There comes a time in a pop star’s life when she, her business manager, some barnacles from the major label footing the bill for her latest record, and some other freeloaders gather in a conference room and look at how much money she’s been able to scare up a few singles into an album release. They might decide, “We’ve sold quite a lot of records and people want more!” They may note that people are still buzzing about the artist and suggest, “Say, auspicious pop star, how would you like to record another album quickly so we can make another boatload of bucks?” At this point, the pop star might say, “You know what? I’m tired.” But, plucky as they are, major label types will persist: “Okay, well, we have all these live tracks. We have some b-sides and demos, too. We can master them in Garage Band and have you pose for a new album cover and call it a ‘deluxe edition.'” At this point, the pop star might say, “Sure, fine, is there more Cîroc?” Of course, there is always more Cîroc.
It’s hard to tell whether re-releases are rushed out because the bulk of what most pop stars record is so alarmingly mediocre or because music fans do churn through records more quickly these days. Still, in this race to cash in on the breakout success of a particularly explosive album campaign, pop stars lose all their most discerning pretenses and, worse, they seem hesitant to move forward — ending up stuck in one album campaign for so long that the charm wears off and they start to remind us of the party guest who couldn’t hold his liquor and ended up passed out in the back garden when all we wanted to do was go to sleep already.
But, like that blacked-out reveler, this is a trend that’s not going anywhere, so rather than bemoaning it, let’s instead scrutinize some of the more memorable gems that have recently been trotted out to warm us up to repackaged versions of albums that didn’t need additional help selling units.
Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
What exactly was The Fame Monster? An attempt to extend sales by cashing in on the breakout hit singles of The Fame? An interstitial EP meant to sate listeners until Born This Way was ready? Something so genius that it had no business being associated with the throwaway taffy-pop of The Fame? I suspect the answer lies at the nexus of all these questions, but let’s all agree on one fact: If you’re an artist who needs to properly assert her dominance in “pop,” “Bad Romance” is the way to go.
Leona Lewis, “Forgive Me”
Fresh off her X Factor victory, Leona Lewis gave the world her debut, Spirit, and quickly made a name for herself as an epic balladeer. Unfortunately, she never really broke out of that genre, so as far as singles to jump-start re-releases go, “Forgive Me” was a total non-starter, despite its vintage Whitney Houston sensibility.
Maroon 5 and Rihanna, “If I Never See Your Face Again”
Perhaps this duet by Maroon 5 and Rihanna was one of the less romantic matches in pop. There’s a rushed, utilitarian undercurrent driving this song. It’s one wherein both acts seemed to have realized that interest in the original versions of their albums (It Won’t Be Soon Before Long and Good Girl Gone Bad, respectively) had waned. So they joined forces to give us a track so spectacularly ordinary that we couldn’t help but dismiss it with an “I just can’t” when we realized that the promising aesthetic sensibility of the music video oversold a song that just didn’t have the heart to deliver.
Nicole Scherzinger, “Try With Me”
Few things in life are more mystifying than the infinite chances Nicole Scherzinger’s gotten at a solo career. The aim of this song was simple: launch a repackaged European edition of Killer Love and the first edition of the album in the US. Tarted up with generic production and aimless aesthetics, it immediately revealed itself to be nothing more than a futile attempt at reviving a flagging album campaign. At this point, “Try With Me” sounds more like a taunt at Scherzinger’s career prospects than a sultry come-on.
Ke$ha, “We R Who We R”
Once in a while, an artist will launch the repackaged edition of her album with a single that is so brilliant it makes us forget she’s responsible for any other creative output. “We R Who We R” is that single for Ke$ha.
Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”
After a series of letdowns (“Massive Attack,” “Moment 4 Life,” and “Your Love”), “Super Bass” was — literally! — music to the world’s ears. It was the first single that succeeded where all previous singles in Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday campaign didn’t: It made us realize she had the moxie to be more than just a cameo rapper who does stunt features for other artists.
Marina and the Diamonds, “How to Be A Heartbreaker”
Two singles into Marina and the Diamonds’ campaign for her sophomore record Electra Heart, the performer decided to change gears. In the short period between the release of the UK and US editions of the album, she completed production on a new song. In fact, the Dr. Luke-produced “How to Be A Heartbreaker” is so instantly catchy that in addition to becoming the new pony that Marina’s crew is betting on for US success, it will likely end up repositioning the performer’s UK strategy around that track by way of a re-release.
Katy Perry, “Part of Me”
If anyone has enjoyed blockbuster success via the repackaged album phenomenon of late, it’s Katy Perry, by way of Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection. As marketing gimmicks go, it’s the wiliest: The repackaged album’s lead single takes care of Perry’s post-Russell Brand divorce publicity issues, promotes the album, and sets the stage for the tie-in film. Katy Perry might be a mediocre singer, but this ability to hit three big birds with one highly polished stone means that an enterprising pop star like Perry will has found a last place in the annals of pop.