Emblem3 Debuts Big: How The 'X Factor' Trio Scored By Turning Pop
"Nothing To Lose" notches the best debut for any U.S. "X Factor" artist. Will the follow-up album be much edgier?
Eight months after finishing fourth on season two of "The X Factor," pop-rock trio Emblem3 guided debut album "Nothing to Lose" to a No. 7 bow on this week's Billboard 200. Led by cheeky single "Chloe (You're the One I Want)," which debuted at No. 98 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Aug. 10, the pop-rock collection sold 46,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"Nothing to Lose" marks the first top 10 entry for an alum of the U.S. "X Factor," and bests the No. 18 start of season-two champ Tate Stevens' self-titled full-length. The Fox reality show may have finally unearthed its first crossover stars in Huntington Beach, Calif., residents Wesley Stromberg, Drew Chadwick and Keaton Stromberg, who have turned the refrain "Chloe/I know your sister turns everyone on/But you're the one I want" into a summertime singalong.
"'X Factor' gives out its definition of what you're supposed to be, instead of you just being whoever you are," says Chadwick, who performed songs like "Hey Jude," "Baby, I Love Your Way" and "I'm a Believer" alongside the Stromberg brothers on the show. "Now, we just get to be whoever we are."
After signing to Syco/Columbia less than a month after exiting "The X Factor," Emblem3 spent the first half of 2013 recording "Nothing to Lose" and subsequently previewing its original material on the road. Nine headlining dates at 1,000-capacity venues quickly sold out in February and March, and on April 12 in New York, the trio kicked off the Goin' Back 2 Cali tour, a U.S. road trip that let fans dictate where Emblem3 would perform.
"Some of the shows were in traditional venues, others were in nontraditional spots like a state park... and they were free events," Columbia senior VP of marketing Doneen Lombardi says. "The fans routed the tour, and since the beginning of this, we've always tried to give fans an opportunity to have a say in where they go and how they see them. That holds true to street week-we did a bunch of in-stores, sometimes two in a day."
Emblem3's debut album was executive-produced by Savan Kotecha, a vocal producer on "The X Factor" who has recently co-written songs by Britney Spears, Maroon 5 and Emblem3 Syco/Columbia labelmate One Direction. Kotecha says he was personally recruited by "X Factor" judge Simon Cowell last fall to take the reins on Emblem3's debut, which also features songwriting work by Max Martin, fun.'s Jack Antonoff, Bruno Mars collaborators Ari Levine and Philip Lawrence, and Good Charlotte's Joel Madden and Benji Madden.
Emblem3 names Good Charlotte, as well as pop-punk brethren Blink-182 and New Found Glory, as major influences on the act's musical tastes. Those influences can be heard on "Chloe (You're the One I Want)," which has sold 243,000 downloads since April. But Kotecha says the group had to understandably avoid the snottiness of its rock idols in order to engage mainstream-leaning "X Factor" fans.
"It was challenging for them -- and for me -- at first to figure out how to make them feel like they're staying true to themselves, but also giving them the best chance at success," Kotecha says. "The Good Charlotte sessions they had were really what helped changed [their attitude]. Benji and Joel are their heroes, and one of them came up to the band when they were talking about how they had to make sure they were 'cool.' He was like, 'You know what's cool? Playing arenas and stadiums is cool.' It was an eye-opening moment for them."
Emblem3's pop songs will grace North American arenas when the group accompanies Selena Gomez on her upcoming Stars Dance tour, which begins Aug. 14 in Vancouver. Lombardi says Emblem3's touring future following the Gomez run is still being sussed out, but believes "they'll be on the road nonstop" in 2013.
And while the trio is happy with "Nothing to Lose," Chadwick says, "We're not really pop dudes," and that the band's sophomore album may reflect that.
"The style that we were before 'X Factor' tried to be a little more edgy," Wesley Stromberg says, "but now we have to appeal to the masses, and our fan base is a lot younger... I'm trying to come out with a next [album] that's harder than this one, though."