You have one shot at a musical legacy. Until we prove or disprove the existence of reincarnation, this will always remain the case. Obadiah Parker perhaps finds this idea intriguing. Reigning from the desert-realm of Arizona, Parker began in a three-man band.
Parker was known as Mat Weddle, a considerably less interesting name (no offense) and the band was called Obadiah Parker. And in typical musical fashion, Obadiah Parker retained the name for his solo career when the band broke up and left Mat Weddle pursuing music by his own multi-talented self.
Falling into the social media phenomenon, Parker released a cover of a popular song, and it became a massive hit.
This proves the formula. Since the inception of MySpace, YouTube and online platforms musicians have harnessed the power of social media’s viral opportunities to spread the word about their music.
It is a three-pronged process, but all musicians understand how to become extremely popular in a short period of time.
Cover a popular song with a special twist
Record yourself playing popular song or the audio over a video of something interesting
Refresh the page, tell your friends
The process is so ingrained into musician’s consciousness, and so overused; it’s no longer very effective. Yet circa 2006, Parker became one of the first artists to take advantage of the three-pronged approach, by covering “Outkast’s” hit song “Hey Ya!” The song was popular. Check. Parker recorded it acoustically. Considering the original was a pop-fuelled hip-hop song, that’s an instant check. The video went live in 2006 and over the course of a few months, racked up a million views. The current tally has it around 10 million, but with all the copies people made, the number is almost impossible to get.
And with that, Parker became a mild short-term sensation. He went on to record an album called Obadiah Parker Live which earned modest success. Not only did it contain a beautiful cover of Radiohead’s polarizing track “Idioteque” off their 2000 album “Kid A,” it contained a shelving of originals, and was cap-stoned by his cover of “Hey Ya!”
Obadiah Parker remained quiet, but in 2011, he released his debut full-length, “The Siren and the Saint.” Gorgeous and sensational, the album earned him notable acclaim and respect.
But he never really escaped from that original breakthrough cover. None of the songs from the album even got close to reaching the “success” level of “Hey Ya!” It’s a shame. Obadiah Parker is undoubtedly a talented musician, and the album is rife with smart and contemplative music, filled with plenty of pop hooks coated by whimsical acoustics. But the shadow of his rise through the social media elevator proves too empowering.
Yet, without the success of that video, Obadiah Parker may never have had the opportunity to release his completely original album at all. In some ways, the cover was a blessing. He will, more than likely, remain in the shadow of a dated hip-hop cover song. The song is fantastic, as is the cover. But no matter how excellent, the climb to 8 million views is a hard tower to ascend. Yet, without that success, his album may never have been created and heard by ANYONE. In the same way “Hey Ya” becomes his curse, it becomes his greatest blessing. The opportunity provided by the likes of social media is a great one, but one not immune to interesting and provocative pitfalls still untested.
Ryan Merkel is a writer on music, pop culture, entertainment, business, and all those other fun things which make life tick. He is an entrepreneur, designer, and overall pop culture enthusiast. Ryan owns the clothing line LoveMended with his wife, which focuses on fashion and charity, as well as the music blog CultureTease. Ryan is the author of two novels, and currently lives in Florida.