Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Hit Wonder Or One Hit Blunder

Today's Subject: "Stay" by Shakespears Sister

Some one hit wonders are such due to an amazing hook, musical or lyrical. Some one hit wonders are such because they were just right song at the right time or accidentally played. Finally, some one hit wonders are created due to just being a good, albeit strange, song with a very memorable video. This is one of those cases.

"Stay" is a very, very strange song about comas...I think. More to the point, it is about a person who will follow their lover no matter where they go. So it, then, is about love, devotion, comas and making it "back to your own world."

The great thing about this song is that, despite being almost 20 years old, it does not sound dated even with the sparse electronic touches and the backing choir during the chorus. Otherwise, until the bridge, the song is mainly vocals and, maybe, a synthesizer. It is that gentleness that makes the bridge really awesome as well as what spooked me when I was 11 but more on that later. The change in sound gives the song a different tone and dynamic which helps move the song forward.

The song is essentially another love song in the grand sea of love songs. In that sense, there is nothing new about the song lyrically. The song, however, is a plea for a lover to stay to alive as well as a voice from the subconscious world saying to the unconscious lover that if you do not wake up, you are stuck here. It is sweet in a dark sort of way.

The video is really why the song is known. When I was 11, I was disturbed by the bridge of this song and had no clue what was going on. It starts off normal and then there is a ghoulish woman (Siobhan Fahey of Bananrama) singing and moving about in a sparkled outfit. It is like some unholy union between Liberace and Nina Hagen with a extra creepiness that can only scare children. The video, as a whole, does not seem as dated as one would expect but there is a definite sense that it was made at some point in the 90's. That could be due to the lighting, the creative nature of it or just the fact that music videos, to a degree, have suffered in the last 10 years.

The funniest thing about the song is that you rarely hear the song despite charting as high as No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1992 and going gold. Granted, it is not a particularly catchy song nor is it a novelty song but it is a song that has held up pretty well 18 years later. Maybe in the U.K., where the band is from, it probably still receives the occasional rotation but in the U.S., you will hear the single usually when VH1 is showing some sort of one hit wonder show and that might be the only time.

Does not sound dated.
Memorable video.
Kind of a brilliant song in terms of dynamic in conjunction to the lyrics.
Top 10 hit in 10 countries.
Video won awards in the U.K.
Top 10 hit despite not being catchy in a time of dance songs and songs about butts.
The bridge is sung by a former member of Bananarama (who, also, was a member of the group).

The video frightened me as a kid.
Rarely, if ever, played past 1992.
Not very catchy or hook filled for a one hit wonder.

The 11-year-old me found the song boring and a way to pass time until I saw "Baby Got Back" or a glimpse of Karyn Bryant or Duffy on MTV. The much older me really likes song and considers it to be a strange, but interestingly cool, one hit wonder. Even as a love song, I am still not sure how this song really connected to people in 1992. Were all the adults in comas? Were there sparkle suits involved? Either way, the song has held up very well and better than most songs from the early 90's. "Gypsy Woman," I am looking pointing at you. Also, it helps that I am no longer freaked out by the video which is good.


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