Wherever You Will Go
October 18, 2018
Todd plays "Wherever You Will Go " on the piano.
THE CALLING - WHEREVER YOU WILL GO
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. And now that I've done almost all the '90s requests, I still have a handful of requests from the 2000s to get to, and today, we're doing one that a lot of fans have been asking me for for a long time.
Clip of The Calling - "Wherever You Will Go"Todd (VO): One of the biggest hits of 2001, and one which reliably still gets airplay today.
Todd: Y'all know what I'm talking about.
Alex Band: If I could
Then I would
I'll go wherever you will goTodd (VO): Yep, "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling.
Todd: [pause] Y'know, I'm not really sure why my requester wanted me to cover this.
Todd (VO): The song's got no novelties or gimmicks behind it, they weren't part of any notable scene or movement or genre. [clip of live performance of "Wherever You Will Go"] They were a radio-rock band who had one radio hit and then they disappeared. I've actually considered doing an episode on them for many years, and never did it because I didn't think there was enough behind them to make it interesting.
Clip of music video
Alex: And maybe...Todd (VO): So it's a bit of a challenging request. But even though there are no obvious narrative hooks to this band's story, there is one...
Todd: ...real noteworthy thing about them. Something that makes them very compelling to me, and I hope for you too. And that thing is that I fucking hate them.
Todd (VO): Yes, The Calling is a band that I am calling goddamn horrible. They suck. Just a worthless band, I hated them in 2001 and I hate them today.
Todd: I'm really tempted to forgo any real analysis or commentary and call them names for the rest of the episode.
Todd (VO): Losers. Wannabes. Suck-merchants.
Todd: OK, I'm not gonna do that, but I want to.
Alex: When I'm gone
You'll need loveTodd (VO): This song was so hacky and bad and I am to this day astonished that anyone fell for it.
Todd: And, for the record, I am not opposed to this kind of music as a rule. [clip of 3 Doors Down -...] I didn't have any problem with "Kryptonite", [clip of Lifehouse -...] "Hanging by a Moment", [clip of Vertical Horizon -...] or "Everything You Want". But The Calling was where I drew the line. In fact...
Todd (VO): ...I wish I hadn't done this so quickly after the Maroon 5 episode I just did, 'cause [clip of "Girls Like You"] this song hits a lot of the same buttons for me. Like, this couldn't have been your best effort. You should really be trying harder. D minus for effort.
Todd: [sigh] But, that's the request I got and that's the one we're gonna do. [sigh] Let's go.
Alex: I'll go wherever you will goBefore the hit
Live performance of "Stigmatized"
Alex: If I give up on youTodd (VO): How on Earth did a band this... crappy get a hit? Well, [clip of MTV interview with Alex] you see this kid? His name is Alex Band. And he got a record deal because, shock of shocks...
Todd: ...he comes from a showbiz family. That's right, he is a total Hollywood creation. [image of cartoon depicting...] See, nepotism reeks through all of showbusiness, including music.
Music video for The Strokes - "Hard to Explain"Todd (VO): In fact, around this time there was kind of a big dust-up about, you know, the guy from The Strokes, "Well, oh, turns out he's the son of an extremely powerful record executive."
Todd: Yeah, it was bad 'cause there was already backlash from [clip of The Strokes performing "Hard to Explain" on SNL] people who thought The Strokes were all hype, and this seemed to confirm that it was all manufactured. And [picture of John Casablancas] turns out his dad wasn't even a record executive, he runs a big modelling agency, but still, it was an upbringing privileged and connected enough that a lot of people were suspicious.
Clip of The Calling live performance on MTVTodd (VO): Now The Calling were not ever cool or interesting enough to have that kind of backlash, but if they had been more notable or famous, I...
Todd: ...do think it would be controversial that their lead singer is the son of an extremely powerful movie studio head.
Picture of and interview with...Todd (VO): His name is Charles Band, he's been a power player in Hollywood for a long time, he's been producing and directing movies continuously since the '70s, and he now runs his own studio, Full Moon Features.
Todd: And you have probably watched some films from his many successful franchises, such as...
Clip of trailer for Puppet Master
Announcer: The Puppet Master!Todd (VO): [pause] ...Puppet Master. And, uh...
Clip of trailer for...
Announcer: Demonic Toys.Todd (VO): ...Demonic Toys. And, um...
Clip of trailer for The Gingerdead Man
Announcer: A new kind of cookie.
Character: The hell is that?
Announcer: The Gingerdead Man. Evil never tasted so good.Todd: [pause] Y'know, I might have oversold just how important this guy is. Hey, maybe this year we can bring back the One Hit Wonderland [logo appears for...] Spooktacular Edition! 'Cause the lead singer's the son of the guy who made...
Clip of trailer for...
Announcer: Evil Bong!Todd: I've done weaker connections.
Clip of Charles BandTodd (VO): But making cheapo horror movies still means his dad was in the industry. And because of that, Alex knew people.
Todd: Specifically, his next-door neighbour [image of Christina Aguilera with...] Ron Fair, a big-time record executive. [album cover for Pretty Woman soundtrack] Now, he mostly put together soundtrack albums at that point but [clips of Christina Aguilera - "Genie in a Bottle", Vanessa Carlton - "A Thousand Miles" and Black Eyed Peas - "Where Is the Love?"] as a talent scout, he was about to have an extremely lucrative decade. So, the right guy just basically fell in their lap. This is what happens when you grow up in Hollywood.
Image of Alex and Aaron KaminTodd (VO): Alex started a band with his buddy Aaron Kamin, and they [image of Ron Fair leaning on mixing desk] named it Next Door, specifically because they were sucking up to their next-door neighbour.
Todd: He probably signed them just to get them off his lawn.
Clip of the band in Coyote UglyTodd (VO): And even before they had released a song or an album, you could see them on-screen performing their eventual big hit in 2000's Coyote Ugly. Y'know, that all-time beloved smash movie?
Todd: Honestly, they might have been better off being in Gingerdead Man.
Todd (VO): But, yeah, Next Door was about to hit the big time. Although, by that point the label had them change the name...
Todd: ...to something even more generic.
Clip of The Rosie O'Donnell ShowRosie: They're all adorable, please welcome The Calling! [audience applauds]
The big hit
Clip of "Wherever You Will Go"Todd: [sighs] Alright, we're about to go in hard on this.
Alex: So lately, been wonderingTodd: So, lately, been wondering.
Todd (VO): I hated this song from the first line. It's a terrible opening lyric. Like, it's conversational, but it's delivered with such...
Todd: ...constipated soul and gravitas.
Alex: So lately
Screenshot of Verse 1 lyrics on GeniusTodd (VO): Okay, first off, ["So" gets crossed out] get rid of that "so", 'cause it makes you sound like a middle schooler. And it's all choppy to fit the meter.
'Todd:' "Been wondering"?
Todd (VO): ["been wondering" crossed out, with "i've wondered" written above it] Okay, change that to "I've wondered" and it's immediately more poetic.
Todd: I mean, it's still not great, but it doesn't sound quite so amateur hour.
Clip of "Wherever You Will Go"
Alex: If a great wave shall fallTodd (VO): You gotta understand that these kids were very, very young. Alex Band wasn't even old enough to drink yet, and they sound like it.
Todd: Now they weren't the first post-grunge band to be played by youngsters. [image of...] There was Silverchair and [single cover of "Simple Sincerity" by...] Radish. [clip of "Tomorrow" by Silverchair] I'm not saying those were great bands but they didn't sound so much like baby's first songwriting as The Calling do.
Alex: If I could
Then I would
I'll go wherever you will goTodd: What a wretched chorus.
Alex: Way up high
Or down lowTodd: On a boat. With a goat. I'll go where...[scoffs]
Todd (VO): What gets me is the, you know, "way up high or down low". It's cliche and it's hacky, but...
Todd: ...it's also not even necessary!
Screenshot of chorus lyrics on GeniusTodd (VO): ["Way up high or down low/I'll go wherever you will go" underlined"] Like, by default, he wound up with "high" and "low" to make the rhyme with "go".
Todd: But he didn't need a rhyme there at all!
Todd (VO): ["would" and "go" in first two lines underlined] The first couple lines didn't rhyme. The second didn't need to either! Instead of writing "high" and "low", you could have written...something...
Todd: ...good? I don't know!
Clip of "Wherever You Will Go"Todd (VO): And the singing.
Todd: Oh, god, the singing.
Alex: My life and love might still go onTodd (VO): Yeah, that's the backwash of the '90s right there. Critic Nathan Rabin calls it [image of Scott Stapp with text saying "HUNGER DUNGER DANG"] "hunger dunger dang" singing. [clip of Pearl Jam - "Jeremy"] It started with Eddie Vedder and then it just became the entire sound of the decade, and it still kinda [live clip of Five Finger Death Punch] persists to this day in the pockets of the world where rock music still exists.
Todd: But the original grunge guys could put a lot of soul into it and...
Todd (VO): ...you know what, I'll give Alex Band this, he is trying. He's not as [clip of Nickelback - "Photograph"] painfully harsh and ugly as Chad Kroeger.
Todd: In fact, he's awful in the exact opposite way. He's trying too hard to sound soulful.
Alex: You'll need love
To light the shadows on your faceTodd: [impersonating Alex] If a greeeat wave shall faaall! [gags]
Todd (VO): I always hear people tell me that the problem with Nickleback was that their sound was bland. Uh, no. If only. This is what bland sounds like.
Todd: It's hard to treat the lyrics like they're anything but filler, but if there is one whiff of some kind of real emotion in this, it's not a good one.
Alex: When I'm gone
You'll need love
To light the shadows on your faceTodd (VO): This is a grossly condescending song. "Oh, I'm sad because you need someone to protect you."
Todd: "I mean, I'm fine, but you're the one I worry about because, you know, you're weak and pathetic."
Alex: Could you make it on your ownTodd: Now, this is the same criticism levelled decades earlier by feminists...
Clip of...Todd (VO): ...at Cat Stevens' "Wild World".
Cat: But if you wanna leave, take good careTodd (VO): Which is also a song I can't fuckin' stand, but at the very least I get the sense that ol' Yusuf there is...
Todd: ...genuinely hurt by the breakup.
Clip of other music video for "Wherever You Will Go"Todd (VO): And I get no feeling that Alex feels anything about anyone from this song because it's not real. It's a child's attempt at a love song. And that's mostly what I hate about this song, it's so basic.
Todd: That's the best word I can think of here, basic, in every sense.
Clip of Third Eye Blind - "Jumper"Todd (VO): Yet, I came of age with late-'90s post-alternative radio rock. You know, Fastball, The Goo Goo Dolls and all that.
Todd: And I like that genre. I'm not gonna front.
Clip of The Goo Goo Dolls - "Slide"Todd (VO): I like Matchbox Twenty, I like Third Eye Blind, I wasn't too cool for that. One of the most attractive things about adult-alternative was...
Todd: ...ten years earlier these bands would have been left of the dial.
Clip of Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories - "Stay (I Missed You)"Todd (VO): College rock acts or folk singers. And they came to pop stardom at weird angles, they brought their [clip of Natalie Imbruglia - "Torn"] awkward sincerity to the mainstream and they were like "yes, this stuff can be the most popular music around". [live clip of Hootie & the Blowfish - "Only Wanna Be with You"] Even Hootie & the Blowfish, who were basically just a bar band, they took all sorts of odd turns where they'd sing about dolphins and lift entire verses from Bob Dylan.
Todd: And I just don't see any of that creativity or sincerity or just plain weirdness here.
Clip of "Wherever You Will Go"Todd (VO): This was the alternative moment grinding to a halt. Its final slow sellout. The boy-bandification of grunge reached completion...
Todd: ...and that's why it's not a thing anymore. The Calling killed it. [pause] But...
Alex: I'll stay with you for all of timeTodd (VO): ...I don't know, I just said all I said, and...
Todd: ...yet...there's something about this song, isn't there?
Todd (VO): And I actually feel a little softer towards it than when I started. And you know what it is?
Todd: It's those goddamn [sheet music for "Four Chord Song" by Nick Long] pop song chords.
Todd (VO): Overused to hell, beaten into the ground, and still powerful. As much as I complain about it, those goddamn chords still work. This is what a pop song is supposed to sound like. [clip of Maroon 5 - "Girls Like You] And I know I complained about it in that goddamn Maroon 5 song, but that basicness coming from them is a worn-out band not trying anymore. [clip of "Wherever You Will Go"] And here it's a couple of kids trying to make their first stumbling steps into writing.
Todd: It's a lot more justifiable is what I'm saying.
Todd (VO): I think they hit on a really strong melody at least, even if the lyrics don't work and the emphasis is all on the wrong words.
Todd: You know, [sings] "just quite how you'll need love".
Todd (VO): I wouldn't have released it and I still think this song kinda sucks.
Todd: But I can sort of see in hindsight why it was so big.
Todd (VO): And, in fact, I may have gotten this song all wrong.
Todd: 'Cause while I was talking just now, I was, uh, reading Wikipedia on my phone and... this song is not a breakup song!
Image of Aaron and Alex with quote: "My cousin passed away, and he and his wife had been married for 50 some-odd years, and I was just putting myself in her shoes. Like, losing somebody after, like, 50 years." -- Aaron Kamin, guitarist/co-writerTodd (VO): It was inspired from the point of view of one of their older relatives whose husband of many years died!
Todd: [mouth agape] I did not know that. That changes a lot.
Todd (VO): For one, it doesn't sound quite so condescending.
Alex: Who will be there to take my placeTodd: Although it does sound a bit like he's jealous of Jesus.
Alex: And fall upon us allTodd (VO): Yeah, it plays a little differently now that I know that. It's, uh, it does seem a little more sincere even though it's much more awkward.
Alex: I'll go wherever you will go
Way up high
Or down lowTodd: [slowly realizing] Wait, what?
Alex: Or down lowTodd (VO): "Or down low"?
Todd: Did you just imply that your late relative went to hell?!
Todd (VO): [laughs] Holy crap, dude! Though that does up the intensity of the song. "Girl, I'll follow you... to hell."
The failed follow-up
Clip of "Adrienne"
Alex: Adrienne, I thought I knew you
Once again, you used me, used meTodd (VO): [sighs] Another breakup song. This one has a girl's name in it.
Todd: Classic pop song move.
Alex: Never cared how much it hurtTodd (VO): Honestly, I think this song is actually a lot better than their first. Lot more edge and emotion to it, a lot more anger, much better hook. But...
Todd: ...am I gonna remember it three years from now?
Todd (VO): No, I'm not. And I know this because I was planning to do this episode three years ago, and I chose not to, and I do indeed not remember how this song goes.
Todd: Look, The Calling having another hit, was, you know, I-I don't think that was ever gonna happen.
Clip of CD:UK performance of "Adrienne"Todd (VO): For one, they weren't any good. But even if they were, they were way too young to exert any control over their product anyway, they sound entirely manufactured. They were always gonna be overpolished radio rock by two kids who got easily cowed by the label. I mean, that's okay if you're Justin Bieber, not so much when you're a rock band. [clip of "Superman (It's Not Easy)" by...] They made Five For Fighting look edgy and deep!
Todd: I mean, here's their other single off that album. It's fine. Sub-mediocre.
Clip of "Could It Be Any Harder"
Alex: ...it be any harder to say goodbyeTodd (VO): Here's their other single off that album. [beat] I mean...
Todd: ...it is what it is.
Todd (VO): I'm not saying they're talentless. They're not to my taste, but on a technical level at least, they're ready for primetime. They're polished and professional if that's what you want. But the songwriting just isn't there.
Todd: The sense of identity just isn't there. [clip of Sum 41 - "Fat Lip"] Most of the pop-punk bands were just as young, but they had personality and stage presence that eludes Alex and Aaron. [brief clip of "Could It Be Any Harder"] But here's the thing I'm noticing: did I hate this band 'cause Alex Band was just too pretty?
Todd (VO): I mean, look at this kid with his flat-ironed, bleach blonde hair, he looked like a goddamn Backstreet Boy! Did I just resent him on those grounds?
Todd: It... I might have. Which is weird 'cause all the original grunge and alternative acts that they're ripping off...
Montage of images of Kurt Cobain, Gavin Rossdale, Scott Weiland, Eddie Vedder, and another of Eddie Vedder shirtlessTodd (VO): ..a lot of them were fronted by very good looking dudes! I mean, look at Eddie Vedder in his 20s! Goddamn! They...
Todd: ...were all just extremely handsome men. But, they were still men.
Todd (VO): And Alex Band was a boy. I can't say for sure that their fanbase was all girls, but I know that I, at least, was absolutely petty enough to resent them on those grounds. I mean, I would have looked at this Zac Hanson looking pube, I would not have been into their music.
Todd: But, fortunately, I don't think I ever actually looked at this kid because no one cared about them. So, I think I can say I disliked him on his own merits. [shrugs]
Did they do anything else?
Todd: [sighs] Eh.
Clip of Santana ft. Alex Band - "Why Don't You & I"Todd (VO): Like, there was one last thing I remember where they were big. And it wasn't the band, it was just Alex. See, there was this Santana song.
Alex: So I'll say why don't you & I get togetherTodd (VO): One of many duets Santana dumped out in the early 2000s.
Todd: But the version I remember of it was with [clip of the version of the song with...] Chad Kroeger. Yeah, that-that was the version I remember. But for some reason, after getting a ton of airplay, they...
Todd: ...replaced him with the guy from The Calling.
Clip of Alex Band versionTodd (VO): I was never clear what happened there. Think there was some kind of label dispute. It was something [clip of Nickelback - "Someday"] like Nickelback's people didn't want the Santana song to distract from the new Nickelback album.
Todd: It's a shame 'cause "Why Don't You & I" is...
Todd (VO): ...one of the few songs where Chad dials it back and doesn't sound so terrifying. If Alex was gonna redo any vocals, it should have been [brief clip of Nickelback - "Photograph"] all of Nickelback's other songs! But, uh, yeah, there you have it, Alex Band's ultimate legacy. As the...
Todd: ...non-union Mexican equivalent of Chad Kroeger.
Clip of The Calling - "Anything"Todd (VO): The Calling did release a second album. They said that now, with this second album, they had more experience and they were in control, no more being ground down by the thumb of the record label, blanding them up and polishing them into a Kidz Bop Pearl Jam.
Todd: No, no. The Calling was calling its own shots now.
Clip of "Our Lives"
Alex: 'Cause these are the days worth living
These are the years worth giving
And these are the moments, these are the timesTodd (VO): Yeah, I do not hear it.
Todd: They sound exactly the same. And after that, the band broke up.
Clip of Alex Band - "Only One"Todd (VO): Alex went solo. I'm really disappointed he didn't start a second band called The Alex Band Band. And he had one super minor...
Clip of...Todd (VO): ...hit in 2010 called "Tonight".