Papa Roach’s Unlikely Comeback: Here’s How it Happened
By Tyler Sharp
“Cut my life in pieces, this is my last resort!” These words, whether sang, yelled or screamed, helped define an era. Papa Roach were a big part of taking nü-metal to the mainstream with their debut album, 2000's Infest. Containing their smash single, “Last Resort,” the album became a staple of the genre and beyond. It has sold over 3,000,000 copies in the US alone, and over 7,000,000 worldwide.
Afterwards, however, Papa Roach began to distance themselves from the nü-metal movement, which had began to fade by the time they released their third album, 2004's Getting Away With Murder. The band continued to see success with singles such as the LP’s title track and “Scars.”
As their career continued, and they gravitated to a more hard-rock-leaning sound, their sales began to drop and their momentum stumbled. Album sales declined and, following the cycle for their 2009 album, Metamorphosis, their career appeared to be in decline.
In 2015, however, that began to change. Not only was the industry going through a nostalgia kick, but the band released their seventh album, F.E.A.R., and forced a shift in the wind. They saw an increase in album-to-album first-week sales for the first time since 2009, and were beginning to rebuild stamina on both rock radio and streaming services with singles such as “Face Everything And Rise” and “Gravity.” For the first time in years, Papa Roach were part of the conversation again, and it wasn’t constrained to nostalgia—they had new music that was forcing people to talk about them in the present tense.
Fast forward to 2017: the band released their eighth LP, Crooked Teeth. The album manages 23,000 equivalent units first-week, which is where the band’s streaming (more specifically, Spotify) game comes into play. Not only have they had two songs (“Help” and “Born For Greatness”) reach No. 1 on rock radio, but they garnered unreal Spotify numbers for a rock band. They currently have 6,625,706 monthly listeners. Why does that matter? Let’s check out a few of their counterparts for perspective: Breaking Benjamin, for instance, has 3,686,004. Five Finger Death Punch? 3,671,929. Shinedown? 3,445,058. Stone Sour? 3,087, 259.
You get the idea.
Are there active rock artists with bigger numbers than Papa Roach on Spotify? Yes (we see you, Foo Fighters). But there are multiple variables that make Papa Roach’s current tallies uniquely notable. First and foremost, it is a fact that rock music has fallen behind in the streaming revolution. The reasons for that are an entirely different conversation, but the point is that rock artists are generally streamed less than pop, hip-hop and country artists.
Secondly, Papa Roach have only two legacy songs (“Last Resort” and “Scars”) in their top 10 tracks—and “Scars” is sitting down at No. 8. Every other song is from their two latest albums (F.E.A.R. and Crooked Teeth). Why does this matter? It serves as further proof that they are becoming more than a nostalgia act. Not only are people listening to their classic hits, but their new singles are becoming hits of their own and developing a momentum that is carrying the band forward.
Third, they’re beginning to dabble in “gaming" playlists. This is an incredibly young industry technique, so much so that “gaming” really isn’t even an official term for it yet. In short, it is a way for artists in one genre to capitalize on other genres through potentially polarizing guest features that make songs eligible for addition to playlists that they wouldn’t otherwise be considered for. Let's look outside rock and metal for an example of how this works: pop artist Bebe Rexha’s current single, “Meant To Be,” with country duo Florida Georgia Line has landed on a multitude of playlists in both the pop and country realms. It is currently on Spotify’s official Hot Country playlist, which has 4,490,143 subscribers. As of right now, Rexha is receiving an addition of over 768,000 monthly listeners from having one song on that playlist, which wouldn’t have been eligible unless it contained a country aspect, such as a guest feature by Florida Georgia Line.
So, how does this apply to Papa Roach? You guessed it, they are doing the same thing. In December they released a stand-alone remix of their song “Periscope” (featuring Skylar Grey), which was done by electronic artist EMRSV. The song has been added to Spotify’s official dancePOP playlist, which has 1,706,278 subscribers. Simply having this one song on that playlist is adding just over 70,000 monthly listeners to the band’s total. Papa Roach are on a pop playlist, and it’s working. (Do you hear that noise, metal and rock purists? It’s the sound of genre walls being broken down—get used to it.)
All of this is to say: Papa Roach are doing really well right now. They’re entering a new era of their career. Whereas a multitude of their former counterparts have either become nostalgia acts or fallen off the grid entirely, Papa Roach are finding ways to reverse their trajectory. And at this point, with the ever-evolving state of streaming and playlist culture, the sky is the limit for a band who play their cards right and are willing to kick down a few walls.
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