Dan the one-hit won­der steals thun­der from all the big names

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

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

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