Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for "Torn"

Oftentimes, lightning only strikes once for many singers and bands. My A-Z Challenge for 2014 will focus on those glorious "one hit wonders" spanning the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Some are my favorite songs, others are just plain memorable (for better or for worse). Join me in celebrating these 26 one hit wonders in pop music!

I do a funny thing with pop songs that I like. When they come on the radio for the millionth time, I change the channel. Because I like a song, I don't want to let music stations make me sick of them. Back in 1998, When Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" hit the airwaves in the U.S. I changed the channel almost every time.

I still love this song. Okay, maybe the fact that Natalie Imbruglia is amazingly beautiful helps, but this song is just really good. It was a huge hit worldwide, and holds the record for the most airplay in several countries. Here in the U.S., it was #1 for 11 consecutive weeks on the 100 Hot Airplay rankings, but because the song wasn't released as a physical single until much later, it didn't rise above #41 on the Billboards.

But she was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards, and she won all kinds of other awards (Billboard Music, MTV awards, etc). On various countdowns, it ended up #1 (Top 90s pop songs of all time) and has sold over 4 million copies worldwide.

Although she's released three other albums through 2010, she hasn't had another hit here in the States since 1998. That's okay, because she's done all kinds of other stuff since then, like being a judge on The X Factor in the U.K. and her native Australia.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for "She Blinded Me With Science"

Oftentimes, lightning only strikes once for many singers and bands. My A-Z Challenge for 2014 will focus on those glorious "one hit wonders" spanning the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Some are my favorite songs, others are just plain memorable (for better or for worse). Join me in celebrating these 26 one hit wonders in pop music!

Oh man, "S" was tough, as there were a bunch of one-hit wonders to choose from. I decided to go with the 80s classic by Thomas Dolby. I think I was in the 3rd or 4th grade when this song came out in 1982. The song was a big hit here in the States, but I don't think it did much in his home country in the U.K.

The song is about a woman that confuses him by being overly complex. She probably rejected him and now he's trying to make sense of why she would do such a thing. It's enough to drive him crazy. I'm not really sure. But the sound is typical of the 80s synth pop New Wave sound that took America by storm.

What's fun about this song is how it samples some actual scientist yelling "Science!" In fact, if you yell it in a public place, a bunch of late 30 and early 40 year olds will know exactly what you're talking about.

Although "She Blinded Me With Science" remains Thomas Dolby's only big hit, he's stayed very active in the music industry. In addition to continuing to release albums, he has composed and performed music for movies, video games, and is even a professor of arts at John Hopkins.

A big myth surrounding Thomas Dolby is that he's the son of Dolby Laboratory's Dr. Ray Dolby (who invented that system behind your awesome surround sound home movie theater experience). He's not. Dr. Dolby actually does have a son by the same name, who is also an author.


Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for "Return of the Mack"

Oftentimes, lightning only strikes once for many singers and bands. My A-Z Challenge for 2014 will focus on those glorious "one hit wonders" spanning the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Some are my favorite songs, others are just plain memorable (for better or for worse). Join me in celebrating these 26 one hit wonders in pop music!

I love good R&B, funk music. And in 1997, Mark Morrison from the U.K. scored a huge international hit with his song, "Return of the Mack."

The song is about a guy who had his heart broken, but now he's back with a vengeance. I guess "mack" means slick "pimp daddy" or whatever. Or maybe cool guy like "Mack the Knife." Either way, the guy gets his swag back and I guess is a rock star with all the ladies again.

Being a St. Lousian, I always associate this song with Cardinals centerfielder Ray Lankford. They played this song whenever he came up to bat. Maybe it was because he left St. Louis to play with the Padres for a couple seasons before coming back to finish his career here in 2004 (his first year with St. Louis was in 1990).

And this song holds a special place in my heart. After a decade of rejections and quitting the writing-thing, I decided to give it one more try back in 2010. I remember playing "Return of the Mack" on my computer while I was completely redoing my blog to focus on my writing.

I think Mark Morrison could use a comeback of his own. This remains his only hit, and he's spent way more time in jail after peaking at #2 here in the US Billboard charts. He's gotten in trouble with the law for firearms violations to fights at nightclubs.

He's currently NOT in jail, but hopefully this Mack doesn't return to the "Big House."


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quarter Flash's "Harden My Heart"

Oftentimes, lightning only strikes once for many singers and bands. My A-Z Challenge for 2014 will focus on those glorious "one hit wonders" spanning the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Some are my favorite songs, others are just plain memorable (for better or for worse). Join me in celebrating these 26 one hit wonders in pop music!

Okay, I'm cheating here. I just could not find a one-hit wonder song starting with the letter Q, so I opted to go with a band here.

I'm reaching back to 1982 once again for this one. Quarterflash's "Harden My Heart" was a huge hit that year, and went to #1. MTV was brand new at the time, and I remember their music video being pretty dark and heavy, just like the song.

Many would argue that this really isn't a one-hit wonder because Quarterflash did have another song reach the U.S. Billboard charts again in 1983, but for me, "Harden My Heart" was such a huge success, anything they ever did thereafter pales in comparison.

Quarterflash dissolved in 1985 after being dropped by their label. Two members reunited years later and put out an album last year. So I guess they're still together...kinda sorta....maybe?

Either way, the song is pretty melodramatic, much like everything from the 80s. Rindy Ross' vocals are pretty good, though. And hell, she's the one playing the sax!


Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pass the Dutchie

Oftentimes, lightning only strikes once for many singers and bands. My A-Z Challenge for 2014 will focus on those glorious "one hit wonders" spanning the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Some are my favorite songs, others are just plain memorable (for better or for worse). Join me in celebrating these 26 one hit wonders in pop music

I was 10 years old back in 1982, and I was home, in bed, and sick with something. A radio at my bedside played Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie" at least 20 times that day, and all 20 times, my 10 year old brain tried to decipher the damn lyrics.

Even if I had known the lyrics, it wouldn't have helped.

Regardless, the reggae hit sold 5 MILLION copies. Not bad for a group of young, poor kids from the UK (with parents from Jamaica). The song is  cover of "Pass the Koutchie," which was most definitely about smoking weed. And I remember even as a kid, the discussion of "What is that song about?" was a topic we argued about on the bus ride home from school.

But the word "dutchie" refers to a different kind of pot. A pot for cooking. And the song itself was a statement about living in poverty. The song was an international hit, peaking at #10 here in the States and hitting #1 in the UK and all over the world.

Musical Youth got to work with Donna Summer and even got a Grammy nomination for their work. But within three years, their work got mostly ignored by the music industry. The band dissolved in 1985. Wow, talk about burning out quickly. One of the members died suddenly at the age of 24. He had been in and out of juvenile jail for most of his teen years, but he collapsed due to a hereditary heart condition.

Two members of Musical Youth reunited in 2001, and they did perform somewhere in Europe in 2005 as a duo. "Pass the Dutchie" is still a fun song, and once in a great while, I'll hear it on some tiny radio station while traveling through the middle of nowhere America.