Many songwriters are destined to fade into musical obscurity without ever duplicating the success of their first-born hit. Can you picture someone like Jimmy Ray (who wants to know?) managing his local coffee joint, making latte art instead of music, and occasionally being subjected to hearing his own voice rain down like tears from a ’90s mega-mix on Songza? The dude from Stereos is probably itching for a chance to throw down acoustic at the same coffee shop’s open mic night, just to prove to everyone that he can sing without auto-tune, but goddamn, nobody seems to even remember who he is.
Fortunately, it’s not all depressing news for these fluke hitmakers. There are some one hit wonders who’ve managed to churn out a few additional chart toppers, if only by becoming songwriters for hire, and writing and/or producing for other artists. Here are five pop songwriters and producers who were one trick ponies with their bands in the ’90s.
Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes)
Linda Perry spent a couple of years in the ’90s as the singer and primary songwriter for California’s 4 Non Blondes, and probably still has to put up with people yelling “HEY LINDA, WHAT’S GOING ON?” at her from moving vehicles. After “What’s Up?” tore up the charts, Linda left to pursue a solo career, founded two record labels, and became one of the most sought after songwriters in popular music. That’s what’s going on.
Noteworthy songwriting credits: “Get The Party Started” (Pink), “What You Waiting For?” (Gwen Stefani), “Beautiful” (Christina Aguilera)
Greg Kurstin (Geggy Tah)
Greg Kurstin is a co-founder of the weirdo alt-rock band Geggy Tah, whose first record was released in 1994 on David Byrne’s label. Grand Opening spawned the hit single “Whoever You Are,” which peaked at #16 on Billboard’s alternative songs chart. After becoming a producer and songwriter, Greg Kurstin lent his talents as a multi-instrumentalist to albums by Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Flaming Lips. Kurstin then solidified himself as a pop producer with the success of Lily Allen’s It’s Not Me, It’s You, and now he makes really, really good Tegan & Sara albums.
Noteworthy songwriting credits: “Not Fair” (Lily Allen), “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” (Pink), “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson)
Dan Wilson (Semisonic)
Semisonic’s lone hit and last call anthem “Closing Time” is as ubiquitous as any ’90s alt-rock jam gets, but the song he co-wrote with Adele is even more universally-known. “Someone Like You” has sold over 3.9 million downloads, netting Wilson a tasty $882,700 in royalties.
Noteworthy songwriting credits: “Not Ready to Make Nice” (Dixie Chicks), “Treacherous” (Taylor Swift), “Someone Like You” (Adele)
Butch Walker (Marvelous 3)
After disbanding glam metal outfit SouthGang in the mid nineties, Butch Walker formed a power-pop band called Marvelous 3 with two other former band members. “Freak Of The Week” would be Marvelous 3′s only charting single, and though it reached #5 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs charts, the band was riding the alt-rock wave after it’d already crested. Soon, Butch Walker started producing and songwriting for spiky-haired pop punks like SR-71 and Bowling For Soup, and later, The Mall-Punk Queen of Hearts, Napanee native Avril Lavigne. Producing is Butch Walker’s bread and butter, but his co-writing with Avril Lavigne has earned him some Billboard shine, with “My Happy Ending” reaching the summit of Billboard’s US Pop Songs chart.
Noteworthy songwriting credits: “The Girl All The Bad Guys Want” (Bowling For Soup), “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” (Weezer), “My Happy Ending” (Avril Lavigne)
Gregg Alexander (New Radicals)
Remember when this dude singled out Beck and Hanson for doing photoshoots, called Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson “fakes,” and threatened to go to their mansions and kick their asses in? Yeah, well he went on to write songs for Hanson (!!!), two different Spice Girls, S-Club 7, Boyzone, Enrique Iglesias and the guy who lost to Kelly Clarkson on the first season of American Idol.
Noteworthy songwriting credits: “Everybody Get Pumped” (S-Club 7), “Love is a Hurricane” (Boyzone), “The Game Of Love” (Michelle Branch & Santana)