100 & Single: LMFAO's Pair Of Chart-Toppers Suggest Stardom, Guarantee Nothing


Fine Young Cannibals, "She Drives Me Crazy"

FLASHES IN THE PAN
Men at Work (1982-83): "Who Can It Be Now?" "Down Under"
Mr. Mister (1985-86): "Broken Wings," "Kyrie"
Rick Astley (1988): "Never Gonna Give You Up," "Together Forever"
Fine Young Cannibals (1989): "She Drives Me Crazy," "Good Thing"
Wilson Phillips (1990): "Hold On," "Release Me"
Ashanti (2002): "Always on Time" (Ja Rule feat. Ashanti), "Foolish"

Each of the above six acts was hot for about a year or two after its pair of chart-toppers. By year three, they either dropped flop follow-ups or, in the case of the Cannibals, disappeared from pop music altogether.

Man, the '80s—has any decade produced a greater array of candy-colored, short-lived pseudo-stars? Let's add 1990's Wilson Phillips to that list of '80s short-termers, since they broke through a year before Nirvana came along and Changed Everything.

(If we wanted, we could make the '80s list even longer by including Starship—the version of the band that had to drop the "Jefferson" from its name and immediately scored three No. 1's in that schlocky incarnation—but since Grace Slick continued with the group, it's hard to call their 1985 explosion a breakthrough by newbies.)

In any case, the larger point is this: If you think our pop stars are short-lived now, remember that the Reagan years were full of MTV-fueled acts that saw dizzying heights before plummeting due to ever-changing cultural whims. Men at Work, Mr. Mister and Rick Astley all managed followup Top 10 hits but were locked out less than 18 months later. Wilson Phillips actually mined their quintuple-platinum debut album for another Top Five ("Impulsive," probably their best hit) and another No. 1 ("You're in Love") before releasing a surprisingly weak followup and calling it quits.

The seeming outlier here is 2002 It Girl Ashanti, who perhaps shouldn't count because her first No. 1 was actually a supporting role on a Ja Rule chart-topper. But her career trajectory—total radio omnipresence, two No. 1 albums in 2002-03, radio indifference after 2004—looks an awful lot like the '80s short-termers.

The only thing separating these half-dozen acts from the moderately more successful acts in the Pop Purgatory category seems to be versatility, or a lack thereof. All six did one sound really well—Mr. Mister's shimmery inspirational pop, Astley's caffeinated ersatz-soul, Wilson Phillips' gooey anthems—and not much else. If even KC and the Sunshine Band could score with a ballad, surely Men at Work could have found another register to keep their career going.

Odds LMFAO will wind up in this career category: Two in three. The LMFAO boys have scored two hits which, Astley-style, are definitely cut from the same cloth. To be fair, so were the Beatles' first two hits, and the Jacksons'—but boy, did those acts evolve from there. The current Hot 100 is awash in club beats, which is only going to encourage Redfoo and SkyBlu to keep going to that well. But if they've got, I dunno, a catchy acoustic number or a delicate ballad in them, I'd get that teed up within the next year if they want to still be hanging around the Top 10 in 2013.

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