Iggy Azalea, the Australian rapper whose inescapable “Fancy” was officially named the Song of the Summer, announced today that she would be dropping a reissue of The New Classic. The update, which was announced just five months after the original, will include six new tracks, and at least one of them will continue Azalea’s trend of pop collaboration, this time with Ellie Goulding. With “Fancy” still all over the airwaves, and recent second single “Black Widow” sitting comfortably in the No. 6 spot of the Billboard Hot 100, a reissue seems like kind of a curious move. But, maybe not.
For starters, while “Black Widow” seems to be a success, it hasn’t reached the No. 1 spot that “Fancy” attained — in fact, after 26 weeks on the charts, “Fancy” is still at No. 11. Maybe the single needs time to grow, or maybe its middling chart performance is indicative of the fact that Azalea’s plainspoken rapping — without the hook of a more vocally gifted pop star (and Rita Ora is not that) — just isn’t the kind of thing that translates to consistent No. 1 hits?
It’s impossible to get into the mind of the businessmen who are surely behind the idea of the reissue, but the fact that a collaboration with Goulding was used as a draw is a sure sign that, at the very least, Azalea is looking to squeak out one more dynamite crossover before the spotlight moves to some other pretty young thing. And that’s often the case for these reissues, which are being released more and more frequently. Unless it’s celebrating an anniversary of a classic album, a major label re-release is usually little more than a ploy to either keep the spotlight trained on an album that’s on its last legs, or take advantage of an unforeseen spike in attention to re-promote an album that never really took off in the first place. Let’s look at five recent pop re-releases, the varying reasons behind them, their quality, and how effective they turned out to be from a business perspective.
Lady Gaga — The Fame/ The Fame Monster Original release date: August 2008 Reissue release date: November 2009 Strength of new songs: 8/10 Commercial effectiveness: 7/10
Unlike Azalea, Lady Gaga’s The Fame wasn’t in need of hits. With “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” and “Paparazzi,” she had three international No. 1s. When The Fame Monster was released in November of 2009, it wasn’t to repackage songs that weren’t working, but rather to take the success of the initial release and ratchet up the art-house pastiche to heights that couldn’t be ignored. The video for “Bad Romance” took Gaga’s fashion love to a new level, idolizing Alexander McQueen while also paying homage to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” in both the sequence of the video and the paws-up dance move that would become a signifier for all of her diehard Little Monster fans. The follow-up, “Telephone,” while not as huge as “Bad Romance,” solidified Gaga as a real Video Star. Without The Fame Monster, Born This Way would not have had such huge anticipation leading up to its release, and Lady Gaga may have never worn the meat dress.
Katy Perry — Teenage Dream / Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection Original release date: August 2010 Reissue release date: March 2012 Strength of new songs: 5/10 Commercial effectiveness: 10/10
Unlike the other reissues on this list, Perry’s The Complete Confection came nearly two years after the release of Teenage Dream, suggesting the question: Has Katy Perry run out of ideas? Time has arguably kiboshed that theory, but what the reissue of Teenage Dream did do was catapult its original release to record-breaking heights in the US. This is thanks to an oddity in the charts system that combines the sales numbers of both the original release and the reissue of an album. The Complete Confection did this simply by re-energizing Perry as a chart presence rather than creating new hits.
“Part of Me” and “Wide Awake” from The Complete Confection were both hits, sure, but let’s not forget that Teenage Dream had a whole EP’s worth of No. 1s: “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “E.T.,“ “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” The only other person to have that many No. 1s from a single album? Michael Jackson. So, with so much success, why the reissue?
Well, for starters, there’s that aforementioned propulsion of Teenage Dream to new heights. It also gave Perry something to do rather than head into the studio to record a whole new batch of songs, instead tacking a would-be EP on to an already released album. Prism, the true follow-up to Teenage Dream, wouldn’t come until late 2013, and three years of silence from a pop star is, in this age of Rihanna’s yearly releases, not a smart move. The Complete Confection, while not the most meaty pop reissue, was essential in keeping Perry in the spotlight even as she failed to produce any substantial material.
Lana Del Rey — Born To Die / Born To Die — The Paradise Edition Original release date: January 2012 Reissue release date: November 2012 Strength of new songs: 7/10 Commercial effectiveness: 5/10
Throwing in Lana with this group of super-successful pop stars may seem questionable, simply because neither of the Born To Die releases made a gigantic splash on the US charts. “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans” had early critical success but didn’t lead to many sales, and the Paradise track “Blue Velvet” made a blip on the Internet only because of its obviousness. (Lana is basically the center item in a Venn diagram, flanked by David Lynch and Roy Orbison.)
Her real success had nothing to do with an album single, though: Following the slow burn of her “Young and Beautiful,” written for Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, her label pulled that track from radio and replaced it with the Cedric Gervais remix of Born To Die cut “Summertime Sadness.” The remix would spend 22 weeks on the US charts and eventually reach No. 6. While not originally included on any official releases, the remix was later featured on The Paradise Edition, and helped keep Lana in the news just enough to help her eventual follow-up, Ultraviolence, become a relatively big international hit.
Nicki Minaj — Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded / Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded — The Re-Up Original release date: April 2012 Reissue release date: November 2012 Strength of new songs and content: 10/10 Commercial effectiveness: 6/10
Nicki Minaj wasn’t hurting for a hit when she released The Re-Up just seven months after Roman Reloaded (an album whose title actually, confusingly, sounds like a reissue): “Starships,” a single from that album, spent 21 consecutive weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. That said, The Re-Up came on the heels of two under-performing singles (“Pound the Alarm,” “Va Va Voom) and promised seven new songs and an entire DVD’s worth of bonus content — as well as a really convoluted album title. Sales-wise, The Re-Up didn’t do much to bolster the already great numbers of Roman Reloaded, probably due to being withheld from some major retailers. However, it did keep Minaj in the spotlight long enough for some additional television performances, and probably helped her earn her seat on American Idol — not that that was necessarily a good thing.
Rihanna — Good Girl Gone Bad / Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded Original release date: May 2007 Reissue release date: June 2008 Strength of new songs: 8/10 Commercial effectiveness: 7/10
Rihanna is an outlier here simply because she has released a new album every year from 2005 thru 2012. It would be easy enough to justify Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded with that fact alone — something to fulfill a quota — but when you remember that Good Girl was the album that spawned “Umbrella” and turned Rihanna from a club mainstay to a real, bona fide pop star, it’s understandable that Def Jam would want to capitalize on that success with a reissue. Add to that the fact that Reloaded came with “Disturbia,” and this is one of the few recent reissues that produced a song with real staying power, even though the album itself didn’t make any real, lasting climb up the charts. As far as providing material to tide fans over between albums? Rihanna has more than proven that she has no problem with output. It’s worth noting, though, that the only album of Rihanna’s that has been reissued is her breakout, as was the case with Lana and Gaga.