Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From up to Heaven: (The Third of The Best Songs By One-Hit Wonders That Aren't Their One Hit!)


When you start the big part of your musical career off with a song titled "Loser," aren't you courting trouble?

I know, I know, Beck didn't start with "Loser." I said the big part of his career, the part where people knew about him and actually bought his records and made him a star. "Loser" hit number 10 on the Billboard charts, back in about 1994; I had to look that up because if I'd gone on my own impressions, I'd have said that "Loser" didn't stop at hitting number one, but must have gone on to a ranking somewhat higher than "number one," a ranking of imaginary numbers that is reserved for those songs that seem more popular than physics should allow -- songs like "Mambo Number 5" and "La Vida Loca" and "Loser," which are played so often that they don't just stick into your head, they actually lodge in your mitochondria where they will dance around bewilderingly until Charles Wallace comes and does whatever he did to stop them dancing around, but even then your mitochondria will be humming I'm a loser baby/so why don't you kill me.

You're humming that right now, aren't you? Don't blame yourself. Blame your mitochondria.

I propose, while I'm on the subject, that Billboard in fact put a ranking greater than number 1 and reserve it for songs like "Loser" and other supermegawonderhits. They could use i; it's just sitting around doing nothing, after all. (Doing nothing, that is, except being The Best Number.)

So "Loser" hit only ten on the Billboard charts, even though its ubiquity seemed to rank it at i. Still, that ubiquity meant that the world would be hanging on Beck's every musical styling thereafter, right?


As it turns out, no.

Beck did what so many bands and musicians dare to do. They dare to do that stupidly, if you are concerned about making money, or bravely, if you are concerned about making music. Beck, after Loser, continued to experiment and branch out and be creative, and we all know what pop culture does to creativity and experimentation and branching out: it ignores it, and goes to concerts and yells out during the quiet parts: Play "Loser!"

Which sucks, in Beck's case, because he's made many, many great songs. Great songs that never hit very high on the charts. Great songs that when you put them on your iPod while you're "working" from home people say What's this? and then bug you to put on Madonna (people in that sentence = Sweetie.) But great songs nonetheless. And the greatest of them all, Beck's Best Song That Was Not His One Hit, is this:

"He's A Mighty Good Leader."

Note, 1: The song is supposed to be about Jesus, I believe. I read that somewhere. Or heard it somewhere. I'm not sure why I think that, but I believe it's about Jesus being the mighty good leader.

Note, 2: Wikidiotpedia, if you are going to say that the album Odelay, "put the one-hit wonder criticisms to rest" and you are going to rely, in saying that, on the fact that Odelay had the song "Where It's At" on it, you should first carefully define the term "hit," since a song that peaks at 61 is probably not a "hit" by the definition of anyone who likes, you know, facts.

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1 comment:

lisapepin said...

"...they don't just stick into your head, they actually lodge in your mitochondria." Brilliant. Except now I have an uncontrollable urge to listen to Odelay while reading A Wrinkle in Time. Or maybe that's the reaction you were hoping to inspire?