Here It Goes Again
March 17, 2019
Todd plays "Here It Goes Again" on the piano.
OK GO - HERE IT GOES AGAIN
A one-hit retrospective
Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. Still doin' the requests, I got two to go. It'll have taken me a whole year to do these requests because I am not bright. (The word "DUMMY" with an arrow pointing at Todd flashes on screen.) I am not doing this again any time soon. And today's request is another one that falls into one of those gray zones (the words "ONE HIT WONDER" cover the screen) where we have to argue about how we define the word "hit" (a question mark appears following the word "hit", then the letters disappear), and the word "one" for that matter.
Video for Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out"
Todd (VO): Yeah, indie rock is one of those areas where the term just kinda... breaks down, because (Modest Mouse's "Float On") the bands in it tend to have deep, deep followings who know their work inside and out, even if you, the uneducated pleb, only know the one song.
Video for the Dropkick Murphys' "Shipping Up To Boston"
Todd (VO): Like, you tell a fan of the Dropkick Murphys that they're a One Hit Wonder and you will get your ass kicked. (Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta") Even that last episode I did, I got Harvey Danger fans all up in my business telling me to listen closer to those second and third albums.
Todd: And then there's the additional confusion where these bands' one hit tends not to be big through sales or airplay...
Video for Peter Björn and John's "Young Folks"
Todd (VO): ...they catch on through the blog-o-sphere, or... (iPod commercial featuring jagged garage rock song) commercials or (poster for the film "Drive") film soundtracks or other non-traditional means.
Todd: ...or memes, in this case.
Video for OK Go's "Here It Goes Again"
Todd briefly imitates the first pose struck in the video with his piano.
OK Go: Aw here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again, (no) oh, here it goes again
Todd (VO): By the technical definition, OK Go is completely and totally a One Hit Wonder. Here It Goes Again is their only song well-known by the general public, is their only song to crack the Top 40, nothing else of theirs has even come close...
Todd: ...I feel very comfortable calling them a One Hit Wonder. But boy, does that hit have a big asterisk next to it.
OK Go: Starts out easy, somethin' simple, somethin' sleazy...
Todd (VO): Here It Goes Again barely even exists as a song. It's a video first and foremost, the song is almost incidental. Their claim to fame is that one viral clip of the four of them dancing on treadmills, which became one of the first big hits on a little website called (YouTube logo) "YouTube". Giver of life. Destroyer of worlds.
Todd: Just think...
Todd (VO): Without OK Go, perhaps YouTube does not become the (collage of various YouTube videos) monopolistic overlord of video content. And I could by plying a more respectable trade like...
Todd: ...panhandling or, insurance fraud.
Todd (VO): Which raises the question: can you really be called a "One Hit Wonder" if your hit... wasn't really successful for being music? Is that how you're supposed to use that phrase?
Todd: For that matter, using that label to describe OK Go doesn't really take into account the band's (clips of various OK Go videos, starting with This Too Shall Pass) bizarre post-hit afterlife, by any measure one of the strangest and most singular careers in all of entertainment. There's basically no one who does what OK Go does. And all of it...
Todd (VO): ...predicated from a single take of them dancing in their garage.
Todd: ...What a weird band. But that's the request I got, and that's what we're gonna look at. OK? (claps) Go.
OK Go: Aw here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again, (no) oh here it goes again
Before the hit
Todd: I was into OK Go before they were big.
Video for "Get Over It"
Todd (VO, singing): Love stinks...
Todd (singing): Yeah, yeah!
OK Go: Hey!
Damian Kulash: Get, get, get, get, get over it
Todd (VO): Actually, this is their first hit, "Get Over It", the closest thing to a hit they have, except...
Todd: ...for, you know, the actual hit.
Todd (VO): It is not actually "Love Stinks", although they do have some pretty nice J. Geils Band organ going on in there. Does no one else remember this? 'Cause I do. I still think this is their best song, I listened to it a lot back in 2002.
Todd: But, yeah, they were one of the few bands I was into before they were big. It was them, [clip of "Feel It Still" by...] Portugal. The Man, [live clip of...] and M83, those were the only ones. I am not, and have never been, ahead of the curve, folks. Don't expect me to point you to the hot new thing. And I only knew OK Go 'cause my girlfriend in high school was really into them.
Video for "Don't Ask Me"
Damian: Quit acting so friendly
Todd (VO): God, they looked like such a different band on their first album. They don't have their primary colours or sharp suits yet.
Damian: Don't ask me
Todd (VO): They're a lot more guitar-heavy and power pop than they eventually became. They're like a 2000s indie garage-rock version of The Cars. Good stuff.
Todd: And "Get Over It" got some radio play, but it was their second album that really took off.
Video for "Do What You Want"
OK Go: Come on come on
Do what you want
Todd (VO): And by "took off", I mean "did not take off", at all. It went nowhere, at least at first. According to them, the label wasn't promoting them properly.
Clip of live performance of "Oh Lately It's So Quiet"
Todd (VO): But, yeah, none of these singles went anywhere. And, honestly, I get how that happened, there was a ton of great indie rock coming out at the time. I can see them getting lost in the shuffle. I myself kinda fell off them after that first album.
Todd: Also, full disclosure, around that time, me and my girlfriend broke up. And a lot of my memories with this band are kinda tied up with that relationship, so, uh, if I'm harsh on them, full disclosure, I might be kinda biased. Especially after she got mad at me that I didn't wanna stay friends and I quoted her favourite band at her.
Damian: Get, get, get, get, get over it
Todd: And then I never spoke to her again. And I expected never to think about this band again either. But, of course, that's not what happened.
Picture of OK Go
Todd (VO): 'Cause at that point they had already released the low-budget but highly choreographed single-take video that would spread like wildfire across the internet and...
Todd: ...change the course of their entire careers.
Video for "A Million Ways"
Todd (VO): I am of course talking about the video for their song "A Million Ways". Yeah, see, it turns out the singer's sister's a [picture of Trish Sie] choreographer, she's a big director now.
Todd: And she made up a little dance for them to do.
OK Go: You're a million ways to be cruel
Todd (VO): And I do remember this too. This one-take shot was a humongous viral smash on the...
Todd: ...internet video platform we know and love, [shot of logo for...] iFilm.
Todd (VO): And it racked up an amazing 300,000 views. Three hundred thousand.
Todd: That's right, a whopping 1/18th...
Clip from video: "Crushing bowling ball and pin with hydraulic press" by Hydraulic Press Channel
Todd (VO): ...of the views the hydraulic press guy gets for crushing bowling pins.
Video for "A Million Ways"
Todd (VO): Honestly, internet video was still kinda bad at the time, so that was huge numbers. And since this was the only traction that album had gotten, I guess...
Todd: ...they figured it worked once, let's do it again!
The big hit
Video for "Here It Goes Again"
Todd (VO): In 2006 OK Go released their video for "Here It Goes Again", this time to an even bigger new video site called YouTube.
Todd: And it blows up.
Todd (VO): Within a few years it had 50 million views. That's incredible. That's almost [clip of...] "Numa Numa Guy" numbers. It's up there with [clip of...] "History of Dance", [clip of...] "Daft Hands", and other artifacts [clip of Peanut Butter Jelly Time] of a simpler and better time before the internet turned evil and bad.
Todd: For what it's worth, yeah, I, I do think this is...
Todd (VO): ...a pretty great video. It's... impressive. They worked really hard on nailing those steps.
Todd: But it's great not in the way that...
Video for "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
Todd (VO): ...you know, most great music videos or [clip of "Sorry" by Justin Bieber] dance videos are great.
Todd: It's great 'cause it looks so shitty.
Todd (VO): It looks like it was filmed on worse equipment than I have, and my equipment is garbage. There's no lighting, or set dressing. It went viral for the same reason that [clip of school doing...] the mannequin challenge did or [clip of...] when a unit of troops does a lip dub of Lady Gaga. We wanna know that this is a bunch of regular, untrained people who are doing this for fun. [live clip of "Here It Goes Again"] And knowing that this is an actual popular band and not just a group of nobodies...
Todd: ...that actually makes it better!
Todd (VO): 'Cause presumably, they could be doing a better video with a real budget and they opted to do this instead. The choreography's impressive not 'cause the steps are difficult, it's not, and the band's coordination isn't great either...
Todd: It's impressive 'cause there's so much of it.
Todd (VO): I don't think there's a single repeated move. And they did it in one unbroken take. You're waiting for them to fall on their face the entire time...
Todd: ...and it never happens.
Todd (VO): And there's something punk rock about that, they did it without the knowledge of their label.
Todd: In fact, I do wonder if that's why the lip-syncing is being...
Todd (VO): ...done by their ugliest member, who is not their lead singer.
Todd: Their actual lead singer is, uh...
Todd (VO): [arrow points to guitarist Andy Ross] ...it's that one? I think? Hard to tell 'cause this video was shot in no-def.
Todd: I think they're intentionally trying to keep the focus on...
Todd (VO): ...Baldie over there to look even more amateur, 'cause that's the charm.
Todd: The funny thing is that hardly anyone ever talks about the actual song 'cause it's so...
Todd (VO): ...subordinate to the video. There's a sense that this could have been any song from the album and we'd be talking about that right now instead.
Todd: In fact, I found an article from shortly before this where they talked about having two singles loaded up.
Todd (VO): One was this, and...
Video for "Invincible"
Todd (VO): ...the other had an actual professional video. I wonder if this one got the real video 'cause they thought it was the better song? Or maybe they thought "Here...
Video for "Here It Goes Again"
...It Goes Again" was the better song, and they gave it the cheapo video 'cause they knew the internet well enough to know this is the video that'd take off.
Todd (VO): Either way, I think they made the right choice. This song is, uh...
Todd: ...it's actually pretty good.
Todd (VO): And treadmills are the right imagery because this song is nothing but energy and forward motion. It's great workout music if nothin' else.
Todd: I mean, we've all tried this at the gym, right? We put it on and we start dancing.
Shot of Todd at gym meekly walking on a treadmill while "Here It Goes Again" plays
Todd: Yeah, no, I'm not doing that, they're watching me. But I could if I wanted to.
Todd (VO): And that's basically really all it's about. It's just a burst of jagged indie-rock energy. You don't have to know what it's about...
Todd: ...in fact, I was surprised to discover that this is a breakup song.
"Tim": Now you leave me, yeah you leave me
Todd (VO): Or maybe not a breakup song exactly, or maybe it's a one-night stand song. Something about some girl jerking him around, jumping in and out of his life, and that's what is going here again, and...
Todd: ...I had no idea. I've, I've never even looked at the lyrics!
"Tim": Throw on your clothes, the second side of Surfer Rosa, and you leave me with my jaw on the floor
Todd: You know, I had a copy of [picture of CD of the Pixies'...] Surfer Rosa. Not on vinyl though, so I don't know how the second side would have started. Remind me, how would that have gone?
Live performance of "Where Is My Mind?" by Pixies
Kim Deal: Ooo-oooh
Black Francis: With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Todd (VO): Well, that's a very different song.
Todd: Not really a song to make you dance on treadmills. More of a song to watch buildings explode to. But I guess they're both about confusion, which, I guess that's a connection.
Video for "Here It Goes Again"
"Tim": Just when you think you're in control
Todd (VO): This girl gives him the "wham bam thank you, ma'am" and disappears, yeah, "Where Is My Mind?" That's gotta be a mindfuck.
Todd: That's gotta make you feel like you're...
Todd (VO): ...running as hard as you can but not getting anywhere, like, uh...
Todd: ...I don't know, like something.
"Tim": Throw on your clothes, the second side of Surfer Rosa, and...
Todd (VO): The Pixies reference is odd, 'cause the band does list the Pixies as one of their influences, but they're very different bands.
Todd: OK Go were way more tight and controlled.
Todd (VO): I think that's kinda why they never really caught on before the video, they were too polished. They strike me a little bit as trend-riders, they were Weezer-y in 2002 and Franz Ferdinand-y in '06.
Todd: This is a good song...
Clips of "Jerk It Out" by The Caesars and "C'mon C'mon" by The Von Bondies
Todd (VO): ...but there were many good songs by bands who had one radio hit and then cleared out.
Todd: "Here it goes again" indeed.
Video for "Here It Goes Again"
Todd (VO): In the end, they weren't crazy or weird enough to really sustain their success out of the world of viral videos.
Todd: So they didn't try!
The failed follow-up
Todd: So, "Here It Goes Again" becomes a huge hit.
Clip of OK Go doing the treadmill routine at the 2006 MTV Awards
Todd (VO): They do the dance live at the MTV Awards. They don't even play the song, they just dance. [clips of Granbury High School reenactment and Simpsons parody] They inspire legions of imitators. But it's a difficult one to follow up on because that album's done. That was the fifth and last single.
Todd: They can't take advantage 'til they write a whole new album.
Video for "WTF?"
Damian: There's just this thing about you
Todd (VO): And when they came back in 2010, they had an entirely different sound. They're trying to be a little funkier, more electronic, more with the sweeping synths like The Flaming Lips. But they did decide to stick with interesting videos as a promotional choice. And this one is kinda clever, but you...
Todd: ...probably remember the big video they released that year. The Rube Goldberg one.
Video for "This Too Shall Pass"
Todd (VO): If you ask me, this video is a gigantic shift in their approach to video-making. And for that matter, the entire culture of YouTube.
Todd: "Here It Goes Again" was a DIY production.
Todd (VO): This is extremely professional and extremely difficult and expensive to make. Ostensibly, it's the same idea, because it's a one-shot and it looks like it was very difficult to put together.
Todd: But the clear presence of a real budget, that... changes the feel of it a lot.
OK Go: When the morning comes
Todd (VO): And even though it got tons of views, it was not really a hit in the way that "Here It Goes Again" was a hit. For "Here It Goes Again", even though the video was what made it popular, you still knew the song.
Todd: That did not happen for the follow-up.
Todd (VO): Even on YouTube they helpfully label it "Rube Goldberg video" so you know what to look for.
Todd: Even just sitting here I couldn't tell you how it goes. It goes, uh...
Todd (VO, singing): Turn the crank and snap the plank and knock the ball in the rub-a-dub tub
Todd: I don't remember.
Todd (VO): One of the band members pointed out that viral videos don't really have the staying power they used to, they'll get all their views in the first week rather than spread out over months.
Todd: I guess that's true, but also I think this video's kinda just not as good.
Todd (VO): It's impressive, but it's not really memorable, you watch it once and you're done.
Todd: Of course, part of the reason it didn't take off maybe have been, their record label were morons.
Screenshot of article: "EMI blocks OK Go fans from embedding YouTube videos"
Todd (VO): EMI's policy was that you couldn't embed any of their YouTube videos.
Todd: You had to watch YouTube on YouTube.
Todd (VO): Which makes it hard to spread the video which is their entire marketing strategy. And after publicly begging the label to quit being idiots, [shot of Billboard cover: "OK Go Jumps Ship"] they managed to get out of their contracts and go on their own.
Todd: And they seem much happier now. [shrugs]
Did they ever do anything else?
Video for "The Writing's On the Wall"
Todd (VO): They followed that third album with a fourth album in 2014. And every video they've made since "Here It Goes Again" has been...
Todd: ...an event.
Todd (VO): They are amazing. Eye-catching. Gimmicky, yes, but still extremely clever uses of the medium.
Video for "The One Moment"
Todd (VO): Here's one that's actually a 4-second shot played in super slow motion.
Video for "Needing/Getting"
Todd (VO): Here's one where they play the entire song on a car.
Video for "Upside Down & Inside Out"
Todd (VO): Here's one filmed in zero-gravity. Which raises the question...
Todd: ...are OK Go primarily musicians anymore?
Shot of YouTube page for "The One Moment", showing over 25 million views
Todd (VO): I've checked the stats on these videos. The view count is through the roof. On Spotify it's nothing. [video for "Obsession"] That's bizarre for a band. Almost any song does better on Spotify than YouTube. But OK Go videos get 4 or 5 times more views than streams. That's insane.
Todd: These days OK Go are more like a film collective that makes short movies. In a sense, they have more in common with what I do than with other bands.
Video for "End Love"
Todd (VO): And if the songs aren't talking off, I'm not surprised, really. They're not that great. I mean, I can think of a couple I'd recommend. "The Writing's On the Wall", "End Love", those are good songs.
Todd: But for the most part, OK Go feels a little generic or even, dare I say, a little Imagine Dragons-y.
Video for "Upside Down & Inside Out"
Damian: Don't stop, can't stop, it's like a freight train
Todd (VO): It just reminds me of the advertisement-isation of indie rock in the 2010s. And it doesn't help that a lot of these videos are, in fact, commercials. [clip of Morton's Salt sponsorship from "The One Moment" video] They're sponsored and funded by major corporations.
Todd: Honestly, I enjoyed these songs more when I wasn't watching the videos with them.
Video for "I Won't Let You Down"
Todd (VO): Watching OK Go's videos in order was like watching the decade-long transformation of...
Todd: ...YouTube, going from [clip of old Todd video] talented amateurs to [screenshot of Todd's Patreon page] money-grubbing burnt out content machines. But, you know, they know where their bread is buttered.
Clip of OK Go live performance, with their music videos being played on a screen behind them
Todd (VO): Even when they perform live, they perform with the videos. It's... [sighs]
Todd: ...well, it is what it is.
Did they deserve better?
Todd: [sighs] OK Go have carved out a unique place in entertainment and found a level of success that I think fits them.
Video for "Here It Goes Again"
Todd (VO): If "Here It Goes Again" is still their standout song, it deserves to be. It's very good, and it works with its video in a way that OK Go's subsequent work kinda doesn't.
Todd: But it's not like I'm surprised that they've made videos the foundation of their career or begrudge them for it.
Todd (VO): Making music for a living is extremely hard. If they've found a way to make an audience and entertain people, even if it's in a very different way than most rock bands do, then by god, let them do it. But "Here It Goes Again", the video and the song, that's something they'll never be able to recreate. It's a snapshot of a perfect moment in internet culture.
Todd: It's the perfect song for the time. [sighs] Hey, next time I sell requests, someone request "Chocolate Rain".