Def Leppard’s album Songs from the Sparkle Lounge was released in North America on April 29, 2008. (The European release was April 25, 2008.)
The release marked Def Leppard’s return after a six-year-long hiatus between original studio albums. (They kept themselves busy with their Yeah! covers album and continuous touring during that time.)
Named after the backstage area the band utilized to work on new song ideas during their 2007 tour, here’s how Joe Elliott described the “sparkle lounge” set up to Billboard.com:
“The crew started having a bit of fun with it, putting in sparkly lights, candles, incense — you name it. It turned into this very atmospheric little workspace.”
Welcome To The Sparkle Lounge
Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge featured an assortment of short, pop-leaning tracks not unlike the band’s previous album X, albeit with a slightly harder edge throughout.
The album’s songwriting approach was vastly different than most of the band’s previous releases — songs, for the most part, were written by only one band member this time around.
Aside from opening track “Go” (written by Joe Elliott and Phil Collen) and “Nine Lives” (Joe, Phil, Rick Savage, and Tim McGraw), the album’s 9 remaining tracks had only one songwriter credit:
- “Go” (Collen, Elliott)
- “Nine Lives” (Collen, Elliott, McGraw, Savage)
- “C’mon C’mon” (Savage)
- “Love” (Savage)
- “Tomorrow” (Collen)
- “Cruise Control” (Vivian Campbell)
- “Hallucinate” (Collen)
- “Only the Good Die Young” (Vivian Campbell)
- “Bad Actress” (Elliott)
- “Come Undone” (Elliott)
- “Gotta Let It Go” (Vivian Campbell)
Without even knowing who officially wrote which track, it’s fairly easy to identify the band member behind each song: melody-infused tracks “C’mon C’mon” and “Love” had Rick Savage’s glam-rock signature all over them; Joe Elliott’s “Come Undone” and “Bad Actress” showcased his harder-edged song approach (“Bad Actress” also resembled Adrenalize-era b-side “She’s Too Tough,” which Joe also wrote); Phil Collen’s guitar-driven tracks “Tomorrow” and “Hallucinate” (in hindsight, the latter song seems like a precursor to Mirror Ball‘s “It’s All About Believing,” which Phil also penned); and Vivian Campbell’s blues and psychedelic musical influences definitely came across in tracks “Cruise Control,” “Only The Good Die Young,” and “Gotta Let It Go,” all of which he wrote.
Having only one band member receive songwriting credit shouldn’t be that surprising, as the times (and recording process) had changed compared to earlier Def Leppard album releases. The band wasn’t cooped up in a recording studio solely focusing on writing songs together. (And unlike X, songwriting “hitmakers” weren’t brought in to contribute either.)
Instead, each band member was able to work on song ideas at their own pace while on tour, and bring them to the group for consideration…thus becoming songs from the sparkle lounge, literally!
Here’s Joe Elliott discussing the album’s approach:
Does this mean the album is disjointed since it’s mostly comprised of individual song contributions?
Songs from the Sparkle Lounge ultimately ended up spotlighting multiple facets of the band, a freestyle approach that would be taken even further with the band’s self-titled Def Leppard release.
Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose
Songs from the Sparkle Lounge had a very respectable Top 5 album debut in the U.S., selling approximately 55,000 units its first week. (It was a Top 10 debut in the U.K.)
Lead single “Nine Lives” brought additional publicity to the release because of Def Leppard’s collaboration with Tim McGraw, but there was also a trade-off in that some fans weren’t exactly thrilled about the band veering into country music territory.
Teaming up with a country superstar like Tim McGraw undoubtedly increased awareness of the album, and helped introduce Def Leppard to a broader audience, but it was still risky making “Nine Lives” the first single: it was a unique track that didn’t quite represent Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, and it wasn’t the most radio-friendly song to take on the crucial role of launching an album to reconnect Def Leppard with longtime fans.
Yes, “Nine Lives” succeeded in garnering early attention…but the single didn’t even make it onto Billboard‘s Top 100 Singles chart. The lifespan of a new Def Leppard album in 2008 was much shorter compared to the glory days of Pyromania, Hysteria, or even Adrenalize, so by the time “C’mon C’mon” was released as a second single nearly three months after “Nine Lives,” Songs from the Sparkle Lounge‘s sales momentum was practically non-existent. The album lasted on Billboard‘s Top Albums chart for only eight short weeks, never to return again.
Might there have been a more effective release strategy in how the album was marketed and promoted?
And that’s not to say the album overflowed with radio-ready singles, but a more strategic approach could have been beneficial: going with “C’mon C’mon” as the first single; utilizing “Go” and “Tomorrow” for album-oriented rock radio stations; giving ballad “Love” a chance as a single; and so on. “Nine Lives” still could have had its own release at a certain point, but it would have been part of a bigger overall plan.
Unfortunately, “Nine Lives” ended up being more of a one-off to not only hype but carry the album, which was impractical. When all was said and done, sales for Songs from the Sparkle Lounge didn’t even reach gold status.
Def Leppard’s Sparkle Lounge: Final Thoughts
Is Songs from the Sparkle Lounge at the top of many fans’ lists of favorite Def Leppard albums?
But what the album did offer was an opportunity for the band to exercise its creative muscles, churn out new music for themselves and eager fans, and get back to touring.
The album still has its moments: “C’mon C’mon” is definitely a standout, as is “Go” and the underrated “Tomorrow.” And the Queen-esque, power-ballad “Love” was almost one of the band’s greatest epics. (Read more about “Love” and a complete ranking of Songs from the Sparkle Lounge‘s songs here.)
In the end, new music from the band will always be welcomed. And just because Songs from the Sparkle Lounge doesn’t always shine for some doesn’t mean Def Leppard’s sparkle has lost any of its luster.