Daily Archives: May 15, 2009

How Jive Matures Its Young Artists

archujordinDavid tweets the cutest messages, one of which was championing his fellow Idol and label mate, Jordin Sparks, earlier today.  Her performance on last night’s American Idol results show prompted him to exclaim that she was  “rockin’ amazing.”  And while all eyes from the fanbase are paying attention to his latest activities over in Manila (Jackryan4Da, a regular David Chronicler, gave a fabulous recap of her encounter with David), I’m going to project into the future to the best of my ability.

See, Jordin’s recent performance might actually offer us a glimpse into the trajectory planned for the young artists signed to Jive’s label.  Even then, the paths of Jordin and David seem to diverge.  Currently, both of them are the only two AI contestants associated with the label.  And, as with Jordin’s “Tattoo,” David’s “Crush” debuted on the popular New York City radio station Z-100, was light pop and catchy (although “Crush” certainly had more melodic and vocal heft), and it became a hit.

However, that’s where the similarity seems to end.  Jordin’s “Tattoo” was followed up with the monster hit second single, “No Air,” which paired her in a solid duet with then popular Chris Brown.  This single also garnered Jordin her first Grammy nomination.  Because of this success, I sort of expected Jive to follow the same formula with David, which would have included a stronger, more grown up single compared to “Crush.”  Perhaps they tried with “A Little Too Not Over You,” which didn’t really take off, but since this song was not part of the original plan – which included the release of “Touch My Hand” – it’s hard to figure out how Jive plans to “mature” David in time for his sophomore album, especially when they have moved in the direction of Disney. And who knows? Maybe David’s recent duet with Miley Cyrus is the Disneyesque equivalent to the urban pairing between Jordin and Chris.  We shall see what happens with that bubble-gum duet and how it charts.

jordin-sparks-american-idol

Meanwhile, the transformation of “no longer 17” Jordin Sparks, as evidenced by her Idol appearance in her sleek, form-fitting strapless black sequined dress, as she sings about love being a “battlefield” and how “you better go get your armour,” is a far cry from her “not a slut” purity-ring image. Not quite bootylicious Beyonce but closer to a full-figured Leona Lewis.   The lighting and misty-staged treatment, replete with hit songwriter Ryan Tedder accompanying her on piano, indicates that Jive intends to launch Jordin Sparks squarely in the realm of young adult pop entertainment, waving goodbye to those innocent teen years.

If this is the clear trajectory for Jordin as she prepares to drop her sophomore album, it’s quite possible David will get similar treatment with his second effort.  Nothing like making a comeback a year from now, especially if we get a growth spurt and and another year of experience.  We’ve already witnessed David’s performance growth, who has been traveling non-stop, globe-trotting, and getting exposed to different musical acts.  Whatever will he be like a year from now?

While I’m proud of the new and mature Jordin Sparks, whose “Battlefield” is most likely to be a hit this summer, I wonder if this “mature” image is too generic a perception of how the young teen pop star, especially a black one, “matures.”  I am also a bit envious that she received the Top 3 results show guest performance spot, which was originally slated for David.  Now, considering that Jive wasted the opportunity of David’s return to Idol with a less-than-stellar song like “Touch My Hand” (not knocking it, mind you, but it’s really inferior to some stronger goodies on his debut album – like “Barriers” or “Waiting for Yesterday” or “Desperate” or “Running”) and that David himself was “pretty embarrassed” with his performance, the Top 3 guest spot might be a moot point.

However, if David was going to launch “Zero Gravity” as the next single (and I’m already hearing rumors that this, indeed, is in the works, but I’m not getting my hopes up until I get confirmation), the Top 3 guest spot would have been ideal to get that baby up and running for the summer.

Still, I’m not of the camp that believes David needed to have distanced himself from his “ballad boy” stereotype to get overwhelming support for his music career.   He made a name for himself with songs like “Imagine” and “Angels.”  Meaning: his image is one of healing and inspiration and hope and youthful earnestness.  We got some of that hope and youthful earnestness with “Crush,” but that was certainly missing in “A Little Too Not Over You,” and falls flat with “Touch My Hand.”  We won’t get back to inspirational David going the Disney route, that’s for certain (except the cheesiest notions). But we could with “Zero Gravity,” an uptempo song of “youthful earnestness.”

As many have observed, those Idol contestants with the most successful careers (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry) are the ones who didn’t stray far from the personas they carved out on the show. Yes, even Jennifer Hudson, for it could be argued that what she was most known for – being shockingly and unfairly voted off during her run in Season 3 – was mirrored in the character she portrayed in Dreamgirls, which earned her an Oscar.

My concern with Jive is that they don’t seem to get what it is that “sold” David to his fans.  So they follow a generic path, and I imagine we’ll see David “matured” in the same way. It might sell records, but will it sell his artistry?