Tag Archives: Mike Rosenberg

Adam’s Top 100 of 2014: #04 – Passenger, “Scare Away The Dark”

The cream of the pop!

The cream of the pop for 2014.

Another year is in the books and it’s time for the annual listing of the 100 biggest songs that ranked among my weekly top 40 chart from December 2013 to November 2014. It was magical year full of MAGIC! and “Magic” and a lovely twelve months of lovable hits from James Blunt and The Fray. We went “home” with A Great Big World and Andy Grammer, spun around in a “dance” with Milky Chance and Walk The Moon and ended up here with all that was awesome in the year we called 2014.

Peak positions listed are as of the last chart included in the year dated November 30, 2014. Those entries marked with a plus sign (+) had not yet reached their peak position as of the date. Ties in points were broken based on peak, number of weeks at peak and number of weeks in the top 40.

Stop and "Scare".

Stop and “Scare”.

004. PASSENGER, “Scare Away The Dark” (769 points)
Writer: Mike Rosenberg / Producers: Chris Vallejo, Mike Rosenberg
Label: Nettwerk/Warner Bros.

Debut Date: March 30, 2014
Peak Date: June 29, 2014
Peak: #1 for one week
Weeks on Chart: 28

The 30-year-old performer from Brighton, England pretty much defined 2013 on my personal top 40 when he scored with a triple punch of #1 singles, including my top song of last year, “Let Her Go”. It held firm at the summit for twelve huge frames, the longest consecutive run (at that point) in five years. Sadly, it remained the only U.S. single to be taken from All The Little Lights, but it certainly made a well-deserved impact at radio, retail and in the media. For a fan (or stan if you choose) like me, “Go” was only the start of an immensely successful string of songs for him, which continued into his latest era.

When Rosenberg was on the usual radio tour towards the beginning of the Hot AC run for “Let Her Go” during the summer of 2013, he played this song in an acoustic setting, which I identified at the time as being really good, though I wasn’t sure if that would become a single. I wasn’t sure if people would “get it”. Lo and behold, it became the leadoff single from Whispers in the U.S. and Canada in March of this year and quickly shot to #1, becoming his fourth song to reach the top on my chart. Though it wasn’t a national success, it did rank on two radio surveys (the aforementioned Hot AC and AAA, where “Go” went to #1.) I guess my chart stats win again.

Two other songs from the album have also reached my chart; neither has been as successful as it: “Heart’s On Fire” peaked at #9, while “27” looks to break the top ten in the next few weeks. Still, Whispers remains one of my favorite albums of the year and one that should endure into 2015. Rosenberg begins a small Australian tour in January, and then a smaller South African tour in February. Who knows what will happen beyond then? As far as I’m concerned, he may be a passenger by name, but he is a driver when it comes to my musical tastes.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Passenger – Whispers

Oh, darling, my chart's on fire.

Oh, darling, my chart’s on fire.

From busking on the streets to paving those streets with Gold and Platinum certifications, the 30-year-old performer known as Passenger is certainly more well known now than he was even a year ago. Born in Brighton, England, he’s been captivating audiences around the globe with his international smash “Let Her Go”, along with other moderately sized singles like “Holes” and “The Wrong Direction”. All three topped my personal chart last year, with “Go” ranking as my overall #1 song of 2013. This coming Tuesday, the singer/songwriter delivers his followup to 2012’s All The Little Lights, titled Whispers, into stores, and while a stream of followup singles have yet to escape the shadow of his career defining ballad, it’s one of the best things I could have asked for this year. It’s simple yet heavy, familiar yet refreshing.

Now, I am obviously not a casual fan of Passenger; I’ve been following his progress for a little under a year and a half now, have seen him live and met him, bought his music on multiple formats, etc. I’m a little biased. However, there is something on here for everybody, whether you’re a fan of his bare bones ballads or would like to see a more upbeat side to him. In fact, there are some rather content moments on here in the middle of all the introspective material. It’s what he knows best and he stays true to who he is with a slightly more produced sound and wider instrumental backing. Put it all together and you have one of the purest records of 2014, one that will be ranking highly on my year-end list.

Beginning with the percussive-driven “Coins In A Fountain”, we are immediately immersed in that natural vibe as Mike Rosenberg sings about a shifting view of romance: “Love is the last unicorn, love is the only song I’ll sing all night… love is the truest of words.” However, that tranquility turns into a much more passive aggressive attitude during “27”, a folk rock cut about life in the business and his status in it. The song comes off as an homage to 70’s singles like Billy Joel‘s “The Entertainer” and The Raspberries‘s “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”. The singer claims, “I write songs that come from the heart/I don’t give a f**k if they’re gettin’ to the charts or not,” and “I’ve written 600 songs, only 12 get sung,” referring to compiling the tracklisting for an album. You could liken it to an “I Hate” moment; it’s out there.

Highlights toward the middle of the effort include “Bullets”, which essentially comes off as a twangier version of “Holes” and serves some major harmonica action. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as a single down the line. When it comes to his tender, heart-wrenching songs, “Golden Leaves” is the loveliest of the bunch, an emotional string-filled story about a breakup and the inevitable longing that arises with it. He questions, “Do you remember how this started out?/So full of hope, but now we’re filled with doubt/I can’t live with you, but I’d die without.” (“Heart’s On Fire”, which arrives earlier in the lineup, is the more hopeful cousin to this track.) “Thunder”, following “Leaves”, is an upbeat and soaring number, bringing out the horn section as Rosenberg The Riddler offers up his words of wisdom: “I’m a choice you can’t choose… I’m yesterday’s paper, I’m yesterday’s news.” Luckily, the man and his compositions aren’t totally forgotten.

Towards the end of the set, we find the two best songs lyrically in the group. Track seven, “Rolling Stone”, no relation to the magazine, recounts Passenger‘s days as the wanderer he is when traveling the globe and pursuing his dream, yet also what he is leaving behind. In the first verse, he speaks: “Sometimes I feel I’m going nowhere/Sometimes I’m sure I never will/She said it’s ’cause I’m always moving/I never noticed ’cause I never stand still.” It’s a pretty poignant take on the matter and obviously, you can’t help but sympathize with the guy. He’s obviously not used to the stardom that he’s attained. “Riding To New York” is also worth it, a first hand account from the road of Rosenberg’s interaction with a man at a gas station while on tour in Minnesota. The subject, who is ill, relays to the singer that he’d like to “see my granddaughter one last time/Hold her close, and feel her tiny heartbeat next to mine/Want to see my son, and the man he’s become/Tell him I’m sorry for the things I’ve done.” It’s truly heartbreaking but so inspired.

There’s no doubt that Whispers won’t be as commercially successful as his last era; the lead U.S. single from the album, “Scare Away The Dark”, seems to be scaring more than satisfying radio programmers as it flirts with the top 30 on AAA radio and top 50 at Hot AC. These are obviously meager numbers compared to the massive “Let Her Go”. Yet, in terms of content overall, this is probably his best album. The variety is abundant and the songwriting is even more concrete than the last time around. For me, at least, it’s the quality release that makes the fan feel complete without giving into a more polished commercial standard. That’s how it could have gone; thankfully, it does not. At times it whispers and at times it roars, but it relates to us, and any kind of voice is better than no voice at all.

(Stream and purchase Whispers on iTunes)

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Adam’s Top 100 of 2013: #1, Passenger – “Let Her Go”

Once and for all, Passenger is in the driver's seat.

Once and for all, Passenger is in the driver’s seat.

#1 for twelve weeks, 40+ weeks in the top 40

Chart Run (including 2014 Chart Year thus far):
36-25-18-12-9-3-3-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-3-2-4-4-3-4-4-6-7-7-9-10-13-15-17-19-19-17-20-20-22-?

In The Mix entry date: skipped
Top 40 debut: March 24, 2013
First week at #1: May 12, 2013

Music Video:

As I sit here writing this final year-end post, I can’t think of a better way to end the countdown than with this song, a song that literally took over my world for the past nine months and counting. There’s no other way to put it. It was Mike Rosenberg, better known as Passenger‘s “Let Her Go” that led me to write this Profile post on March 22, which got tweeted out by Nettwerk Records CEO (!) Terry McBride (who, by the way, called it a “brilliant article” – I mean, whoa!) and was used in an email campaign for Nettwerk and marketing/radio promotion group, The Artist Cooperative. (Thanks to Bob Divney, who heads the group’s Marketing department and Promotion for their AAA and Rock formats releases.)

It was also that post that landed me a few interviews with Nettwerk in May, and then, thanks to my constant nagging to the program director (I’ll admit it), Mr. Rosenberg himself performed at my current job in an acoustic set back in August. He was wonderful and met every expectation I had about him. I may not have been picked for the job, nor do I remember a lot except for some bits and pieces about that summer day, but the one thing that’s remained a constant all this time is the artist, his lyrics, and his songs. That’s the heart of this post, not what happened to me. After all, if I hadn’t seen his song place on the ARIA Singles Chart and then look up the music video, things would’ve turned out very differently on this year-end survey, but of course, I’m glad things ended up the way the did.

Ready, set, "Go".

Someone’s pretty in pink. (The shirt, not the cheeks.)

“Let Her Go” was recorded way back in March 2011, written and co-produced by Rosenberg, along with Chris Vallejo. It was initially released in July of last year and marketed to AAA radio in the fall, where it peaked in the mid-30’s before falling off the radar. Then, suddenly, the song took off in Europe, and then Australia and New Zealand, and nearly every country it touched, it became at least a top ten hit. The same can be said of the United States, where it finally broke the Hot 100’s top ten several weeks ago. It’s so far peaked at #9, but there’s still life left in it. “Let” has been certified for shipments of nearly 3.5 million copies and, in worldwide sales, is at the 5 million mark.

On my personal chart, “Let Her Go” debuted at #36 in late March and took a quick ride up to #1, where it spent twelve consecutive weeks there. It holds the all-time record for longest consecutive run at the top for a male act and longest run at #1 overall in five years. The two followup singles, “Holes” and a rerelease of “The Wrong Direction”, also spent time at the top. Now, it’s just the latest single to reach the 40 week mark. Should it make it to 50, it will rank as the second-longest running song ever. That’s a little ways away, but I thought I would just put it out there.

The Passenger shrine, if you will.

The Passenger shrine of sorts. (Poster, Vinyl, CD and “Let Her Go” promotional CD.)

Sometimes, you feel defensive about an artist even when you can’t claim to have discovered them, heard their music first, and whatnot. I mean, I first heard Passenger earlier this year; there are tons of people out there who have enjoyed Rosenberg’s music since the act was a band back in 2007 with their only full-length release, Wicked Man’s Rest. It’s so easy to put yourself in that position even when you know it’s not right. I’m guilty of it. However, from my post being recognized to the phone interviews to actually meeting the guy, I sort of felt like I was justified in that role. It at least gave me hope that maybe something could happen for me in my current situation to the point where I could look back 15 or 20 years from now and say, “Hey Mike, remember that one time I posted this and you responded “Hope so too :)” and that whole chain of events spiraled into motion?” It’s just a dream for now. Luckily, there’s still work to be done: a new album in 2014, more touring, etc., and I’d love to be a part of it.

Congratulations to Nettwerk Records, The Artist Cooperative, and the radio staff at Warner Bros. Records for a breaking a really talented artist with a meaningful set of songs here in the States. I know there was pressure to deliver on a slow burner of a song that’s done wonders internationally, but everything’s falling into place now. Most of all, it’s the man himself, Passenger, who deserves the credit for creating a song with a message that was relatable on so many levels of relationships and experiences. It’s one of those rare universal songs, both lyrically and success-wise. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2014.

“…and so ends the countdown of the year that just passed / and for the number one artist, it won’t be his last / but I heard him exclaim, ere he topped the charts right / Merry Christmas to all, and to All The Little Lights.”

Purchase Passenger on iTunes: “Let Her Go” ::: All The Little Lights ::: iTunes Session (EP)

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Adam’s Top 100 of 2013: #6, Passenger – “Holes”

Rosenbergs are red, violets are blue...

I sure fell into this one.

First Chart Entry / Biggest Hit To Date: “Let Her Go” (#1 for twelve weeks, 2013)

“HOLES”
#1 for five weeks, 26+ weeks in the top 40

Music Video:

Can you dig it? I can dig it. No, we won’t be grazing in the grass for this entry in the countdown, but we may be crashing through craters and turning into some tunnels on the ride there. Call it a pit hit for the 29-year-old singer Passenger.

Born Mike Rosenberg in Brighton, England, he wrote and co-produced this second of his three songs on the chart, which was also co-produced by Chris Vallejo. You can find the original edit on his 2012 album All The Little Lights, ranked as my #2 album of this year. When serviced as a radio single, it was remixed with several added elements, including a prominent xylophone throughout the arrangement, a backing choir in the second verse and light strings during a repetition of choruses in the last 1/3 of the song. Yet, in any version, the best aspect of this song is the wordplay, which Rosenberg always does a fantastic job with. So, you’ll be able to find a hole in your pocket, your shirt, a promise, etc., but none in this post, of course.

With the immense attention “Let Her Go” received, “Holes” couldn’t garner the same reaction when released in Europe this year, especially when “Let” was still receiving consistent airplay and sales. It did crack the top 40 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland and The Netherlands, but unfortunately, it likely won’t be remembered down the line. Still, a charting song is a charting song. As for where I think this should’ve peaked globally, well, that’s a hole other story.

Mr. Rosenberg still has one song left to chart in my special year-end chart; how high will I let it go? You’ll find out very soon.

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PROFILE: Will Passenger “Go” On To The U.S.?

Driving his way around the world.

Driving his way around the world.

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.

Download “Let Her Go” on iTunes. / Download All The Little Lights on iTunes.

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.

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