It’s a good to be “a thing.” You’re revered, you’re loved, you’re in demand, attractive people might notice you, and there’s even the occasional free drink ticket out of the deal. What a coup!
Not only is being “a thing” a sexy proposition, but being the “next big thing” is particularly tantalizing. You could be in line for millions of dollars, icon status, and your own religion if you play your cards right. The only downside is that not every “next big thing” blossoms into a stadium-conquering megagod. Sometimes you’re an also-ran, sometimes you’re a cult proposition, and sometimes you’re working the graveyard shift at Wendy’s telling everyone that comes through the drive-in speaker that you opened for Wolf Parade way back when. Music can be a cruel beast.
We salute the artists that were saddled with the “next big thing” label and never truly reached the hype laid out for it. Here are 10 of these acts you may have forgotten.
Sleaze-postured NYC outfit A.R.E. Weapons never seemed likely to headline an arena, but they did have the endorsement of Jarvis Cocker (or so they legend goes) and the residual glow of being vaguely electroclash-adjacent, which was considered a plus as the time. If you didn’t live through A.R.E. Weapons, they were the guy at the party that does cocaine “as a joke” before doing a locomotive’s worth of additional drugs. Chloë Sevigny’s brother Paul served as their manager before joining the band himself around the time of their full-length debut (They’re also a touch better than you remember).
We’re a complicated people, us humans. We enjoy thrilling new dances, but we’re also merciless when one fails to suit our fancy. This is our elaborate way of pointing out that “The Ketchup Song” was presented like Christ invented “Macarena II” (cuz Spanish?) and if it was good enough for Europe it would unquestionably take America by storm. It didn’t. Even with a shameless yank of “Rapper’s Delight” and the goodwill attached to a beloved red food sauce, The States let this thing peak at #54 before shoving it in its glove compartment and never thinking about it again. Allegedly, this thing went to #1 in Canada, but we imagine you’ll be hard-pressed to Ketchup hand-jive along at any social engagement. Well, aside from a pizza party with Satanists.
There’s no reason for J-Kwon to keep such a low profile. After all, he’s well over 21. One of the younger faces of the St. Louis rap boom, J-Kwon blessed the world with ultimate underage drinking anthem “Tipsy” presenting a hook for high school sophomores to shout before barfing up a gutful of Bacardi Breezers. In 2010, J-Kwon’s record label announced that their client had gone missing. He’d pop up a few weeks later.
Towers Of London
If The Darkness could beat the odds by turning catsuits, silliness and jumbo-sized glam-rock into a lucrative operation (well, for one album at least), Towers of London surely had a fighting chance. These English snotbubbles seemed poised to score headlines even if their music wasn’t much to truly gush over. (Stephen King said something nice about “I’m A Rat” when he wrote for Entertainment Weekly, so um… that’s a thing.) Their brand of punk-snarling, debauched hair-metal and funny coifs failed to topple the globe, although they’re a fascinating case study to look back on.
Not to be confused with retired adult film performer Brooke Ballentyne, Brooke Valentine loomed large as one of the potential titans of what was hastily christened “crunk&B” (Ciara was also lumped into that “WE NEED TO SQUEEZE THIS CRUNK BRANDING TURNIP AS HARD AS WE CAN” genre umbrella even though no one really ran with it). The Big Boi and Lil Jon aided single “Girlfight” did alright, but poor Brooke faded from view. It’s a shame because “Girlfight” is still a charmer.
Clumsily billed by journos as something akin to the UK answer to Lauryn Hill, Ms. Dynamite arrived on our shores with Mercury Music Prize approval and a debut that arrived to warm reviews. North America seemed alright with having the genre-melting Brit pop by (hello, SNL appearance!), but was in the mood for nothing longer than a friendly visit.
Hot Hot Heat
Slotted into heavy Canadian alternative radio rotation and championed by NME during the unfortunately monikered “New Rock Revolution,” this synth-kissed Victoria outfit operated within a herky-jerky space between post-punk, punk-funk and punky-munky (We made up the last one). Would indie dancefloors surrender to the charms of Hot Hot Heat? For a while, yes! The romance would fizzle out later in the decade.
Allen’s initial impact faded in the following years and, despite an anticipated 2014 return, she remains largely a mid-2000s relic.
Arriving with just a whisker less hoopla than the superstars of their The ____s brethren (read: The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines), New Zealand’s The Datsuns emerged to plant a flag in the garage-rock revival sweepstakes. Their existence led to splattered jeans among the British press (you might be sensing a pattern), but North America responded with mixed reviews and general indifference. Perplexingly, Jet seemed to temporarily get a hearty thumbs-up on this side of the world for trotting out their own brand of oceanic dad-rock.
Martin Tomlinson and disco irritants Selfish Cunt were “The Most Delusional Art Student At Your University: The Band.” Nowhere near as dangerous or clever as they liked to imagine, the outfit might be best known for being at the center of the mid 2000s-iest NME moment ever. Tomlinson threw fresh horse fudge at Babyshambles era Pete Doherty during a photoshoot and The Others frontman Dominic Masters responded by dumping a beer on Tomlinson. Very good band Art Brut were there and did not participate in any sorts of shenanigoats.