Monday, April 6, 2009

Play List: 80's One Hit Wonders

Last week VH1 added to their list of lists with the 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80's. This is my cocaine and I was giddy all Friday. I am not embarrassed by this, but now that I've come down from the high it's time to look at the list.

This is not going to be a critique of all 100 items because I'm not insane. But as with any of these lists there are 5 reactions: "Right on", "I hate that song", "That's too high on the list", "That's too low", and "Wow! They included that one!" Let's go through the highlights, lowlights, and alrights(!).

#95 - Midnight Oil "Beds Are Burning"

Status: Too Low

It took me until hour three of this countdown to realize that this isn't the top 100 one-hit wonder videos. Although the video, if there was one associated with a given song, may have factored into a voter's opinion it most likely was not a deciding factor. Ubiquity seemed to be a dominant factor, particularly as you get higher in the list. Even though this is a really awesome song, Australian aboriginal land rights was not the most ubiquitous topic in 1989 from what I recall. Although I can see how the sound of the lead singer's voice might be a turn off for some, I still think this should rank a little bit higher. At least it should rank higher than the next entry...

#89 - Rodney Dangerfield "Rappin' Rodney"

Status: Too High

Don't get me wrong: I like Rodney Dangerfield. I think Back to School is an underrated film. But there are no redeeming qualities to this "song" or video. This is one of a small handful of novelty songs that also made the countdown, yet the "Super Bowl Shuffle" did not make the cut. Maybe the 1985 Chicago Bears had a rock anthem or ballad that also charted that I'm not aware of. Regardless, the fact that this track made it as far up as 89 is a real disappointment. Also: why is he being executed?

#72 - Swing Out Sister "Breakout"

Status: Yay!/Too Low

I LOVE this song and video. It was a favorite growing up and one that I had forgotten from time to time only to experience great joy whenever I rediscovered it. My first rediscovery was in high school at the library I worked at. Someone had returned a 20th Century Masters: Swing Out Sister CD, causing me to question the legitimacy of that particular CD series (I didn't know SOS was ginormous in Japan). My most recent rediscovery was a couple years ago shortly after rediscovering New Order and following iTunes' suggestions. This track has since become a staple on my iPod.

#62 - XTC "Dear God"

Status: Yay!

This is an amazing track. Back in my high school sociology class we had an assignment where we had to pick a song that talked about a social issue, write a couple of paragraphs about the issue, bring in a copy of the lyrics, and bring either the song or video for the class to partake. I had recently acquired this video from MTV2 and thought it was a perfect match for class. This was just one of a number of projects I did in twelfth grade that was met with stunned silence by my peers. You are probably not going to hear this on American Idol and the lines "the father, son and holy ghost/is just somebody's unholy hoax" are pretty incendiary (though awesomely constructed). The only issue I have is that XTC did have a minor hit with "The Mayor of Simpleton", but I guess it was so minor that VH1 let it slide.

#58 - Don Johnson "Heartbeat"

Status: WAY Too High

BOO! I can't believe this outranked "Rappin' Rodney", let alone almost half the list. There is nothing redeeming about this song or video. The only time I think it was ever enjoyable was during the MTV special 25 Lame, where Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Janeane Garofalo and Chris Kattan (one of these things is not like the other...) were snarking as the video played. By the way, if you are ever able to catch that special or find it archived anywhere, it is a joyous two hours.

#50 - Neneh Cherry "Buffalo Stance"

Status: Yay! / Right on!

This is another song/video that I absolutely love. I remember my sister Kathy really liking this song and every time it came on we had our own 4 minute dance party in the living room. I was only 6 at the time and didn't really grasp the concept of prostitution, but I know a jam when I hear one. This was another "joy of rediscovery" track. It must have been a good fifteen years since I last heard this song, but the first time I heard the album Arular by M.I.A. my immediate reaction was "she reminds me of Neneh Cherry." This song is another iPod staple.

#34 - The Waitresses "I Know What Boys Like"

Status: Too High

I think the fact that this video is not available on YouTube gives some sort of indication that this song is not all that popular. I'm just not a fan of new wave punk (as opposed to new wave pop) and this is one of the only new wave punk entries in the entire countdown. I think this line from the song sums it up best: "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah / nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah". Seriously.

#27 - Stacey Q "Two of Hearts"

Status: Right on!

Don't laugh, but I think this song was a bit ahead of its time. The video is incredibly dated, which I think is what caused me to remember it as being catchy but not all that special back in 1986 (even at the age of 3 I could be a harsh critic). It wasn't until the summer of 2004 when my friend Brad had me take a listen to his cover of the song that I realized how intricate the song was in its simplicity. The song has a clear message, an awesome hook, and Stacey Q sounds amazing. I might even go so far as to call it the "Superstition" of the Synth-pop generation. I'm totally sincere in that assessment.

#19 - Dead or Alive "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)"

Status: Too Low / Right on!

This song's placement baffles me somewhat. I realize that with the top 20 the list enters into "iconic" territory and different icons carry different weights. Taking a look at the list there are some significant heavyweights, though Animotion's high placement is a bit surprising. I think this is a case where the video does come into play, as "Obsession" is much better served by its video than this song is.

Of course, looking at the Top 10 it is nothing but heavyweights. Here is how I would rank them (VH1's ranking in parentheses):

  • 10. Kajagoogoo "Too Shy" (9)

  • 9. Frankie Goes to Hollywood "Relax" (10)

  • 8. Tommy Tutone "867-5309/Jenny" (4)

  • 7. Bow Wow Wow "I Want Candy" (8)

  • 6. Flock of Seagulls "I Ran (So Far Away)" (2)

  • 5. Dexy's Midnight Runners "Come on Eileen" (1)

  • 4. Toni Basil "Mickey" (6)

  • 3. Soft Cell "Tainted Love" (5)

  • 2. Modern English "Melt With You" (7)

  • And number 1 (or 3, according to VH1):

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