The big screen is giving Adele a big hit, as the singer bridges the gap between her smash sophomore album 21 and her next set with the title theme from the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall."
In its second week, the track lifts 17-15 on Adult Contemporary and bounds 32-21 with Greatest Gainer honors on Adult Top 40. It's already sold 460,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It ranks at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 after debuting last week at No. 8.
"Skyfall" follows Adele's historic run with 21, which spent 24 weeks atop the Billboard 200, marking the longest reign for an album by a woman in the chart's 56-year history. The set yielded the Hot 100 No. 1s "Rolling in the Deep," Billboard's top song of 2011 (which, like "Skyfall," Adele co-wrote with Paul Epworth); "Someone Like You," the first leader in the chart's 54-year archives to feature only vocals and piano accompaniment; and, "Set Fire to the Rain," as well as the No. 16-peaking "Rumour Has It." The album spurred six Grammy Awards wins for Adele in February and 12 Billboard Music Awards triumphs in May.
Following "Rumour," Columbia Records opted not to release any more radio singles from 21. Then, in June, Adele announced her first pregnancy.
How to keep Adele fans engaged while she puts family first? She and her label turned to the tradition of releasing a single tied to a movie in between studio albums.
The strategy has paid off throughout the rock era. In 1984, Cyndi Lauper scored four top five Hot 100 hits from her debut album, She's So Unusual, including her introductory smash "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and the two-week No. 1 "Time After Time." Before she released her second set, True Colors, in 1986, soundtrack song "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough," reached No. 10 in summer 1985 (making this column perhaps the first instance of "The Goonies" and the Bond franchise being mentioned so closely).
Alanis Morissette's 1995 breakout effort Jagged Little Pill topped the Billboard 200 for 12 weeks and generated such '90s standards as "You Oughta Know," "Ironic" and "You Learn." Between the set's 113-week Billboard 200 chart life and the November 1998 release of follow-up Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, she rose to No. 4 on Hot 100 Airplay in summer 1998 with "Uninvited," from the "City of Angels" soundtrack.
As recently as last year, Bruno Mars maintained the momentum of his Hot 100 No. 1s "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade," and the No. 4 hit "The Lazy Song," with "It Will Rain," from the soundtrack to "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1." Despite his belief that he sounds like a "mosquito singing" on the ballad, it reached No. 3 on the Hot 100. Mars releases his second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, on Dec. 11.
It's too soon to tell how much "Skyfall" will placate Adele fans until her next album, but releasing a movie-related song after a breakthrough set has historically paved the way for follow-up hits. Lauper logged a pair of top 10s from True Colors; Morissette topped Adult Top 40 with "Thank U," the lead track from Junkie, which bowed atop the Billboard 200; and, "Locked Out of Heaven," the first single from Mars' forthcoming release, rises to No. 33 with top Airplay Gainer honors on this week's Hot 100.
Columbia senior VP of adult formats Pete Cosenza says that Adele having joined forces with the Bond brand -- in its 50th anniversary year -- is a "powerful combination. We believed that any new music from Adele would be fantastic, but to be a part of this worldwide movie experience is extra special."
Radio programmers agree. "('Skyfall') keeps Adele top-of-mind and places her in a very high-profile film within a timeless series," says Danny Howard, program director of Mainstream Top 40 panelist WDOD and AC reporter WDEF Chattanooga, Tenn., which spun the song 32 and seven times, respectively, in the Oct. 8-14 tracking week, according to Nielsen BDS. The movie, starring Daniel Craig as Bond, premieres in U.S. theaters on Nov. 9.
"Reaction from our listeners has been positive. It should only be greater when the movie opens," echoes Dave Popovich, PD of adult top 40 WQAL (38 plays last week) and AC WDOK (36) Cleveland. "I think that, at this point, Adele could sing the drive-thru menu at insert-favorite fast food restaurant-here and it would be a hit."
Instead of, say, pitching for the Golden Arches, Adele has invoked the tradition of gleaning a hit from a movie in between album projects. And fans are, well, lovin' it.
"There has been enough time since the last single ('Rumour'), but, more importantly, Adele is so widely accepted and loved," Cosenza says, noting that "Skyfall" is a stand-alone single not slated for the film's soundtrack (due Nov. 6 on Sony Classical), featuring music from composer Thomas Newman.