One Hit Wonder: Dionne Farris

After taking Arrested Development back to Tennessee, Dionne crafted a musical hit that still resonates today.

In the summer of 1992, Arrested Development had the first of three top ten hits with "Tennessee", a song as powerful and hypnotic today as it was seventeen years ago. A quest for spiritual enlightenment hindered by the anger and pain of growing up in a world that often makes no sense, the song ended with the strong, pleading voice of Dionne Farris echoing the song's search for home.

Dionne, who was more one of the "extended family" than an actual member of Arrested Development, got noticed after the song became such a major hit, and Chrysalis (Arrested Development's record company) offered her a solo contract. Looking for more creative control than the company was willing to give, Dionne turned down the offer. Fortunately, Sony Music heard a demo she made with David Harris, and they offered her a contract that was more flexible.

The result was one of the best albums of the year, Wild Seed, Wild Flower.

I still find music's capacity to insinuate itself into every area of our lives amazing. A song can heal you in ways medicine never can, yet it can shatter an already broken heart with a casualness that's almost terrifying. A theme song from a decades-old television show can make you inadvertently smile, even when you're at your worst, and an annoying song that causes you to change radio stations can still haunt you hours later, playing on a perpetual loop until you want to scream.

I just have to hear the opening chords of Boz Scaggs' "Love Look What You've Done To Me" and I'm fourteen-years-old again in the roller-skating rink in LaCrosse, Virginia, confused and overwhelmed by pretty much everything and yet oddly optimistic at the same time. "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes reminds me of Rick and of driving through Tanglewood, smashing mailboxes (yes, at one time I was one of those horrible teenage terrorists). "If I Never Knew You", one of those cheesy Disney movie ballads sung by Jon Secada and Shanice, instantly brings me back to a time when I was in love and couldn't believe it had actually happened for me.

Listening to Wild Seed, Wild Flower makes me feel safe. Every now and then during the spring and summer of 1995, I'd drive out to an elementary school a few miles away, get on the swing set, and watch the evening turn into night while I'd listen to Dionne Farris' cassette on my Walkman. It was wonderful to have an hour or two of peace, listening to smart, sophisticated music from a woman with a phenomenal voice. I wouldn't go back to that time, when I was still wrestling with so much and working at a job that barely paid enough to survive on. But listening to Dionne reminds me that not all of my memories of that time are bad, not by a long stretch.

"I Know", the lead single from Wild Seed, became a massive hit for Dionne Farris. The song stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine months, eventually peaking at #4. Just like "Tennessee", it's one of those timeless songs that only gets better as the years go by.

Unfortunately, the phenomenal "Don't Ever Touch Me (Again)" peaked at #21 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart, but never made it onto the main chart. And while "Hopeless", a song featured on the Love Jones movie soundtrack, became a mild hit on some radio stations (peaking at #23 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart on June 21, 1997), it too never made it to the Hot 100.

But that's okay. The one thing most music fans can probably agree on is that sometimes it's okay to be a one-hit wonder. Sometimes, just that one song or one album can be more than you could have reasonably hoped for. And while I would love to see Dionne Farris achieve the level of success her huge talent deserves, I'm just glad there was a time in my life when she'd sing to me while I sat on a swing, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself.

As an added bonus, here is the video to "Don't Ever Touch Me (Again)", one of my favorite songs of the Nineties:






A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.