"He's playing a hybrid form that's rooted in these familiar elements from classic soul but recontextualized with a modern sound," said Chris Douridas of Santa Monica's influential public-radio station KCRW-FM. "And the test of that comes out on the radio when you're programming music. A song like 'Good Man' [from 'Stone Rollin''], you can put something iconic like Ray Charles on one side, then go from 'Good Man' to Grizzly Bear," Douridas says, referring to the arty Brooklyn band. "There's a natural affinity there."
Milo Pacheco, vice president of marketing at Columbia Records, said the label is actively targeting what he called "that metropolitan hipster world" with its online efforts. Columbia has also sought to spark interest in the singer among Hollywood music supervisors, as well as youth-friendly brands such as Red Bull and JetBlue, both of which have taken part in Saadiq promotions.
Asked if the huge success this year of another soul-related Columbia release, Adele's "21," has impacted the label's campaign for "Stone Rollin'," Pacheco said, "It's encouraging to see that music can still become such a phenomenon based on the quality of the songwriting." But the executive admitted he's taken more from the example set by Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons: acts that have reaped significant commercial rewards without the benefit of built-in radio play.
"Our ultimate goal is that this becomes the word-of-mouth album of the year," Pacheco said. "We want people from different audiences to say, 'Hey, have you heard that record?'"
An industry veteran with his share of professional disappointments, Saadiq betrays some skepticism about the effectiveness of building buzz from the top down. "When the labels were doing good, they weren't doing that good for me," he said with a laugh. But he shares Columbia's commitment to cultivating a fan base as varied as the ones his heroes used to play to.
"Music should get you in any room, whether it's a juke joint or a political meeting or a party of ballplayers," he said. "You don't wanna be the guy where it's like, 'Oh, we wanna invite you, but you can't play your songs.' My mission has always been to do something that suits everybody."