Following the lukewarm reception to 2010's "Calling All Hearts," Keyshia Cole is charging out of the gate ahead of her upcoming fifth album, "Woman to Woman." The offering's lead single, "Enough of No Love," featuring Lil Wayne, takes the Greatest Gainer/Airplay honor on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart this week as it moves from No. 35 to No. 21. It has sold 26,000 to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The success of the Harmony- produced anthem lies in its initial rollout. While discussing the iHeartRadio Music Festival (Sept. 21-22 at MGM Grand, Las Vegas) with Geffen Records GM Al Branch, Clear Channel senior VP of urban programming Doc Wynter suggested debuting Cole's single across the company's stations as part of its iHeartRadio World Premiere program, which previously featured singles including Trey Songz' "Heart Attack," Usher's "Lemme See" and Rick Ross' "Touch'N You."
As part of the premiere, Clear Channel had a 24-hour exclusive with the song and received drops from Cole for its urban properties. (A similar program powered Jason Aldean's "Take a Little Ride.") After the track debuted, it took flight across terrestrial radio. "Our brain trust is pretty sharp and I think that we're aware that Keyshia has a lot of positive equity in this marketplace," Wynter says. Cole is the first female urban artist to be featured as part of the iHeartRadio program, a testament to Wynter's faith in the song's saucy message. "I think it was pretty easy to figure out that this record was the shit and that we should do this."
For Geffen, the decision to place Lil Wayne on the record helped draw attention from PDs across the country. "We wanted to set things off with a collaboration that the world hasn't seen and experienced," says Geffen chairman Gee Roberson, who in addition to his role at Geffen is co-CEO of Blueprint Group, which manages Lil Wayne. "When [Wayne] heard it, he instantly connected to it and jumped on it. It was a no-brainer for us."
When "Calling All Hearts" arrived in December 2010, the album bowed at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 with 128,000 sold, marking Cole's lowest-charting entry to date. (It has moved a total of 344,000 copies.) Singles "I Ain't Thru," featuring Nicki Minaj, and "Take Me Away" failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100, a first for Cole since 2005's "(I Just Want It) To Be Over" also failed to make the chart. For Roberson, who assumed the chairman position at Geffen last year, choosing to lead with "Enough of No Love" was part of a strategy to correct previous missteps.
"Collectively, our approach has been looking at this thing from a ground-zero perspective," Roberson says. "We didn't go into it looking at her previous pieces of work because this is really our first time working together, and this record being the first representation of that."
Geffen director of A&R Jean Nelson emphasizes that Woman to Woman won't be a single-driven project, despite the success of the lead cut. "This album is not just about a single," Nelson says. "To us, it's more about the body of work. We haven't had a great soul album in I don't know how long."
Geffen plans to capitalize on the song's success with an accompanying music video, and a follow-up single is waiting in the wings. "Woman to Woman" is being primed for a fall release, although a firm date hasn't yet been set. The making of the album will be documented in a six-part TV series "Keyshia Cole: Family First," scheduled to air on BET in October. (Cole's earlier series for BET, "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is" was a hit that aired for three seasons from 2006-2008.)
"We were definitely confident in going this route and rolling out the project with this first record," Roberson says. "We love that everyone else is falling right into line to see that vision."