Catch the vibes catch the vibes…
In a perfect world that line would immediately click with all people in their 30s, and until fairly recently I thought it did. That’s why I was shocked, shocked I tell you, when I brought up the song during a recording of my defunct podcast 1994, and my co-host, sound engineer, and guest had no idea what it was. “Lucas With the Lid Off” came out in October 1994, and while it enjoyed success at the time, except for in my brain it never entered the popular culture pantheon for one hit wonders alongside “Teenage Dirtbag” and “You Get What You Give.”
Certain tradeoffs have occurred in popular music in the past 25 years. While the era of massive album deals is dead and gone, the musical landscape is seen as having been democratized with the rise of Bandcamp, Spotify, and SoundCloud. An artist can enter the fray and build an audience with little to no overhead. In the 90s, modern rock radio was rightly seen as still mostly a pay to play enterprise with significant barriers to entry. Even if record labels were no longer literally paying for airplay (and in some instances they were), there was a guest list at the door, and if you weren’t Warner Brothers, Geffen, etc. you weren’t on it.
Despite this vetting process, in some ways it was easier to expose yourself to a wide variety of music in the 90s than it is in 2019, because listeners knew where to look. Today, a listener could be forgiven in thinking that the genre of SoundCloud rap, for example, begins and ends with Post Malone, because if one doesn’t actively seek it out, he or she won’t be exposed to any of it that hasn’t appeared in a TV commercial or a Spider-Man movie. With radio, if the station mandate was broad enough listeners were exposed to multiple genres without even changing the station. Even though I was firmly entrenched in the world of grunge rock in 1994, I was very aware of things like “All 4 Love” and “Lucas With the Lid Off.” My musical taste was like the Democratic Party: it was a big tent.
“Lucas With the Lid Off” was the lead single on Danish rapper Lucas Secon’s album Lucacentric and without doing any research I’m willing to say with certainty that it’s the most successful release from a Danish rapper of all time. The song samples the 1935 Benny Goodman song “When Buddha Smiles” and the clarinet forward arrangement serves as the backbone for a light, meandering melody creating a chill vibe. The song reached #22 on the Billboard charts and Michel Gondry directed the music video, which earned him a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Music Video” as well as a MTV Music award nomination.
Apart from padding the word count for this article, I provided the information above to drive home the point that this was a popular song, with a very popular music video. They got freaking Michel Gondry to do the video. Despite all of that it’s basically forgotten today. I couldn’t even find a copy of this Grammy Nominated Music Video on YouTube. I had to go to DailyMotion, the Wild West of video sharing platforms, to locate it.
And “Lucas With the Lid Off” wasn’t just big radio hit! It made its way into a dancing jeans commercial (I swear this was a Levi’s commercial. They were on a bus. I’m not making this up!) that I also can’t find on YouTube and I swear doesn’t only exist in my brain. Seriously, it’s like there’s a conspiracy to remove all uses of this song from popular culture.
Did Lucas have a big follow up hit to “Lucas With the Lid Off?” Of course he didn’t. He went the way of all of the other famous Danish rappers of years past, fading into oblivion. Even though Lucas may be a hazy memory, his song shouldn’t be. It stood on the shoulders of other hit songs where only a handful of the lyrics are discernible, like Snow’s “Informer” and paved the way for Eiffel 65’s “Blue.” “Lucas With the Lid Off” is 25 years old. It deserved better.
What are some lesser known one hit wonders you miss? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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