As the pen and voice behind numerous GOAT pop classics, it’s hard to imagine Blondie‘s Debbie Harry, 71, being in awe of today’s hitmakers. But the band’s 11th album, Pollinator, features a few modern artists talented enough to leave her in rapture.
“Any association with Sia is a complete honor. We asked her for a song because we were such big fans of ‘Titanium,'” Harry tells Billboard. “She was writing with Nick Valensi from the Strokes, they submitted a couple songs and [we picked] the one we liked, ‘Best Day Ever.'”
Blondie’s new LP also taps Charli XCX (“She’s an extraordinary talent, operating from a position of strength and determination in her songs,” Harry raves) for the synth-rock flare-up “Gravity,” Dev Hynes (whose Harry co-write “Long Time” was initially demoed as a track for his project Blood Orange) and even viral YouTube duo the Gregory Brothers (of Songify the News fame).
While Harry sounds genuinely impressed with her musical cross pollinators, this approach is clearly a smart business strategy as well, expanding the reach of a 2017 Blondie album beyond its core fan base – even if it wasn’t intentional. “It wasn’t really a concept for the album, it just developed that way,” Harry says of the LP, recorded in NYC’s now-shuttered Magic Shop. “And we’ve always had a variety of songwriters in the band itself.” Regardless, it’s paid off, with “Fun” — co-written by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3 winner Raja in the video — currently sitting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart.
Blondie’s upcoming Rage and Rapture Tour with co-headliner Garbage (which kicks off July 5) is a similarly mutually beneficial situation – something the savvy NYC icon is fully aware of.
“Agents and promoters try to make pairings that guarantee them a certain amount of ticket sales,” Harry bluntly says. “We don’t have so much to do with their thinking, but it wasn’t a problem deciding to tour with Garbage because they’re fantastic. We’ve known Shirley since she was singing with [alt-rock band] Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie in Scotland many years ago when she was just a kid.”
As for the 40-plus-year band’s future in the streaming era, Blondie guitarist/co-founder Chris Stein, 67, is hoping there won’t be another three-year gap between new singles. “We need to be releasing more music. Guys like Drake, releasing single songs in quantity, are the ones that are tuned in to what’s going on,” Stein says. “It’s like somebody shredded the music industry, threw the pieces up in the air and we’re seeing the patterns as they fall.”
“It seems like there’s a lot of different ways of making it work, and it’s become more multi-dimensional as far as a functioning business,” the stoic Harry offers. “It’s the situation we’re all in.”