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Friday, October 11, 2002


I'm letting you down, dear readers. Work has gotten to me.

Heck, I've found out recently I have readers I don't even know. They want to know what I think about the Maryland gubernatorial campaign, John Stuart Mill, and Doug Forrester's web domains. I promise I will get to these and other issues someday.

But first, Brian posited an interesting pop culture quandry:
What is the most inexplicable hit song in history?

By hit song, I'm going to be a bit subjective. For it to qualify.. it should have been a high-charting single, a driving force behind sales of a big-selling album, or it should have gotten a good deal of radio exposure, either at the time of its release or at the present.

Things that make a hit explicable for purposes of this discussion:
1. Acknowledged quality. If it's a near-universally recognized classic of music, ir even of its genre, it can't be inexplicable. (This isn't a "most inexplicable genre" debate.)
2. Pop Charms. If it's got a good hook, killer riff, or catchy chorus, no matter how vapid the song is, it's hit status is explicable.
3. Fads and Trends. If it spawned a dance craze (e.g. "Macarena") or was part of a larger musical trend, it's explicable. Therefore, even the worst disco song (my choice would be "It's Raining Men") is explicable. I also consider "Achy Breaky Heart" part of the "hot country" trend of the early 90s, in addition to spawning that ridiculous dance. Otherwise I think we'd have a contender.
4. Fame of the artist. Yes, the Rolling Stones' "Emotional Rescue" sucks pond water. If a no-name band took this up the charts, it'd be a contender. This applies equally to songs that suck by famous people not primarily famous for making music, so stuff like Eddie Murphy's "Party All The Time," no matter how awful, can be explained that way.
5. Cover version. We will probably have a "Worst Cover Version" discussion at some point. This is not the time for it. Besides, on the theory that if pop fans bought it once, they'll buy it again, it's not hard to explain why it's easier to sell the public on a song if they've already heard it before. (Note that this rule only applies in the case where the original was also a well-known hit; covers of obscure songs can still be inexplicable.)
6. Novelty. This is a tricky one. If it was designed primarily to make someone laugh, it doesn't count. This is mostly because it's not nearly as interesting to argue over the worst novelty song as it is to argue over the worst song pop fans bought because they actually liked it as a song. For our purposes, "Because I Got High," anything heard on "Dr. Demento," and anything by Weird Al is ineligible.

Go to town, dear readers. I'll weigh in this weekend.


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