Does pop radio really love her “Unconditionally”?
She came in with a “Roar” and topped the Hot 100 earlier this year; now, Katy Perry has another hot tune to challenge all the neigh-sayers out there. “Dark Horse”, featuring rapper Juicy J, was released as a digital single a little over two months ago after winning a poll sponsored by Pepsi to reveal a track from her album, PRISM. The urban-sounding song, which feels inspired by “Moments In Love” by Art Of Noise from 1985, is piquing the interest of many people as a result of continued strong sales and a growing number of program directors adding the song into moderate-to-high rotation across multiple formats. So, what gives? How can this happen when she already has an active ballad, “Unconditionally”, all over the place?
As Perry’s proper second single continues to gain in the CHR radio top ten, the callout scores for it have not been particularly impressive, ranking it lower among many singles that haven’t actually gone top ten yet. In turn, the numbers are used by those directors in their research to determine rotations. Sales of the song have improved since it was first released, ranking just below the top ten, but even that seems lackluster. Meanwhile, “Dark” has broken free from the pack and landed a triple-digit bullet from unsolicited airplay on about twenty stations, mostly in the Midwest and the South along with a handful of major markets on the West Coast. (Callout isn’t available for it.) It’s currently #44 at the format and in the same region on the Rhythmic panel, gearing up for a run in the top 40. So far, it’s achieved a #17 peak on the Hot 100, a spot below “Unconditionally”. With steaming and sales on the rise, we could be hearing about this one for a while yet.
This isn’t the first time this sort of situation has happened; promotional singles have made it to the air before thanks to programmers at more liberal radio companies. In fact, over on the Hot AC chart, “Lucky Strike” by Maroon 5 is around the top 40, never declared as the fifth single from Overexposed but still picking up airtime. One notable CHR example of a few years ago is “Rockstar” by Nickelback, which went as high as #42 in December 2006 on the chart on solely unsolicited airplay until “If Everyone Cared” was announced as a single. Once it ran its course, “Rockstar” was officially released and went top ten during the summer of 2007. It may be that Perry falls into the situation if the label decides to release something like “Birthday” or “This Is How We Do”, but I would think they’d like to strike while the iron is hot.
Though it appears the buying public and radio will be leading the way on what could be the third single from PRISM, a full release of whatever the label is going to choose has yet to be locked in. It’s almost certain that “Dark” will continue to grow into next year even if it’s not the followup to “Unconditionally”. Question is, how quickly will Capitol react? After all, the song hasn’t been serviced to radio and they’re stuck in a bind considering that the second single still has life left in it (unless they no longer promote it, but that likely won’t happen.) In the meantime, it makes for an interesting chart story. Not just anyone can pull off three songs making the CHR chart simultaneously, so kudos to Perry and team for making it happen.
“Dark” isn’t personally one of my favorites on the album, but I guess I’m in the minority on this one. There’s a clear desire for it from several angles. If this is truly meant to be this era’s “E.T.”, the fourth radio single from the Teenage Dream era and largely played in remixed form with Kanye West, it will eventually see the light as a full-on single with an optional rap-free version for the Hot Adult Contemporary format. “E.T.” was a spring single three years ago; let’s see if history repeats itself with “Dark”, a song title that definitely lives up to its name. Time to pony up.
Download “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J on iTunes.