One surefire way to get people talking about your music is to compose a response song. The resulting controversy can make an ordinary melody spread like wildfire, especially when the lyrics pertain to intriguing topics like war, illegal substances, and infidelity. To be clear, most of the following songs strike me as a cheap attempt to piggyback off of other artists’ success. However, one bizarre mixture of pop rock goodness and unsettling lyrics about crystal meth remains a one-hit wonder legend in its own right, and I must give credit where credit is due.
Tip: Click on the song titles to listen to these one-hit wonders in all their glory!
- “The Dawn of Correction” by the Spokesmen (1965, Billboard #36) The list of one-hit wonders criticizing the Vietnam war is long and distinguished, but the Spokesmen are likely the only band who have made it big by becoming the teacher’s pet for the Johnson administration. The song is a response to Barry McGuire’s anti-war anthem “Eve of Destruction,” which conservatives like the Spokesmen’s John Medora saw as “a slap against America” emblematic of the youth’s misconceptions. The members of the Spokesmen have since expressed remorse for the lyrics of their rebuttal, which go so far as to praise the fact that “our country allows demonstrations” (which clearly occurred before the Kent State shootings of 1970). The song has aged like fine milk, whereas artists across the decades have consistently praised and covered “Eve of Destruction.” Not bad for a song that was initially banned by US and British radio stations!
- “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind (1997, Billboard #4): This upbeat jam houses surprisingly dark lyrics, not unlike its inspiration, Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” Both describe the highs and lows of their respective bittersweet drug-fueled worlds. While each verse of Reed’s song directly references a different member of Andy Warhol’s Factory, he expressed that the song is also filled with references to his own experiences. The song introduced its 1972 audiences to taboo topics like sex work, recreational drugs (namely Valium), and transsexuality. Third Eye Blind’s lead singer and writer Stephan Jenkins offered his song as a response to this kind of lifestyle, remarking the subjects of Reed’s lyrics “had nothing on the way that we were living.” He tells a tale of amphetamine abuse and sex in San Francisco. Both songs have questionable attitudes towards women. Reed refers to doo-wop singers as “colored girls” while Jenkins introduces his girlfriend as someone who “lives for [him]” and exclusively characterizes her by the sexual acts she performs on him. Jenkins is wrong for reducing a woman to a sexual object, but Reed erasing the talent, work, and legacy of groups like the Supremes and the Ronettes is downright shameful. In the end, I’d rather read a Warhol biography and indulge in the syrupy sweet melody that Jenkins produced, even if I have to sit through some graceless lyrics.
- “No Pigeons” by Sporty Thievz (1999, Billboard #12): Speaking of sexism, Sporty Thievz prove that talking down to women can serve as a springboard toward success. While TLC’s “No Scrubs” reduces men to their monetary value, Sporty Thievs straight-up tells the women listening that “their pussy ain’t worth the Ramada” or even McDonalds. The song is full of comedic value, but that should not come at the cost of personal attacks on women’s style choices, figures, and sexual history. I can chop up certain lyrics to the time in which they were written, but throwing money at someone and telling them to use it for a bus pass has never been acceptable behavior. No wonder their legacy is based off of how they’ve responded to the original art of women rather their own accomplishments.
- “Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)” by Eamon (2003, Billboard #16): This one brings back memories of my older brother downloading the dirty version of this song and singing along to it in the car while my mother turned red. You could compare Eamon’s ballad to “No Pigeons” in that it is definitely driven by hatred towards women. But in this case, it’s more of a specific call-out to the girl who wronged him and took him for granted. Eamon alternates between soulful confessions of his love and trust in someone and explicit bursts of anger and indignation. The result is as catchy as it is comical. My favorite lyric is, of course, when he refers to his unfaithful ex as “ya burnt bitch.” While Eamon denies any kind of relationship with her, another Staten Islander named Frankee debuted with an answer song titled “F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)” and claimed that she was Eamon’s ex-girlfriend. There is no proof to substantiate that claim. I am highlighting Eamon’s original rather than the response because while both are one-hit wonders, Frankee’s low-effort answer does not possess half the authenticity or style of its source material.
What response songs stand out to you? Are they diss tracks? Also, do you think Frankee knew Eamon before releasing her song? Your thoughts and opinions are always welcome!
4 thoughts on “#2: Music is the Answer”
I really loved learning about all these songs and the historical significance! The one that stuck out to me the most was “The Dawn of Correction”. The overall message and lyrics feel especially pertinent now. Specifically the verse, “Be thankful our country allows demonstrations instead of condemnin’ make some recommendations.” It’s strange to think that we are fundamentally fighting against the same issues emerging from America’s unjust treatment of people. However one thing that has progressed in America is our ability to freely express these beliefs. I can’t imagine the uproar that banning a song like this would have today. On another note, I love how you included your own cover of Eamon! You are so talented and I enjoyed both reading and listening! 🙂
Such a great blog idea! I was intrigued when you first mentioned it, but it’s so cool to see it come to fruition. I appreciate that you have a theme connecting the different one-hit-wonders, and love that you give context to each one. Overall, this is such a unique idea and I think it will continually be fun to explore. “Semi-Charmed Life” is such a recognizable song and I had never thought it would be a one-hit wonder until finding your site. I’m really excited to keep reading this and see where you take it!
I feel like music is the one medium that’s particularly difficult to have one hit wonders, though I understand why it does. It’s just like – if you like a song, it’s probably because of the voice of the singer or the style of the musicality. So, it just seems like you’d be hard pressed to only be able to enjoy one song from any artist. But music is just one of those egregiously polarizing and intricately complex things that we never know what amalgamation of sounds or ideas will create a really popular track.
Love this entry! It was super interesting reading about “The Dawn of Correction” and how songs can be created as responses to issues that individuals are angry about in society and as responses to other songs. I hadn’t heard anything by the Spokesmen before so it was cool to check out a new band. Big props for including your own cover at the end! It’s super well done and makes us readers feel more connected to you as a blog writer. Great stuff!