Author Topic: Post-9/11 Tribute Albums And Singles....  (Read 81 times)


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Post-9/11 Tribute Albums And Singles....
« on: February 11, 2002, 09:04:48 AM »
On October 21, in a crammed stadium in the nation's capital, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and members of 'NSYNC stood among a horde of pop stars and sang a tribute to the victims of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Twenty-four hours earlier, in another coliseum blocks from the most horrendous mark of the tragedy in New York, Paul McCartney headlined a rock and roll all-star jam that included the Rolling Stones, the Who, Eric Clapton and dozens of others, many of whom joined the former Beatle on a song he had just written in response to September 11.

Around the same time, Bono, Britney Spears, Fred Durst and others were gathering at sound stages around the country filming the video for their cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," a joint fundraising single for victims of AIDS and the terrorist attacks.

And in record company offices on both coasts, representatives for Celine Dion, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen and others were putting together the highly anticipated CD and DVD versions of the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" telethon that captivated millions of viewers a month earlier.

It was less than six weeks after hijacked commercial airplanes crashed into the twin towers, the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania, and America was struggling to get back to a normal life. It was a time when people were looking for something powerful to turn to and a time when the music industry was preparing to give it to them.

Fast forward not even four months later, and there is hardly a sign of post-September 11 comforting anywhere on the radio or in the upper echelon of the album charts.  

Jackson's "What More Can I Give," touted at the time as his next "We Are the World," and rightfully so considering the talent involved (see " 'NSYNC Join Jackson's Charity Single; Mariah, Celine Sing In Spanish"), has yet to be released and may not ever see the light of day. Jackson's reps and publicists for those involved with the single referred calls to Epic Records, who did not return repeated messages about the status of the song.

"What's Going On," packaged as a glossy EP with nine versions (one for every musical taste), has sold 228,000 copies. McCartney's "Freedom" sold only 23,000 copies. Disappointing numbers considering newcomer Christina Milian's "AM to PM" single has sold 308,000 in a few months' more time. And at radio and video formats, neither tribute song proved to be a major hit.

As for the double albums that came out of "America: A Tribute to Heroes" (see "Mariah Carey, Springsteen, Other Stars Sing For America On Telethon") and McCartney's "The Concert for New York City" (see "McCartney, Jagger, Bowie, The Who Come To NY's Aid"), their sales have been surprisingly disappointing as well. The former has sold just fewer than 600,000 copies, the latter about 431,000.

The fact that there is more than one single and album to compare may be the reason none have made a massive impact, according to Paul Fischer, assistant professor in the recording industry department at Middle Tennessee State University.

"The overwhelming number of high-density, star-studded concerts and fundraisers post-September 11 made it hard to single any one out as an iconic Event with a capital 'E,' " Fischer said. "In that sense, none of them stands the way 'We Are the World' or Band Aid's ['Do They Know It's Christmas?'] did as a marker of the time."

In the cases of those benefit singles, the issue at hand, famine in Africa, was not as sudden and did not hit home quite the way September 11 did, which Fischer said also makes a difference. Not every world event lends itself the same way to musical tributes.

"The tragic events [of September 11] are so big and so close to home that they resist celebrity gloss," he explained. "Things really are different now. The world seems more serious and entertainment has, for many, retreated to its traditional role as brief distraction from daily concerns, rather than being the focus of daily concern."

Marc Pollac, a senior editor at radio trade magazine Hits, believes the timing of the September 11 benefit songs and albums was off. "They just took too long to come out," he said. "The concerts were like three weeks after September 11 and the albums were months after."

Meanwhile, songs already recorded and/or released before September 11 provided listeners with the immediate comfort needed. Enrique Iglesias' "Hero," Enya's "Only Time," Live's "Overcome" and John Mellencamp's "Peaceful World" in turn proved more popular than songs directly relating to the terrorist attacks.

"Like any song, people want to interpret what they want from it, and 'Hero' seems to have been released at the right time," Pollac said. "I just don't know how much the public really cares about 'What's Going On' and 'Freedom.' "

Larry Grossberg, a professor of musicology at the University of North Carolina, has his own theories about the post-September 11 tributes he feels the records are not selling well because people do not want to be reminded of the tragic events.

"It may also be the case that the emotions people have toward the events of September 11 are too complicated to be captured in a pop song," Grossberg said. "One has to consider the limitations of what pop music can do. Most of the music immediately released focused on either the sadness and tragedy or the anger and war side of it. For the latter, while anti-war songs are often successful, it is not so common in pop, and certainly, this has not felt like a war, so the typical kind of war song is unlikely to work. Patriotic appeals, more common to country and western, might and have.

"And, truth be told," Grossberg added, "I just don't think any of the songs are particularly great. But it is probably more than that. This is an odd tragedy close to home, yet removed. Too close for comfort, yet in need of being distanced. A difficult task for a pop songwriter."

Releasing benefit singles and albums for September 11 has also been difficult for record labels, Fischer said. "They don't want to appear to be trying to capitalize on these events by creating material that intentionally ties into people's still very raw emotions," he said.

"Hero" and the other examples like it, Fischer said, have fared far better than anything post-September 11. "It is easier and safer if existing songs are re-contextualized for their resonances with people's feelings," he explained. "It seems more natural, more heartfelt. It's even better if that is done somewhere away from the business decision-making machinery. Word of mouth about stuff that feels right in these unsettled times spreads quickly."

If Jackson's "What More Can I Give" is released, or when other songs written in the wake of what happened last fall hit the airwaves, there's no telling if America will welcome them with open arms.

"It can't be forced, and it can't be faced too directly," Fischer advised. "Most people are working to find their own comfortable places for dealing with this. They don't want to be told how to cope. It's too unprecedented. We're all fumbling along and feeling our ways to a new point of equilibrium."

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 04:00:00 PM by 1034398800 »


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Re: Post-9/11 Tribute Albums And Singles....
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2002, 10:02:41 AM »
I know i'm sick of hearing about it, so yeah, people probably don't want to be reminded of it.  BTW, that What more can I give song is dooooppppe too, but I'd like it better if it was just a demo version without everybody else on it.  It does remind me of we are the world.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 04:00:00 PM by 1034398800 »