Lullaby by krin.jpg

Date Aired
November 30th, 2014
Running Time
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Todd plays "Lullaby" on the piano

A one-hit wonder retrospective

As Todd stops, the song starts in the background

Todd: [a la Shawn Mullins] Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland...where we look at...artists...bands...who only got known...for one song. Yeah...and their career...didn't last long...but I tell 'em...

Video for "Lullaby"
Shawn Mullins: Everything's gonna be alright

Todd: Okay, we're gonna back to 1998 here, back to the glory days of adult-alternative.

Clip of Matchbox Twenty - "Back to Good"

Todd (VO): Yeah, that would have been when I started really getting into music, and yes, adult-alternative is exactly what I gravitated to. Did I buy more than one Goo Goo Dolls album? You bet I did.

Todd: I never claimed to be a role model.

Todd (VO): But Shawn Mullins was just a tiny bit before my time. Matter of fact, I don't remember hearing this song very much at all. By the time I started listening, it was all about Everlast and Sugar Ray. Shawn Mullins' "Lullaby" was one of those things I just missed, along with [Rolling Stone cover of...] Jewel, [...the self-titled album by...] Savage Garden, [...and single cover of Paula Cole's...] "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?"

Todd: Yes, truly, I was a deprived child. Don't weep for me, we all have our misfortunes in life.

Shawn: She still lives with her mom...

Todd (VO): But yeah, this one odd one, or at least as odd as an acoustic hit can be.

Todd: I think I've made my opinion on white guys with acoustic guitars abundantly clear at this point. [picture of said genre stamped with no symbol, caption reading that none are allowed]

Todd (VO): And yeah, Shawn Mullins may be the most acoustically white guy yet. Still, I can't say this one isn't memorable, at least.

Shawn: I ain't so sure about this place

Todd (VO): And yet, Mullins never really saw the charts again, and that's true of most of the late '90s acoustic guys. Shawn Mullins' "Lullaby" lulled his fans to sleep, and I guess they just never woke up again.

Todd: [as Shawn Mullins] Well, let's find out what happened after he sang...his lullaby. Kinda hurts your voice after a while.

Shawn: Rockabye

Before the hit

Pic of Shawn

Todd (VO): Now like I said, Shawn Mullins was not something I remembered or have ever had much exposure to.

Todd: In fact, I think my sum knowledge of Shawn Mullins involved...

Clip from Mystery Science Theater 3000 - "Diabolik"

Todd (VO): ...a robot explaining his fears about going to Earth.

Crow T. Robot: The earth's a big and scary place
With wars and crime and death
Tom: It is?
Crow T. Robot: They listen to Shawn Mullins and Alanis Morissette
Servo: Oh, no!

Todd (VO): Yeah, up until I started writing this episode, I...I somehow believed Shawn Mullins was Canadian I guess 'cause Alanis was Canadian. Think I got that song confused with one of their Canada-bashing songs...whatever. He's not...

Todd: ...Canadian, he's actually from Georgia. And I don't have...

Clip of live studio performance

Todd (VO): ...a lot of info about his pre-"Lullaby" life, but from what I can tell, this is what his early career was like. [Clip from Band of Brothers] Yeah, he was an army guy. Paratrooper. Yeah, this is also true of [brief clip of James Blunt - "You're Beautiful"] another wimpy acoustic guitar guy I may cover on this show, but we'll get to him some other time.

Todd: Except for the army thing, there's not really a whole lot to the guy's backstory.

Todd (VO): After he left the army, he toured around the folk circuit. From what I understand, he got a big boost from one of the Indigo Girls, went on tour with them. My dad likes the Indigo Girls, I don't really know much about them. And he released a bunch of albums in the '90s on his own record label [album covers of Big Blue Sky and Eggshells] he started, SMG Records, stands for...[SMG Records logo] Shawn Mullins...Goatee? [Promo pic of...] Sarah Michelle Gellar? I don't know.

Todd: It's a pretty good goatee.

Todd (VO): Look, there are a bunch of guys like Mullins. Even if they turn out really good, they aren't looking to get rich, and despite my disdain for acoustic guys, there is something to respect about that. Shawn Mullins does not strike me as a guy who was looking for the mainstream; the mainstream came to him.

Todd: Again, remember, this is the time period...

Brief clip of "Only Wanna Be with You" by..."

Todd (VO): ...where Hootie and the Blowfish were one of the biggest bands in history. [clip of performance] It was as good a time as any to be a guy without a gimmick, playing a guitar. His fourth studio album was, you know, just another independent self-release, and some guy in his hometown started playing it on the radio station, and next thing you know...

Todd: ...Shawn freakin' Mullins is one of the biggest names in music. [Todd shrugs a "who knew?"]

The big hit

Video for "Lullaby"

Todd (VO): Now, like I said, we have folk singers, we've always had folk singers. Even in this day and age where people who play actual instruments with their hands and shit are kinda rare, we still have folk singers. You gotta do something kinda special to stand out from all the other folk singers.

Todd: And Shawn Mullins did it by being the folk singer who...doesn't sing.

Shawn: She grew up with the children of the stars

Todd: See? It's like he's right there, whispering in your ear. [Shudders] Ecchh!

Todd (VO): For some reason, I don't want to be too hard on Shawn Mullins, I really don't. I feel a lot less hatred against him than I normally do against most guys like him. Look at him, his pretty blond hair and his sunglasses...I should hate him, especially because there's a lot about this song I just do not like.

Todd: I think I've mentioned this before, but guys with acoustic guitars really like doing this thing where they write about a poor, little girl who's lonely and no one understands her. [Brief clips of...] Ed Sheeran did it, [..."How to Love" by...] Lil Wayne did it, [...and "Meet Virginia" by...] Train did it, shows how sensitive you are.

Todd (VO): That is the well-worn move Shawn Mullins pulls here. He even makes the subtext of these songs pretty literal.

Shawn: Everything's gonna be alright

Todd (VO): Don't worry, little girl, I'll make you feel better with this lullaby.

Todd: And "lullaby" is usually a euphemism for "my penis," is the way it usually works.

Todd (VO): His delivery know, it's very showy.

Shawn: In the Hollywood hills and the boulevards

Todd (VO): It kind of enhances the implied sliminess of it all.

Todd: Look at me...I'm sensitive and shit...uh-huh...[groans like Shawn]

Todd (VO): But at the very least, the lonely, misunderstood girl isn't as generic as these songs often can be. We do get a lot of interesting details here. Our subject is a poor little rich girl who grew up in Hollywood, and whose parents hung out with celebrities back in the '70s.

Shawn: Her parents threw big parties
Everyone was there
They hung out with folks like Dennis Hopper and Bob Seger and Sonny and Cher

Todd: So, as you can see, this girl, she had it rough. No one should have a childhood that involves Dennis Hopper.

Clips from Blue Velvet...
Frank: LET'S FUCK!!!
...Nike commercial...
Dennis: You just ruined my stadium, man! And it was perfect!
...and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Lefty: [with chainsaw] AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!

Todd: Although I wouldn't have minded hanging out with Sonny and Cher as a kid. You know, [clip of The New Scooby Doo Movies - "The Secret of Shark Island"] we could go solve mysteries, catch bad guys dressed as monsters. But, you know, she's got other reasons to be sad, too.

Shawn: And all her friends tell her she's so pretty
But she'd be a whole lot prettier if she smiled once in a while

Todd: Oh, I have learned this from painful, painful experience—girls don't like it when you tell them to smile.

Todd (VO): They actually really, really hate it and might threaten to cut you. Look, just don't tell them to smile. Just don't. If you want a girl to smile, a good way to do it is make fun of the people who tell them to smile because they just don't like it.

Todd: I'm not sure which Mullins is doing here, but it kinda strikes me as a bad move regardless.

Shawn: 'Cause even her smile looks like a frown

Todd (VO): Well then, why are they telling her to smile?

Shawn: I sing to her a lullaby

Todd (VO): And as a side note, the kind of girls who get told they need to smile more, aren't usually charmed by guys singing literal lullabies to them like they're infants.

Shawn: Rockabye

Todd: "Rockabye." Geez.

Todd (VO): I'm not sure what Mullins and this chick have in common, except for one key thing—they both seem to think Los Angeles blows.

Shawn: I told her I ain't so sure about this place
It's hard to play a gig in this town and keep a straight face

Todd (VO): Man, does anyone besides Katy Perry like California?

Todd: I'm from California, I remember it being nice.

Shawn: Seems like everybody's got a plan
It's kind of like Nashville with a tan

Todd: Yes, a showbiz town is very similar to another showbiz town. How astute of you to notice.

Shawn: Rockabye

Todd (VO): Yeah, I really should hate this song more than I do. I think maybe '90s nostalgia might be getting in the way here, although [clip of Edwin McCain's...] "I'll Be" still nauseates me, so I don't know what it is. The only way I can really contextualize this song is that Shawn Mullins is the [clip of...] pre-John Mayer. If John Mayer hasn't covered this song, it's only 'cause doing so would be too obvious. So why don't I hate this?

Todd: It''s pleasant, I guess. Maybe it's just the nice melody.

Shawn: Everything's gonna be alright

Todd (VO): And who doesn't wanna be told that everything's gonna be alright?

Todd: Shawn, like this rich girl, I am also sad and lonely, and considerably less rich. Any thoughts?

Shawn: Everything's gonna be alright

Todd: Aw, you make everything better, Shawn. I'm sure you played this song for yourself when your career didn't go anywhere after this.

The failed follow-up

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): Shawn Mullins has the classic lament of the one-hit wonder—it's not that his big hit doesn't represent him, but it doesn't represent all of him.

Todd: There's so much more to Shawn Mullins than just a guitar-carrying troubadour whisper-speaking over acoustic strumming.

Video for "Shimmer"
Shawn: He's born to shimmer
He's born to shine

Todd (VO): But of course, we will not be seeing that here. Now this is his follow-up, "Shimmer", which did get some radio play, though not a whole lot, maybe because alternative radio [brief clip of Fuel's...] already had a song named "Shimmer" they were playing a lot at the time.

Shawn: His shining eyes are big and blue

Todd (VO): Okay, in this case, the follow-up is not about a girl-—or not just about a girl—it's also about his kid. Now maybe I'm getting sappy as I get older, but I like songs about how parents love their kids. Kids are cute. "With Arms Wide Open" is my least-unfavorite Creed song because of that, 'cause, you know, who doesn't like little kids?

Todd: This is not so bad.

Shawn: He's born to live
He's born to love
But we will teach him how to hate

Todd violently heaves

Shawn: I want to try and learn how not to hate

Todd (VO): Oh boy, looks like someone wants to pontificate about the nature of the world and how awful and shocking all the cruelty juxtaposed with all the good and blah-di-blah-di-blah...oh gosh...

Todd: ...hating is bad!

Todd (VO): I'm sorry, there's nothing in the rest of the song like that. It's just that one line. It's just...oh, boy, that was the cheesiest, lamest thing I've ever heard. Oh, my God, that...

Todd: ...was terrible. I just can't get over that.

Shawn: He's born to live
He's born to love

Did he ever do anything else?

Clip of "Beautiful Wreck"
Shawn: And at the dark end of this bar

Todd (VO): Tell you what. Doing this episode, I suddenly remembered, holy crap, I did actually buy a Shawn Mullins record once. Yeah, I actually did. How did that happen? Well, you see...

Todd: ...there was this guy named Matthew Sweet.

Clip of Matthew Sweet performing "Girlfriend" on The Dennis Miller Show
Matthew: I wanna love somebody

Todd (VO): Now he was an indie darling back in the '90s, and I loved his work, but he kinda hit a slump. So he and Shawn Mullins decided to start a band.

Video for "I Can't Remember"
Thorns: I can't remember the last time

Todd (VO): Yeah, Sweet had all the critical respect, Mullins had the pop success, and there was a third guy, [picture of...] Pete Droge. [...written on it: wow, such guitar, very singer-songwriter, much obscure] I don't know what he brought. But anyway, their band was the Thorns, I bought the album, I loved it. I still love it. And I really wish they'd made another album. It was like a really good Crosby, Stills & Nash album. Matter of fact, the label wanted the band to be named Sweet Mullins Droge, which would've been terrible. Sounds like something Superman's editor yells at him, like, [comic panel of Perry White] "Sweet Mullins Droge, Kent! Where were you when Zod was attacking Metropolis!"

Todd: Yeah, that was the Thorns, they broke up. And anyway...

Clip of "Everywhere I Go"

Todd (VO): ...Mullins is still recording all the time, he released a new album in 2010. I listened to that, too. There's a lot of Tom Petty in the guy obviously; I don't know why I didn't catch that earlier. [Clip of Mullins performing with Zac Brown] Also, he spent some time in Nashville, or "Pasty Los Angeles," as I bet he calls it. [Clip of "Toes"] He co-wrote a very, very big hit with Zac Brown, the last ugly man in country music.

Zac Brown: I got my toes in the water
Ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world
A cold beer in my hand
Life is good today

Todd: I keep looking at Zac Brown and expecting him to make more interesting music than he does.

Clip of performance at the Bing Lounge

Todd (VO): Yeah, I don't think being on a major label ever really agreed with Mullins. He said that, at the time, he figured, "hey, the label's giving me all this money, I should really try and give them a radio hit." You think it would've worked out; he was the kind of guy who would get played all the time on VH1, back when VH1 wasn't a crappy reality show network. But Mullins never really clicked on a major label. After the next album kind of flopped, Mullins went back to smaller labels on the indie scene. He talks about how weird it was after he got big and he was opening for, like...Destiny's Child and the Backstreet Boys and stuff, not really...

Todd: ...his scene. I get the impression he's happier where he is.

Did he deserve better?

Todd: Uh...maybe I'm not the person to ask.

Shawn: Everything's gonna be alright

Todd (VO): Guy with acoustic guitar, not for me, but Shawn Mullins is...fine. If you like guys who sound like watered-down Tom Petty, Shawn Mullins is the guy for you. Which...there are definitely worse things to sound like. I mean, I like the Wallflowers, so there you go.

Todd: Hey Shawn, I'm completely broke and I haven't paid my taxes in many years, so I'm probably going to jail. Any thoughts?

Shawn: Everything's gonna be alright

Todd: Yeah, I guess that does make me feel better. I like you, Shawn Mullins.

Gets up and leaves

Shawn: Bye...bye

Closing tag song: Goldman - "Lullaby"

"Lullaby" is owned by Sony BMG Records
This video is owned by me

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