The new Natalie Imbruglia album – Come To Life has been delayed at the last minute. It should have been out by now but is, in the UK at least, now shelved until at least February 2010.
Record companies delaying releases is nothing new of course but Natalie's musical career seems to have been particularly blighted here, resulting in just 3 studio albums being released over the last 12 years.
The reasons are not clear and other than a few seemingly throwaway and awkward comments made by Natalie in interviews citing promotional reasons concentrating on other territories there has been utter silence from her 'people' and no justification for it at all
This is an album I've been looking forward to like all her others. To have it pulled only a matter of days before the release is irritating to say the least. After all we've had a run of promotional activity in recent weeks leading up to it.
A 'pre single' video was shot for the (admittedly awful) Wild About It in July, live shows including the V Festival in August, a video and single proper release of Want in September with press and TV appearances, a one off show last week at London's Heaven – all leading up to Come To Life's release.
The album was trailed on iTunes, Amazon and elsewhere with pre-ordering available.
I only heard that the album had been delayed by Amazon, not by Natalie, despite subscribing to her RSS feed on the website (which had been constantly updated with news about her appearances) and her Twitter account which had become more active.
Although the CD was pulled some people have it, including fans in Europe.
On Monday (October 5) the album appeared on digital download sites in the UK (including iTunes, Amazon MP3 and 7digital). But 24 hours later, it was gone. As I type this it remains on Spotify but I suspect it will disappear from there soon too (UPDATE - it has) The Japanese version has an extra track and that seems available at a price.
A total mess.
The official website confirms the new release date but there has been no mention on the RSS feed, and nothing in the news section.
Fans posting on the official forum are in the dark and nothing is still being said.
Natalie might not be the most popular singer these days but she does have a fanbase and they are almost universal in their state of being mightily pissed off right now. I know I am.
So what has happened? The most likely explanation is that the promotional work has not paid off as the label / management had hoped. Want was not a big seller and had limited airplay. Fans have argued that it was not a good choice for single, citing the monotonous nature. I love the track and feel it is a good pop single, but is is a little unrepresentative of the rest of Come To Life and certainly not the strongest track. This is the same company that thought Wild About It was worthy of promotion after all.
Releasing the album now with a lowly chart position and no follow up single could lead to the album being lost in the run up to Christmas. Maybe it is felt the album will have a better chance in the New Year with another single released and a fresh batch of promotion.
The album is not as electronic as interviews have suggested and while this is not necessarily a bad thing I am disappointed that the version of Scars which appears is an acoustic one and not the uptempo version which was leaked as a demo last year.
Fun would have been my choice for the single. This is one of the Chris Martin tunes and has all the soppy sentimentality of Coldplay at their best (for some their worst) and suits a female voice like no other Martin song. It is gorgeous.
The album is really strong if you ignore the last track, which I'm still trying to.
If it ever does get released in the UK I'll write a full review here but I'll be damned if I'm going to review something which isn't officially available.
If the album bombs so be it. I want it to be successful of course but surely rule 1 of commercial success is to not piss of your most loyal customers - Natalie's long term fans.
The CDs are ready. They've been pressed – the artwork is complete and packaged. Some lucky people have already received theirs. Some shops outside the UK have them in stock. It was on digital download for a couple of days. Now it has gone.
The die hard fans (not those fond of Bruce Willis – old joke) have been led down the promotional excitement path and are ready for the final candy delight.
This all looks suspiciously like a record company or Natalie's management acting out control freakery. No-one expects a commercial company to act with altruism but the music industry is still clinging to the idea that they hold all the cards when it comes to content distribution. They don't and they still can't adapt.
You may have noticed that I've commented on the album.
How is this possible? The interwebs. Perhaps no-one has told Natalie's label that this is 2009, not 1989. File sharing is a concept they maybe should have heard of.
Ironically, the album leaked online almost to the day that its official release was put back 5 months.
It is out there. Delaying it is a nonsense.
People who really want this album can get it now. For free. People who really want this album are Natalie's biggest fans. Natalie's biggest fans are the most likely to want to purchase the album to support her.
Q, E and effing D.
So now I'm left in the ridiculous situation of having an album that I want to pay for but can't!
People access their music differently these days, and for the better. Cross promotion, recommendations on sites like last.fm, and freetards who seem to like browsing on YouTube with all it's poor quality audio. All choice. If you like a song you have the option of buying it a la carte on digital download.
This is now a world of immediacy. Spur of the moment impulse buys can happen at any time now. Natalie was on ITV's This Morning earlier today, performing Want. Anyone interested in her music might, just might have gone to iTunes after seeing her on TV looking not just for Want but for her album. On not finding it there what's to say they may have then downloaded the leaked version. This is madness.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the album being leaked (ok they are all wrongs) Island Records can't ignore that it is there. Record companies should learn to distribute their music digitally once it has been leaked however hard to swallow this is. Marketing and promotional schedules have to, in the digital age, become a secondary priority.
As an artist, Natalie is entitled to pull the album at the last minute for whatever reason she chooses, even if she doesn't want to make that reason public. If this is the case Natalie, I apologise here for speculating and damning your management and record label, particularly if there are personal reasons for the delay.
Fans do not have a right to demand their favourite artists release their music and my post here is largely a rant and an uninformed rant at that. Like the best of the internet.