Nothing 'Average' On New Craig David Set

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Few British chart stars have crossed the Atlantic in recent times as successfully as Craig David. His critically heralded debut, "Born to Do It," was still yielding U.S. singles only a few months ago, leading seamlessly into the Nov. 19 American commencement of phase two in David's story, the new collection "Slicker Than Your Average." That's eight days after the U.K. and international release of the album, considered to be one of the key sophomore sets of 2002.

The R&B-pop writer/vocalist, who hails from Southampton on England's south coast, swiftly became one of the U.K.'s hottest properties with a series of hit singles including the No. 1 hits "Fill Me In" and "Seven Days."

"Born to Do It" was already a major best seller by its U.S. release in July 2001, and the album was charting on The Billboard 200 as recently as the Oct. 5 survey, its 62nd chart week. Unlike the divide between domestic and U.S. sales for many of David's British peers, the U.S. market has made a significant contribution (of 1.5 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan) to the album's worldwide tally, estimated by the Wildstar label at 7 million.

"That was pretty darn respectable," says Atlantic VP of marketing David Burrier of the U.S. scorecard. "Even better than that, everyone that bought the record is a real fan." Burrier emphasizes that David's label and his audience are, like the artist himself, in it for the long haul. "I've seen plenty of artists who've sold a million, 2 million, and who cares? But I've seen Craig at enough different [U.S.] events, and once the van turns the corner, there are literally hundreds of kids chasing him down the street."

David says that the later U.S. release of "Born to Do It" proved to be fortuitous. "I was lucky enough, the way it worked out, to be able to stay [in America] and live there for a period of time, because [you] would be very naive to think you can go there and people would embrace you straight away."

With uncommon maturity for a 21-year-old, whose achievements also include six Brit Award nominations in 2001 and three MOBO (Music of Black Origin) trophies, David adds, "I know if I don't make this one happen, the third one will be so difficult; it'd be like starting all over again.

"I've experienced the 'myth' of being able to take on America, and I've come back the wiser," David continues. "I've got a lot more composure this time -- I'm not running around like a headless chicken. It's a British album, still representing British music."

Leading off the album is "What's Your Flava?," which debuted at U.K. radio Sept. 23 and swiftly became an airplay hit. It's ably supported by a videoclip themed around David's favorite film, 1971's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". Burrier notes that by assiduously servicing U.S. radio, within a week it was a new "Flava" at some 30 "mainly pop" stations.

That early delivery in the U.S. is indicative of a hands-on rollout by Atlantic, which has already hosted a week of promotion in the market by David. Burrier says further plans include TV bookings on "Live With Regis & Kelly" and CBS' weekend "Early Show," Nov. 21 and 23, respectively. A two-week U.S radio tour is planned for December.

Another key track on "Slicker Than Your Average" is "Rise & Fall," which not only samples Sting's "Shape of My Heart" acoustic-guitar motif, but it is also a fully fledged collaboration between the two artists. "It was the perfect collaboration that I'd always wanted to do with someone," David says, "but I didn't want to do it for the wrong reasons. This one just seemed to be natural."

Excerpted from the Nov. 2, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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