Things Can Only Get Better (D:Ream song)

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"Things Can Only Get Better"
Dream-things can only get better s.jpg
Single by D:Ream
from the album D:Ream On Volume 1
B-side"Remix"
Released
  • 18 January 1993 (1st 1993 Version)
  • 27 December 1993 (2nd 1993 Version)
  • 21 April 1997 (1997 Version)
  • 24 February 2014 (2014 Version)
RecordedAosis Studios
GenreDance-pop
Length4:03
LabelMagnet Records
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
D:Ream singles chronology
"Unforgiven"
(1993)
"Things Can Only Get Better"
(1993)
"U R the Best Thing"
(1993)

"Star" / "I Like It"
(1993)

"Things Can Only Get Better"
(1994)

"U R the Best Thing (Perfecto Mix)"
(1994)
Music video
"Things Can Only Get Better" on YouTube

"Things Can Only Get Better" is a song by Northern Irish musical group D:Ream. The Labour Party used it as a theme during the party's successful campaign in the general election of 1997. The song took several months to reach the top of the UK Singles Chart. Originally a club hit, pop success took much longer for the song – initially, it reached only number 24 on the chart in January 1993. Band member Al Mackenzie left later that year, and remaining member Peter Cunnah took the band in a more pop-friendly direction. "Things Can Only Get Better" was remixed and became a bigger hit, spending four weeks at number one in January 1994.[1] In addition, the song managed to reach the top 10 in 8 countries. In the US, it peaked at number 7 on Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

Background and release[edit]

Frontman of D:Ream, Peter Cunnah was in an indie guitar band called Tie the Boy in Derry. After moving to London and the deal with the label Mother went cold, the band broke up. Cunnah stayed in London, working three years in clubs. He also had an office job, but all he really wanted was to become a pop star. One day he was a bit teary about it, one of the office girls said, "Don't worry. Things can only get better." Right there he got the idea for the song and with some help from Jamie Petrie, who wrote some of the lyrics. But the song just ended up on Cunnah's stockpile of 300 unrecorded tunes. Two years later, after Cunnah had started the new band D:Ream with Alan Mackenzie, they were working on a track and then "Things Can Only Get Better" came back into Cunnah's head. It took a year to get the song right and producer Tom Frederikse built it up with choirs until it sounded like a stadium full of people singing. This time, the single reached number 24 on the UK Singles Chart. Now they wanted to go in different directions, so Mackenzie left the band.

"There used to be this idea that rock music was intellectual and dance music was just a totally physical thing. I think we're one of the bands that has succeeded in breaking that down. If people just want to dance to our music, that's fine. If they want to sit down and take in some of the serious points addressed by the lyrics, that's also fine. If they want to listen to it on both levels, that's even better."
—Peter Cunnah.[2]

According to Mackenzie, "Things Can Only Get Better" was first released as a 10-minute instrumental EP with a reggae break. The subsequent single version originally had a gospel-type a cappella intro, but the record company cut it off. Mackenzie told them that they were crazy and that the part was crucial to how the song builds, so when the song was remixed, it was reinstated in the song.[3] In 1994, the remix sold 600,000 copies and spent 4 weeks at number-one on the UK Singles Chart. The single also managed to reach the Top 10 in 8 other countries. Tony Blair loved that song and in 1997, Labour Party asked if they could use the song as their 1997 election tune. That made the song go back into the UK Singles Chart for a third time.

Critical reception[edit]

The song received favorable reviews from music critics. Aberdeen Evening Express said it is "incredibly catchy".[4] Larry Flick from Billboard described it as a "radio-friendly ditty that blends an insinuating groove with rollicking gospel chants and a wildly infectious pop melody. Track builds to a fitting, anthemic musical climax that is complemented by choir vocals and heartfelt lead belting."[5] Evening Herald called the song a "prophetic anthem".[6] Tom Ewing from Freaky Trigger described it as "tune-heavy, hands-high dance-pop".[7] Melody Maker labeled it as a "infectious, euphoric anthem".[8] Music & Media called it a "poppy rave anthem" and added that "this optimistic perspective on life deserves your support."[9] Andy Beevers from Music Week noted it as a "stand-out tune" and a "tuneful, epic house track".[10] James Hamilton from the magazine's RM Dance Update described it as a "infectious" and "jiggly chugger".[11] John Kilgo from The Network Forty said that the "house approach gives this tune a cutting edge feel. D:Ream sends a positive message to disenchanted youth. Featuring powerful vibes flavored by techno bass thumps as well as Peter Cunnah's searing harmonies, this record will stir up the request lines for months. Encompassing the best of dance, rock, and alternative, D:Ream hits a home run."[12] Pop Rescue complimented its "funky saxophone, a relentlessly thumping bass drum, house piano and Peter’s strong vocals." They stated that "it’s still a bloody good song".[13] Adam Higginbotham from Select deemed it a "perfect feelgood pop-dance record".[14] Smash Hits gave it 5 out of 5, stating that D:Ream "are the best dance act this side of the moon and it's a crime that they're not as big as M People already with all their fab dancey tunes. Stick it on, stick it out and let 'em down. Just watch the elastic on your knickers burst with the sheer excitement of it all. Bloomin' marvellous."[15]

Chart performance[edit]

"Things Can Only Get Better" was originally a club hit, reaching number 24 in the United Kingdom in January 1993. A year later, in January 1994, the song was released in a new remix and reached number-one in the UK, on 16 January.[16] It spent four weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart. In Europe, the song peaked within the Top 10 in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and Sweden. On the Eurochart Hot 100, "Things Can Only Get Better" reached number 5 in February 1994. Outside Europe, the song reached number 3 in Israel and number 9 in Australia. In the United States, the 1994 version peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Things Can Only Get Better" was directed by British film and music video director James Lebon. The video was nominated for the International Viewer's Choice Award for MTV Europe at MTV Europe Music Awards in 1994. It was uploaded to YouTube in November 2018. In August 2020, the video has got more than 585,000 views.[17]

Track listing[edit]

CD maxi, Europe (1st 1993 Release)
No.TitleLength
1."Things Can Only Get Better" (7" D:reamix)3:23
2."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" D:reamix)7:10
3."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" Vocal Dub)8:00
4."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" Instrumental)6:10
5."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" Danny Rampling Mix)5:55
CD maxi, Europe (2nd 1993 Release)
No.TitleLength
1."Things Can Only Get Better" (D·Reamix Edit)4:01
2."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" D·Reamix)7:04
3."Things Can Only Get Better" (Cleveland City Style)6:15
4."Things Can Only Get Better" (Superfly Development Vocal)5:58
5."Things Can Only Get Better" (Cleveland Main Vocal)6:32
6."Things Can Only Get Better" (Cleveland Euro Style)5:58
CD maxi, Europe (1997)
No.TitleLength
1."Things Can Only Get Better" (D:reamix Edit)3:59
2."Things Can Only Get Better" (D:reamix '97 Edit)4:06
3."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" D:reamix)7:03
4."Things Can Only Get Better" (12" D:reamix '97)8:14
5."Things Can Only Get Better" (Cleveland City Style)6:14
6."Things Can Only Get Better" (Superfly Development Vocal)5:59
Digital Download, (2014)
No.TitleLength
1."Things Can Only Get Better" (D·Reamix Edit)4:01

In popular culture[edit]

As a campaign song[edit]

In 1997, the track was adopted by the UK Labour Party, as their theme for the general election (the title claiming that things "cannot get worse"), as Labour's campaign was that the United Kingdom was in a dire state, after eighteen years of Conservative government under first Margaret Thatcher and then John Major, and the Labour Party said they could fix the problems of the country.

On the back of this use it returned to the chart, reaching #19 in May 1997, when Labour returned to power with Tony Blair as Prime Minister, replacing John Major's Conservatives as the party in government, with one of the biggest landslides in British political history.

John O'Farrell used the song title as the title of his book about Labour's 18 years in opposition. Later, lead singer Peter Cunnah admitted mixed feelings about the use of the song as part of the election campaign.

Other[edit]

In February 1998, the song was featured in an episode of Top Gear, during the review of the Toyota Avensis, with a voice-over by presenter Jeremy Clarkson.[18]

In 2013, the song was adopted as a chant by fans of Sunderland A.F.C.,[19][20] after the teams revival under manager Gus Poyet. Supporters of Sunderland launched a campaign to get the song back into the chart, to coincide with their team's Capital One Cup Final on 2 March 2014 at Wembley Stadium. On 3 March 2014, the song re entered in the UK Dance Chart at #19. Mackenzie described the resurgence to a Sunderland website as "a bit bizarre" but he was "revelling in it"[21][22][23]

In an interview on the television programme Charlie Brooker's 2016 Wipe, D:Ream's keyboardist-turned-physicist Brian Cox reflected on the song during a discussion about the destruction and incineration of Earth by the sun, admitting that it is "one of the most misleading and scientifically inaccurate pop songs that's ever been written".[24] A running gag on The Infinite Monkey Cage, which Cox co-presents, highlights that the lyric "Things Can Only Get Better" violates the second law of thermodynamics.[25]

Charts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 562–3. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ Kutner, Jon; Leigh, Spencer (26 May 2010). 1,000 UK Number One Hits. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-360-2.
  3. ^ Simpson, Dave (5 June 2017). "How we made D:Ream's election anthem Things Can Only Get Better". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Dream team". Aberdeen Evening Express. 1993-01-28. page 15. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  5. ^ "Billboard: Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved 24 January 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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