J. Cole is feeling the love. The rapper released the unexpectedly romantic single "Power Trip," featuring Miguel, on Valentine's Day, and listeners are smitten.
The song debuts at No. 29 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week, selling 42,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It took off online as well, skyrocketing to more than 100,000 plays on Cole's SoundCloud page in less than a day. The self-produced ode to unrequited love is the first single from his upcoming "Born Sinner" (Roc Nation), the follow-up to his debut, "Cole World: The Sideline Story," which bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2011.
According to Roc Nation VP of marketing Liz Hausle, "Power Trip" premiered at radio through a partnership with Clear Channel in which R&B/hip-hop stations and a selection of rhythmic stations across the country played the track every hour. The song was also promoted on iHeartRadio and station websites.
Although similar Clear Channel-assisted debuts haven't always guaranteed a song's long-term success, Gee Spin, music director at Clear Channel's WWPR New York, which played the song 15 times day of release, predicts the song will have staying power. "We'll be playing it through the spring," he says. "The original production and the combination of J. Cole and Miguel are great."
Kenard "K2" Karter, assistant PD of KMEL San Francisco, an early adopter that played the song 27 times during premiere week, says female callers in particular have been heavily requesting the record. "People look for J. Cole," he says. "It's an event when he drops a new record."
Although it's a different sound for the rapper, "Power Trip" recalls the magic of Miguel's 2010 "All I Want Is You," which featured Cole and peaked at No. 7 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. And with Miguel's breakout Grammy Awards performance on Feb. 10, the timing for a sequel was perfect. Cole originally sang the song's soulful melodies himself-until a fateful meeting with Roc Nation founder Jay-Z. "When I played it for Jay-Z, his first words were, 'Yo, you should get Miguel on this,'" Cole recalls.
Cole says that "Power Trip," with its woozy, down-tempo production and silky melodies, is a preview of the creative risks he's taking on his new album. "It's totally different from other things that I've done," he says. "It felt right to introduce a new sound."
But before taking a left turn on "Power Trip," Cole made a point of satiating his core fan base. On Feb. 12, he posted "Truly Yours," a free EP comprising leftover tracks from "Cole World," to his website. Combined with the debut of "Power Trip," the EP helped contribute to a 34% weekly jump in overall followers across Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud and other social media platforms.
Hausle underscores the importance of continually serving Cole's die-hard followers. "His fans are used to receiving music that he [directly] delivers to them," she says, pointing to "I'm a Fool," which Cole leaked last September by sending it to an individual fan and letting that fan premiere it on Twitter. "But at the same time, when the album does come out, they go buy it."
Although "Born Sinner" doesn't have an official release date after being pushed back from Jan. 28, recording is nearly complete. Cole admits that the initial date--which is also his birthday--was prematurely ambitious. "There were too many things that didn't make sense," he says. "I hadn't been on the road in a while. I had no type of motion. My album could have been fucking amazing but it still probably wouldn't have done what it could have commercially."
But now, all gears are aligned behind "Power Trip": An official music video and lyric video are in the works, along with a college tour kicking off at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Feb. 26. "I finally got the label all the way onboard and all points of the machine are running smoothly," Cole says. "Why would you come out with your sophomore album without taking advantage of that synergy?"