At the tender age of 17, Jasmine Van den Bogaerde, better known as the singer named Birdy, has left the nest and is taking to the fair skies of the music industry with two commercially successful albums in Europe and a handful of well-charting singles. However, the atmosphere has been a little more crowded here in the U.S., where the performer has yet to see any significant numbers in the national spotlight. Sure, the album’s ranked in the lower rungs on the Billboard 200, going as high as #62 last year, but as far as being a household name, she’s no rockin’ robin just yet. However, a now three-year-old cover song and a new life/strategy to it could finally bring the single soaring up the charts as it should’ve in the first place.
The song in question is “Skinny Love”, first recorded by Bon Iver in 2007 and then covered by her and released in the U.K. in January 2011. It debuted in the top 40 in March at #25 and stalled out for some time before climbing to a peak of #17 in its ninth week, before falling down, then returning, then falling again, etc. As a result, it’s logged a run of 45 non-consecutive weeks in the official Top 75 there, which is immense given its peak. Even more exciting were the #2 peaks for the song in Australia, France, New Zealand and The Netherlands, and its worldwide sales of over one million copies in total. The piano-driven pop song struck a nerve with many audiences… so why has the U.S. been left behind in all of this?
As the title suggests, this isn’t the first go-around for Atlantic Records and Birdy when it comes to radio promotion for the song. In fact, “Skinny Love” was actually serviced to Hot AC radio in Q2 of 2012, picking up nine stations between April and July before ultimately burning out and missing the top 50 at the format. I thought that would’ve been it. However, beginning in October of last year, “Love” garnered some action on the Alternative format, and is now up to ten stations in total, including two top ten markets. It’s also currently ranking in that top 50. Given that, the label’s gone and put out a CHR adds date on February 11, which seems a little bit premature in the short term, but should be alright in the long run. However, that pop radio trajectory is dependent on its Alternative success, which may be long and drawn-out. Stay tuned.
Given the better acceptance of ballads and sparsely-arranged pieces at radio now, this could be a better opportunity for “Skinny Love” to succeed, even with its age. After all, I doubt many people in the U.S. actually know about how the long the song’s been out or even a lot about the performer herself. Still, it begs the question of whether a fresher song like “Wings”, which was released a few months in Europe and bares the Ryan Tedder attachment, could’ve led to her big breakthrough here in the States rather than a remake that’s already weathered the surveys overseas to some big success, but generally modest results. (Actually, Tedder has too many compositions on the air as is, so best to wait in that case.)
With the pressure to introduce another Lana Del Rey or Lorde-type act into the U.S. music market, it’s worth noting that birds of a feather flock together. In that case, I think we may be seeing Birdy up in the clouds through this new year.