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Chart Beat

When Barenaked Ladies went to No. 1 with "One Week"

After some success in Canada, Barenaked Ladies single became a global smash 25 years ago and finally broke them worldwide.

​Barenaked Ladies circa 2023

Barenaked Ladies circa 2023

Matt Barnes

It’s been 25 years since “One Week.” As fate would have it, the Barenaked Ladies song spent exactly one week at the top of the Billboard Charts in October 1998. (Maybe the band should have called it six or eight weeks?)

The instantly recognizable hit took the Scarborough band — who released their latest record, In Flight, in September — to international heights. They had success in Canada in the early '90s with the independently released The Yellow Tape, which sold 100,000 copies across the country, as well as “If I Had $1000000” which appeared both on that tape and their official debut album, 1992’s Gordon. (They also recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of their first concert, Oct., 1988 at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.) But as the band’s Ed Robertson tells CBC’s Tom Power in a new interview, that was all just preparation for the smash success of “One Week.”


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“We were spending all of our time trying to grow something in America,” Robertson says. Their single “The Old Apartment” charted in the States, but it was the mile-a-minute freestyling of “One Week” that sent the band into the stratosphere.

Barenaked Ladies also reminisced about the song 10 years ago to Billboard.

“There were some extra verses and stuff,” recalls Robertson. “I just culled it down to what I thought were my favorite lines. But it was written as a freestyle.”

Back then, he said he wrote it in two and a half minutes. Now, Robertson tells CBC that he wrote the song in about four minutes by improvising lyrics into a camcorder. “Chickity China, the Chinese chicken,” is a reference to Busta Rhymes' verse on the Tribe Called Quest song “Scenario,” Robertson explains. “We're dans la maison,” is a ditty Robertson used to sing to the tune of the X-Files theme song. Meanwhile, “I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral,” is inspired by Robertson’s memory of his own brother’s funeral, where one of the speakers quoted Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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Robertson recalls the intensity of the period after “One Week” took off. “Success in America and worldwide is another animal entirely,” he tells Power. “One Week” was a global hit, reaching number one in Japan, Germany, and the UK.

All these years later, Robertson insists he hasn’t grown bored of the song. “The joy that I see in the audience when we play it,” he tells Power. “It’s everything.”

Listen to the full interview on CBC Q here.

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