Dan the one-hit wonder steals thunder from all the big names
If you were asked to guess the most played song in Ireland and the UK over the past five years, including radio, TV, websites and in live music venues, you’d probably go for U2’s Beautiful Day, maybe a Coldplay song, or perhaps a classic Beatles track.
Well, you’d be wrong and you’d be very surprised to find that you probably can’t even spell the name of the man who has had the most played song here and in the UK since 2003. Maybe less surprised that all the song really did for the person in question was to send him directly to rehab.
And the winner is . . . Daniel Powter’s Bad Day.
Previous to releasing the song in July of 2005, the thirtysomething Canadian was just another journeyman singersongwriter whose main intent was to write for other people and not for himself. Powter says he wrote Bad Day after his first brush with rehab.
“Drugs cost me eight years of my life” he says. “For years I was addicted to cocaine. I got into drugs in my mid-20s in a bid to be cool and accepted by the in-crowd. But I paid a terrible price. It got me by the balls and eventually I realised I was a drug addict and craving my next hit was ruling my life. I guess Bad Day was partly about the two years of hell I was going through.”
There is nothing specific in the song about drugs or drug addiction. If there were, it’s unlikely that it would be so ubiquitous. Druggy songs might get played on the radio but they’re rarely picked up by ad campaigns or used as TV montages – which is where Bad Day really scored high.
Unfairly, you could describe Bad Day as banally inoffensive; the day in question that Powter sings about isn’t even that bad. But there’s a simplicity to the melody line and the lyrics, which means it can double up as musical “wallpaper”. The song has certainly got around. In the US it struck gold when it used over an American Idol musical montage. Elsewhere, you would have heard it in adverts for Coca Cola and Right Guard, and it was covered by crooner Paul Anka.
That’s another clue to the song’s popularity: most anyone can cover it and come out sounding fairly good. There’s nothing in the song to make a mess of, and even if you do, the four-note melody will carry you through.
The songs that came behind Powter’s in the poll, by UK music royalty distributor the Performing Rights Society, are (in order) Because of You by Kelly Clarkson, You’re Beautiful by James Blunt, I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ by Scissor Sisters, and Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. All suffer slightly in that when you hear those songs you immediately know who’s singing them. Powter, on the other hand, is largely an anonymous figure. Bad Day can be projected onto anything or anyone with no real fear of it being unfavourably compared with the original.
Funnily enough (though perhaps not for Powter), the follow-up to Bad Day, a tepid affair called Free Loop, entered and dropped out of the singles chart while Bad Day held steady at No 2. That’s the only time in the history of recorded music this has ever happened. Unless any of you lot know better.
In a “careful what you wish for” situation, the massive success of Bad Day saw Powter leap off the wagon. “I wasn’t prepared for it,” he says. “I wasn’t ready to step into that limelight. I just wanted to write music for other people.”
Powter will never have as big a hit ever again. And the main reason for this is the huge disparity between the quality of Bad Day and most everything else he has written. But if Powter is dismissed as a One Hit Wonder, he can reply that he was at least a One Meganormous Hit Wonder.
A bad day provided some good times for Powter