Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Champion | Lefsetz Letter

Carrie Underwood – The Champion ft. Ludacris – YouTube

Carrie Underwood – The Champion ft. Ludacris – Spotify

Sometimes you can overthink it.

“The Champion” was so busy tying into media, being the anthem for both the Super Bowl and the Olympics, that it missed the mark. The track is nowhere in the Mediabase country chart and although it has 8 million and change Spotify streams, it’s an also-ran on that service.

So what happened?

First and foremost, “The Champion” is a stone cold smash. Very today. A great follow-up to Katy Perry’s “Roar.” But today that’s not enough, you need a push, you need a spotlight.

Country is still driven by radio. Unlike hip-hop, which is driven by the internet. And although Ludacris is featured, he’s long in the tooth in an era where Migos triumphs and Eminem sinks like a stone. And radio is a gatekeeper, it reacts to the label, wanting to know if a track is a priority. It looks for reaction, totes up all the data and THEN adds a cut.

But “The Champion” is not only a country smash, it’s a crossover hit. It should be on Top Forty. But Top Forty is more moribund than a pack of baby boomers, it doesn’t want to mess with the formula, but he not reinventing himself is being left behind. Which is kind of the story of this track, it’s not what you expect, it’s not beholden to country precepts, it’s positively now, with hip-hop influences, but if you’re playing to traditional media like print and TV it’s a long hard slog to the top.

But that push just started.

Now the original video, that opened the Super Bowl, resonates not at all. You can see it here: Carrie’s all glitzy, there’s an emphasis on football and the essence of the cut is sacrificed, you don’t want to be beholden to the game, you don’t want to be supporting the sport, hell, look at Justin Timberlake, is anybody talking about him since? It’s a fine line doing tie-ins, you think you’re gaining a new audience, but chances are it doesn’t care, you want active users, not looky-loos, you look like you sold out, you look like a joke.

So in this Super Bowl video Carrie looks like the “Idol” winner she is, overdressed and overprimped, a vehicle for a song. I’m not sure who she is appealing to, certainly not the younger generation that drives tracks like this.

But in the clip that dropped today…

Now the Super Bowl video has 550,151 views.

And the lyric video, which was released even earlier, on January 11th, has 6,622,126, not bad if you’re a nobody, a stiff if you’re somebody.

It’s the same song, the one hasn’t even cracked the country Top 40, but now…

In this new clip Carrie is positively down home, dressed in jeans, like you and me, you get to see Ludacris, maybe this is the start of the phenomenon.

However, they broke the cardinal rule of video, YOU NEED TO SEE IT AGAIN AND AGAIN!

And really, once is enough for this clip.

But the song.

It jumped out of the Spotify Hot Country playlist, that’s how I discovered it.

This is not art, this is closer to commerce, but they NAILED IT! If you don’t think this is a hit, you don’t know what a hit IS!

Meanwhile, she drops a video and the word is out, that’s the internet world we now live in, an echo chamber where everybody touts the same facts sans analysis. But this does create awareness.

I’ll be the last one standing
Two hands in the air, I’m a champion
You’ll be looking up at me when it’s over
I live for the battle, I’m a soldier, yeah

Never forget Queen rode this same concept to immortality. Sure, with a touch of irony, but that was back when musicians were still seen as outsiders, before they’d sold out to corporations.

I’ve been working my whole life
And now it’s do or die

That’s how we all feel before we get in the ring, whether it be the test, the gym, the board room… We psyche ourselves up, and nothing inspires us as much as music.

They say that every champion is all about his principles

Inspirational. That’s the essence, the honesty music used to rest upon.

Then again, in this paint-by-number song that doesn’t wholly ring true.

Then again, this is our present world.

So, is Capitol gonna make this a hit?


P.S. We live in a world of cross-pollination, this is one thing the musical artists have right, country tracks have no problem featuring rappers. Music is bringing us together, it’s leading that way.


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