In terms of critical reception, I get what you're saying. But I do think that still does not account for rocking up at #155. Critics are not all just poopyheads unable to get past their prejudices to appreciate the genius of Holo. I think also one reason he might have been graded more harshly from some is precisely because of being oversold. He is simply not on the level of the legends his press kit keeps pushing so his own team created a standard he does not meet at this point.
Anonymous said: “Selling over 200,000 units over the first week in the U.S. is a very respectable start.” - Except he didn’t. He wouldn’t have scored a PR victory #1 ww or in the US without the 60K in giveaways. It’s still a very respectable start, but without the giveaways an easy listening German singer would have had the ww #1 sales. And you can’t really compare him to a regular debut artist since he came into it with a massive fanbase & a roll-out campaign unlike any debut artist I’ve ever seen.//
To be fair, the album-giveaway-with-tour strategy is the same strategy Justin Bieber used for Purpose, to beat MITAM sales figures. It is a strategic PR move, only done with artists who have the commercial clout to sell a tour the way Harry did. The timing of the album release was calculated not to compete with other popular artists. Only an artist with Harry’s level of commercial backing could have had a live debut on SNL.
Is Harry competing on a level field with an unknown debut artist, like, for example, Lorde with “Royals” and “Pure Herione”? Absolutely not. That’s part of the reason critics have mixed reception. Harry’s success is backed by the best professional team money can buy– it’s pretty difficult to chalk up missteps to inexperience or financial constraints.
I appreciate the discrepancy between Harry’s pre-album promo and the critical reception.
I do think that it was a misstep for Harry’s team to compare him to rock legends like Bowie, Queen, Prince. These legends were originals– you can’t BE an original by being compared to one. They tried too hard. It’s a sign of insecurity, just like the cringe-worthy PR strategy for Carolina, not to let the music itself do the talking. Good or bad, the proof of the music is in the pudding.
That said, I would also point out that the top pop artists are rarely critical darlings. The best received pop artists are those who express an honesty about themselves regardless of popular opinion– Kendrick Lamar with “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Chance the Rapper, Lorde with “Royals,” Beyoncé with “Lemonade,” Solange with “Cranes in the Sky,” Radiohead with “A Moon Shaped Pool,” Frank Ocean with “Blonde.” Harry is not at that level. At this point in time, he may have the heart and the melody, but he doesn’t have the experience or the depth.
It’s a difficult balance, chasing that pop chart success while seeking critical acclaim. As I said, Harry needs to be less generic with his lyrics, and less clichéd with sexual tropes. He’s found his boundaries– now he needs to break them.