Def Leppard’s self-titled album was released 4 years ago today.
Original release date: October 30, 2015
The Def Leppard Album
Hard to believe it’s already been four years since Def Leppard (the band) released Def Leppard (the album).
The eponymous Def Leppard album was all the more welcome by fans since the band’s previous release Songs from the Sparkle Lounge had come out SEVEN years prior!
But, seriously, if you’re Def Leppard, why rush?
The importance of an album (or single) release wasn’t what it used to be, especially for a band like Def Leppard in 2015.
To be clear: From a fan perspective, a new Def Leppard album will ALWAYS be an exciting event. That will never change.
But so many other aspects surrounding the release of a new Def Leppard album have changed…a lot!
And that’s ultimately why the band altered their approach to releasing new music.
Get ready to take a much broader deep dive in this look back at the Def Leppard album…
“Let’s Go”…A Different Route
By 2015, Def Leppard was in a different place and mindset.
The band was no longer contractually obligated to release a certain number of albums on behalf of a record label over set a period of time.
And the days of pressuring themselves to attempt to outsell previous monster album releases were long gone too.
From a creative and business standpoint, those two facts alone provided the band with much more freedom — and much less pressure — to just be…well, Def Leppard.
But let’s go further…
During the days of Pyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, and to an extent, Euphoria, promotional strategies would be put in place to launch any one of those albums. The problem is many of those initiatives no longer mattered in 2015…and some didn’t even exist anymore!
How many singles will be released from the album? How will they be timed?
Will there be a multi-format radio release strategy? (Which tracks will target album rock stations vs. adult contemporary stations, etc.)
Which singles will target Top 40 radio stations?
And so on.
Frankly, these types of questions no longer applied to Def Leppard.
The word “single” even lost its meaning.
As had been the case for years, the goal of even making it onto Billboard’s Top 100 Singles chart was no longer a priority…nor realistic.
That’s NOT to say that the band wasn’t putting out quality songs; it’s just that the radio landscape had changed.
Back in the day, Def Leppard ruling Billboard’s Top 100 Singles chart would involve the culmination of heavy radio airplay (not happening in 2015), further bolstered by MTV support (MTV utilized as a promotional outlet was a distant memory), resulting in helping to drive single sales (the days of cassingles and CD-singles were long gone too), and so on.
In general, “singles,” per se, no longer carry the “oomph” they once did.
Now let’s extrapolate this concept to albums…
Remember going into a record store weeks before a major album’s release?
P.O.P. (point of purchase) materials such as posters and flyers would decorate sections of stores (and windows) hyping the release; cashier counters (depending on the chain rewarded with the opportunity) would have bag stuffers and contest entry boxes to win your own copy, maybe even tickets to a local tour date, etc.
Once the album was released, you couldn’t miss it in those stores: copies would fill walls of shelves just waiting for consumers to nab them.
As the saying goes…that was then, this is now.
Most of those record stores are gone. And while few remain, even chains like Best Buy are no longer avid supporters of the CD format. In recent years, you’d have to flip through alphabetical CD bins just to try and find a few copies of an album the store might have in stock.
Long story short, new albums — specifically, new album sales — don’t provide the income stream they used to. And even though vinyl has turned out to be a nice little sales niche, it remains just that: a niche.
Put it all together — accepting that the promotional opportunities of yesteryear are no longer viable options, and knowing the majority of consumers no longer purchase albums (instead, in the age of digital, they prefer to stream or simply select the tracks they want to own) — a full-length album release drastically decreases in importance.
So no matter when Def Leppard releases an album these days, the majority of what used to be a typical promotional strategy — from marketing to radio to retail — has been turned on its head.
As a result, the band has had to adapt, re-prioritize and shift their focus…
“We Belong”…On The Road
A seven-year gap between albums is surely a long time, but it’s not as if the band was out of the spotlight that entire time.
Their main focus (as it remains to this day) can be summed up in one word: touring.
The days of Def Leppard vanishing from the public eye and locking themselves in a studio to work on an album, only to reappear years later to promote it were long gone.
Instead, as was done for years prior to the Def Leppard release, the band toured. And toured. And toured. Even with no new studio album in sight to promote.
Previous album Songs from the Sparkle Lounge put the band on the road for most of 2008 and 2009.
- 2011: Toured a good chunk of the year around live release Mirror Ball;
- 2012: Nearly 50 tour dates for their Rock of Ages tour;
- 2013: An international summer tour, followed by their “Viva! Hysteria” Las Vegas residency;
- 2014: A summer tour with KISS (42 tour dates)
The band definitely kept themselves busy, and to the delight of concertgoers, toured extensively EVERY YEAR between the release of Songs from the Sparkle Lounge and Def Leppard.
Is that a bad thing? No, though some fans might feel it results in annual tours whose setlists become a bit stagnant. (The band can do something about that! Read about it here.)
But consistent touring made the most sense for Def Leppard.
It used to be that releasing a new album would dictate a new tour. That no longer applies.
Joe Elliott discussed this approach as recently as this year, reiterating what the band’s priority is these days:
“Playing live is, at this moment in time, more important than new music.”
Do You Really, Really Wanna…Record A New Album?
The Def Leppard album was not the band’s original plan.
Initially, they intended to record a few new songs, maybe release them as an EP, and then…you guessed it, tour.
In the process, so many new song ideas came about and — voila! — a new Def Leppard album emerged.
In a broader sense, the good news is that the band (to this day) has the creative drive to write and record new music, which benefits them as well as their fans.
But it’s simply Def Leppard’s reality: they only record new music when they feel the need and desire.
And why shouldn’t they?
The band is established, has a locked-in fanbase, and they’ve mastered the art of putting on a great concert experience.
From a business perspective, touring relentlessly is also the most pragmatic route, as it’s truly the most stable and lucrative income stream for the band.
Nevertheless, when the band DOES release new music, rare as it may be, an even brighter spotlight shines upon it — it’s being done because they WANT to do it…not because they HAVE to.
Which brings us to the Def Leppard album… Phew!
Def Leppard meets Def Leppard
Remember when the band’s record company and management brought in outside songwriting teams — aka “hitmakers” — to provide the band with songs to record for the X album?
Or how about when the band literally competed against themselves, pressured to produce yet another commercially successful album in hopes of outperforming previous sales feats?
Well, all of those obstacles were long gone by 2015.
No longer constrained — as the Def Leppard album cover visually epitomizes with the band’s logo shattering through glass — Def Leppard was unleashed to be, well, Def Leppard.
And that’s what makes the Def Leppard album more unique than all of their previous efforts.
It’s simply artistic expression in action.
Here’s how Vivian Campbell described it:
“I think there’s a few things that keep bands vital. For Def Leppard, one of those things is that we continue to occasionally make new albums…even though some people say, ‘Why do you even bother? People just wanna hear your hits. You do very good business by just going out and playing your hit songs.’ But it’s important for the lifeblood of Def Leppard as a band that we continue to be a creative unit.”
And it’s that type of mindset which resulted in Def Leppard, an album showcasing the band’s creative drive, summed up in 14 tracks.
As a whole, Def Leppard is the band’s most diverse album.
It doesn’t harken back to any specific Def Leppard era. That’s not to say some songs don’t (intentionally) conjure up memories of Def Leppard previous hits — they most certainly do.
But it’s Def Leppard being Def Leppard, making the album’s title oh so fitting. It’s THEIR album on THEIR terms done THEIR way.
They’ve earned that privilege. And fans get to reap the rewards of new music in the process.
It’s a win-win!
Def Leppard: Tracklisting
Most songs on the Def Leppard album were written by 1-2 band members.
Here’s a breakdown of the album’s tracklisting along with who wrote each song:
- “Let’s Go” (Rick Savage, Joe Elliott)
- “Dangerous” (Phil Collen, Joe Elliott)
- “Man Enough” (Phil Collen Joe Elliott)
- “We Belong” (Joe Elliott)
- “Invincible” (Rick Allen, Joe Elliott)
- “Sea of Love” (Phil Collen)
- “Energized” (Phil Collen)
- “All Time High” (Joe Elliott)
- “Battle of My Own” (Rick Savage, Joe Elliott)
- “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted” (Phil Collen, Joe Elliott)
- “Forever Young” (Phil Collen, Joe Elliott)
- “Last Dance” (Rick Savage)
- “Wings of an Angel” (Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott)
- “Blind Faith” (Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott)
The album provided the band with the opportunity to experiment freely and go down numerous musical paths, some of which they’d never done before.
It’s quite an eclectic ride: Delve into Beatlesque territory with “Blind Faith”; enjoy a blend of folk music, blues, and a dose of Led Zeppelin with “Battle of My Own”; take a ride with the band flat-out jamming with their raw, attitude-filled “Forever Young”… and that’s just the tip of the Def Leppard iceberg.
(Read a detailed breakdown — and ranking — of each Def Leppard track here.)
Def Leppard Album: “Singles”
Several tracks were used to promote the Def Leppard album.
First off was “Let’s Go,” a track intended to sound just like the type of guitar-driven song you’ve come to expect from the band.
It’s no surprise it was chosen to launch the album, as it instantly reconnects longtime fans to the band’s trademark sound. (More on “Let’s Go” here.)
Joe Elliott had this to say about the song to Rolling Stone:
“It has that swaggering, mid-tempo rhythm, like ‘Sugar,’ and ‘Rock of Ages.’ The idea was, we wanted something familiar.”
And, finally, “We Belong,” the album’s standout track, featuring each band member singing lead vocals. (Only years later would the band debut the track live in concert.)
These four tracks were positioned as the Def Leppard album’s “singles,” but they can just as easily be referred to as promotional tracks, as single chart performance no longer mattered much…or even counted.
Def Leppard Album: Music Videos
Music videos were created for the album’s four promotional tracks.
Each video showcased science fiction animation…
…interspersed (in some shape or form) with performance footage from the band.
Like this (very) quick cut from “Dangerous”…
…or here in the “We Belong” video (with Joe Elliott’s face projected onto a sheet):
The sci-fi “storyline” continued throughout each of the album’s videos.
Did these music videos enhance the songs and help sell them up?
No, not really.
The videos would have been more effective — and memorable — if they focused much less on the obscure and rather distracting sci-fi animation and much more on the band members themselves.
Think back to the music video days of “Photograph” or “Pour Some Sugar On Me” or “Let’s Get Rocked” and so on — basically, unforgettable visual experiences embedded in your mind, as they’re forever conjoined to the songs they represented.
As for these four music videos from the Def Leppard album? Unfortunately, they all mix together and lack their own identity.
Def Leppard Album: The Reception
Def Leppard debuted at a very respectable #10 in the U.S. (thanks in part to the band resolving their long-standing digital rights dispute and being able to offer the album digitally).
The album would be the band’s seventh top 10 U.S. album release — an incredible feat, especially for a band that was approaching its fourth decade together.
And even though Vivian Campbell’s contributions to the album were limited due to ongoing health issues, he went on the record (no pun intended) to say he believed it was the best album Def Leppard had put out during his time with the band.
Here’s what he told Cryptic Rock back in 2016:
“I can honestly say I think it’s the best record that Def Leppard has put out in the twenty-four years I’ve been with the band. The irony is, it’s the record that I’ve had the least involvement with. I don’t know what that tells me (laughs). The good news is, it is the strongest record [in] many decades from Def Leppard. We are all very proud of that.”
During an interview with Boston radio station WAAF, Phil Collen took Vivian’s sentiments about the record even further:
“I think it’s the best thing we’ve done since ‘Hysteria.’ I really do.”
I have no doubt some fans will agree with Phil’s position…while many others won’t.
Which brings us back to where we started with this deep dive: Up against a music industry that had completely changed since the days of monster releases like Pyromania and Hysteria, Def Leppard took matters into their own hands and changed too…and made the most of it.
Phil Collen succinctly summed things up this way:
“There wasn’t any industry—no record company executive or anyone—saying, ‘You’ve got to do an album.’ It was purely because we wanted to write songs, and we felt the need to do that.
Simply put, Def Leppard showcases what the band is best at: Being Def Leppard.
Would you want it any other way?