The Art of Flopping

Billboard published an article today decrying the overuse of the term “flop” when describing a pop artist’s lack of success. The term’s use grew to exponential levels this past year, with the underperformance of several pop heavyweights, including Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Even Katy Perry, who scored massive (if arguably unwarranted) success with “Roar”, was subject to being deemed a “flop” with her second single “Unconditionally”, which has peaked at #14 on the US charts.

With the music industry in such a state of disarray, is it fair to really call anyone a flop?

Album and single sales and chart positions are the primary identifiers of who is deemed successful or not in the music industry, especially in the pop genre. As shallow and capitalistic as it is, it still matters, and there are a number of companies that make their livelihoods (including Billboard) keeping track of who is selling the most and topping the charts on a regular basis. However, there has been an overabundance of “flop” declarations within the last year. Fans, in a desperate effort to prove why their favorite is better than another, have screamed “FLOP” at anything not charting at #1 for ten straight weeks. Lady Gaga has probably been the most high-profile victim of this; “Applause” was deemed a massive flop, despite remaining in the Top 10 for months. Granted, it’s not as successful as “Bad Romance”, but it’s nowhere near a flop. Neither is Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally”. Sure, it’s nowhere near the hit that “Roar” was and “Dark Horse” is appearing to be, but Perry is still at the top right now.

If someone is going to be called a flop, then you have to look outside the Top 20, at least. For example, Ke$ha’s two followups to her 2012 single “Die Young” are huge flops. “Come On” peaked at #27, and “Crazy Kids” did even worse, peaking at #40. Those two singles ultimately killed her sophomore album Warrior and shoved her completely off the A-List. Luckily for her, she has bounced back with Pitbull and their smash hit “Timber”. Still, Ke$ha and plenty of other artists are true examples of what it really means to have a flop record.

But so what if an artist has a flop single or even a flop album? Beyonce’s 4 was huge disappointment, but then came the history-making BEYONCE. Some of the most iconic artists of all time have had their chart stinkers. Michael had “Invincible”, Madonna has “MDNA”, Mariah has “Glitter”.  What matters is their body of work, and whether they can recover from a flop. It’s still too early to count out Gaga and Katy and (I regret to admit) Bieber just yet.

For now, let’s just call it an underperformance and let them hope for the best.

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