Here today, gone today, one-hit wonders make the world of pop go round”but never for long.
The late ˜70s gave us a plethora of short-term disco stars who lived”and quickly died”by the groove, while the Tacos, the Kajagoogoos and the After the Fires of the early ˜80s, arrived wielding synthesizers and tressed for fifteen minutes and less of success. More recently, in 2005 and 2006, sensitive singer-songwriter guys Daniel Powter (Bad Day) and James Blunt (You’re Beautiful) helped usher out the pre-Rihanna/Katy Perry/Lady Gaga phase of pop.
In 2009, as a higher number of headlining newcomers than usual ascended to the summit (Lady Gaga, Jay Sean and Jason DeRülo, among them), at least one, Owl City”the act behind Fireflies”was bound to never fly anywhere near those heights again. And last year, with dance music dominating the airwaves more dramatically than it had since the aforementioned disco age, we got indie-pop with a beat for exactly one massive hit single, courtesy of Foster the People, who went all the way to No. 3 with Pumped Up Kicks.
Which of 2012’s first-timers so far are most likely to not still be succeeding by their next single? fun., the rock trio that recently spent six weeks at No. 1 with “We Are Young”? Or Gotye, who rode a quirky song and an even more oddball video all the way to the top?
At a quick glance, Gotye seems to have all of the trappings of a one-hit wonder. Interesting name that one might need a pronunciation key to get right? Check. Song that sounds unlike anything else on the radio? Check. A colorful video that jumps off the screen for reasons that have as much to do with the high concept as the song itself? Check.
This was a brutal exercise, listening to at least large chunks of every Number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 for the years between 2000 and 2010 (I should have stopped at 2009, but I’m a glutton for punishment). Anyway, in order to avoid repetition, if a song was a Number 1 in more than one year (carried over from a previous year), I only considered it for the first year in which it hit the top spot. I thought I might see some kind of trend in quality of pop music, but no such luck”highs and lows abound throughout.
Best: Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Rob Thomas tries really hard to wreck this song with his awful singing, but it’s still really catchy. Sorry Rob, but I’ve come from the future to tell you that you’ll have more success offending listeners with your solo record.
Worst: The epic and universal terribleness of Arms Wide Open by Creed beats out such dreck as Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon and a song called I Knew I Loved You by a band that wrote the name Savage Garden on a piece of paper, looked at it and said, Yes. Let’s name our band that. That’s not totally stupid at all.
Dishonorable mention: Independent Women Part 1 by Destiny’s Child, for opening the song with a shout out to Charlie’s Angels, the movie in which it is featured, and for kicking off the verse with the lyric, Question: Tell me what you think about me. Yeah, that’s not a question, that’s a command. What do I think about you? I think that you’re too pushy and have a tenuous grasp on parts of speech.
Love is in the air. I’m not just talking about that warm and tingly feeling that fills up the senses every year on February 14”if you’re lucky enough to have your own funny Valentine. I’m also referring to the great 1977 Top 10 hit by John Paul Young, an immortal love song in a decade that was full of them. It’s rhythm and romance at its catchy best.
In honor of V-Day, here are fourteen other great songs in the key of love. I’ve limited the romantic playing field to pop, rock and R&B singles from the last 50 or so years, leaving album tracks, country, jazz, the great American songbook, Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin for another list (maybe next year’s). My favorites are always changing”by the week, by the day, by the hour. But if you’re looking to set the perfect romantic mood on Valentine’s Day, just let the music, this music, play.
“I’m Still in Love With You” Al Green.
The greatest love of all is an everlasting one, and few singer-songwriters have nailed the subject as frequently and brilliantly as Green. This single, which went to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1972, is as timeless and immortal as the love it celebrates.
“The Air That I Breathe” The Hollies. “Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you.” Now that’s crazy in love.
“Poetry Man” Phoebe Snow. It’s hard to fathom that Snow, who also wrote this song, was only 23 years old when the song was a hit in 1975. Imagine any of today’s twentysomething pop stars crafting anything so hauntingly gorgeous and grown up.
“The Man With the Child In His Eyes” Kate Bush.
A girl and her piano. Like the most effective love songs, there’s an overwhelming aura of melancholy in both the production and 20-year-old Bush’s vocals, which are at once delicate and sturdy. After the operatic weirdness of her 1978 debut hit, “Wuthering Heights,” Bush floated back to earth in the most stunning way.
“Close the Door” Teddy Pendergrass. Sometimes it’s all about sex. Incredibly, this 1978 single was the only solo Top 40 hit of the late Pendergrass’s long career.
“Send One Your Love” Stevie Wonder.
Although this one has been more or less overlooked since it was a No. 4 hit in 1979, it’s nearly as magical as “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” an album track from three years earlier. A tip to all hopeless romantics: If you just called to say, “I love you,” and you must do it with a Wonder song, make it one of the two.
“I Love You” Climax Blues Band. Everyone says, “I love you,” but singer Derek Holt didn’t until four minutes into the song”and then it was over. By saving the best for last on its 1980 single, which only went to No. 12 but was one of the biggest hits of the year, Climax Blues Band created a masterpiece of anticipation and romantic build up that goes out in a blaze of glory.
“More Love” Kim Carnes.
The irony! A songwriter as gifted as Carnes found her greatest success drastically reworking other people’s music. Jackie DeShannon’s “Bette Davis Eyes” may be the reinvention for which she’s best remembered, but this cover of a Smokey Robinson oldie, which preceded the aforementioned hit into the Top 10 in 1980, is the one that gets under my skin and stays there.
“Love of a Lifetime” Firehouse. The ultimate hair-metal power ballad, from 1991, a few years after the genre peaked.
“Heartbreaker” Dionne Warwick.
Love is a beautiful thing indeed, sometimes even when it’s in ruins. Of all the great love-song singles that the Bee Gees wrote for themselves (“How Deep Is Your Love,” “Too Much Heaven”) and others (Samantha Sang’s “Emotion,” Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love,” Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream”), this one, in which sweet Dionne hints at possible stalker tendencies (“This world may end” not you and I”), is the one I always go back to.
“Harvest Moon” Neil Young. When I dream about love, this 1992 Neil Young masterpiece always seems to be playing in the background.
“Kiss Me” Sixpence None the Richer.
Michelle Williams’s film career wasn’t the only great thing to come out of Dawson’s Creek
. After the TV teen drama used “Kiss Me” on its soundtrack in 1999, it reached runner-up status on the Hot 100. More than any other song in the history of romance, this one makes me want to run out and fall in love.
“Can’t Get You Out of My Head” Kylie Minogue. Sometimes the glow of love burns so much brighter with a fierce electro beat.
“You’re Beautiful” James Blunt.
When it comes to love songs, they generally don’t make them like they used to, but every now and then, modern love spawns an aural masterpiece.
Five Honorable mentions: “Angel” Anita Baker, “So Alive” Love and Rockets, “Love Is All Around” Wet Wet Wet, “Maps” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and “1 Thing” Amerie
What love songs will be on your playlist this Valentine’s Day?
Don’t let their young age fool you, Asper Kourt turns out tunes and draws in fans with the experience of any seasoned indie act. Call us scene teens, but we’re just suckers for a garage band story, and Asper Kourt serves up exactly that. High school pals Kevin Herig, Nate Boitano and Heath Warren started up in a garage on a street called Asper Court, which would later become the band’s namesake. What initially started as afternoon jam sessions soon grew into strong and passionate musicians recognizing talents in each other. Bassist Mat Beston and piano-playing Kurt Sorenson sealed Asper Kourt’s lineup and laid back sound.
Asper Kourt serves up a lyrically poignant, sometimes folksy mix of pop and rock with a piano pop flare that lends itself to the easy-going charisma the band has cultivated for itself. It seems people are taking notice, being crowned champion of UNM’s Battle of the Bands, named Albuquerque the Magazine’s Best Local Band Headed for Stardom” and even being one of 3 finalists considered by the Goo Goo Dolls for the Subway “Fresh Artists” Competition on OurStage.
Want to know more? Check out the video below, comment, share, post, send up smoke signals, you get the idea. And stay tuned for more from Asper Kourt all week!
For fans of: Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, 311, James Blunt, Train