Taher Shah (left) and Keith Meisner, who have both become YouTube hits
Let me introduce myself. They call me SS, which is short for Seasonal Sensation. I’m not a fruit, flower or fashion fad as many of you may think, but a singer who’s made a mark with only one hit. A one-song wonder.
I change my name regularly, using that of the artiste who’s behind the hit. I’ve existed for years, but currently I’m in the news for two reasons.
The first one is in the form of British amateur singer Keith Meisner, who performed this song ‘Under the lights’ as a tribute to tennis star Andy Murray. He created it some time last year. And luckily for him, Murray won this year’s Wimbledon, and the song became an overnight YouTube hit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the singer had blared the song repeatedly in opponent Novak Djokovic’s ears just before the final. No wonder he couldn’t hear the referee.
My second avatar comes in the form of Pakistani singer Taher Shah. In April, this businessman-cum-chief executive-cum-singer-cum-composer-cum-lyricist-cum-writer-cum-model-cum-actor-cum-producer-cum-director-cum-white suit ambassador-cum-hairstyle trendsetter (I think I forgot something) released an English song called ‘Eye to eye’. It became a viral sensation in June. The media hailed him as a ‘sensation’ and ‘musical genius’. Yippee! Once again, I became famous. What’s interesting is that Taher says he took some 15 years to write lines like “Substantial love is heaven for precise eyes. Spectacular eyes, our eyes, my eyes and your eyes, eye to eye, eye to eye.” Eye, eye, yo!
I’m sure you folks are getting the drift of how I function. Every few months, I appear in the mind, body and soul of some wannabe singer. I appear as a hit song, and make sure it is a rage for a few months. I see how the egos of these singers get inflated suddenly, and that’s when I step in again. Quickly, I ensure this singer’s next song is a commercial disaster, and that he or she is forgotten forever, so that I reappear in the form of another target. He becomes rich and famous, and suddenly disappears. So on and so forth. I’ve been doing this for years.
I don’t know when I began this job of mine. I’ve become old and my memory fails me. But what I can assure you is that I’ve been equally prolific in Indian music and international music. I know where and when the grass is greener.
My earliest memory would probably be the music group Archies, who are known for only one song — the 1969 hit ‘Sugar Sugar’. Closer home, I came in the shape of Vijay Benedict in ‘I am a disco dancer’, Pakistani singer Hasan Jehangir in ‘Hawa hawa’, Altaf Raja in ‘Tum toh thehre pardesi’, Sapna Awasthi in ‘Chaiyya chaiyya’, and barely two years ago, in Dhanush in ‘Why this kolaveri di’. Why? Why? Why?
There were also Sapna Mukherjee’s ‘Tridev’ song ‘Oye Oye’ and Baba Sehgal’s ‘Thanda thanda paani’, and though both these singers would send out a long bio-data of 20 other projects they’ve done, you and me know that these were their only hits, and that Baba had lifted it from another one-song wonder – Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice ice baby’.
Abroad, I’ve appeared as frequently as possible. To cite just a few examples, there were Carl Douglas’s ‘Kung fu fighting’, Lipps Inc’s ‘Funky town’, Anita Ward’s ‘Ring my bell’, the Buggles’ ‘Video killed the radio star’, Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted love’, Patrick Hernandes’ ‘Born to be alive’, Survivor’s ‘Eye of the tiger’, Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No 5’, Los Del Rio’s ‘Macarena’, Chumbawamba’s ‘Tubthumping’, Billy Ray Cyrus’s ‘Achy breaky heart’, Rednex’s ‘Cotton eyed Joe’ and Baha Men’s ‘Who let the dogs out?’. I haven’t spared the Koreans either, as I let PSY have one worldwide hit in ‘Gangnam style’, before he released the utterly forgettable and Seoul-less ‘Gentleman’.
I could go on and on, and write an encyclopaedia. But which publisher in his right senses will publish a book on one-song wonders? My talent in books is nothing in comparison to my talent in music, and I denitely don’t want to be remembered as a one-book wonder. So, based on my experiences, I would like to share a few things in the next few paragraphs.
To begin with, how do I choose my latest avatar? Honestly, that is a mystery to me. I myself have been unable to fathom why some absolutely silly songs like ‘Tubthumping’, ‘Who let the dogs out?’, ‘Tum toh thehre pardesi’ and ‘Kolaveri di’ could become such a huge craze. It may have something to do with the mood of the moment. And obviously, it also has something to do with the people who like such songs. I wish I could call them dumb and tasteless, but then, it’s because of them that I keep going. So I’ll insist they are smart and cultured.
Secondly, some of these songs are actually very listenable. ‘Eye of the tiger’ is one of the classic rock songs, ‘Macarena’ is still a rage when played on the dance floor, and ‘I am a disco dancer’ still attracts both ordinary people and composer Bappi Lahiri fans. What’s surprising is that the singers of these songs didn’t have the acumen to release even one more song which matched even closely. It must have been a fluke, it must have been luck, or a combination of both. Sorry, this is a family blog, so I dare not think of any word combining ‘fluke’ and ‘luck’.
Third and most important, once a song is super-successful, most singers will just tend to repeat the formula in their next few songs. And this is where they fumble. I know that this will invariably fail, but as I am looking at a new avatar myself, I encourage them to keep repeating the same thing till the listeners dismiss them forever. How wicked of me!
Whatever the reason for their limited success, I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s great fun watching most of these musicians the moment they get their first hit. They think they have conquered the world, and that they have become true legends. Ha ha! Wish they understood that one has to release hits regularly, and not once in a lifetime. The worst thing for any singer is to be tagged with a single song, though honestly, these people are better off than those who haven’t had a single hit at all. And I’ll be polite enough not to take the names of so many hitless singers who tried to sing Indi-paap in the late 90s.
At this stage, I am obviously wondering who my next apparition will be. For me, life has become so much easier with YouTube and all this free downloading that I am taking the examples of ‘Kolaveri di’, ‘Gangnam style’, ‘Under the lights’ and ‘Eye to eye’ to rework my long-term strategy. I’ve already made a beginning by hiring people to click the same video link from morning to evening for days and weeks so that it increases the number of views. Nothing like creating hype, false or otherwise. But with the music scenario changing so fast, I need to think of something more innovative.
My only relief is that Taher took 15 years to write ‘Eye to eye’. The moment I dump him and move on to my next target, I don’t have to worry about him singing another song for another 15 years. As for Meisner, going by past record, he may have to wait another 77 years for the next Britisher to win Wimbledon and inspire him to do another song. He may be gone by then, but I’ll definitely be around. Till my next seasonal hit, adieu!