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Shifty Shellshock Shell-Shocked

“I have butterflies in my stomach right now,” the Crazy Town singer said just before his band’s smooth “Butterfly” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in late April.

“I’m so used to things going wrong,” Shellshock said. “Now that something good has happened to me, I’m just waiting for it to hit the mountaintop and roll back down.”

Maybe he was worried that Crazy Town’s plan to scale the charts appeared to have fizzled out. After two hard-edged singles, the band had come up empty: no hits and anemic record sales.

At which point most labels would have thrown in the towel and either dropped the band or asked them to move on to their next record.

But something weird happened to the Southern California hip-hop rockers: They floated a third single from their debut album, The Gift of Game, nearly two years after it came out. And “Butterfly” hit – big time

They’re not the only ones taking the slow road in a land of hyperspeed careers when a “pump it or dump it” search for hit singles has reversed the trend of nurturing artists until they find an audience.

In the mid-to-late ’80s, bands such as R.E.M., and before them Bruce Springsteen, were allowed to develop an audience and release a handful of albums before labels decided whether to pull the plug or continue with the relationship. In both cases the gamble paid off years down the line with multiplatinum sales and superstar status.

Joining Shifty and company on the list of recent second-wind success stories are such diverse acts as sensitive singer/songwriter Dido, art rockers Incubus and Kid Rock sidekick Uncle Kracker, as well as singer/songwriter David Gray and R&B diva Jill Scott.

But unlike Sting and Moby – who, when little interest was displayed in their most recent albums, broke the platinum ceiling by licensing their songs to commercials – these artists did it the old-fashioned way: through hard touring, dozens of public appearances and, in one case, an unlikely duet with a hard-core rapper.

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