Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Top 10 One-Hit Wonders That Are Better Than You Think

By way of a mid-list time out, here are some singular singles that missed out on the Top 100 - but are substantially better than their reputation might suggest:

10. Mad Donna, “The Wheels on the Bus” (no.17, 2002)

The best thing Madonna has released since “Deeper and Deeper”. If it really is her.

9. Morris Minor and the Majors, “Stutter Rap” (no.4, 1987)

The first record I ever owned. Which probably explains a lot. (Wikipedia assures me “A TV series, Morris Minor’s Marvellous Motors, followed from this. In it the fictional bandleader attempted to maintain his pop career while running a garage. It ran for one series in 1989.” That last sentence I can believe, but I’d be grateful if anyone can provide me with evidence of the rest.)

8. Jimmy Ray, “Are You Jimmy Ray?” (no.13, 1997)

Or, as most people ask these days, “Erm, who’s Jimmy Ray?” Ray was one of Simon Fuller’s first creations before the latter hit upon the world-beating Spice Girl formula, and what a strange creature this was: a bequiffed toreador seemingly modelled on equal parts Elvis, Tommy Steele and Nick Kamen from the old Levi’s jeans commercial - just what the pop kids of 1997 were hungering for, right? Apparently not: but kudos to Fuller for manufacturing the only teenybopper hit to namecheck Link Wray - a twist that would only be rivalled these days if JLS suddenly started paying lyrical encomium to Holland-Dozier-Holland.

7. Big Daddy, “Dancing in the Dark” (no.21, 1985)

A Showaddywaddy-style cover of what was, at that time, The Boss’s biggest UK hit simply has no right to work. This does.

6. Aly & AJ, “Potential Breakup Song” (no.22, 2007)

“Blonde, auto-tuned, Disney-approved sisters with a Christian rock background” could probably only sound less promising with the suffix “featuring Sean Paul”, but Aly & AJ’s sole UK hit marries a winning candy-pop melody to a surprisingly flinty conceptual core: the idea of writing an upbeat song about splitting up (or - per the title - threatening to split up) with an errant lover. Aly was pretty good in the movie Bandslam, AJ appeared in the recent film adaptation of The Lovely Bones; the sisters recently renamed themselves 78violet, I gather, and have betrayed no further signs of troubling the chart compilers.

5. Little Trees, “Help! I’m a Fish” (no.11, 2001)

A song of childish simplicity (the theme, indeed, to a decidedly moderate Scandinavian animation) which nonetheless speaks - in true Scandinavian fashion - to a profound existential disquiet: what it is to feel like a little yellow fish in the deep blue sea. The promotional video also helpfully demonstrated the dangers of drinking strange concoctions in overlit Danish nightclubs.

4. Lucas, “Lucas with the Lid Off” (no.37, 1994)

Natural British suspicion of European rappers/hip-hop artists (perhaps sparked by this motley pair) presumably explains the low chart placing, but - merci à Michel Gondry - Lucas’s only chart hit provided us with one of the most imaginative music videos of all time.

3. Lee Marvin, “Wand’rin’ Star” (no.1, 1970)

I know it’s a minority opinion, but I won’t hear a word against Paint Your Wagon, and the second one-hit thespian wonder it resulted in is obviously preferable to Clint’s “I Talk To the Trees”. It’s a better performed song, for a start: where Clint sounds as though he’d be more comfortable shooting at the trees, Marvin’s vocal catches perfectly the weariness of a man whose ingrained distrust of other people has left him obliged to keep on moving on. (And if that man can’t sing, well, I’m saying that’s all part of the performance; I doubt many itinerant trappers had vocal coaches back in the day.)

2. Lindsay Lohan, “Over” (no.27, 2005)

Oh LiLo, can’t we go back to 2005 and start over again?

1. Paris Hilton, “Stars Are Blind” (no.5, 2006)

Yes, it is just “Kingston Town” by UB40 repackaged with a fashion-shoot video (I can’t see Ali Campbell would have looked this good lounging around in a leopardprint bikini), but had anybody else released “Stars Are Blind”, it would by now have been recognised as the sweetly lilting slice of summer pop it is, rather than summarily dismissed (as it was) as yet more dilettantism from a woman who doesn’t need any more of our money. Besides, I think we’d all rather hear Paris singing than have to watch her acting.

The Top 100 countdown will resume this Thursday.

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