Absolutely (Story of a Girl)

OHW Absolutely by krin.jpg

Date Aired
May 9th, 2014
Running Time
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Todd plays "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" on the piano.

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: [singing] This is...

Video for "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)"

Todd (VO): ...the story of a band
Whose career didn't go as they planned
But though they never had a second hit

Todd: We absolutely love them
For one song

Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we cover bands and artists known for only one song. Usually when you say, "one-hit wonder," you'll think of...

Brief clip of Right Said Fred - "I'm Too Sexy"

Todd (VO): ...weird novelty one-offs that stand out sharply against the trends of the time. But sometimes a one-hit wonder...

Todd: ...is just an act with one hit, nothing weird about it. And it's hard to imagine a band more stupefyingly normal than this one.

Nine Days: This is the story of a girl
Who cried a river and drowned the whole world

Todd (VO): The song was "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" by the band Nine Days, which is about four days longer than they were famous.

Todd: Which is understandable because this is a boring band.

Todd (VO): A boring band made up of boring people who made boring music. And their only hit, "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" is a boring song with absolutely nothing worth discussing about it. Not the lyrics, not the music, not the singing. It's basically a terrible, unimpressive piece of garbage.

Todd: Matter of fact, just about the only interesting thing about it is that it may be the greatest song of all time.

Todd (VO); An absurdly perfect instant classic that more respectable power-pop acts like Fountains of Wayne or Teenage Fanclub would kill to say they wrote.

Todd: Yeah, I'm a little torn on this one, if you can't tell.

Todd (VO): It's trite, it's cheesy, it's lamer than lame.

Todd: And yet there's something about it, isn't there?

John Hampson: You never seem to run out of things to say
Nine Days: This is...

Todd (VO): And despite having basically no identifying features, it's also very much of its time—a song that could only have been big in 1998.

Todd: The fact that it's actually from the year 2000 is just something I'm going to ignore.

Todd (VO): And I can't say that I'm all that surprised that Nine Days never became a particularly successful band. "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" is the epitome of a song that gets big, and yet completely fails to make anyone interested in the band. I don't even think their moms ever listened to another song by them.

Todd: Okay, so, you know, that's our song for the week. "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)". What a title. "Absolutely". This band isn't absolutely anything.

John: And your hair never falls in quite the same way
You never seem to run out of things to say

Before the hit

Pictures of band

Todd (VO): Nine Days has the pretty standard "before the hit" story, which should come as no surprise because Nine Days is a band...

Todd: ...with no surprises in them.

Todd (VO): They come from Long Island, formed in '94; they had two lead singers, John Hampson and Brian Desveaux, [picture of...] like the Goo Goo Dolls—a band that also originally had two lead singers—it turned out that one of them had a lot prettier sounding voice, so he kind of became the default singer.

Todd: Or, you know, they would have if they'd been more successful.

Todd (VO): The word I would use to describe Nine Days is competent. They are highly competent.

Todd: Not "absolutely" competent, but...you know, competent.

Live performance

Todd (VO): They're exactly the kind of local band that got a record deal and became local legends in their hometown, but no one outside there knows them.

Todd: In my hometown, that band is [picture of...] Carbon Leaf, for the record. They had three self-released albums, [album cover of Three] which you can find online. Yeah, pretty standard—the everyband for the everyman. They're basically [clip of...] Mouse Rat from Parks and Recreation.

Todd (VO): And since these albums were recorded in the 90s, their stuff sounds like it could play in the background of Party of Five.

Todd: That said, listening to this, I can see why they got signed.

Todd (VO): Now if you listen, you can hear the more interesting, rootsier, Counting Crows-type band they were trying to be.

Todd: And I like Counting Crows, so shut up.

Todd (VO): And they were by no means edgy in any way whatsoever, but this is still in deep contrast to their sound after the record label got their dirty little hands on them and turned them into one of the few rock bands that could be outrocked by [picture of...] Hanson.

Todd: And also, John Hampson had a girlfriend, they had a minor argument, and he noticed that she drove him crazy, but he still loved seeing her happy, so he wrote his only hit about her. It took him, like, ten minutes, which...yeah, sounds about right.

The big hit

Video for "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)"
John: This is the story of a girl

Todd (VO): "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" starts with the hook, which is a damn good move. This is a killer chorus, one that instantly lodges in your head.

Todd: It's also a chorus that promises a lot more than the song delivers. For one, it promises a story.

Nine Days: This is the story of a girl
Who cried a river and drowned the whole world

Todd (VO): A damn interesting story, too, about a girl whose sadness was so great that all of the world was destroyed by it. That is, like, some Greek myth, biblical proportion imagery there.

Todd: But that is, of course, not what the song is about. This song is not telling the story of a girl who killed everyone with her tears of unfathomable sadness. I'm not even sure, beyond the chorus, that it's about much of anything.

John: Your clothes never wear as well the next day
And your hair never falls in quite the same way
But you never seem to run out of...

Todd: What does that mean?

Todd (VO): What does the fact that she talks a lot and her hair and clothes change from day to day have to do with anything? How did we go from [painting of...] world-destroying flood to...

Todd: ...shoes and hair? What hap...what about the flood of tears, dammit?!

Todd (VO): Also, congrats on naming your song after a random adverb in the chorus.

Nine Days: I absolutely love her

Todd (VO): It's just a cliche-ridden song about a girl, and I like her, and a lot of the time, she's not happy, but when she is...

Todd: ...she turns the world on with her smile, takes a nothing day and suddenly makes it all seem worthwhile. Aww. [fingers in mouth]

Todd (VO): The first lines rhyme "girl" with "world." That's, like, the definition of cheesy-bad songwriting. I despise this song, it repulses me.

Todd: And yet...I don't know.

Clip of The Romantics - "What I Like About You"

Todd (VO): The only song I can think of to compare it to is "What I Like About You".

Romantics: Hey!

Todd (VO): "What I Like About You" is not a lyrical masterpiece, by any means, but there will never, ever be a song that perfect again—so instantly primal, it seems like it was there at the dawn of time.

"Story of a Girl" is not as good as that, mostly because none of them have nearly the same energy. But it seems to have tapped into something like that regardless. Whatever is good about it, and I'd argue that there's a lot, it all has the stink of accidental genius.

Todd: Like, "I was just screwing around and I wrote an all-time classic pop song."

Todd (VO): And people have definitely tried to recreate what Nine Days does here. Just off the top of my head, in the past decade and a half, there was [montage of clips starting with "She's So High" by...] Tal Bachman.

Tal Bachman: 'Cause she's so high
..."Crazy for This Girl" by..."

Todd (VO): Evan and Jaron.

Evan and Jaron: Would you look at her
She looks at her
She's got me thinking about her constantly
..."Just the Girl" by...

Todd (VO): The Click Five.

Eric Dill: 'Cause she's bittersweet
She knocks me off of my feet
...and "Love Like Woe" by...

Todd (VO): The Ready Set.

The Ready Set (Jordan Witzigreuter): She's got a love like woe

Todd (VO): A billion other teenybopper bands that no one remembers, and I don't think a one of them has ever come close to "Story of a Girl".

And like I said, I do consider Nine Days a 90s band, and that's not just because the whole sound of their only hit imitates two of the biggest rock hits of the late 90s—[brief clips of Third Eye Blind's...] "Semi-Charmed Life" and "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies.

Todd: Minus the rapping about meth and Sailor Moon.

Todd (VO): But also because this song seems happy, and the late 90s were a happy time. [Clip of The Calling - "Wherever You Will Go"] Whereas even before the 2000s got really depressing, the sound of middle-of-the-road, mainstream VH1 rock got a lot more dour and sludgy. The big names of the early 2000s were, you know, Lifehouse, 3 Doors Down, Creed, Nickelback, Five for Fighting, Train.

Todd: All of whom I consider a massive selling-out of the genre that was not exactly hardcore to begin with.

Todd (VO): And while Nine Days is just as edgeless as those other bands, they got something to them that's just, you know, more upbeat, sharper, happier to listen to.

Todd: God, I love every loathsome, disgusting second of this piece of crap.

Guitar solo

Todd (VO): Oh, yeah, guitar solo.

Todd: Eat your heart out, Jimi Hendrix.

John: I absolutely love her
This is the story of a girl

Todd (VO): Well, this is getting repetitive. I've already sung this part eight times. I'm gonna have to amp it up a little.

Todd: What are we gonna do to really nail it home on that final chorus?

Nine Days: This is the story of a [very brief pause] girl

Todd: Oh, man! A one-second pause! Did you see that?!

Nine Days: Story of a [brief pause] girl

Todd (VO): Wow! I mean, we could've done, like, a dramatic key change or let loose with the vocals, but man! Goddamn, a slight pause in the first line.

Todd: We are the voice of a generation. How could anyone this creative not have a second hit?

The failed follow-up

Video for "If I Am"
John: So your standing on a ledge
It looks like you might fall.

Todd (VO): I read a music review once that said, "one good song can make an album, but one great one can kill it"; and that was the review of Fastball's [album cover of...] All the Pain Money Can Buy, which I think had several good songs besides "The Way". So I don't think that's fair to say there, but I'd definitely apply that to Nine Days.

Todd: "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" isn't a great song exactly, but it's certainly a career-killer. No one was interested in this band's other music, and to be honest, I have no idea why you all decided to watch this far into the review.

Todd (VO): But because you did, let's see that failed follow-up.

Nine Days: If I am
Another waste of everything you dreamed of

Todd (VO): This is "If I Am", which bounced up into the bottom half of the Hot 100 before dropping out of sight.

Todd: And, um... I'll be honest, this is even worse than I imagined it would be.

John: So your walking on the edge
And you wait your turn to fall.

Todd (VO): In fact, can I ask something? Are Nine Days...

Todd: ...religious perhaps? Because this sounds like Christian rock.

Todd (VO): This legitimately sounds like the hyper-wholesome excuse for rock music that I accidentally listen to while trying to find a good radio station on road trips. In fact, I can't help but notice the way their [single cover] logo has that lower-case letter at the beginning and no space between words. [Album covers of MercyMe - Coming Up to Breathe, SONICFLOOd - Cry Holy, and TobyMac] That's something Christian artists do.

Todd: Okay, this confirms.

Todd (VO): Nine Days went into the studio and basically had everything that might make them remotely distinctive scrubbed off of them, which is probably why the single cracked the Top 10, but [album cover of The Madding Crowd] album never reached the Top 50.

Todd: Which doesn't surprise me. Who would buy this? No wonder that album [Wikipedia page of Nine Days, showing albums and certifications] was only certified Gold. Wait, a Gold record, that's 500,000 copies.

Todd (VO): Seriously, half a million bought this? This?

Todd: Oh my God, we gave the record industry so much money back then. That wasn't even fifteen years ago. Christ, it's like I watched the fall of the Roman Empire.

Did they ever do anything else?

Todd: For most of the acts I cover on One Hit Wonderland, the question, "why didn't they have a second hit?" can be answered with one sentence: "their music was shitty, and that's all you need to know." But Nine Days, of all bands, actually had a setback they can point to, and that setback is the sad lament of pretty much every rock band big and small throughout history—screwed by the label.

Live performance

Todd (VO): And the sad thing is that, in interviews, they talk about how, for their second album, they wanted to put some edge back in their sound, and no one on the label got angry or demanded "Story of a Girl 2" or anything, but when they finished the album, the label decided, "nope," and didn't release it.

Todd: And for the record, this kind of thing happens all the time. Record industry people are dicks.

Clip from Metalocalypse - "Renovationklok"
Wilmore Unduntingiminen: They thrive on misleading, tricking and ensnaring. They're like feral animals, rabid dogs thinking only of what will benefit them in the moment.
Live performance

Todd (VO): That said, Nine Days did eventually get the rights to it and released it by themselves online, and having listened to it, I can't really say the record executives were...wrong exactly.

Todd: After that, the band broke up, and John Hampson went back to Long Island and became an English teacher.

Clip from Freedom Writers

Todd (VO): I have this glorious image in my head of doing that thing English teachers do where they try to teach poetry through pop song lyrics and, "oh, this is a song I happened to write. How about that?"

Todd: "Well anyway, let's analyze the advanced poetic techniques you hear."

Performance clip from TMZ

Todd (VO): Nine Days has since reunited and self-released some more albums, and they seem to have gone back to their Americana roots, which is probably the wise move.

Todd: Damn record labels ruin everything.

Did they deserve better?

Todd: Well, let me put it like this.

Todd (VO): [singing] This was the story of...

Todd: No. No, they didn't.

Todd (VO): Yeah, they weren't the worst thing ever, they had some potential, the label blanded them up and then screwed them over. But even with the harder rock sound they tried, they weren't any harder than Matchbox Twenty or anything.

Todd: These were not...

Todd (VO): ...unfairly ignored talents. The story of Nine Days could've been the story of a billion other bands. But it's the story of them specifically because of that one song.

Todd: That one awful, worthless, joyously wonderful song.

Gets up and leaves

John: When she smiles!

Closing Tag Song: Four Year Strong - "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)"

"Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" is owned by Epic Records
This video is owned by me

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