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I was faced with a bit of a dilemma before posting this song, because on one hand, I believe being genuine is a cornerstone of living honestly. But on the other hand, some (small) degree of credibility is valuable. And let’s face it, this is a more than slightly cheesy number.
Then again, I had no issue with posting something by Def Leppard in this section -- although in fairness, for all their talent, that band is such a heat-sink for credibility that I didn’t have much to worry about. Secondly, I maintain that ‘The One And Only’ is an exceptionally well-written song, and thirdly, I am not embarrassed to admit, I have been listening to it a great deal lately -- and it’s made me feel like a million bucks. Because, most importantly of all, I think the message of this song is just brilliant -- and it’s delivered with a degree of artism and panache that belies its radio-friendly packaging.
Nik Kershaw, the person who penned this track, is an individual for whom I have no shortage of respect as a songwriter. His 80s classic, ‘Wouldn’t it be good’, had a strong formative effect during my childhood -- in no small part because of the meteorically creative PV, which in my opinion is among the best ever made. ‘The Riddle’, as well, speaks volumes about its author -- for all the random-ass stream-of-consciousness bullshit that it ostensibly is, it’s a long way from meaningless.
Kershaw has taken great care with the mechanics of ‘One And Only’, such as the rhyme and phrasing, while also building his argument in a way that is both accessible and inclusive (“you are the one and only you”). It’s performed by Chesney Hawkes, who was a very good-looking young man at the time this song hit the charts. But in addition to his big coif and innate charisma, he has a fantastic pair of lungs, and he carries off this radiant assertion of self-belief with sincerity and conviction.
By my standards, such a soaring affirmation of individual identity in the face of popular opposition is a quality that should be encouraged at every opportunity. In high school, I used to get beaten up on a daily basis because of how different I was to everyone else. Yet it was inconceivable to me that I should be anything but myself, and I was proud to continue being true to my values instead of acquiescing. At the time, songs such as this one reinforced my determination to prevail.
It is only in retrospect that I realise how significant a victory that was -- while also appreciating how important it is to support others who are struggling to shine in their own way despite being surrounded by hostile, cowardly mediocrity.
To me, that’s exactly what this song is all about.
Check it out on YouTube