David Archuleta is finally getting a chance to act his age. Although he's been singing since he was 6, the 19-year-old Utah native has projected a mature voice wise beyond his years, as evidenced during season seven of "American Idol," where his ballad-ready tenor landed him the runner-up spot behind rocker David Cook.
His 2008 self-titled debut also highlighted the power of Archuleta's voice and went on to sell 762,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But the effort failed to capture his teenage spirit, save for the age-appropriate breakout single "Crush," which has sold 1.9 million and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Now with his sophomore effort, "The Other Side of Down," due Oct. 5 on Jive, it's Archuleta's turn to put his goofy, young self on display, this time through lively, upbeat pop tunes.
"My goal with the album was to make it as 'me' as possible," says Archuleta, who helped write 10 of the set's 12 tracks. "I wanted to introduce people to the kind of goofy, dorky, weird personality I have. The first album had a lot of great pop songs, but this album is so much more personal."
For the release, Archuleta tapped "Crush" writers Emanuel Kiriakou and Dave Hodges, who contributed two songs, as well as co-writers Sam Hollander and Dave Katz, among others. Writing sessions took place in Nashville ("People asked if I was there making a country album," he recalls), in between the release of Archuleta's holiday album, "Christmas From the Heart" (which has sold 212,000, according to SoundScan) and work on his book, "Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song, and the Power of Perseverance," published in June.
Video: David Archuleta, "Something 'Bout Love"
The album's first single, "Something 'Bout Love," was released July 20 and has sold 45,000 downloads, according to SoundScan. Elsewhere, Archuleta delivers an uplifting, positive message on "Things Are Gonna Get Better," and his boyish charm is on display on songs like "Elevator," which Archuleta notes was inspired by a dream.
"It was a random dream I had about these different elevators and trying to figure out what floor to get off of," he says. "It's about how life is sometimes an endless ride. You may not be sure where you're going." "Elevator" is set to impact hot AC stations Oct. 4.
The shift from run-of-the-mill balladry that first solidified Archuleta's post-"Idol" fan base to a more current pop sound puts him in line with peers like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, who currently saturate the teen and tween market.
In fact, past appearances on shows including "iCarly" and "Hannah Montana" in 2009 notably broadened Archuleta's reach to teens and tweens. "So many kids now recognize me from that," he says.
The "Other Side of Down" campaign is heavily targeting that age group with a back-to-school campaign at 750 junior high and high schools across the nation. Jive Label Group director of marketing Nicole Bilzerian says the campaign, which kicked off Sept. 27, is servicing schools with promotional items like bookmarks and locker posters, as well as the "Something 'Bout Love" single and video for school radio and TV station consideration. Individual school newspapers will also feature single and album reviews in the coming weeks.
"Given David's core demographic of tween and teen girls and the timing of this album, this is a way to target David's fans directly and super-serve them with promotional goods," Bilzerian says.
She adds that the label is also focusing on Archuleta's website and his mobile fan club, which has more than 40,000 subscribers and is among Sony's biggest. "We've had a lot of success because he's so active," Bilzerian says. "He's calling in and leaving messages for fans directly."
Bilzerian notes that Archuleta's family-friendly image lends itself easily to brand tie-ins with the likes of Justice, a lifestyle brand for teen and tween girls with nearly 900 U.S. stores.
"David's core fan base is in large part the same demo as the Justice consumer," Bilzerian says. "So we've worked hard to develop a cross-promotional partnership that generates additional awareness for David and offers a musical element to the Justice experience in stores, online and within the community."
Archuleta has been doing a radio tour that will carry through the release, where he's been performing rather than just hitting the interview circuit. "We picked markets he could perform in, because that's one of his best assets," Bilzerian says. "He gets onstage and sings and gives everyone chills."