Modern One-Hit Wonders (and their Parodies)

I’ve been covering bands for the last few weeks. Kind of like in a concert, when the band gets going, and plays a bunch of songs in a row without stopping. But it’s time to slow back down a bit, get back into a groove of talking about music, as well as bands.

This week, I wanted to talk about one-hit wonders. Usually, figuring out what songs are one-hit wonders requires a good deal of time to pass, so that you can look back and say that, “yep, none of their other songs ever made it big.” However, I think that makes it fun to speculate about which recent songs will end up as one-hit wonders, as the artists fade into the night.

I think that today’s day-and-age has an interesting twist to the one-hit wonder as well: YouTube and the Internet. Now, the songs are potentially big not only just as a song, but as a music video people can watch, share, and interact with. It’s the fact of interaction that I think can point the way to the one-hit wonders: songs where there’s a ton of parodies and other interaction leading to the popularity (or notoriety!) and life of the one song, but not to the artist’s career overall.

I think that in the past, Weird Al Yankovic almost single-handedly had this same effect with some songs – and may still today, with his new album. Time will tell! But let’s look at a few songs that I think are going to go down in history as one-hit wonders, and some of the parodies that lead me to think that way!

Call Me Maybe

Remember this song? Annoyingly catchy and all over the place, and I remember being surprised that it wasn’t an artist I had really heard of before – it seemed like a Katy Perry song or something like that. However, part of why this song was big was because there were so many parodies of it. I tried to avoid this one as best I could, so I don’t have a parody that stood out in my mind or that I remember. Instead, here’s a link to a basic search for parodies of this song:

The top five parodies that came up have roughly 272.5 million views between them. That’s a lot of views. And there are a bunch more parodies! Oh, and the original song has 577.5 million views. Just looking at Carly Rae Jepsen’s VEVO, I see a few other songs with a decent number of views… but nothing to touch this one song. Will history remember her as a one hit wonder? My sources say maybe.

Somebody That I Used to Know

Here’s another song that blew up, was hugely popular, and had a video which people loved to parody: “Somebody that I used to know” by Gotye. This one has 533.7 million views just for this one version.

And it’s a really artistically interesting video, and it’s a vocal duo which is always popular and different, and it’s just this interesting and unique sound… songs that meet those sorts of qualifications often don’t live up to expectations with the rest of an artist’s work. It seems to be the same with Gotye.

There’s one parody of this song I definitely remember, which was really well done both for content, topic, and for copying the art style of the original video. This one is great, if you’re any kind of Star Wars fan!

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I’m On Top Of The World! – Imagine Dragons

Last week I wrote about Lorde, one of the sudden, big hits of recent years. She’s so young that some of the question is, how genuine is she, how much will she maintain who she is now into the future? She sings so much of being small, but has become so big that you have to wonder what the future holds for her.

Night VisionsThe discussion, about how genuine she is, and if it will last, got me thinking of a different band – another recent rise to fame. A band whose name and first full album I keep seeing listed as a top-selling album – 2 years after its release. The album is Night Visions, and the band is Imagine Dragons.

My wife Holly and I were fortunate enough to see Imagine Dragons in concert last year. And by fortunate, I mean that we planned far in advance, got the tickets, and flew many thousands of miles to see them. And what we saw was a band that seemed truly, humbly pleased with their fame, who seemed overwhelmed with it all.

Waiting on this for a while now… Paying my dues to the dirt

Continued SilenceA quick scan of the Wikipedia page about the band shows that some of it was luck that they hit it big, filling in for someone else (Train) at a large concert. We started following them with their early 2012 EP, Continued Silence. And then Night Visions came out, and has been hanging out on iTunes, at least, as one of the top selling Alternative albums ever since, whenever I’m looking for new music.

A lot of their music has been coming out, bit by bit, on EPs, and after the album even, on soundtracks and one at a time. Part of their success has been in the ability for people to get their hands on their music digitally, rather than only through traditional albums.

That also says to me that they’ve been making music for a while, have been putting it together bit by bit, have been trying to figure out what people might like, and what they like to play. As the lyrics say – “been dreamin’ of this since a child.”

And now, they’re on top of the world.

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Victory’s Contagious – Lorde

You’ve probably heard of her. Award winning new artist. Young. New Zealander. Lorde.

I found her through Pandora, when it started working Royals into my playlists. But I’ll get back to Royals. It’s what I’ve encountered in the rest of her music that makes me want to talk about her.

She’s swept music by storm, and I have a few thoughts about why. If I were to sum it up at first here, it’s because the music is so smart. No, there’s a better word. It’s wise. Wise beyond her years. She’s 17. And at the age, she has the potential to become to voice of a generation – or to become the next fallen icon. But let’s take some time getting there!

Maybe the Internet Raised Us…

In preparing for this post, and listening to Lorde’s Pure Heroin a whole bunch of times, I’ve been trying to think of a term to describe her. And maybe the term is conscious innocence. As in, she knows she’s young. Knows that things are going to get more “real” (whatever that really means…) in the future, but that for now, the simple life is hers. 

She sings a lot about bruises, dreams, and clean, white teeth. Simpler sorts of observations, about life, about people. She’s drinking orange juice. It’s childhood and adolescence. But it’s like she’s got the age and wisdom to be reflecting back on it and reminiscing, while also being right in the thick of it.

There’s also the talk of fame. There’s plenty of times where she calls out the rich, the powerful, the famous. She speaks truth to power. The ridiculousness of modern stars. Their excesses. 

However, she juxtaposes this with talk of her own rising fame and stardom. She talks about her impending first plane ride, about how she still likes hotels – something she recognizes may well change as she starts to travel and perform. 

Here’s some of her lyrics, to show what I mean:

Lorde Lyrics

Her songs describe the cusp of stardom, the end of adolescence and innocence, and do so in a way that expresses such self-understanding that it’s easy to see why she has captured the imagination.

All Work and No Play…

However, is that all it is? I wonder. Do people just love her because she’s saying things that not only sound true, but feel true?

Or, when she’s calling out the powerful and the famous, are some of these people waiting for the hypocrisy?

We see so many young stars who end up falling into the worst habits of stardom: the drugs and alcohol, the stupid stunts to prove they’re someone else other than the young star we once knew and loved. Think in recent years of Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber. Okay, maybe not loved with these stars, at least not for me… but you get the point. They fall apart.

Are we watching Lorde because we’re waiting for her to fall? Or at least, are some people? Is the media, maybe, especially?

And after singing so much about it, wouldn’t Lorde’s fall just be that much the worse? But the thing is, it seems like she sees it. She sees the risk, the danger. It’s there in the lyrics. Will she change? Will she give in to it?

I don’t have the answers. Listening to the music, I don’t think Lorde knows. I guess it’s wait and see.

We’re Bigger Than We Ever Dreamed…

So we’re back to Royals, I think. This song encapsulates all that I’ve said, the simplicity of the life that Lorde is coming from, and the life of luxury of the stars whose ranks she’s joining. It encapsulates everything she’s saying, and thus was a perfect first single.

It has all the features of a one-hit-wonder, as well. Catchy tune, memorable chorus – the sort that you work on trying to memorize and figure out, so you can sing along. And different in sound from other songs on the album.

If this is all you’ve heard of Lorde, you’re missing out. There’s more. And it’s good. I really hope this is an artist we’ll be listening to for many, many years to come – that she holds to her ideals, that she keeps being wise beyond her years. 

I definitely recommend checking out her award-winning album, Pure Heroin! But what do you think about Lorde? Let me know in the comments below!

@compgeeksdavid blogs at Sourcerer about music and comics. His main blog is Comparative Geeks — you can check out his other work there!

There’s a Drumming Noise Inside My Head That Starts When You’re Around – Florence & the Machine

I’ve recommended a few other bands so far in my series on music, like The Lumineers and The Black Keys. Both of those bands have a simpler sort of sound, from a folk origin like with the former, or from just being two musicians with the latter. So how about a different sort of band?

Florence & the Machine. It sounds even from the name like it’s a large thing. The sort of band where you might expect a song called Cosmic LoveTheirs can be both a large sound, and can focus in and be all about the haunting vocals of the lead singer, Florence Welch. Also, they have a harp.

Florence & the Machine

I thought I would share a bit of the fun of this band, and a few of their songs. The recent news is that they are working on a third studio album, but along with the first two, there are also deluxe editions and B-sides and live albums galore to choose from while you wait – plenty to check out!

Great Lyrics and Intensity

What the songs are about, the lyrics and images and ideas, are part of what is so great. Some songs are full of images, full of ideas and things we would understand. Full of love and emotion and feeling.

Florence_JohnSimm

Okay, and not Doctor Who references. Well, maybe… They are British…

I found that image a while ago on Tumblr, and lost the original provenance from where I found it, but it stuck with me. I love her intensity in the image used – it combines well with the lyrics and the song. I think intensity is a good word – thinking of songs like Kiss With a Fist or Girl With One Eye.

Along with strong images and intense songs, however, they also work with a lot of metaphorical and poetical language. I love it. And, as is fitting with the name of my series, I don’t understand it much at all.

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