With a free evening, a jones to be creative, and about 8 different blog ideas floating in my head, I sat down tonight to write. Looking for music to scrawl by, I idly flipped through my iPod. I was suddenly shocked by how many artists are represented by just one song on the Pod, and in several cases, the only song I like – or even own – by the given artist. I’m not necessarily talking one hit wonders here, though I suppose there are a few of those. (Take a bow, “Under the Milky Way”, “Whoever You Are”, and “Flagpole Sitta”!) Download culture perhaps makes this more and more of a phenomenon for us all; why take a chance on a whole album when you can just go get the one song you dig? In my case, though, I tend to jump in feet first – see a band live, buy their CD practically unheard, etc. They may be represented by just one song, but I’ve surely heard many other songs of theirs. So, I’d like to take a brief moment to pay tribute to five of my favorites from the bands and singers who rocked my world…that one time…with that one song. All of the following songs still live on my iPod.
Keane – “Spiralling”
I accidentally got in on the ground floor with Keane; I saw them at the Troubadour in 2003 or 2004 because Minibar opened for them. At that point, Keane was just coming to prominence with their debut record, Hopes and Fears. While they were entertaining enough – lead singer Tom Chaplin has a unique, vaguely spastic stage presence – they didn’t send me. Cut to 2008. I’m putting together a mix CD for a friend, and he had mentioned that he liked Keane’s song “Spiralling”, so I download it and throw it on there. It enters permanent rotation for me. Maybe it’s those goofy “Ooh!”s at the beginning, so atypical for Keane. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the dance beat with the forlorn lyrics. Maybe it’s that bombastic breakdown (“Did you want to be loved??!”). But I love this song more than the rest of Keane’s output combined. Never have I wanted to shake my ass so badly to unfulfilled desires.
The Kooks – “Ooh La”
Back when iTunes was a shiny new toy, I subscribed to e-mails from Apple that would alert me to free songs for downloading in a given week. One week, it was this dreamy ode from The Kooks, “Ooh La”, about an unfortunate gal: “The world just chewed her up and spat her out.” The free iTunes songs were always a mixed bag, but this one was the prize. Loved loved loved it. A few months later, spurred on by a new co-worker who adores The Kooks, I picked up the CD from whence “Ooh La” came, Inside In/Inside Out. And I shrugged. It was good, but not fantastic, in my opinion – capable Brit pub rock with an attitude. Except for “Ooh La” – it was still the prize, head and shoulders above the rest of the record.
Royksopp – “Remind Me (Someone Else’s Mix)”
This is really bad. The one song I adore by Royksopp isn’t even the proper studio version, but a remix literally called “Someone Else’s Mix”. So, who remixed it? Is this a joke and Royksopp remixed it himself/themselves/whatever? A DJ friend gave me a mix CD with this song on it back in 2003, when I admitted that I knew little to nothing about current dance music. (The mix’s title? “No Edge Left To Lose”.) This song captivated me and actually just made it onto my iPod earlier this year, when I found the mix CD in question. I never pursued other stuff by Royksopp because, knowing the one track I dug was a remix, I assumed nothing else would sound like this one track. Short-sighted, perhaps, but there it is. (So really, is Royksopp a he or a they or what?)
The Lightning Seeds – “You Showed Me”
As I’ve noted before, I’m a sucker for a good cover song. And The Lightning Seeds delivered for me in 1996, with their (surprisingly faithful, in retrospect) cover of The Turtles’ “You Showed Me”. This one confused me twice. When this came out, I realized that Salt N’ Pepa’s “You Showed Me” wasn’t exactly an original song. And for the longest time after that, I was convinced that “You Showed Me” was actually a Burt Bacharach tune, until I finally heard the Turtles’ version. While I remember liking the singles from 1992’s Cloudcuckooland (“Pure” and especially “All I Want”), I never dove into the rest of the Lightning Seeds catalog.
Sparklehorse – “Someday I Will Treat You Good”
Hey, remember the 90s, when MTV would play anything? That included this shimmering opus of low-fi rock by the late Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse. I’d count this as a one hit wonder, if it qualified a little more strongly as a hit. (According to Wikipedia, “Someday I Will Treat You Good” made it to #35 on the Billboard US Modern Rock chart, but that’s it.) The song traveled from a CD Warehouse mix tape to a download on a mix CD to, finally, me buying Sparklehorse’s 1995 full-length debut, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot.
I see that my one-song-wonders share a common trait thus far: they’re the outliers. “Spiralling” is dancey while the rest of Keane that I’ve heard is melancholy. “Ooh La” is one of the few ballads in a sea of Kooks rockers. “Remind Me” is a remix. “You Showed Me” was a cover. And “Someday I Will Treat You Good” stands out from its CD home as the only tune that ‘s even a little radio-friendly. I knew that Sparklehorse in general was a little out there, but I expected the first record to be more approachable. Oh, well.
There you have it – my top five one-song wonders. What are yours? No US hits allowed.