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Eh, so? That’s the way the world works
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Art, and the awful intrusions of the real world (don't ask me why but I just found this interesting):
Nellie McKay, a young singer-songwriter whose 2004 album, "Get Away From Me," was one of the most acclaimed pop debuts in recent years, says she has been dropped by Columbia Records just as her follow-up was scheduled to reach stores. While Ms. McKay had been negotiating for some time with the label over the length and final song selection of "Pretty Little Head" - which was supposed to be released today - she says the decision not to put out the album was a result of a recent executive shake-up at Columbia, and "had more to do with my personality" than with the album itself.

The London-born, Harlem-based Ms. McKay had been fighting with the label over her insistence on a 23-song, 65-minute version of the album; Columbia was pressing for a 16-song, 48-minute version. (The two-CD "Get Away From Me" has been called the first double-disc set ever released by a debut artist.)
Well, yeah, except it's not going to be (nor, given what the story says, was it going to be) released as a double-disc set by Columbia, is it?

Maybe, just maybe, Columbia saw too much of a monetary risk in a double-disc release for a debut artist. They do have a little experience in that area.

Of course the critics think she's wonderful:
"Pretty Little Head," which features duets with Cyndi Lauper and K. D. Lang and songs addressing gay marriage and animal rights, had already been provided to the press, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Spin magazine called the 21-year-old artist "a sharp-eared satirist" and said the album was "not only a testament to McKay's talent, it's also a tribute to her artistic sense." In a four-star review, Blender described Ms. McKay's sound - which is inflected with both cabaret style and hip-hop flow - as "indie musical comedy," and said that "McKay is pushing forward the craft of the song, connecting Tin Pan Alley to Ben Folds and De La Soul." (Ms. McKay said that getting such press without actually having an album for sale is "kind of nice, because people can just read the reviews and then not be disappointed.")
The critics have never been wrong, have they? And maybe Columbia was indeed hesitant to release as a double-disc debut album something which is described as "indie musical comedy". Look, nothing has changed since "Band Stand" days. If it doesn't have a good beat and you can't dance to it, it's probably not going to be a huge seller, especially at the price of a double-disc set.

But I'm sure they're mumbling it's "the suits", somewhere in the background noise of all this. Note that the article infers that the reason the album has been chucked is because of a shakeup in management at parent Sony. Gee, who knows, maybe Sony's new management is interested in making a profit vs. caving into the financially risky demands of a debut artist?
Adding to the complications is the fact that Ms. McKay (pronounced Mac-EYE), who recently contributed several songs to the soundtrack of the Jennifer Aniston film "Rumor Has It," will be co-starring alongside Alan Cumming, Ana Gasteyer and Ms. Lauper in a new production of "The Threepenny Opera," opening on Broadway in March. Rehearsals begin later this month, which would severely restrict her ability to promote "Pretty Little Head"; she recently joked that she took the role as a way to get out of touring. Ms. McKay said she assumed that this also played a part in Columbia's decision, saying it was "a combination of things, adding up to irreconcilable differences." Billboard reported late last month that the singer had left the label voluntarily.
Irreconcilable differences. Seems, at least, McKay has it mostly figured out. No agreement, no contract, no album: real world.

And, if you're really not willing to do touring, then why should Columbia risk it's capital?
Meanwhile, the politically outspoken and slyly acerbic Ms. McKay (whose "Get Away From Me" was a slap at Norah Jones's breakthrough album, "Come Away With Me") said that her feelings about the split with Columbia were decidedly mixed. "I think for both sides, it's liberating," she said. "You have no idea how much of a pain I can be."
I can imagine. In the meantime I'm sure some label will pick up "Pretty Little Head". The question is, will McKay learn from her dealings with Columbia when next approached, or will we again hear how "liberating" it is to have no label for the album?

UPDATE: As Achillia points out, the album under discussion was her second album, her debut album having also been a 2 disc release. Somehow I missed that and apologize for the confusion. It doesn't really change the point, and, in fact, may actually lend more of an argument to Columbia's side depending on what the receipts were for her first album.
 
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Maybe I’m misreading the article, but the impression I got was that the 2-CD "Get Away From Me" was the debut album and "Pretty Little Head" is (or was to have been) McKay’s second album:

Nellie McKay, a young singer-songwriter whose 2004 album, "Get Away From Me," was one of the most acclaimed pop debuts in recent years

The two-CD "Get Away From Me" has been called the first double-disc set ever released by a debut artist.

McKay apparently wanted "Pretty Little Head" to also be 2 CDs and Columbia didn’t. But, since the whole article is her side of the story and consists largely of her insinuating bad faith and generally base motives to Columbia, it’s hard to tell exactly what went down. The impression I get is the fact her first album was ’acclaimed’ (by whom, one is left to wonder) made her assume she was a BSD who could dictate terms to Columbia. David Caruso did something similar with NYPD Blue and it seems to have worked out for her much the same.

It all comes down to what the contracts say and, since she handwaved that as ’lots of legal stuff,’ I suspect they don’t much support her position.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
Um, did you read the article or just glance at the words you understood? The two disc set was already released in 2004. That’s why they speak as if it was the first double CD released by a new artist, because it was. Her next CD was supposed to be released today, in 2006. That’s what this article was about—why her second album isn’t out.

And furthermore—her first album I purchased for $9.99, and the article did indicate that she was kidding when she said that she wasn’t going to tour.

I usually don’t post on blogs, but I just found it interesting that someone could speak with such authority on an article without actually comprehending what the article is conveying.

-Greg
 
Written By: Greg
URL: http://
Maybe I’m misreading the article, but the impression I got was that the 2-CD "Get Away From Me" was the debut album and "Pretty Little Head" is (or was to have been) McKay’s second album:

Yup, you’re right ... I completely missed that somehow. That gives even more credence to the possibility that Columbia didn’t see "big bucks" in a 2 disk second album (but in the absense of numbers showing how her debut album went, I really can’t say for sure).

But, since the whole article is her side of the story and consists largely of her insinuating bad faith and generally base motives to Columbia, it’s hard to tell exactly what went down.

I came thorough my reading of the article with much the same feeling, the inference that it was Columbia who was acting in bad faith, when in fact, it may be nothing more than irreconcilable differences and the fact that, given her apparently intractable "negotiating" position, they saw no profit in doing as she demanded.

That has to be the bottom line for Columbia.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I can’t repeat this often enough to people who want to "make it" in the music biz: "critical acclaim" and 75 cents won’t get you a cup of coffee. Since banks still do not accept "good reviews" as legal tender, the record industry does not exist for "critical acclaim". It exists to make money, and any new artist who wants to "make it" by being signed to a major label is going to have to pay the price — part of which includes quite a lot of leeway for the major record label.

One more thing: if you’re in it "for the music", don’t sign a record deal. Without a record deal, you get to make any noise you like; a record deal is nothing more than a promise to turn over a substantial portion of potential proceeds to the record company in exchange for a) distribution b) (maybe) marketing and 3) a chance to be plugged in to better producers, agents, promoters, etc.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Um, did you read the article or just glance at the words you understood? The two disc set was already released in 2004.

Sometimes you just miss things, Greg. When you do you fess up (see above), and fix it (see UPDATE above).

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
A pretentious, self-important "artist?" What a novelty! Not.

Yawn, Miss McKay (pronounced, "Mc-Kay") yawn...
 
Written By: Howee
URL: http://
Pretty Little Head," which features duets with Cyndi Lauper and K. D. Lang and songs addressing gay marriage and animal rights, had already been provided to the press, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Spin magazine called the 21-year-old artist "a sharp-eared satirist" and said the album was "not only a testament to McKay’s talent, it’s also a tribute to her artistic sense." In a four-star review, Blender described Ms. McKay’s sound - which is inflected with both cabaret style and hip-hop flow - as "indie musical comedy," and said that "McKay is pushing forward the craft of the song, connecting Tin Pan Alley to Ben Folds and De La Soul."


***********GROAN***************

Yeah, but does it, you know, SOUND GOOD?

I hate these f**king eggheads.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I’ve been patiently awaiting "Pretty Little Head" since it was originally set for release on 27 Sep 05, but pushed back several times. The Sony homepage is still not offering anything about the dispute. However, I figured it would somehow be related to being another "Double Album," simply because this time there are 23 tracks as opposed to 18 from the first one.
There’s little arguing that "my baby" Nellie, my first real musical love since "The Smiths"—who, coincidentally compiled 23 quick and fabulous ditties quite similar in meter and time to Nellie’s onto a single CD almost 20 yrs ago) is destined to be largely autonomous forever, which I’m certain is partly driving this conflict. I’m assuming she’s probably uncomfortable with the idea of a contradiction that would be associated with her fragile young reputation by releasing this as a ’single’ disc when it is probably considerably longer than the first, which may come off as confusing or at least ’odd’ and in some way an insult to the intellect of her fans by being seen as some sort of ’down-play’ or just a bizarre ’logic error’ by putting these tracks on only one disc??? I’m sympathetic to both sides, here, however, even if it was Sony’s will to release the first one as a ’double,’ although I believe I read somewhere that it was, indeed, she who used her magnificent influence and charms to ’coerce’ the first one to be produced as ’double,’ thereby shooting herself in the foot now since Sony is probably concerned that this ’privilege’ if it continues, will ultimately create conflicts with their other artists.
This is all just my best guess, anyway, because I’ve found nothing out other than the first blog here, which WAS probably correct information.
Nellie is undoubtedly perfectionistic, which will work both for and against her for all her days like any such character. I wish she would have just bitten the bullet on this one, though and learned from it and moved on, because "we ALL make mistakes sweetie!—even us (I mean ’we’) perfectionists!"
I just hope and pray she doesn’t let it get her too down. She’s too important to me, and I just wish I could somehow be there to kick her stubborn little rear end or thump that ’pretty little head’ sometimes.
"I love you, Sweetheart!"
 
Written By: Rylo
URL: http://
Now the truth is out, which I’m sure you probably know by now. In case you haven’t, Columbia wanted to chop Nellie’s 23 tracks to 16. I read somewhere where this may have been because of copywrite disputes??? Anyway, I just hope a label picks up the slack soon.
 
Written By: Rylo
URL: http://
Here are the Nellie McKay Rumor Has It tracks:
BB Blues**
Black Sheep
Face of a Faith
Pasadena Girl
Just One of Those Things
Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes**

**Highly Recommended!
 
Written By: Al
URL: http://

 
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