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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2008.12.03 - The Detroit News - Five Theories Why 'Chinese Democracy' Tanked

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2008.12.03 - The Detroit News - Five Theories Why 'Chinese Democracy' Tanked Empty 2008.12.03 - The Detroit News - Five Theories Why 'Chinese Democracy' Tanked

Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 3:43 am

Five theories why 'Chinese Democracy' tanked

By Adam Graham

All that for a No. 3 debut?

Guns N' Roses 15 years in-the-making epic "Chinese Democracy" debuts unceremoniously in the No. 3 spot on this week's Billboard chart, after selling a disappointing (and, for Axl Rose, what has to be soul-crushing) 261,000 copies its first week in stores. Losing out to Kanye West's "808s & Heartbreak" is one thing, but ranking behind the third week sales of Taylor Swift's "Fearless" has got to really chap Axl's cornrows.

Here are five theories as to why "Chinese Democracy" landed with such a resounding thud.

Lack of promotion. For as high-profile a release as "Chinese Democracy" was touted to be, there was surprisingly little done to promote it. Radio stations were serviced with the title track as a single, but it was merely a curiosity, and gained little traction in terms of airplay (it peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart). There was no video. An exclusive retail deal was cut with Best Buy, but Best Buy didn't do much in the way of promotion; where Wal-Mart turned an entire section of its stores over to AC/DC for its exclusive deal for "Black Ice," Best Buy put up a cardboard stand stocked with copies of "Chinese Democracy" and called it a day. Most mysteriously missing from the album's promotion was Axl Rose himself. After 15-plus years, the dude couldn't even be bothered to provide a quote for the press release where the album's arrival was at long last announced? A tell-all Rolling Stone cover story seemed like a forgone conclusion, but never materialized (we got a list of the 100 best singers in rock history ever instead). He didn't sit down with Regis and Kelly, David Letterman or Jay Leno. For all we know, he didn't leave his house. Even a phone interview with a radio station in Minneapolis would have gone a long way, but Axl was nowhere to be seen (other than in the single, several-years-old photo provided by his record company), which crippled the album's potential sales.

It's the economy, stupid. Sales were underwhelming across the board in what was supposed to be the biggest retail week of the year. Spitballing before the fact, it seemed like both Kanye West and Guns N' Roses could have sold 1 million copies apiece of their new albums, but instead they sold a combined 711,000 copies, which is well below the 950,000 West sold on his own a year ago with "Graduation." Las Vegas rockers The Killers were lost in the shuffle as well, selling 193,000 copies of its third set "Day and Age" for a No. 6 debut, a far cry from the 315,000 first-week sales and No. 2 debut of "Sam's Town" two years ago. With the glut of new product -- there was a new Ludacris album out in stores as well, along with new sets from Beyonce, T-Pain, Nickelback, and "American Idol" champ David Cook that arrived just a week earlier -- combined with a down economy, everyone lost in the Black Friday sales sweepstakes.

It was sabotaged. Sure, Best Buy had its exclusive, but why did it do so little to promote it? In Sunday circular ads the week of release, Axl Rose's picture was only slightly bigger than Kanye West's, when conventional thought would have put Axl Rose and the CD all over the ad, with "Chinese Democracy" popping out of refrigerators, on laptop screens and everywhere they could Photoshop its likeness. Was Best Buy upset that Axl Rose was willing to do zilch in the way of promotion and thus decided to bury it? It's possible. Maybe in the company's eyes, they envisioned Nov. 23 as a day where Axl Rose would do a whirlwind promotional blitz, appearing at Best Buys coast-to-coast for signings and mini-concerts, creating mega-hype for the record (this would have been a great idea, by the way). But when they saw he was going to be his usual reclusive self, they said forget it, put up a cardboard display and wiped its hands of "Chinese Democracy." Then there's the theory that Axl Rose didn't support the Nov. 23 release or the Best Buy exclusive, and that's why he didn't participate in its promotion. Was Axl's hand forced in releasing the album? Was he not finished tinkering with it? The CD's booklet, with its cheesy photoshopped pictures of Axl Rose and the rest of the band -- even Buckethead, who's no longer with GNR -- seems like it was made without Axl's input or consent (although he does provide an extensive list of thank yous, which includes a shout out to the good people at Best Buy). These things could be cleared up by Axl himself, and rather easily at that, but with the star continuing on as a shut-in, speculation and innuendo will continue to fly.

Everyone heard it online. Like all major releases these days, "Chinese Democracy" leaked online a week before its release. In addition, the album was streamed in its entirety on the band's MySpace page, with some individual tracks attracting as many as 2.5 million streams. Perhaps people were weary of spending the money to buy the album when they could hear or download it for free? Or maybe they were underwhelmed with what they heard and decided not to buy the album at all. Of course, Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" leaked before its release earlier this year and still managed to sell more than 1 million copies its first week, but hey, it's possible. But, more likely...

No one cares about GNR anymore. This seems to be the theory that carries the most weight. The breathless anticipation that the album's release was met with by some members of the press (myself included), followed by the indifference it was met with by the public, caused one commenter at idolator.com to compare it with "Snakes on a Plane," the 2006 B-movie that was hyped relentlessly by a small but vocal group on the Internet who made its arrival seem like the Second Coming, but whose ultimate release was met with shrugged shoulders by the masses. Also, with his endless tinkering and jiggering of "Chinese Democracy," Axl Rose has spent the better part of the last 15 years making himself a music industry punchline. His audience has moved on and has mortgages and kids to worry about, and kids who were born in the post-Cobain era don't have any idea who he is, other than some old guy who once meant something to their parents. Because he spent so long tweaking "Chinese Democracy" there was a public perception that it was an awful, unlistenable mess, and even with its generally positive reviews -- the album scored a 67 on Metacritic.com, which compiles reviews from around the country -- it still has an image problem among those who don't seek out reviews. Years of inactivity and erratic behavior -- coupled with the dismissal of the band members who once made GNR such a colorful group of characters and not just a one-man ego machine -- have made GNR irrelevant, an oldies act. So what now? The play now is to regroup with the old bandmates when the band gets inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (the band is eligible in 2012, 25 years after the release of its landmark debut, "Appetite for Destruction"), tour on the hits and ride off into the sunset. Not a bad way to go out, and a nice paycheck probably awaits, but it's certainly not what Axl probably had in mind when slaving away at his magnum opus for years on end. But in all of this, he's pulled a nifty trick: Making himself a victim, an underdog. And maybe, just maybe, America has done set him up for a comeback.
Blackstar
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