HAIM – The Wire

Days Are Gone
Year :
Sky Ferreria / Fleetwood Mac / Sara Bareilles

Market forces demand that every monetizable concept be thoroughly ideated upon. Enter HAIM, the pop saviors here to fill the vacuum of hipster-flavored family band. The family band is a time honored tradition in pop music. It can result in massive success, pure novelty, hokey values-driven vibes, years of expensive therapy for those involved, and so much more. Taking it from the living room to the top of the pops is a treacherous journey, but glory awaits those who complete it.

How will HAIM fare on this mighty quest? Let’s do some creative forecasting based on the lessons of history.

Lesson #1: Have a leader

Hanson set the gold standard for family bands in my lifetime. Their opening salvo “MMMBop” proves there is no question who runs the game in Hanson. They would go on to have multi-platinum success, as well as a thriving merchandising wing.

HAIM’s “The Wire,” on the other hand, seems to working on a more democratic, power-sharing arrangement. While I appreciate the girls’ efforts to create a modern, egalitarian family-band where everyone matters, they are up against the tide of history here.

Grade: C minus

Lesson #2: Three member maximum

Successful bands will have three or fewer songs that ever capture the public’s imagination. Most will have only one. Granted this, family bands exceeding three members inevitably collapse under the pressures of this immense scarcity. Insecurities are exposed. Jealousy rears its head. Not everyone can be a star. This is doubly true if the band observers lesson #1. Case in point: Try to name more than three members of the Jackson 5.

HAIM come in right on the bubble here. Three members is the max, but it’s manageable.

Grade: B

Lesson #3: Be distinct (from each other)

Every band needs a narrative. Somewhere, that narrative needs to shed some light on how the band members each “bring something different” to the group. Here’s two examples of how it’s been done well. From the indie blogosphere: Sibling duo The Fiery Furnaces position brother Matthew as the musical savant behind the scenes while sister Eleanor gets to shine as the lead singer and hipster sweetheart. From mainstream music: Rap duo Clipse (brothers Malice and Pusha T) balance the group with unique vocal styles, each MC applying a completely different cadence and technique. Being distinct in this way is very helpful when your sibling throws in the towel and you’re forced to carve out a solo career.

HAIM are just falling down on the job here. They don’t even have distinct relationship problems.

Grade: D

Lesson #4: Don’t lead with novelty

Being family members is novel. It makes your band interesting to write about and gives DJs some fodder for killing airtime. But, let’s face it–who cares, really? Once upon a time Kings of Leon got some press because they are family members (three brothers, plus one cousin–still within the rules!) but audiences keep coming back because the Kings deliver on the mid-tempo recipe rock that millions demand. They know why people show up to their concerts.

HAIM seems to have won over the press with a strong debut in Days Are Gone, so there’s some potential upside here. That said, being three sisters is pretty central to their image. This one’s a coin toss.

Grade: C plus

Lesson #5: Have a ringer

The Clipse have Pharrell Williams. K-Ci & JoJo joined forces with brothers Donald and Dalvin DeGrate to form Jodeci. Chynna Phillips is the boss of Wilson-Phillips. Family bands need to work to bring in outside influence so that they avoid becoming insular and stale. Ironically, the opposite might be true if the band wants to develop a reality TV show.

“Days Are Gone” features production from Ariel Rechtshaid. Not a household name, but a talent in the studio with credits for Usher and Vampire Weekend under his belt. Not bad, but too nuanced for the grit and grind world of pop music. Still time for the girls to mix this up but the clock is ticking.

Grade: B minus

So, what does the future hold for HAIM? The girls are looking a rough GPA of 2.2. There’s time for a turnaround, but we’ll need to see some improvements if HAIM hopes to make it graduation. What to watch for: An interesting collaboration in the next 24 months, or a meltdown followed by a breakout solo career.

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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