In the past I’ve waxed lyrical about how much I love music, how emotive it can be, et cetera. In simple terms: I’m a huge fan of music. The music industry however – completely different kettle of fish. Like all industries that revolve around talent, money, beauty and fame, the music industry is fast-paced and fickle. And nothing illustrates this better that the One Hit Wonder.
Picture this: you’re a musician (boy band/solo artist/girl group/singer-songwriter etc.), you’ve been working hard for the last four years or so, busking and gigging and trying desperately to get your name out there. Finally – a record label signs you, and a few months later you release a track that goes straight to the Top 10. Everyone knows your name, you appear on Jonathan Ross, you have over a million YouTube hits, the cast of Glee cover your song, and you’re invited to the chart show on Radio One. Life is pretty damn fantastic.
And then: nothing. Your follow-up track barely scrapes into the Top 40, no one wants to interview you, and slowly you fade into one of those ‘whatever happened to them?’ people. Sad.
To illustrate my point, here are some of my favourite One Hit Wonders:
- Gabriella Cilmi – Sweet About Me
- Daniel Powter – Bad Day
- Sara Bareilles – Love Song
- JoJo – Leave
- LEN – Steal My Sunshine
- Rasmus – In the Shadows
- Orson – No Tomorrow
- Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight
- Stacey Orrico – Stuck
- Amy Studt – Misfit
- Eiffel 65 – Blue
- OK Go – Here It Goes Again
- Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out
- The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
- Fountains of Wayne – Stacie’s Mom
- Hanson – Mmm Bop
- Faith Hill – There You’ll Be
- Starsailor – Silence Is Easy
- Madcon – Beggin’
- MIA – Paper Planes
All of these songs are (I hope) immediately recognisable, but not one person I’ve spoken to can come up with a second track, a second hit, for any of these artists. Now I’m sure there are the die-hard fans that will beat me over the head and say ‘No! Orson went on TOUR and they were AWESOME!’, or say that Daniel Powter is simply working on ‘other projects’, or will insist that Hanson’s second album was actually far better than the first when it comes down to artistic integrity. But let’s be honest here – the above list are One Hit Wonders through and through. And let’s not forget that One Hit Wonders make for a great trip down memory lane!
Then there are those that enjoy a brief period of success, are widely praised, and last a few months to a year. La Roux, Duffy, Daniel Merriweather and Gorillaz to name but a few. Where are they now? Where have they gone? Will they be on the 2023 version of The Big Reunion, and be the next generation’s equivalent of Steps, Blue and Atomic Kitten?
I know that there are many cases of success and longevity in the music business. Westlife (god knows why), the Rolling Stones (surely they’ve been pickled), and Take That are just a few examples of how you can last more than a few songs in this ever-changing game. But in the last month we’ve witnessed the break-up of three bands have been at the top of their game in the last five years: Girls Aloud, My Chemical Romance, and Razorlight. I remember being obsessed with Golden Touch and obsessing over johnny Borell; I went through a fortnight-long emo phase when I first encountered My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not OK; and I doubt there’s a girl in the UK between the ages of 16 and 26 who hasn’t at least listened to a Girls Aloud single. It looks like there’s no strict rule for success, especially when you add the messy and emotional business of ‘artistic differences’ and petty arguments.
This time a year ago, the UK Top 10 consisted of Carly Rae Jepsen, Calvin Harris, Fun., Conor Maynard, Jessie J, Alex Clare, Gotye, B.o.B, Nicki Minaj and Train. There’s at least three One Hit Wonders in there alone. Call Me Maybe: huge success, many YouTube tributes, but what has Carly done since then? Too Close: undoubtedly a great song, but Alex Clare has failed to come up with anything that matches it. Somebody I Used To Know: this is one of my favourite songs, and one that will always hold great memories, but like the other two artists, Gotye has disappeared into the musical mist. Maybe these songs should be used as a cautionary tale against too-much-too-soon syndrome…
I’m not going to question the reasoning behind going into the music industry in the first place. I can understand the passion and drive behind doing something that you love, and why not strive to make money out of it? I’m just not going to recommend it to my kids (if/when they come along). I will of course be forever grateful to Madcon for their catchy lyrics, and to OK Go for providing the world with that treadmill video. If I had the time/money/inclination, I might launch my own ITV-supported investigation into these missing artists. But I can’t help but feel sorry for the One Hit Wonder-ites. They had it so good for so little time; maybe someone should write an obituary…