“Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik (1996)

Here’s a case of a song becoming SO FUCKING UBIQUITOUS that everyone got sick of it.

I swear, “Barely Breathing” was on every pop/rock-leaning top 40 station for a year, then got played on every adult contemporary radio station for another year. It’s a great record (see: 5 star rating), but…I get why people might kind of cringe if they hear that song’s opening chords. I may have needed a few years’ distance before fully appreciating it again, myself.

Duncan Sheik was, technically, a one-hit wonder. He didn’t even place on the Hot 100 after “Barely Breathing” ended its year-plus (!) run on the pop charts.  But he’s a prime example of someone whose status as merely a blip on the pop culture radar doesn’t do justice to his talent. I definitely think he was a bit too smart for pop radio as it transitioned into the Max Martin/Lou Perlman era in the late ‘90s. He didn’t dumb his music down for the mainstream audience, and I appreciate that.

Apparently, Broadway was more ready for Duncan Sheik (long-term) than Top 40 radio was.  I’m not much for musicals, but I do know that Spring Awakening was a big thing for a minute and got Mr. Sheik at least one Tony Award. Additionally, “Barely Breathing” has had legs, and I’d have to imagine that those publishing checks for “Barely Breathing” are still pretty fat. There’s elevators, supermarkets and dentists’ offices playing that song as I type this, and that’s not a dis song, either. They play James Taylor and The Carpenters at supermarkets and that shit is timeless!

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