How to Save a Life
t's been, what, coming around to 50 years now since Frankie and the Teenagers ushered in the modern musical era, and yet those who still run this business don't quite “get” “it.” One of the biggest problems, and the way they're losing money when pushing product from one side of the Atlantic to the other is that they insist on selling coals to Newcastle, or whatever the US equivalent of that is. Selling bad music writing to Los Angeles, I guess.
Find a need and fill it. That's how this works. Don't find a need in your own country and then go and fill it 3,000 miles away. Thus British rappers are never going to shift more than 25 copies stateside, because those damn Yankees have enough of them on their home turf. Similarly, outside a couple of Backstreet Boys tracks, American boy bands have sold dick all records in the UK these past fifteen years, because Albion already had a fine stockpile of soulfully gesturing pretty boys.
The Fray are, from an A&R; viewpoint, a great idea. “Meaningful” piano based gunk is clogging up the UK airwaves at the moment, and it’s inevitable that American desire for it is going to grow. So why pay money flying James Blunt and his butlers over here? We have The Fray now! And you were thinking that the American Keane was Carlos Bocanegra....
The Fray are probably a really bad band. But they have what all really bad bands need, which is one absolutely amazing and fantastic song to prove that they're sounding that bad most of the time out of their own volition, rather than through lack of talent. The Fray's 10/10, single of the year, instant classic track is “Over My Head (Cable Car),” which sways from “staring out the coffee shop” self pity, through to Paltrow-attracting rolling piano, needless sports metaphors, and finally collapses to its knees in exhaustion. AOR doesn't come easy; you have to work at it.
And after the diamond, the rough. The Fray, as a rule, are moribund, emotionally strained, uninvolving, and have a tendency to sound like the Cranberries fronted by a man. And if that isn't enough to keep you awake at nights, nothing is. Still, someone's getting rich off it, and that's what matters, huh?