’90s No. 1s Revisited: “One Week”
The one hundred twenty-third No. 1 song of the 1990s was “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies. Prior to this single’s release, the rockers had acquired legions of devotees after a string of hits in their native Canada and a steady touring schedule throughout the U.S. We classify Barenaked Ladies as “college” music, perhaps because we were in college when they were popular. Their personas were clever, witty, “regular” looking dudes who were plugged into reality but didn’t take themselves too seriously.
Prior to “One Week,” Barenaked Ladies had sent two songs onto the Hot 100: “The Old Apartment” in 1997 (peak: 88) and “Brian Wilson” earlier in 1998 (peak: 68). Boosted by the performance of “One Week” in the U.S., they went on to chart four more times afterward, most successfully with the brilliant “Pinch Me” (peak: 15), one of our favorite songs of 2000. Both “One Week” and “Pinch Me” were nominated for Grammys, but Barenaked Ladies is, as of now, 0 in 2. They last charted in 2003 but continue to release material and tour religiously. Just last year (2019), for example, they played 65 shows.
Barenaked Ladies started as a duo comprising Ed Robertson and Steven Page, and the two share lead vocals on “One Week,” with Ed spitting the rapid-fire verses and Steven delivering the hook. The song’s legacy primarily lies in its odd but memorable shout-outs of quirky phrases and pop culture references in the verses, such as “Chickity China the Chinese chicken / You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin’ / Watchin’ X-Files with no lights on / We’re dans la maison / I hope the Smoking Man’s in this one.” If you’ve never heard this song, don’t worry if you don’t understand those lyrics. Even those of us who heard it hundreds of times on the radio don’t really get it either.
Focus your full attention — you’ll need it! — and let’s revisit “One Week”:
There are many praises to heap onto Barenaked Ladies, including their musical talent, originality, showmanship, perseverance and catalog of often wonderful music. But, man, “One Week” is annoying. In the same way that a comedy movie trailer might not make you laugh even though the full-length movie is hilarious, “One Week” tries to encapsulate Barenaked Ladies’ sensibilities, but as a track it doesn’t have any repeat-listening value. We’re not even sure we’d classify it as music. It feels like a recording of sounds a psychologist would use in a lab to test his patient’s resilience.
Does it hold up? Not even a little bit. When this song was released, we can see how some people might be entertained by trying to decipher and interpret the verses. But even by 1999, nobody was doing so anymore. Also worth noting is that the video has been up on YouTube for 10 years, as of this writing, and has only 25 million views, which may sound impressive, but for a No. 1 song, it’s not great. It’s still on the band’s concert set list, though. So maybe Barenaked Ladies’ fans enjoy it.
Dopeness: 1 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?