Thursday Thinkpiece: One-Hit Wonders and the Incredible Thirst of Carly Rae Jepsen

The notion of a “one-hit wonder” might seem simple at first: a performing artist who is only recognizable for one massively popular song. They scored a huge hit and then disappeared from the public’s consciousness, only to reappear on snide and degrading future compilations and lists of other unlucky artists. The problem is that most of these artists aren’t actually one-hit wonders, and the parameters for labeling an artist as such are vague and arguable. And as we enter an age in which the music industry and radio are flailing towards their demise and many massive artists don’t even have “hits”, the label becomes completely meaningless.

At first blush it’s easy to come up with a list of publicly deigned one-hit wonders:

– Gangnam Style- Psy
– Somebody That I Used To Know- Gotye
– Float On- Modest Mouse
– Flagpole Sitta- Harvey Danger
– The Way- Fastball
– I Believe In A Thing Called Love- The Darkness
– Crazy- Gnarls Barkley
– Macarena- Los Del Rio
– Blurred Lines- Robin Thicke
– Nothing Compares 2 U- Sinead O’ Connor
etc, etc

Source: popmatters.com

Source: popmatters.com

Whether they deserve it or not is up to the individual, but the majority of people only know the one song by its respective artist. This is the sort of playlist a radio station might compile for a themed segment, which is kind of messed up considering it’s the radio stations that decide whether or not to play more than one single by an artist. It’s also messed up because most of the aforementioned artists actually did have more than one radio hit, as most artists in general do.

Source: soompi.com

Source: soompi.com

– Gentleman- Psy
– Eyes Wide Open- Gotye
– Dashboard- Modest Mouse
– Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo- Harvey Danger
– You’re An Ocean- Fastball
etc, etc

It’s usually a novelty or charity ensemble group that only ever release one single (Live-Aid/Band-Aid, Liam Lynch,  whoever did “Disco Duck”). Regular artists tend to have these things called “albums”, and after they land a big hit they chase it with one or two or three other songs. You know, to keep them in the public eye. Sometimes these songs even chart pretty high! Does nobody remember that Psy’s “Gentleman” was a hit as well? Or that Robin Thicke, Gotye, and Psy all had careers before their big singles? Gotye was already a huge deal in his homeland of Australia with the song “Heart’s a Mess”! Psy was five albums into his career before Gangnam Style! Why is he considered a one-hit wonder?

Furthermore, does this mean that artists that never have that one big song are no-hit wonders? Because there are a lot of artists that are doing just fine without one, including:

– The Script
– Colbie Caillat
– Sara Bareilles
– Christina Perri
– The Tragically Hip
– Jack Johnson
– The Jonas Brothers
– Lady Antebellum

Source: pixelfanatix.com

Source: pixelfanatix.com

If you asked the general population what any of those artists’ “big song” was, you’ll get blank stares. But they’ve all got comfortable careers with consistently high-selling albums and reliable fanbases. Colbie Caillat, above could release a greatest hits based on all her singles, even though most people don’t know what she looks like (I didn’t until about five minutes ago). It’s not really that big of a deal that they’ve never reached the pinnacle of the Billboard Top 100. Although even that achievement doesn’t matter in this day and age, especially when you consider how few legitimate hits come out.

To date this year, there have only been a handful of big songs, with one (“Uptown Funk”) languishing at the top for 16 weeks. Streaming music has segmented audiences to the point where there may never again be a true “Song of the Summer”, because everyone’s got their own songs of the summer. There are now “micro-stars” who are hugely famous thanks to industry pushing despite not yet having…any recognizable songs.

source: youtube.com

source: youtube.com

Who are Austin Mahone (above), Rita Ora, and Five Seconds of Summer? I can’t even picture their faces, much less tell you what they sing or even what KIND of music they play. But I know that they’re rich and famous because I see those names everywhere. They’re doing fine. In fact it seems like these days, NOT having the “one big hit” is more beneficial than having it. Stars have to be careful not to make their songs too good. (note: maybe that’s why music is so bad nowadays cuz they’re purposely making it bad, tee hee)

So WHY is Carly Rae Jepsen so thirsty for another hit?

source: kiss925.com

source: kiss925.com

The halcyon year of 2012 brought us the inescapable “Call Me Maybe”, which is her one big song. The thing about its success however, is that it was a complete accident. A single by a third-place runner up on the 2007 season of Canadian Idol and produced by the former member of a hard industrial group (Dave Ogilvie)? It was a fluke and that’s partly why it was so refreshing. Nobody was expecting it to be huge and its viral spread was completely natural. Jepsen followed it with a guest spot on Owl City’s “Good Time” and another song later in 2012 called “This Kiss”, and could have continued releasing low-key pop and had a stable career like Colbie Caillat or Christina Perri.

But she didn’t. She went away for a little while and started planning a BIG comeback. Which could in turn backfire in a BIG way, as the desperation for another huge hit is palpable. Everything that’s come out of the promotion for her new material has been a transparently obvious grab at the limelight.

source: mashable.com

source: mashable.com

– “I Really Like You” was released in March, a calculated date when artists wanting to score a “song of the summer” drop their songs.
– The video had a celebrity cameo in Tom Hanks.
– A big deal was made of Jepsen’s quest in making this album, from the wide range of producers and songwriters to the hundreds of songs she wrote for it.
– She performed on SNL, Ellen, and Castle (??).
– Another (kind of embarrassing) “viral” video was released with a bunch of famous friends (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande) singing the song.
– Another song called “All That” was released.
– Both songs were very much in the late-80s style that is en vogue right now (as opposed to the timeless sound of “Call Me Maybe”)

Despite all this, as of this writing the song has not charted very well (39 on the Billboard Hot 100). It’s nowhere near the ubiquity that “Call Me Maybe” had and it doesn’t seem like it will be the huge summer hit Jepsen wanted it to be. The corresponding album has no release date due to this tepid response. No doubt the producers are going through the “hundreds” of recorded songs trying to revise them for another hit, possibly with a guest appearance. And it’s all a little sad, because “I Really Like You” is a pretty fun song and didn’t need this massive circus surrounding it. Jepsen could have just released it normally, had the album out by now and toured without pressure and expectations. Her quest to avoid being a one-hit wonder has turned into MORE of a one-hit wonder, something I think she was really, really really, really, really, really trying to avoid.