How Bizarre

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Date Aired
February 27th, 2014
Running Time
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Todd plays "How Bizarre" on his piano.

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: The New Zealandish Invasion has begun.

Clip of Lorde - "Royals"
Lorde: I've never seen a diamond in the flesh

Todd (VO): What, with Lorde last year and [brief clip of "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye featuring...] Kimbra the year before, I suspected that, at long last, New Zealand holds the future of music in its hands.

Todd: Now, Kiwis with pop hits are few and far between.

Clip of Split Enz - "I Got You"

Todd (VO): There have been a couple. There was the New Wave group Split Enz.

Split Enz: I don't know why sometimes I get frightened

Todd (VO): And their sibling group [clip of "Don't Dream It's Over" by...] Crowded House.

Crowded House: Hey now, hey now
Neil Finn: Don't dream, it's over
Clip of "Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros" by...

Todd (VO): There's Flight of the Conchords, if you wanna count that.

Jemaine Clement: They call me the Hip-Hopapotamus
My lyrics are bottomless

Todd (VO): Now that's not a lot, but you can see how they've been steadily growing in influence.

Todd: And so, to help understand our Kiwi-driven future, today we're gonna look at the last time those rugby-loving sheep farmers made an impact on American music.

Video for "How Bizarre"
Pauly Fuemana: Sister Zina says "funky!"
How bizarre
How bizarre, how bizarre

Todd (VO): This is the short-lived group OMC, singing their only hit, "How Bizarre". And how bizarre it was indeed.

Todd: If there was another big song that remotely resembled OMC's best-known single, I certainly haven't heard it.

Todd (VO): I can only imagine very few groups have attempted anything like their unique sound—one that combined urban soul and hip hop, disparate world beat rhythms from all over the globe, and the most vocally untalented frontman this side of Right Said Fred.

Pauly: Brother Pele's in the back, sweet Zina's in the front
Cruisin' down the freeway in the hot, hot sun

Todd (VO): Where the other New Zealand groups I've mentioned fit solidly within well-known international genres, "How Bizarre" picked up bits of flamenco, hip hop, Latin folk, and South Pacific island music. Naturally, this was not a band designed to have a long, prosperous career.

Todd: I mean, how many times would you want to listen to this wannabe-cool dork's attempt at rapping?

Pauly: Destination unknown, as we pull in for some gas

Todd: But at the same time, it was just so weird and intriguing. Surely, this band had more to know about its story than just "How Bizarre", right?

Pauly: Wanna know the rest? Hey, buy the rights...
How bizarre

Todd: Can't be that expensive. I will take you up on that offer, sir. Let's hear it.

OMC: Every time I look around
It's in my face

Before the hit

Todd: Now, I am a fairly learned man, I think, but the musical culture of New Zealand is not really something I'm up on. But since I do actually know someone from there, I thought I'd call in one of the experts. Ladies and gentlemen, my close, personal friend, That Dude In The Suede

Suede: [a little perplexed] Hi. Have we met?

Todd: We have mutual friends. Now, you're obviously a proud New Zealandish patriot in a fine leather jacket.

Suede: Why, thank you. It's actually suede. Name, you know.

Todd: Tell me, what was it like growing up in what was undoubtedly the widespread cultural onslaught that was OMC's success in their home country?

Suede: Well I...I don't actually remember it. Come on, I was only nine when it came out.

Todd: Oh. [Long pause] Well, see you later.

Suede: Well, okay, I know of them, obviously. I know that [single cover] OMC actually stands for [cover of "We R the OMC Remix"] Otara Millionaires Club, which is actually a bit of an interesting in-joke because [brief clip of "4 All of Us"] I've been to Otara, it's a suburb in Auckland. There ain't no millionaires there, let me tell you that much.

Todd: Hmm, that's kinda funny. But I guess the name is kind of a mouthful, I can see why they shortened it. 'Cause God knows we need [brief album covers of REM - Out of Time, LFO - Frequencies, TLC - Essential Mixes, AFI - Sing the Sorrow, HIM - Razorblade Romance, XTC - Upsy Daisy Assortment] we need more music group with three-letter names.

Okay, well anyway, OMC consists of two people.

Pictures of...

Todd (VO): The frontman Pauly Fuemana and behind-the-scenes producer Alan Jansson.

Todd: Now this guy Pauly, [picture of Pauly] what is he? [Mispronounced] Ma-ori?

Suede: Well, yeah, he is, but he's also half-Polynesian. What a lot of people seem to forget is that it's not just the white folk and Maori down here, the Polynesians take up a pretty large chunk of the population down here.

Todd: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now Fuemana was apparently...

Clip of "4 All of Us"

Todd (VO): ...a badass gangsta kid growing up, and way back when he [early picture of OMC] originally started the group with his older brother Phil, they conceived themselves as a hip hop group.

Todd: Let's check that out.

Single cover of "We R the OMC"

Todd: This isn't so bad. He's got his Cypress Hill thing goin' on.

OMC: Millionaires Club
We are the O to the M to the C

Todd: [hands in the air] Hey, ho, let the boys be boys.

Live performance

Todd (VO): Well unfortunately, then as now, it's hard to break into American hip hop if you're not actually American, so this didn't go anywhere.

Todd: Fortunately for them, they had a new approach that worked a lot better.

The big hit

Video for "How Bizarre"

Todd (VO): OMC released their second single "How Bizarre" near the beginning of 1996. By 1997, it had blown up internationally, becoming a Top 10 hit in ten different countries, including this one.

Pauly: How bizarre
How bizarre, how bizarre

Todd: I...I can't speak to those other countries, but in America, this is something that really could've only happened in 1997.

Clip of A Flock of Seagulls - "I Ran (So Far Away)"

Todd (VO): Now I've said repeatedly that I think the 80s New Wave scene was the most fertile breeding ground for one-hit wonders in history,...

Todd: ...but the last half of the 90s is a close runner-up.

Clip of Bush - "Greedy Fly"

Todd (VO): I tend to think of the mid-90s as a time for grungy, downbeat alternative rock, but there was a different 90s too.

Clip of Los Del Rio - "Macarena"

In the wake of Kurt Cobain's tragic death, it seemed like popular music was tired of being so depressing all the time. I mean, come on. Life was good, the economy was good, we weren't at war with anybody, we wanted something upbeat and shiny and fun.

Todd: And the hell of it was we couldn't exactly decide what.

Clip of Gina G - "Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit"

Todd (VO): So there was this really crazy four or five years in pop music in which it seemed like anything and everything could fluke its way onto the pop charts. We plowed through [clips of "C'mon 'N Ride It (The Train)" by...] the Quad City DJs, [..."Tubthumping" by...] Chumbawumba, [..."Walkin' on the Sun" by...] Smash Mouth, [...Aqua - "Barbie Girl"...] Swedish Europop, [...Green Day - "Longview"...] the punk revival, [...Edwyn Collins - "A Girl Like You"...] the lounge revival, [...Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "The Impression That I Get"...] the ska revival, [...Cherry Poppin' Daddies - "Zoot Suit Riot"...] the swing revival, [...and a guy playing...] the...polka revival. (???) Basically, any kind of...

Todd: ... ridiculously sunshiny happy music had a shot.

Todd (VO): And into that formless, swirling chaos, we got "How Bizarre".

Pauly: Suddenly red blue lights
Flash us from behind

Todd (VO): The first verse is about a cop pulling him over just...

Todd: compliment his car.

Pauly: Policeman taps his shades
"Is that a Chevy 69?"
How bizarre

Todd (VO): Which...does not seem that bizarre, honestly. And in the other verses, a circus poster comes to life, and suddenly there are elephants and bears everywhere.

Pauly: Ringmaster steps up
Says the elephants left town

Todd (VO): How these things come together, I don't know. Now I've read that all of this is actually a coded reference to being [image from O Brother, Where Art Thou?] fugitives running from the law.

Pauly: TV news and cameras
There's choppers in the sky

Todd: Now you didn't know that story 'cause you never bought the rights.

Todd (VO): "How Bizarre" also has basically two different choruses—one from Pauly...

Pauly: How bizarre
How bizarre, how bizarre

Todd: ...and one from a group of sexy beach girls, which basically has nothing to do with anything else in the song.

Pauly and girls (OMC): Every time I look around
It's in my face

Todd: What's in your face? And if whatever it is is there every time you look around, then it can't really be that bizarre, can it?

OMC: Every time I look around
Pauly: Every time I look around

Todd (VO): Not that the actual lyrics matter all that much. The point is, both of those choruses are two of the most maddeningly earwormy things you will ever hear in your life.

Suede: Ugh, you Americans don't know the half of it.

OMC: Ooh, baby

Suede (VO): "How Bizarre" was ever-present throughout my life. That's the thing with New Zealand. When we have a genuine, bona fide hit, you don't escape it your whole life. We're kinda patriotic that way.

Suede: I mean, it's like every time I look around, there was [ know...] in my face.

Suede: And it gets worse. You see, "how bizarre" is actually a very common phrase down here.

Todd: Oh, you mean, like, "no worries, mate."

Suede: No, that's...that's Australian. [It's causing a headache, so...] Anyway...

Suede (VO): was already a very common phrase, and now whenever you said it, you start to hear a Spanish guitar in your head.

Todd: Oh, like how, for a long time, you [clip of Alanis Morissette - "Ironic"] couldn't say something was ironic without some idiot adding, "don't you think? Heh-heh-heh." God, that's insidious.

Suede: [headache's back] Yeah, it is.

OMC: Ooh, baby
Ooh, baby, it's makin' me crazy

Todd (VO): Like I said, this was not a group designed to have a long career, at least not in America. But obviously, they didn't know that, so they kept going.

Todd: Let's see where they went.

The failed follow-up

Video for "Land of Plenty"

Todd (VO): Now, as is usually the case with foreign one-hit wonders, even though we Americans dumped them after one song, these hometown heroes were able to keep up their popularity a lot, lot longer in their native land,...

Todd: ...racking up many, many hits over the next few years.

Pauly: And my father used to say...
And we came to this land of plenty

Suede: Well, that didn't happen. They don't play any of their other songs here.

Todd: What, really?

Suede (VO): Well, I guess this one was kind of popular because it was in a tourism ad, but it doesn't sound anything like "How Bizarre". I didn't know it was them...

Suede: ...and I'm pretty sure no one else did either.

Todd: Huh.

Video for "I Love L.A."
Pauly: Rollin' down the Imperial Highway

Todd (VO): Well, they did try to release many other singles, including this cover of "I Love L.A."

Pauly: Looks like another perfect day
I love L.A

Todd (VO): Which is funny because the "How Bizarre" video ripped off [brief clip of Randy Newman's original...] "I Love L.A."'s to begin with.

Clip of "On the Run"
Pauly: A-why did I do it? A-why did I do it?

Todd (VO): Also, they had "On the Run", which is probably the best of their other songs.

Pauly: I'm on the run

Todd (VO): It was a minor hit in Europe.

Todd: And after that, it all fell apart.

Clip of "Right On"

Todd (VO): Pauly hated touring, and after his mom died, he just quit on the spot; and Jansson never went on tour with him, so, you know, they ended up growing apart. And then there was a dispute between the two over royalties, Pauly sued, the group split up unamicably, and...

Todd: ...Pauly spent the next ten years going broke.

Did they ever do anything else?

Todd: Nope.

Video for "4 All of Us"

Todd (VO): Pauly retained the rights to the name, but OMC never released a second album. He and Jansson, however, did bury the hatchet and released a couple singles about five years ago.

Pauly: How many days does it take to build a mountain range

Todd (VO): By this point, Pauly was deeply in debt and basically back where he started, so the flashy, money-throwing OMC was obviously not in the cards. In its place, a much more down-key look at life on the streets, and...

Pauly: Too far to be fallin' and too much
Lucy Lawless: Forever my own...

Todd (VO): Wait, is that Lucy Lawless?

Lucy: Baby, come home

Todd: I didn't know she sang.

Clip from Xena: Warrior Princess with Xena ululating (Doesn't count.)

Unfortunately, Pauly would never get the comeback he hoped for.

Todd (VO): Because of a rare nerve condition, he died in 2010 at the tragically young age of 40. Naturally, the entire country [picture of sad kiwi] was heartbroken, his passing was declared an official day of mourning, and the New Zealandish government ordered the flags lowered across the nation.

Suede: And that definitely didn't happen. I actually didn't even know that he had died. Thanks for that, Todd. Also, it's not New Zealandish, it's New Zealander. You could also go with Kiwi.

Todd: Thanks, bye!

Did they deserve better?

Todd: [thinking about it...] You know, I didn't expect to be saying this, but yeah. Yeah, I'll say it up for OMC.

OMC: Ooh, baby
Ooh, baby

Todd (VO): I'm not sure I wanted more than one album from them, but you know, they're just such a unique, different band. They do a lot of the same kind of genre-hopping that reminded me of Beck, especially Beck's funkier stuff. If they had managed to get a little more airtime, I wouldn't have complained at all.

Todd: And now that Pauly has passed, I assume this means the rights are now available again for purchase, so I think someone should get on that so we can know exactly what happened when he drove off. I'm sure it's fascinating.

OMC: Every time I look around
It's in my face

Closing tag song: The Diskettes - "How Bizarre"

"How Bizarre" is owned by Universal Music NZ
This video is owned by me

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