July 6, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my approach up into the current.

The audacity. Absolutely the fucking nerve. These fucking dorks had the balls to file this tune of bouncy-bounce bubble-crunch and rapid-fire pop-cult non-sequiturs and to current it to the world as a viable pop product. After which American customers, of their infinite knowledge, took this ostentatiously intelligent birthday-party routine and despatched all of it the way in which to the highest of the Sizzling 100, briefly interrupting the reign of Monica’s “The First Evening.” Within the ’90s, the last decade when “various rock” turned a factor that individuals mentioned out loud, the Barenaked Women’ “One Week” turned the primary #1 hit that was even vaguely alt-rock since Lisa Loeb’s “Keep (I Missed You),” greater than 4 years earlier. It’s a travesty of justice, and I’m nonetheless mad.

Perhaps you simply learn that paragraph and thought I used to be being facetious. No. Not remotely. “One Week” was a plague on humanity in 1998, and it’s nonetheless a plague on humanity at this time. To me, “One Week” represents the shallowest and most bankrupt type of enjoyable. It’s a silly tune that is aware of it’s a silly tune, and I’m alleged to assume its complete self-reflexive smarty-pants goofball nonsense schtick is foolish and charming and sly. Nicely, I don’t. I fucking hate it with all the ability of my soul. “One Week” is Justin Lengthy. It’s Napoleon Dynamite. It’s Elon Musk in a Wario costume on Saturday Evening Stay. It may possibly go fuck itself.

An entire lot of issues needed to fall into place culturally for the Barenaked Women, a longtime cult act who had been stars in Canada however solely simply beginning to make headway within the US, to show their cat-piss quasi-rap smugness bomb into an precise no-shit #1 Billboard pop hit. By the late ’90s, white folks self-consciously dorking round with rap music was already a drained trope. It had been occurring because the early Beastie Boys, or perhaps even since Blondie made “Rapture.” However Blondie and the Beastie Boys had been cool. Someplace alongside the road, cool stopped being essential to this course of. The dweebs took over.

Beck wasn’t a dweeb within the early ’90s, however he felt like a dweeb when he tried to rap. When he recorded the four-track single “Loser” with Karl Stephenson, an precise rap producer who’d made precise Geto Boys songs, Beck was making an attempt to sound like Public Enemy’s Chuck D, and he was humiliated by his failure. That’s why he went so self-deprecating on the “Loser” refrain. “Loser,” launched independently, turned a word-of-mouth success that trickled its approach as much as radio and gained Beck a major-label contract. In 1994, “Loser” crossed over to turn out to be an out-of-nowhere hit, peaking at #10 and turning Beck right into a star. (“Loser” continues to be Beck’s greatest hit. It’s a 9.)

Presumably emboldened by Beck’s success, a complete wave of slackjawed alt-rocker sorts began messing round with dusty breakbeats and psychedelic lyrical randomness, and a whole lot of them landed their tracks in modern-rock radio rotation: the Eels, the Primitive Radio Gods, People Implosion, Geggy Tah, Cake, Soul Coughing, Bran Van 3000, Citizen King. Veteran Texan noise-rockers the Butthole Surfers in some way scored a late-career alternative-radio chart-topper with their Beck chunk “Pepper.” These bands weren’t all good, however they had been making an attempt issues, and their complete model match with the pastiche-heavy aesthetic of the time — the identical memory-drunk cultural wave that gave us Tarantino and Scream and an important many Simpsons jokes. Then the fucking bowling-shirt guys confirmed up and ruined the occasion for everybody.

Today, folks speak concerning the late ’90s as the start of the tip for business rock music. The standard scapegoat is nü steel, and it’s particularly the rap-rock aspect of nü steel. These bands jacked strikes from the Beastie Boys and Religion No Extra and Rage In opposition to The Machine, and so they used clumsy raps and chunky guitar riffs to vent frustration and ugliness into the world. I’m not going to take a seat right here and go to bat for that stuff, since most of it was absolute ass, however the nü steel guys had been a minimum of singing about issues. Korn’s “Freak On A Leash,” Linkin Park’s “One Step Nearer,” Papa Roach’s “Final Resort” — these had been songs that tried to reckon with intense, extreme, actual emotions. Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst couldn’t rap for shit, and he had his personal smug-dickhead tendencies, however even a tune like “Break Stuff” identifies and expresses a tangible emotion. I’ll take that over the bowling-shirt bands anytime.

The Barenaked Women didn’t begin off as a bowling-shirt band. As a substitute, they spent their early profession as sincere-goofball college-rock sorts, like a shittier They May Be Giants, or like R.E.M. if R.E.M. had began in an improv-comedy class as a substitute of a file retailer. Co-leaders Ed Robertson and Steven Web page each got here from the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, and so they had been at school collectively from a younger age, however they didn’t turn out to be associates till they each went to see former Quantity Ones artist Peter Gabriel someday within the ’80s. Quickly afterwards, Robertson and Web page each labored as counselors at a music camp, and so they discovered that they appreciated enjoying music collectively.

The Barenaked Women performed their first present at a neighborhood battle of the bands in 1988. Robertson had entered his cowl band into the battle, however that band broke up earlier than the present occurred, so he referred to as up Web page and requested Web page to play with him. Robertson already had a band title. The 2 associates had give you the Barenaked Women as a faux title for a joke band, however when the battle got here, that’s the title that Robertson gave. After that first gig, the duo saved enjoying dwell, improvising crowd-banter bits and joke-raps in between their songs, and so they made their first demo tape collectively earlier than 1988 was over. Over the subsequent few years, extra associates joined the band, and so they recorded extra demo tapes and constructed up a neighborhood following. In 1992, a canopy of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Harmful Time,” recorded for a Cockburn tribute compilation, turned a top-20 hit in Canada.

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Simply earlier than that cowl hit, Barenaked Women scored a random-ass break. They’d been booked to play a New Yr’s Eve present exterior of Toronto’s Metropolis Corridor as 1991 become 1992. Somebody within the mayor’s workplace determined that their absurdist band title was demeaning to girls, and BNL had been dropped from the New Yr’s present. This turned a information story in Canada, and it gained a complete lot of consideration for the band. Their self-released Yellow Tape turned the primary impartial album to go platinum in Canada. (There, you solely must promote 100,000 copies to go platinum. It’s like dunking on a one-foot rim.)

Within the wake of all of that, Seymour Stein signed the Barenaked Women to Reprise, and Gordon, their first correct studio album, turned a #1 hit of their homeland. Their tune “Enid” reached #2 on the Canadian charts, and the LP ultimately went diamond in Canada. For some time, the Barenaked Women had been on a Tragically Hip trajectory — large in Canada, a slight cult success within the US. Right here, Gordon went gold, and the band’s tune “If I Had $1,000,000” was a minor hit on adult-alternative radio. Proud Canadian Jason Priestley should’ve been a fan, since he directed the band’s video for his or her 1996 single “The Previous Condominium,” and he additionally received the band to play on the Peach Pit on a 1997 episode of Beverly Hills 90210. Shortly after that episode ran, “The Previous Condominium” turned the primary Barenaked Women tune to chart on the Billboard Sizzling 100, the place it peaked at #88.

For me, the Barenaked Women had been only a title that vaguely registered, in an “I guess these guys assume they’re humorous” form of approach, once I was flipping via CDs in file shops. However as soon as “The Previous Condominium” landed, I received used to them as a barely irritating alt-rock radio presence — Toad The Moist Sprocket with weirder accents. BNL launched a dwell album referred to as Rock Spectacle in 1996, and the dwell model of “Brian Wilson,” a tune from the band’s Gordon album, received pushed to radio and did higher than “The Previous Condominium,” peaking at #68. The Barenaked Women had been primed for an actual breakthrough, however that breakthrough took a kind that no person anticipated.

When the Barenaked Women recorded their 1998 album Stunt, Reprise paired them up with David Leonard and Susan Rogers, two producers who had labored as sound engineers for Prince. Susan Rogers, specifically, was one in every of Prince’s favourite collaborators; she was the one different particular person within the room when he recorded all of the devices on “When Doves Cry.” For probably the most half, Stunt is a reasonably regular Barenaked Women album, with the standard mixture of sincerity and goofball shit. However on one tune, they cranked the dial all the way in which over to the goofball-shit aspect.

Ed Robertson had began to write down “One Week” as a tune a few couple moving into an argument. On the refrain, he sings from the attitude of a man who retains preventing despite the fact that he’s undoubtedly within the incorrect. For the verses, Robertson needed to write down raps, however these raps weren’t understanding. Roberton’s bandmate Steven Web page had an thought. Robertson would all the time freestyle rap at Barenaked Women reveals, so Web page mentioned that he ought to simply attempt freestyling the verses. That’s what Robertson did. In a 2018 Stereogum interview with my boss Scott Lapatine, Robertson says that he arrange a camcorder to movie himself, after which he simply freestyled 4 verses in a couple of minutes, later slicing them down to 2: “Our greatest single ever, our #1 single, was written in three and a half minutes.”

Individuals have interpreted “One Week” alternative ways. To some, the fixed churning chatter of Robertson’s pop-culture references represents late-’90s fool mind, mentally clicking via cable channels even in the course of a relationship-related battle. There’s additionally a concept about the way it’s a tune concerning the man killing the lady with a golf membership. (Robertson calls that concept “hilarious however inaccurate.”) However no, these “One Week” lyrics are simply smirky, self-satisfied near-gibberish. They’re like throwaway gags on Household Man: They add nothing to the precise story, and also you’re simply alleged to chuckle since you get the reference.

These rappy bits on “One Week” are catchy, however they’re the incorrect sort of catchy — the sort that a few guys I do know name “sticky.” They get caught in your head, after which they slowly drive you insane. For many years, I’ve been unable to order orange rooster with out some horrible a part of my mind repeating “chickety-China, the Chinese language rooster,” and I resent that enormously. That’s a go-to order, and I’ve to deal with that voice ricocheting round in my mind. The road is a reference to one thing that Busta Rhymes mentioned on a Tribe Referred to as Quest’s “Situation” in 1992, however Busta mentioned, “Chickity choco, the chocolate rooster.” (“Situation,” an ideal tune, peaked at #57.) Robertson’s line, paired with “you’ve gotten a drumstick and your mind stops tickin’,” was supposedly a reference to avian flu, which was everywhere in the information on the time. Was it racist? I don’t know! It undoubtedly feels racist when that shit will get caught in my head. It smells rank like some outdated stale urine.

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The wonderful factor about “One Week” is that all of its quasi-rapped strains are like that, and I hate all of them with my complete soul. “You’ll assume you’re Aquaman”: No. “Large like Leann Rimes as a result of I’m all about worth”: Get out. “Watching X-Information with no lights on/ We’re dans le maison/ I hope the Smoking Man’s on this one.” Shut up. “Like Kurosawa, I make mad movies/ Okay, I don’t make movies/ But when I did, they’d have a samurai.” Go away proper now. “Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon ’trigger that cartoon’s received the growth anime babes that make me assume the incorrect factor.” I by no means need to see your face once more. Don’t let the solar set on you in Tulsa.

I’m knowledgeable author. I’ve been getting paid to fulminate about music for greater than 20 years. That is what I do; it’s my vocation. And but I lack the vocabulary to correctly convey the revulsion that I really feel for that type of cutesy-wootsy look-at-me trainer’s-pet lyrical horseplay. At one level on the tune, Ed Robertson factors out that “Bert Kaempfert’s received the mad hits.” I assumed that sounded silly earlier than I’d ever heard of Kaempfert, the German bandleader who’s appeared on this column. I hate it simply as a lot now that I do know who that’s. There’s a little bit horn-squeak after that line, and in his Stereogum interview, Robertson says that the horn-squeak sampled from a Kaempfert file. In concept, that’s a enjoyable little easter egg. Within the context of this tune, it resonates as another piece of pointless trivial flexing. It’s like: Nice. You already know who all these individuals are. Go full a Sunday crossword puzzle, and kindly cease bothering me. Perhaps that’s not truthful, however it’s additionally not truthful that I needed to hear “One Week” eleventy billion occasions.

If I attempt to take away my very own innate disgust from the equation, I can concede that there are issues about “One Week” that work. There’s an efficient guitar crunch on the refrain, and Ed Robertson and Steven Web page, who principally sings the refrain, get in some good harmonies. The tune has power, and I usually favor songs with power to these with out. I suppose it’s spectacular, on some base degree, that Robertson reels off so many phrases so shortly, although he does it with no sense of swing or syncopation in his supply. I just like the satan ladies within the video. The tune additionally has a catchy hook. I don’t need to overlook a catchy hook. However even enterprise the psychological train of in search of good issues in “One Week,” my soul is screaming at me. Within the deepest a part of my being, I hear this fucker speaking about “vanilla, it’s the best of the flavors,” and I need to spit.

When Ed Robertson wrote “One Week,” he didn’t assume that he had a success on his arms. In his Stereogum interview, Robertson talks about his personal bemusement with the entire phenomenon:

It’s such a bizarre tune, proper? I assumed it will be a bonus monitor or a B-side. It was one of many final songs I submitted to the file firm and when Sue Drew, who was our A&R particular person on the time, mentioned, “We wanna lead with ‘One Week’” I really thought she was joking. I assumed she was making a dig at me, like that is the stupidest fucking tune I ever heard. Which I might’ve agreed with. I labored over so many songs on that file, and tried to make them, you already know, tremendous deep and significant and soulful and tried to nail them emotionally, after which this completely ridiculous tune that I improvised, that is mindless in any respect, goes to #1.

What a captivating man, proper? What a wholesome approach to have a look at your band’s freak success! No. Cease. You’re falling into his entice. Keep in mind: This man wrote “One Week.”

In a Guardian piece final yr, Sue Drew affirms that she beloved “One Week” straight away and that she pushed for it to be a single, despite the fact that the opposite folks at Reprise didn’t see it. When “One Week” did nicely sufficient at various radio, although, it received pushed to pop stations. “One Week” got here out as a business single in September of 1998, two months after Barenaked Women launched the Stunt album. By that time, the LP was already platinum. “One Week” debuted at #3 on the Sizzling 100. Two weeks later, it was the most important tune in America. (Within the band’s personal Canada, it by no means received previous #3.)

MTV is liable for a few of that success. The brilliant, cartoonish “One Week” video got here from McG, the director who would go on to helm the Charlie’s Angels motion pictures and Terminator Salvation. McG had been high-school buds with Mark McGrath, and he’d produced the primary Sugar Ray album. He then went on to a profitable profession directing movies for all of what I’m calling the bowling-shirt bands. These wacky, snarked-out joke-rap dickheads who took up approach an excessive amount of MTV airspace within the late ’90s? McG had a hand in all of them. McG directed Smash Mouth’s “All Star” video. (“All Star” peaked at #4, and it’s a 2.) He directed the Offspring’s video for “Fairly Fly (For A White Man).” (That one peaked at #53, which suggests I don’t must assign a numerical worth for the way a lot I hate it.) McG has rather a lot to reply for.

“One Week” was a one-off for the Barenaked Women. I don’t like that band’s common music, however they a minimum of deserve credit score for not making an attempt to remake their hit a bunch of occasions. BNL haven’t been again within the high 10 since “One Week.” Stunt went quadruple platinum, however the band’s follow-up single “It’s All Been Performed” peaked at #44. However Barenaked Women remained a presence on the charts for a very long time. Two years after “One Week,” they made it to #15 with “Pinch Me,” the lead single from their follow-up album Maroon. The band nonetheless had sufficient juice to make the Sizzling 100 as late as 2010, when their tune “You Run Away” peaked at #96. The band additionally wrote and recorded the theme tune for The Large Bang Concept, which presumably means they’re wealthy perpetually.

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The Barenaked Women have executed a complete lot of issues after “One Week” had its one week at #1. (Don’t you dare — don’t you even fucking dare — make a joke about “One Week” being #1 for one week. That’s what they need.) Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn was identified with leukemia across the similar time that the tune took off, and he ultimately made a full restoration. The band needed to tour with out him, and so they changed him with Greg Kurstin, a producer whose work will ultimately seem on this column, and Chris Brown — the Canadian singer-songwriter, not the man who may also present up within the column. The Barenaked Women made TV-show cameos. They toured closely. They left Reprise and went impartial. Ed Robertson as soon as crashed a single-engine airplane and walked away unhurt. Steven Web page received arrested for cocaine possession, perhaps the least dorky factor in the entire Barenaked Women saga, and he left the band quickly after. They saved going with out him, and he’s rejoined them on particular events, although he’s additionally gotten into authorized battles with Robertson. Barenaked Women are nonetheless round, and so they simply put out an album final yr. You’ll have to inform me if it’s any good. I’ll by no means discover out.

With a freak hit like “One Week,” it’s a little bit over-dramatic to assign bigger cultural that means. However that’s a human factor to do, and I’m human, so fuck it. In my thoughts, “One Week” reaching #1 is a kind of moments when issues simply went incorrect, when the dorks took over. I’ve most likely, at numerous factors, referred to myself as a dork. However there’s a specific type of dorkitude that I’m speaking about right here. I’m not speaking about being bookish, or getting approach too captivated with one thing that different folks take into account trivial. I’m speaking a few form of above-it-all self-satisfied factor. Guys like which are in all places now. They’re operating the world.

The three guys who’re continually competing to be the richest man on the planet? All fucking dorks. They anticipate us to like them for it, too. I didn’t just like the shadowy ratfuckers who ran the planet earlier than these guys, however they a minimum of had the decency to be shadowy ratfuckers. They didn’t care if folks admired them. For those who went again in time 30 years and advised 12-year-old me that one of many richest guys on the planet can be somebody who discovered learn how to promote electrical automobiles in America and who’s making an attempt to place folks on Mars, I’d assume that man sounded fairly cool. However he’s not cool. He’s a fucking dork. A fucking dork who thinks he’s cool. The type of fucking dork who’s begging for approval whereas telling you to purchase crypto and speaking about how unions need to damage the American financial system. The worst type of fucking dork.

Look: I do know it’s not the fault of the Barenaked Women or “One Week” that we now must take care of all these fucking dorks. However the Barenaked Women usually are not innocent. “One Week” was a tiny cultural contributor to the good dork takeover, and that may be cause sufficient to hate it even when the tune was good. However the tune isn’t any good in any respect. In concept, it’s cool {that a} cult-favorite band scored this out-of-nowhere hit after which went proper again to being a cult-favorite band. In concept, it’s cool that Ed Robertson nonetheless looks as if a pleasant and regular particular person. In follow, fuck him, fuck his band, and fuck his tune.

GRADE: 1/10

BONUS BEATS: Right here’s “Bizarre Al” Yankovic’s 1999 “One Week” parody “Jerry Springer,” an ode to the person who impressed “The Boy Is Mine“:

(“Bizarre Al” Yankovic, I really feel compelled to argue, isn’t a dork, a minimum of in the way in which that I’m nebulously defining it. His highest-charting single, 2006’s “White & Nerdy,” peaked at #9. It’s a 7.)

BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy dancing to “One Week” on the finish of the 2000 cinematic landmark American Pie:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s “One Week” soundtracking a montage in 2000’s Digimon: The Film:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: This isn’t particularly “One Week”-related, however there’s an especially humorous scene on a 2011 Neighborhood episode the place Joel McHale takes a stray shot on the Barenaked Women, and the remainder of the present’s forged angrily jumps to the band’s protection, citing obscure Wikipedia accomplishments. I’ve a sense that at this time’s feedback part goes to look one thing like that. Right here it’s:

(Donald Glover will ultimately seem on this column.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s the wonderful bit from a 2021 episode of What We Do In The Shadows the place Kayvan Novak’s Nandor The Relentless joins a cult of vampires that tries to behave human, which they specific by ripping out their fangs, doing aerobics, and singing together with “One Week”:

The Quantity Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal The Historical past Of Pop Music is out 11/15 through Hachette Books. You’ll be able to pre-order it right here.