Gangnam Style & Other Non-English One Hit Wonders

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th September 2012.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, or at least a rock without an internet connection, it’s been pretty hard to avoid a kooky music video from South Korean pop star, PSY. His high energy performance, along with its irresistible horse riding dance, has made the video to “Gangnam Style” a viral hit on YouTube with over 251 million views to date. The song is currently sitting at the top of the Australian iTunes downloads charts and has hit the top spot in 30 other countries. Start the clock. PSY’s fifteen minutes starts now.

In celebration of K-Pop (Korean pop music) hitting number one for the first (and most likely last) time in Australia, here are my five favourite one hit wonders that were (mostly) not sung in English.

5. 99 Luftballoons – Nena Ok, this one is a bit of a cheat. Originally recorded in German, 99 Luftballoons was a 1983 hit in Germany, which prompted an English language version a year later entitled 99 Red Balloons. It was this single which topped the Aussie and UK charts. Apparently the song is about children releasing a bunch of balloons (99 in fact) which float into the air and trigger a military scramble which results in nuclear annihilation. That must be why parents tie helium balloons to their kids at the Easter Show. It only takes a couple of kiddies to let go of their balloons and we’re all doomed.

4. The Ketchup Song (Aserejé) – Las Ketchup This ditty, sung in spanglish, topped the charts in 2002 and sold over 7 million copies worldwide. That’s an awful lot of CD singles in landfill. The four members of the group were all daughters of a famous Spanish flamenco guitarist known as The Tomato. Only three of them appeared in the music video because the fourth one was pregnant at the time. Insert your own tomato related joke here. The group followed up their hit single with a Christmas version of The Ketchup Song. What did we learn from this? Adding sleigh bells to an annoying song does not make it less annoying.

3. Macarena – Los Del Río Speaking of flogging a dead horse, this worldwide smash in 1995/96 was also followed up with a pointless Christmas version. Los Del Rio were essentially a Spanish lounge act who accidentally sold 11 million copies of their horrible song with its associated horrible dance. Fortunately the group broke up in 2007 before there could be any further accidents. Let’s not speak of this ever again.

2. La Bamba – Los Lobos East LA group Los Lobos topped the charts in the UK, US and Australia with their 1987 hit from the soundtrack to the Ritchie Valens biopic, La Bamba. Unlike Valen’s career, which lasted all of 8 months before his unfortunate death by gravity in 1959, Los Lobos are still recording but have not been a threat to the charts since La Bamba. Perhaps they should have considered a Christmas version?

1. Ça plane pour moi – Plastic Bertand Everything’s going well for me. Everything’s going well for me. Repeat this in French ad nauseam and you have yourself a hit single. In 1977, this punk rock novelty, with its bouncy music video, graced charts worldwide. It was recently revealed that Belgian Plastic Bertrand did not actually supply the vocals for this song. Producer Lou Deprijck was responsible but was deemed too unattractive to front the record. I guess everything wasn’t going so well for him.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:45  Comments (1)  
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There’s only One Direction and that’s towards obscurity

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st May 2012.

Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue about One Direction? It seems that they simply appeared from nowhere. For about a week they dominated the media, including high brow broadsheet newspapers and every breakfast TV show on the air.

As a good columnist, I’ve done my research. One Direction is the latest boyband from somewhere overseas and every member is named Liam (pronounced “Lame”). They are also definitive proof that human cloning is underway.

I’ve had a listen to their debut album and as far as pop songs go, it’s completely inoffensive. The tunes are well written and catchy enough, although that’s more of a credit to the songwriters and auto-tune than the performers. The voices are nothing special but they blend together nicely.

The album cover and title puzzle me though. The picture on the sleeve shows the Liams all fresh faced and smiling, but the name of the record is Up All Night. I wish I looked like them when I’ve been up all night. I think a more appropriate album title for the cover art would be It’s Almost Recess.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was shocked to come across the One Direction Official Merchandise Store in Pitt Street. Teenage girls were lining out the door to purchase t-shirts, shopping bags and badges adorned with the mugs of the Liams. You could even buy the complete doll set of the group for $200. I’m sure the store is a nice little earner for someone, probably One Direction’s manager. As far as I’m concerned, it would have been much more efficient to simply erect a big sign in front of the shop saying, “Attention teenyboppers, please drop your parents’ hard earned cash here.”

Apparently tickets for One Direction’s upcoming Australian arena tour have been selling like there’s no tomorrow. Most of the concerts are sold out and tickets have been appearing on ebay with huge mark-ups. If you are lucky enough to have acquired tickets, my advice is to sell, sell, sell. You see, the concert tour is scheduled for September 2013. That’s right, sixteen months from now.

Having survived the musical fads that were New Kids on the Block, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Girlfriend, Bros, Milli Vanilli, Spice Girls, B*Witched and Daryl Somers, I’m pretty sure that the average peak popularity of these groups is less than a year. I did manage to avoid Bieber fever because I got vaccinated.

Whoever is pulling the strings on One Direction’s marketing is a genius. Make a fortune selling tickets now for concerts so far ahead in the future that it’s most likely that fans would have moved on to the next big thing by then. Trust me girls, list your precious tickets on ebay now because you’ll probably be giving them away next year. Use your profits to buy shares in a boyband marketing company.

It won’t be so bad for the Liams when One Direction inevitably fade into obscurity. They’ll still be young enough to go back and finish school. Primary school, that is.