‘Worst song ever’: 1990s anthem ‘What’s Up?’ by 4 Non Blondes gets a billion streams on YouTube
The worldwide smash hit has a number of detractors, including its singer and songwriter
Twenty eight years later and 4 Non Blondes are back in the news: what's going on?
The US group's 1993 single What's Up? reached a billion streams on YouTube for the first time in 10 years since it was uploaded on the platform.
The song joins the likes of fellow 1990s anthems November Rain by Guns N' Roses, Whitney Houston's I Will Always You and Zombie by The Cranberries in YouTube's musical billionaires' club.
The track also buried her band, as 4 Non Blondes fell into the “one-hit wonder” trap. They broke up the following year with one album – Bigger, Better, Faster, More! – to their name.
Here are five other fun facts about the song.
1. The title was chosen for clarity
A confusing aspect of What’s Up? is the title's words are never heard in the song. Instead, the chorus has Perry bellowing, “Hey, what’s going on?”
The reason for the word change was to avoid confusion in record stores with soul singer Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit What’s Going On.
2. The band knew it would be a hit
Sometimes, it just comes down to a gut feeling.
4 Non Blondes guitarist Christa Hillhouse recalls how the band reacted when Perry composed the track on the acoustic guitar.
“I remember when she was writing the verses to What's Up?, she knew it so well, she thought she heard it before,” Hillhouse told Songfacts.
“I think that's why the song connects with so many people. What she was feeling she was able to translate. If you look at the lyrics, they don't mean anything. It's the way the song makes certain people feel.”
3. Linda Perry heard the song and cried
Perry was devastated by the song’s shiny production.
“I’m not supposed to tell you this and my publicist said to me ‘please don’t say this’ – but I wasn’t really a big fan of my band," she told Rolling Stone in 2011.
"I did love What’s Up?’ but I hated the production. When I heard our record for the first time I cried. It didn’t sound like me. … I wanted to say, ‘We’re a (cool) band. We’re not that fluffy polished (music) that you’re listening to.'”
4. Other rockers hate the song too...
What’s Up? has appeared in numerous "worst song" lists by musicians.
Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite told The Independent: "This songs makes me feel ... nauseous."
Meanwhile, Dean Ween, frontman of fellow 1990s band Ween, said What’s Up? represents the worst aspects of that era's sound. “It's as bad as music gets,” he told The AV Club.
“Everything about the song is so awful that if I sat down and tried to write the worst song ever, I couldn't even make it 10 per cent of the reality of how awful that song is."
5. It got the remix treatment
If that's how Ween felt about the original, where would he begin when describing DJ Miko's version?
In 1993, while the song was riding high in the charts worldwide, the Italian producer did a Europop remix of What's Up? that apparently went down a treat on dance floors in Sweden and Finland.
Updated: February 18, 2021 05:44 PM