Week Ending May 26, 2013. Songs: “Clouds” Takes Off
Zach Sobiech’s “Clouds” is the week’s top new entry on the Hot 100 at #26, a week after the aspiring singer-songwriter died of osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He had just turned 18. Sobiech, who was first diagnosed with the disease at age 14, wrote the song as a way of saying goodbye. It would have been easy (and forgivable) for the song to be maudlin, but it isn’t. It has the light, almost buoyant, touch of such hits as Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.”
Mraz was among 30 stars to participate in a tribute video, in which they mime Sobiech’s recording. Others include Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, Phillip Phillips, The Lumineers and Jason Derulo. At the end of the video, Mraz says, “Thank you Zach. You’ve written a great song, dude. It’s a real pleasure to sing it, and sing it with you. Thank you.”
“Clouds” sold 156K digital copies this week. It re-enters Hot Digital Songs at #7. It first bowed at #199 two weeks ago and slipped off last week, before Sobiech’s story captured America’s heart. “Clouds” is also featured on the EP Fix Me Up, which Sobiech released with his group A Firm Handshake. The EP sold 19K copies last week and enters Top Pop Albums at #20.
Other artists have bid farewell in songs. Warren Zevon did so with his song “Keep Me In Your Heart,” which he wrote with Jorge Calderon. The song received a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year for 2003, but failed to crack the Hot 100.
Sobiech isn’t the first artist to gain widespread recognition only after his death. Jeff Buckley’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was featured on his album Grace in 1995, two years before he drowned at age 30. The song reached #1 on Hot Digital Songs in March 2008. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”/“What A Wonderful World” was included on his Facing Future album in 1995, but took off after his death in 1997 from respiratory failure at age 38. His medley has sold 3,697,000 copies. Eva Cassidy became known after her death from cancer in 1996 at age 33. Her Songbird was #1 on Top Catalog Albums for nine weeks in 2001.
“Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton holds at #1 for the fourth week. It’s #1 for the fifth straight week on Hot Digital Songs. Alas, it sold just 212K copies this week, which is the slimmest total for a song at #1 on the digital sales chart since Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” was #1 with sales of 197K in December.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is one of two acts to appear in the top 10 on the Hot 100 every week so far this year. The other is Bruno Mars.