#justice4blackout (feat. Lady Gaga)
Thanks to my ontd sistren for your kind words and comments on my last post. I had a few topics to choose from for pt 2, but I decided to post this one and dedicate it to gangster princess Lana Del Rey who was just dun dirty by Billboard. When will Billboard's reign of terror end????? #yesalllanasingles
Anyway...today's lesson is about Britney Spears!
No celebrity in our digital age has had a more publicly documented fall from grace that Britbrit. Her 10 second wedding, Hostage Brituation, head shaving,umbrella rage, barefoot gas station bathroom trips, baby lap driving, pulling a Paris when getting out of her car, marrying and divorcing Kfed, Chaotic...did I miss something? Probably.
RIP to all the epic Britney milestone posts that are no longer with us (fuck u very much X17)
Many of us grew up with Britney, and the fact that she seemed like a relatively decent person with mental issues made her breakdown fairly painful to witness.
So it was with no small joy that her fans, stans and 90s kids got to see her come back to the studio to record her comeback album. It was hard to predict what the result would be. Lots of collaborators that she hadn't worked with before, an album cover that served Corel Draw realness, and a pop star at the center of it that didn't seem to be capable of doing much in the way of promo, live or otherwise. None of it inspired a ton of confidence.
But the moment everyone got their hands on the album and first heard the words "It's Britney, bitch",the collective reaction was:
The album was REALLY GOOD. And not in a desperate "yeah...no...it was pretty good...right? I mean...that one song was okay?" way, but in a "OMG I AM LIVING" way. What are the odds? I mean...Britney was never particularly a driving force in her own career, so her engagement or lack thereof in the recording process was never really critical for the end product. But the idea that someone who had gone through as much public shit as Britney had could be a part of such a quality piece of work pretty much blew all our minds.
So like I said, the album was fire, it was a critical success and her fans were eating it up. Britney's first four albums had been #1, and with all the anticipation and smart buzz that Blackout had it was a lock for #1.
Meanwhile, The Eagles (ask your parents), a band that had more internal strife than a Van Halen/Oasis tour with En Vogue opening had been working on a studio album for years and were finally poised to release the same week as Britney. They had an deal with Walmart to release "Long Road Out of Eden" through Walmart exclusively, presumably because Walmart used the money they didn't spend on their employee's salaries or health care to give them a fat check for the rights. Which worked out well since Walmart and their core base of middle class and middle aged men aligned nicely, although due to a Billboard rule any albums released exclusively through one retailer were not eligible to chart (similar to how Netflix doesn't release ratings, retailers didn't release sales figures of exclusive offerings in order to keep the data to themselves) so it seemed that the Eagles wouldn't be able to compete with Britney on the album chart.
Which of course pissed on the entitled Eagle manbabies, who didn't want to capitalize on the financial bonus that came with working exclusively with Walmart and not get the chart recognition that came with not working exclusively with Walmart. So what's a bunch of rich and famous white men with industry connections and the largest company in the world to do in the face of such adversity??
So in what can only be described as a totally fortunate coincidence, Walmart decided to publish the sales figures for The Long Road Out of Eden, and the day before the album charts were to be released, Billboard announced a rule change that would allow the Eagles' album to be eligible to chart. And BTW by "day before" I mean literally one day before. So while in the week before everyone was forecasting Britney to notch her 5th #1 album in a row, literally one day before the charts Billboard announces the change in their policy since Walmart decided to publish and the game changes. SoundScan announces that the Eagles moved 710,000 units, compared to Britney's 290,000 units, and at the end of the week the Eagles were #1, and Britney was left with her streak broken with a #2 album.
So was it the right decision for Billboard to make, and the right time for them to make it? Billboard defended their decision, explaining that having the highest selling album in the country not even make it on the chart was a threat to Billboard's credibility [insert sideeye here]. Britney's fanbase (and lots of people in general) saw it as an inappropriately rushed rule change meant to benefit one album in particular.
Both sides had their points, but in the end the Eagles album hadn't been rushed at all - they had released a Walmart-exclusive sampler of their album the year before, so Billboard wasn't surprised by their method of release. If Billboard believed in broadening the types of chart eligibility they recognized in order to accommodate the changing music markets, they could have done it earlier. Certainly retailers, recognizing the publicity and momentum that chart position can have towards furthering sales, would have played along with Billboard earlier. tl;dr it could have been done better. Doubtless the chart outcome would have been the same but it wouldn't have left such a bad taste in people's mouths.
So let's fast forward a bit, shall we?
It's 2011, Lady Gaga is just coming off the flawless Fame Monster and expectations for her follow-up are suuuuuuper high. And you couldn't miss it if you tried: Lady Gaga released her Born this Way album in stores, in games, with phone contracts, with a purchase of a Big Mac meal, everywhere. Some people (Britney fans? Could it possibly be?) were upset that Billboard was going to count $1 purchases of Born This Way (a loss leader by Amazon to promote their new-at-the-time music service) towards her chart position. If giving away an album nullifies it from making the chart shouldn't PRACTICALLY giving it away have the same effect? If Billboard could make a last-minute rule change to screw over Britney why not do the same to Gaga?
Britney stan translation:
In response to the Born This Way eligibility questions, people bringing up how Billboard had been willing to make quick changes in the Britney/Eagles case, and what I can only assume was a coordinated attack of death threat tweets from Angela Cheng and Sabrina O'Connor, Billboard was compelled to issue an Editor's Note on the subject. Billboard's editorial director at the time made a comment that will probably be the closest thing to an acknowledgement of how badly the Britney/Eagles albums race was handled by Billboard:
Beleaguered Billboard executive translation:
And so Britney's loss was Gaga's gain: Billboard wasn't thrilled that an album that sold most of its copies for $1 went to #1, but they were too afraid of the backlash in making ANOTHER last minute decision that would take a young female pop star out of contention for #1, so in this case they waited a few months before announcing that any albums being sold for less than $3.49 would be ineligible for the album chart.
Brit's impacT: making Billboard actually be thoughtful and deliberate about their decisions*. When will your faves ever?
Obnoxious fact: the Eagles weren't just thirsty for chart position, they wanted that RIAA shine too. The Long Road out of Eden was a double album, which means that when you buy one copy of it, the RIAA counts it as two copies. Why? Probably because double albums USUALLY used to be a lot more expensive than their single album counterparts, so RIAA wanted to equalize their sales statistics.
In this case, The Long Road out of Eden retailed for $12, or even less than some of its single disc counterparts, so it's been able to squeeze extra juice from its certification. So next time you're at Wally World and see a 5 disc Garth Brooks box set for $20, it ain't only discounted out of the goodness of his heart y'all!
Crazy fact: The Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is tied with Thriller as the best selling album of all time in America.
Likely fact: Britney Spears probably cared about all this .0000001% as much as her fans did lbr
Disclaimer: I love The Eagles #sorrynotsorry
*so, I wrote this post before the Lana mess. Lana's impacT:
ontd, has your fave ever been personally victimized by billboard?
ps hi billboard if you're reading this!!
Sources 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | my glorious memories of 00s ONTD