The world of music has always been horrifically competitive. All art really is, with people struggling to get noticed out of the crowd.
But what about when they have that one eureka moment? When all the ducks line up and the stars are in accordance? That one classic song that will see them rise out of the masses and hit the big time?
More importantly though, and the question many a musician must tackle, is how to stay on the crest of that wave like the giants of the music biz do. While completely expected on novelty or time-sensitive tracks (I’m sure Bob The Builder hadn’t planned on a long a fruitful recording career), it’s a plummet that befalls many of pops high fliers.
Back in the 1970s, the fate was only for those novelty tracks, it was the emergence of the music video that brought on the explosion of the one hit wonder. Now a song didn’t just have to sound different or original. If the video did the work too, then exposure was absolutely guaranteed. A-Ha would never have found the love for Take on Me without the amazing music video that accompanied it. MTV itself made The Buggles a sensation that faded as fast as it started.
It still happens every year in the UK. Owl City took the charts by storm, with the single ‘Fireflies’ going platinum over here and quad-platinum in both Australia and the US in 2009. What a fantastic platform to build a series of successes from. Apart from it just didn’t happen. His next biggest hit has been Vanilla Twilight, off the same album that only reached number 94 in the UK charts.
It’s not just him though. Can you think of a Sam Sparro song that isn’t Black & Gold? Or a Feist song that isn’t ‘1234’?
This isn’t to say that the artist only ever had one good song. Far from it, it just means they’ve only ever had one commercial success. Just because James Blunt only hit the top of the charts once doesn’t mean that it was his best song. In that case, possible the exact reverse was the case.
The sheer saturation point a lot of music is at (where TV, radio and internet can all be flooded) might actually be making the problem far, far worse.
Now artists are premiering videos on YouTube, hoping for viral success that will spread over to the more conventional media. It worked for Rebecca Black, who annoyed the world with idiotic ditty Friday, only to get TV and radio play out of the song and, eventually, an album deal from it. Importantly, no-one cared at all past Friday. Everyone had had their fill online for free, and simply gotten sick of it.
That’s the problem that the artist behind this year’s biggest song Gotye must find a way around. With a set of pipes on him like a Steve Winwood/Paul Weller hybrid, Gotye cannot even be classified in the same aural spectrum as Miss Black, but may still fall into the same trap.
The man himself though, who by day goes by the slightly more regular Wally De Backer remains calm about the entire thing. Accepting even. In a recent interview De Backer said that "It kind of is a one-hit-wonder song, I don't think I'll have another song that will break into the pop charts in such an anomalous way."
Whether we see more of Gotye in the singles charts is debateable (much like fun, whose breakout song ‘We Are Young’ looks like it could be another one hit wonder), but that’s mainly due to the artist’s style rather than talent. You don’t get over 275 million views online by sheer fluke. Here’s hoping Wally can ride the wave, the album’s got more than enough on it to justify him sticking around for a while.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith