"I'm hot enough, talented enough, and doggone it a new label will sign me."
Still, that doesn't make the news that Interscope chose to release my Haley feel any better. Bottom line is they just didn't believe the prospects were good of her hitting it big, thought new talent coming in had a better shot, and cut her loose. It's a cold blooded industry, and the sting of rejection hurts.
Which begs the question: What went wrong??
Well, to be honest, there's certainly plenty of blame to go around. Some of it's management, some the label, and, yes, some has to go on Haley, too.
Not striking when The Iron Was Hot
Haley's run on American Idol ended in May, 2011. She was riding a ton of critical acclaim from her amazing performances on the show, had a lot of industry and media credibility building, and a huge legion of passionate fans of all ages that were in a frenzy for all things Haley.
So, how did they maximize this incredible window of opportunity? Well, Haley foolishly and shockingly turned her back on twitter and social media for almost 3 months, alienating all but her most devoted fans at the most critical time, and effectively vanished from public consciousness while the other Idol finalists were cranking out music and staying in the spotlight.
Then, either Haley or her team, or both, decided to wait until after the tour was over to even begin the process of creating her album. According to Haley, she completed work on it sometime in January 2012, released her single in March 2012, and her album Listen Up! in May 2012.
Now, May 2012 is one full calendar year from her Idol run when she was the talk of the town. Her album release coincided with Phillip winning Idol and releasing his MONSTER hit Home, which dominated the news cycle and relegated Haley to back page blurbs. By now she was no longer the hot item people were buzzing about, just last year's Idol finalist that some crazy devoted fans still obsessed over. For the rest of the world she was, "Oh yeah, that girl I liked from last season. What's her name again?"
Miss the window, miss a lot. I hope Haley learned from this experience the importance of timing and maximizing life's moments of opportunity.
Free not radio friendly
So, after all that delay, the greedy, shortsighted suits at Interscope decided, "Hey, let's release the one song on the album Haley gets no writing credits on so we can keep all the money ourselves. So what if it's not radio friendly."
Shockingly enough, this "Mature breakup song" never resonated on radio, didn't sell very well, and peaked in the middle of the Hot AC radio chart. It was a tough sell to release a 4 minute, mid-tempo breakup song without a catchy hook or beat, and sure enough it just didn't get it done.
The promotion of it was also disjointed. Instead of emphasizing the song's sadness and frustration with a roller coaster relationship, Team Haley tried to sell it as a "mature breakup inspiration song", and vamped her up as a seductive temptress on her Idol performance and music video.
Nobody wants to buy a song inspiring people to improve their breakup skills, and the vamping routine just made Haley appear the least sympathetic part of the breakup. What a strange, shallow and uninspiring message, and no surprise it failed to resonate emotionally. Now, ironically enough, Free is actually a fitting song for the end of the passionless, inherently flawed Interscope/Haley relationship.
Not enough gigging
Once her radio promo tour of Free was done, that was it. Barely any gigs, and the few she had were almost never with her full band. It showed, too, as all too often Haley struggled in her rare live shows with remembering lyrics, loosening up, and being in synch with the band. It takes repetition, lots of time rehearsing and gigging, to come together as a cohesive unit.
This is such a tragic shame, because Haley is so good when she's relaxed and feeling confident. Her shows sitting on a stool in small clubs with guitarist John Notto are among her very best performances, because she was able to be relaxed and completely herself with his familiar accompaniment. The charming, funny, warm and personable Haley came out rather than the stiff, tentative and awkward Haley we saw in some of the bigger shows.
Now, who is responsible for the lack of gigs? Well, I have no idea if her manager failed to line up gigs, or Haley was too picky about gigs, or not enough work was done on all sides to get it done, but no excuses. She needs to play live more, period, end of story. It's the only way she'll become a success in this business.
* * *
So, now that we've done the WTF happened here, the next question is WTF needs to happen from here?
Well, there's no question Haley has the goods. She's beyond gorgeous, has one of the most distinctive, addictive and beautiful voices anyone will ever hear, and has fantastic vocal instincts. She also likes to write, and hopefully that will pay off, too.
That all said, what I really hope she does is learn from her mistakes, move forward with real determination, find a smaller, jazz-friendly label that has a clue what to do with her talents, and will mentor, guide and inspire her to take her career to the next level and not waste the once-in-a-lifetime gifts she's blessed with.
Today is a new dawn, it's a new day, and I'm feeling goooood that Haley will now find the right home to become the respected artist she wants to be, and we want her to be. Cheers to Haley finding her path to a long and successful career!