Friday, August 14, 2009

#139. 'Your love for me came as a waterfall'

One hit wonders are one of my major pop culture fascinations. It's not so much their existence that fascinates me as how many routes there are to arrive at them. There's the long-running artist who just happens to break into the top 40 once and only once, usually in the lower reaches and usually managing to escape the OHW tag by virtue of their extensive niche discography. There's novelty one-offs that were essentially created for the sole purpose of being a one-hit wonder. There's artists who hit it big with their first single and then try for ages to recapture that glory. They're all tagged with the same heading by virtue of all crossing some arbitrary barrier only once. The breadth, both in style and quality, under that heading is staggering. Look at any given year in one-hit wonders over at yon wikipedia and you'll see just how widespread it can be.

Perhaps the best thing about one-hit wonders is the lack of predictability as to what will eventually be in that box. It's also the most frustrating thing since it means that in the end Soulja Boy is not a one hit wonder and Weezer is. Of course every so often you can just tell that a song is gonna be a one hit wonder. Something about it just trips every single wire that leads to one-hit wonderdom and unless the artist has magic on their side (and in some cases not even then) they aren't gonna get out of it. Something like Samantha Mumba's "Gotta Tell You," for instance.

Something about "Gotta Tell You" just screamed 'one-hit wonder' from the first time I heard it. I think it was Mumba's voice. I know America has accepted females with deeper voices, but her smoky tone was so far removed from the usual pop 'n' b fare at the time that I wouldn't have guessed she had a second hit in her. Toni Braxton aside, how often do smoky voiced women manage multiple hits in this day and age? Add to this the detriment that popular UK artists always seem to have when they cross over here. Mumba's had plenty of chart sucessin Britain and her native Ireland, but across the Atlantic she's in a much more well stocked pond as far as female r 'n' b singers are concerned and thus its easier for her to get lost in the shuffle.

Of course "Gotta Tell You" was gonna get huge though. How could it not? That chorus was a near perfect piece of songcraft; the rising strings out of the verses, the synth drum break as it hits, the all just converges into one of the first great pop choruses of the decade. The rest of the song's not quite at that level, but Mumba's voice is enough to charm me and the song as a whole folds together so nicely, especially the background 'yeah yeah yeah's that make the transition back to the verses. It's another one of those songs that just grabs me whenever I hear it. Call it nostalgia or whatever you will, but I just think it's appreciation of craftsmanship in pop music coupled with a good singer.

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