I Love You Always Forever

OHW I Love You Always Forever by krin.jpg

Date Aired
August 1st, 2016
Running Time
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Todd plays "I Love You Always Forever" on the piano

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. And today, we take yet another request. This one comes from loyal viewer Michael Russell, who says [shot of Patreon post]: "...tempted as I am to request...blah blah blah..." Oh, man, "88 Lines About 44 Women" would've been great. Oh, "She's a Beauty," that also would've been good. "But I think I'm going to have to go with...'I Love You Always Forever' by Donna Lewis."

You sure? That's really the one you want. Okay.

Video for "I Love You Always Forever"
Donna Lewis: I love you always forever
Near and far, closer together
Everywhere I will be with you
Everything I will do for you

Todd (VO): So this one takes us to 1996, when singer-songwriter Donna Lewis almost topped the charts, sitting at #2 for an astonishing nine weeks. If not for the cultural juggernaut that was the [brief clip of Los Del Rio's...] goddamn Macarena, this would be a #1 single. And for me, this raises the question...

Todd: ...what even was pop music back in 1996?

Clips of Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen - "No Diggity"...
Chauncey "Black" Hannibal: I like the way you work it
Blackstreet: No diggity

Todd (VO): I know in 1996, there was a lot of R&B, [...2Pac ft. Dr. Dre - "California Love"...] gangsta rap, [...Smashing Pumpkins - "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"...] alternative rock, [...and the Wallflowers - "One Headlight"] and its mellower sister genre adult-alternative. But actual pure...

Todd: ...pop, like we think of it, seemed to just [timeline from 1994-1997, with clips of Ace of Base - "The Sign" on one end...] disappear in 1994, and didn't really reappear [...Spice Girls - "Wannabe" on the other...] until a few years later with the Total Request Live Era, and in between, [...and a giant question mark between them] pop music was just completely gone. Well, obviously, no, it didn't.

Todd (VO): That's the way it feels in retrospect. Certainly, that's not an impression that changes much when you listen to Donna Lewis, whose only song was incredibly '90s, and yet somehow out of place in time.

Donna: Feels like I'm standing...

Todd (VO): In [clips of Wilson Phillips - "Hold On"...] 1990, this would've made sense. [...and Dido - "Thank You"] In 2000, this would've made sense. But in 1996, it was just kind of in this dead zone, where it was [brief clips of "All By Myself" by...] too girlish and immature to be Celine Dion, [...and "Jealousy" by...] and not earthy or real enough to be Natalie Merchant. There just wasn't a market.

Todd: And that's part of the reason why, if you weren't there...

Todd (VO): ..."I Love You Always Forever," despite being huge at the time, only exists as a faint whiff of a memory today. It did not last always, nor forever. But it was big, it was real, real big. And...

Todd: ...because you requested it, Michael, it's been grinding through my head for a good, solid three weeks. [Gives a thumbs-up] Thanks for that. [Sigh] Let's...let's do this.

Donna: Near and far, and always
And everywhere and every...

Before the hit

Todd: Well, here's a surprise. I didn't know this, but when she got big, Donna Lewis was actually [single cover] 42. Who would've guessed, right? That's way older than I thought she'd be. I would've guessed she was at least 10 or 12 years younger. 42. [Thinks about it] Wait, that can't be right. [Pulls out phone and looks it up] Let me... [Shot of Wikipedia entry showing...] Oh, I knew it. Hold on. I got that wrong. She's 42 now. I knew that wasn't right. [Beat] Okay, wait a minute, that seems way too young.

Clip of performance on Top of the Pops

Todd (VO): That would mean she were [sic] more like 21 when she got...that can't be right. That doesn't seem right. I mean, she looks like, you know, your fun aunt. I mean, I guess all fun aunts were 22 at one point. And hold on, [shot of Entertainment Weekly article] this article from 1996 says she'd been married for eight years, so...

Todd: ...either they married very young where she's from, or that age is wrong. Pfft. A woman in showbiz lying about her age. Unthinkable!

Shot of People article

Todd (VO): Okay, wait a minute, here's another one from back then that says she's in her 30s!

Todd: I'm working way too hard to find out about a woman's age. Am I being weird? I'm gonna stop.

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): To be honest, I can't find out all that much about her. I know she's actually Welsh, which means her name's probably spelled more like this (Donnllwwya Llewgys). She's classically trained; she taught music for a little bit while cutting demos, so yeah, there's not a lot of interesting stuff there.

Todd: But in a way, that's impressive in its own right, isn't it?

Performance on MTV London

Todd (VO): She came out of nowhere. She didn't have any connections, she didn't have any previous singles, she didn't have a big, flashy image, she wasn't attached to a soundtrack, she didn't have a huge marketing push.

Todd: She made it big entirely on her own merits. [Pause] With this.

The big hit

Video for "I Love You Always Forever"
Donna: Feels like I'm standing in a timeless dream

Todd (VO): Like I said, "I Love You Always Forever" didn't have a huge marketing push. It got huge purely through word-of-mouth. And like I said, that seems weird to me because 1996 didn't really sound much like this. But I did find an article in Billboard that speculated, maybe it got huge because, even though it wasn't much like anything else...

Todd: ...it was a little bit like everything else.

Todd (VO): It wasn't really like R&B, but it didn't sound all that weird next to Mariah Carey. It wasn't alternative, but it was alternative enough. It wasn't artsy enough for the Lilith Fair crowd, but it was...you know, kinda close. It wasn't really what the easy-listening crowd was into back then, but you know, it fit easily enough into that format.

Todd: But that explains why it crossed demographics; it doesn't explain its core appeal.

Todd (VO): What is it that made it so popular? Its honesty, its simplicity, its sweetness? Well...

Todd: ...um... I can give you a guess.

Donna: I love you always forever
Near and far, closer together
Everywhere I will be with you
Everything I will do for you
[Todd starts slumping forward]
I love you always forever
Near and far, closer together
Everywhere I will be with you
Everything I will do for you
[Slow zoom forward on Todd]
I love you always forever
Near and far, closer together
Everywhere I will be with you
Everything I will do for you

Todd (VO): Second to that my Patron named their request, this nursery rhyme chorus has been ticking back and forth in my brain pretty much 24 hours a day. It is taking a chainsaw to my cerebrum. One listen, and this song will be stuck in your head space always, forever.

Todd: Make no mistake, this is a mammoth monster of a hook. It crushes.

Donna: ...touching
Discovering you

Todd: Okay, maybe "crushes" isn't the word.

Todd (VO): As earworms go, it's pretty subtle, it's not an LMFAO song or anything. But it does get in there. It's...it's just so basic.

Todd: It's like...why didn't someone come up with this before? How is this not like [shot of Far Side - "First jazz band"] the first melody ever written? But it is a nice song, right?

Todd (VO): And if this does have a genre, it'd be easy-listening. It killed on the adult contemporary charts, which is weird because "adult" is the last word I'd use to describe this. I mean, it's "I love you always...

Todd: ...forever, and ever and ever, like 'til the end of time." I mean, it...

Donna: Feels like I'm standing in a timeless dream
Of light mists with pale amber rose

Todd: This is a [picture of a unicorn with multi-colored toadstools in background] Lisa Frank poster as a song. Lewis says it was inspired by a [cover of Love for Lydia] book. Looks kinda heavy, I kinda imagine it was something more like Judy Blume.

Todd (VO): To be honest, I actually have no idea if I like this song or not. I'm not a huge fan of this New Age, Enya-y type, mellow mood music. That hook is a killer, there's no question. And she does some fine piano work here, and that tailing outro is just as much an earworm as the chorus.

Todd: The thing that really makes this song out-of-place is just how direct it is.

Todd (VO): It's weird that this came out in the '90s, the decade of irony, because there is not a single thing remotely ironic about it. It is as nakedly, un-self-consciously sincere a love song as I've ever heard.

Todd: Aw, dammit. I think I'm starting to feel something. Quick, let's move on.

The failed follow-up

Video for "Without Love"
Donna Without love...I mean nothing to you
Without love...broken in two

Todd: Well, I can see why this didn't take off.

Todd (VO): Let's face it, it's probably too much to ask for one person to write the world's most incessant hook twice, unless [brief clip of the Black Eyed Peas - "Imma Be"] they're will.i.am, in which case, you can expect him to do it a hundred times. But yeah, this just doesn't have that earworm factor. I mean, I do like the "baby, you're a rich man" thing happening in the background there.

But there's not much going on in this. But it's more than just a weak hook. Like I said, this kind of music just wasn't very popular in the '90s. The '80s, sure. Even as late as 1992, I can imagine this having a shot. [Shot of Entertainment Weekly cover, featuring Fiona Apple, Joan Osborne, Sheryl Crow, and Sarah MacLachlan] But in the era of Lilith Fair, no, we wanted our light rock to be a little more ambitious, at least. To have at least some kind of edge or earthiness or something that didn't make us feel like we were listening to Michael Bolton.

Todd: The bar was not that high. [Brief clip of live performance of "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" by...] Paula Cole headlined that goddamn festival. I used to watch a lot of VH1 back in the day...

Todd (VO): ...and they loved flogging the hell out of adult pop acts that no one except VH1 employees ever wanted to listen to, and even they didn't play this song. I checked, it didn't even make their Top 50 of that year, and that list has [clip of "Old Man & Me" by...] two songs from Hootie & the Blowfish's second album, which I'm pretty sure was the first record to be released directly to the [picture of...] "Used CD" rack.

Todd: To be fair, she did have a kinda, almost hit the next year that almost made the Top 40.

Video for "At the Beginning"

Todd (VO): Yes, you know what it is. It's the big soundtrack single from the animated blockbuster smash, Anastasia. Yes, the badly rotoscoped disaster that made most of us give up on Don Bluth forever had a Donna Lewis ballad as its big centerpiece. This was the "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" of Anastasia, and it was a duet with Richard Marx.

Donna and Richard: And life is a road that I wanna keep going

Todd (VO): Yes, Richard Marx, who is basically the embodiment of music I'm claiming didn't exist by the mid-'90s. So yeah, there's a reason this wasn't big, besides the fact that it was attached to Anastasia. Like, who in God's name told them anyone wanted Richard Marx in 1997? This came out the same year as [brief clip of "Go the Distance" by...] Hercules, whose big song was by Michael Bolton, which is pretty bad by itself. But I guess it fits that the studio that was the poor man's Disney got the [side-by-side pics of Marx and Bolton] poor man's Michael Bolton. Or...[pics trade places] do I have that the other way around?

Todd: I don't know. [Pause] Anastasia sucks, please don't defend Anastasia to me.

Did she ever do anything else?

Todd: I found some articles where she was hyping up her second album, saying she wasn't gonna be a one-hit wonder. Well, we know how that turned out.

Video for "I Could Be the One"
Donna: I could be your sea of sand
I could be your warmth of desire
I could be your prayer of hope
I could be your gift of everyday

Todd (VO): [sigh] Look, this song is cute. It is far, far too similar to [clip of...] "Mary's Prayer" by Danny Wilson, a band I referenced briefly in the last One Hit Wonderland, and also a one-hit wonder which would probably be more interesting to cover than Donna Lewis.

Gary Clark: I made such a big mistake
When I was...
Donna: I could be the one

Todd (VO): Anyway, this flopped, and she got dropped by her label, and no one ever heard from her again.

Clip of "Shout"
Donna: Open up this heart of mine

Todd (VO): But she's kept active. She released three independent albums since then. Yeah, this is not so bad, right? Won't buzzsaw through your head like "I Love You Always Forever," but...

Todd: ...that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Clip of "Brand New Day"

Todd (VO): And she released another album just this year. This one is more of a piano bar, jazz kind of stuff, so if that's your thing, check out...a Barnes & Noble near you, probably.

Donna: It's a brand...
It's a brand new day

Todd: You know, I usually try to finish these "where are they now" segments on a positive note, but this sucks. This sucks a lot.

Did she deserve better?

Todd: Look, I'll be straight with you. This was a boring episode to research.

Todd (VO): No, no, she really didn't. I don't...I don't know what to say here. This...this...yeah. Song's nice, but I wouldn't break my neck to find more of her stuff.

Todd: [sighs, then pulls out phone] Please tell me there's something more interesting for the next one. [Beat] Oh. That will be interesting. That's like the exact opposite of this; I don't know if I've ever covered anything that dirty on One Hit Wonderland.

Gets up and leaves

Donna: Everything I will do for you
I love you always forever
Near and far, closer together

Closing tag song: Betty Who - "I Love You Always Forever"

"I Love You Always Forever" is owned by Atlantic Records
This video is owned by me


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