First Impressions

Posted: May 25, 2011 in Music Industry, Pop, Rap
Tags: , , , ,
When new musicians are getting ready to release an album, they start off with a single. They only allow the public to hear one song, likely to both create hype for the rest of the album and to gauge how people are going to react to it. A heavy importance is placed on the selected single because it can either draw in more fans or turn them away. Making a good first impression is crucial but once made, can also be misleading. So many artists display their best work first to grab your attention, but when you finally hear the rest of the album, it falls flat and all that’s left is disappointment. And then they disappear, never to be heard from again, inevitably branded as one hit wonders.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The music industry is a risky business, largely based on luck and being at the right place at the right time. When you’re just starting out and you get signed to a major label or release your album independently, everyone’s goal is to be heard. To get their music circulating on radio, television and in live shows. When enough people start paying attention, that’s when the interviews start and the musician becomes more visible, more public, more personal. In every case, musicians need one song, just one, to get the public hooked. Enter the single. What has always escaped me is when musicians show their best work right off the bat. What I mean is the first single they choose to release is the best one on the entire album. Now I know that not everyone has the same taste in music, so one person’s best could be another’s worst. But I mean it more in the sense of their being such a major difference in quality of the music from one song to another.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Let’s try and remember Joan Osborne and her super mega hit “One of Us”. Other than a few church groups disapproving of her attempt at personifying God, that track was very well received. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995 and was certified Gold in the US. Not too shabby. But what happened next? I can’t name one other single off that album (called Relish), and haven’t heard anything from her since. Apparently she has released a few other albums since 1995, none of which produced a single track that made it on any charts. Classic one hit wonder.

It’s almost like going on a date. Everyone wants to make a good first impression, so we dress our best, behave our best and treat the other person as best as we possibly can. But why go through all of that if it’s never going to get any better? It’s fair to say that musicians don’t set out to be one hit wonders (unless we’re talking of Los Del Rio, creators of “Macarena”), just like when going on a first date, we don’t try and let the relationship fall apart. But that’s the most deceptive part of a one hit wonder – they only get that coveted title after the fact. After we’ve had to suffer through the rest of the album. After we’ve invested time and energy in getting to know them. After all is said and done. So when entering a relationship with a new musician, you can’t tell if they’ll be one hit wonders or not, if they’ll end up wasting your time or not, which makes getting to know any new musician risky because it could potentially end up in disaster; but on the flipside, it could end up being one of the greatest discoveries of your life.

Which leads me to quite possibly one of the most notorious one hit wonders of all time: Vanilla Ice. When “Ice Ice Baby” came out there was no way it wasn’t going to be a huge hit. A white rapper which at the time was a rarity, rhyming about driving in his cool car, and starting off the track with ‘Yo VIP let’s kick it!’ and ending with the oh-so-popular ‘Word to your mother‘ – how could it not be successful? He was edgy according to1990, different and very new. The single hit #1 on several singles charts all over the world and everyone gravitated towards him, don’t even try to deny it. I even remember watching the video and trying to copy the dance moves (yes, I did just admit that). The excitement that preceded the release of the rest of the album, titled To the Extreme, was unbearable. Once it was made available, just like that, it all deflated: the rest of the album was utterly forgettable. There was the feeble offering “Play that Funky Music” which only did as well as it did by association. Needless to say, it was disappointing and despite releasing a few more albums, anything musically related he did went unnoticed (with the exception of “Ninja Rap” of course). Vanilla Ice post-To the Extreme is best known for run-ins with the law and appearances on reality shows, none of which have anything to do with music. He had all the potential in the world, and just couldn’t deliver. I was going to post the original “Ice Ice Baby” video, but I found this one and it’s just so much better. Make sure to watch the whole thing, it’s worth it. Word to your mother.

If you’re a new musician trying to survive in the music world, know this: good first impressions will get us interested, but don’t let that be all you have. Play your hand a little closer to your chest and don’t give it all away at the beginning. Don’t rely on one track to get you by, to make up for what lacks in the rest of the album, otherwise you may end up suffering from one hit wonder syndrome. As music fans, we need something to look forward to, something to anticipate, and a letdown isn’t it. We feel jipped because we fell for the pretty book cover, without reading the book. As a result we lose faith in you as a musician, hesitate to trust you again, or listen to any of your future albums. And then you become worse than a one hit wonder: you’re just a tease.

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Comments
  1. K says:

    Karn knows all about Vanilla Ice, we should ask for his views!

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