“I’m not making music for the radio.”
When an artist says this, it usually means they’re going in a new artistic direction, like Kanye West, who railed against radio during his performance at Governors Ball, telling the crowd, “Honestly, when I listen to radio, that ain’t where I wanna be no more.” It was his way of explaining why he didn’t release a radio single to promote Yeezus, but more importantly it stood for something big. He was saying, “I’m making something more than just pop music.”
Of course, after having his lowest first week sales ever with his latest album, he did end up sending his song, “Black Skinhead” to the airwaves. Whether Kanye’s anti-radio screed was just his typical bluster, or whether he realized how many millions of people still tune in, saying you don’t want to make music for the radio, could ultimately mean you won’t be heard by a majority of America.
But even with that disclaimer, Jay Sean is bold enough to say that his latest album, NEON, was not made with radio in mind.
“It sounds like a crazy thing to say, ‘I’m not making this for radio,’ because if you don’t make it for the radio and it doesn’t get played no one will hear it, right?’” Sean said. “But what happens in songwriting is you’re writing just so it becomes a hit. There’s no heart in it. I have to write with heart.“
Sean explained to Radio.com that he doesn’t even let other people say the words “hit” or “smash” while they’re in the studio with him. He’s afraid it will go to everyone’s head and the magic the song once had will be lost.
“When you listen to radio there’s certain things you have to keep in mind,” Sean explained. “It has to have tempo or you have to talk about this subject because people like to sing about this right now. Or asking, ‘Can this song get played at five in the afternoon when people just finished work and they want to have fun?’ And you start getting too scientific with it.”
Sean cited Sade, an artist who never seems to care about the trends. “She’s singing from her heart, writing from her heart,” he said. “Guess what? When her album comes out, it sells in the millions because her fans believe it. She doesn’t make it for the radio or for sales or for album charts…She just makes music she loves.”
By making music she loves, she in turn satisfies her fans. “Fans believe her,” he explained. And in the end, that’s really what it’s all about: earning the trust of those who love your music.
“As long as the fans know you made this music for them it will always be good because you kept the fans happy,” Sean said. “It’s the only reason I’m still around after ten years.”