for the song itself, it’s a really pretty one. It has a minimal arrangement, at times entirely a capella, but is still commercial sounding in its own way. What really drives the song is that Rosenberg has a really distinctive voice, one that would especially stand out here, but in a good sense. It sort of reminds me of a mix of Ben Howard and Paolo Nutini, both of whom have had some degree of success here. It’s one of those songs you just want to listen to if you’re feeling down and can’t shake the memories of an old flame. In fact, that’s reflected in the lyrics pretty elegantly: “You see her when you fall asleep/But never to touch and never to keep.” As the expression goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. You realize that you need some essential quality, but it doesn’t happen until after it’s gone. He can put it better than I can: “You only need the light when it’s burning low/Only miss the sun when it starts to snow/Only know you love her when you let her go.” It’s a song that can touch a lot of people, like “Rolling” and “Somebody” did during their respective years in the spotlights. Watch out for Passenger to fill that void at some point.
So, what happens from here? It may be that the sudden sales in Australia translates into Nettwerk promoting “Go” to both Canada and the United States later this spring. It could be longer. It’s currently being considered for only Triple A radio here, but that could easily be expanded. Regardless of what it happens, it will happen, and then maybe you’ll be tired of it by the 200th time you hear it on the radio. For now, it’s a fresh sound that may be the next to pop on the mainstream circuit. You may “let her go”, but don’t let this one do the same.
Are you already enjoying Passenger’s music? Think he can break the U.S. market successfully? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.
UPDATE: “Let Her Go” goes for adds at hot adult contemporary radio on April 29! Here’s to a great U.S. run for it.