Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heavyweight Titles, Part Two

Hey, remember that killer song "Once in a While" by the phenomenal 90's rock band Dishwalla? Remember how it TORE UP the airwaves like a bad-ass mother back in 1998 and continues to crop up in regular rotation on just about every rock station you can think of??? What about that cool 1999 song "It's Saturday" by alt-rockers Marcy Playground? You couldn't get AWAY from that one. Man, I still can't get that one out of my head.

No??? You don't remember EITHER of those songs??? Hmmmm. But I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts you DO remember Dishwalla's "Counting Blue Cars," doncha? (You know, the one that goes, "Tell me all your thoughts on god... cause I'd really like to meet her...") And I KNOW you remember Marcy Playground's infectious little ditty called "Sex and Candy." Ah-ha! Sure you do!

Now, some people would argue that the reason we know the earlier hits by these guys is because they were musically better songs. Maybe. Other people would say those bands had their 15 minutes of fame and radio was ready to throw them under the bus. Maybe again.

However, I personally believe that part of the problem was not just a (debatable) lack of quality in the follow-up singles, but a distinct lack of "hook" in the titles. Now, I'm not a big fan of either song, but when you first hear titles like "Counting Blue Cars" or "Sex and Candy" (before hearing the songs themselves) you DEFINITELY want to know what they're about! "Once in a While" or "It's Saturday"... not so much.

You might argue that you didn't know the Dishwalla song was called "Counting Blue Cars" and you still remember it anyway, but WHY do you think you heard it in the first place? Songs don't just play themselves on the radio. It's quite likely that programmers and DJ's were intrigued enough by the title to give it a few spins when it debuted, and then the title, along with the lyrical novelty (god as a woman) and song's overall catchiness were enough to keep the song in heavy rotation.

When I worked at a radio station and the song "Once in a While" came out, I vividly remember looking at the CD case (before playing it) and thinking, "Well, that's the end of Dishwalla." Not because the song is bad, per se; I just knew it was gonna be kinda generic and ordinary. And sure enough it was.

Of course, I need to stress that you CAN still have a hit with ordinary, banal tititles, as many of you will no doubt be quick to point out. Sure, there are tons of hit songs by huge bands that have cliched or poor titles, but that doesn't mean weak titles aren't a hindrance in general.

Yeah, sometimes a song just cries out for a title like, say, "She" or "Tonight." But when you have a relatively ho-hum title, you better make sure the song blows the listener out of the water on every other level, because you're starting the race with a handicap. Sad to say, unless you're already on the level of Lady Gaga or U2 people just aren't going to be that eager to hear a new song titled "I Love You." (Well, maybe some people will be.)

More to come...

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