A treatise on individualism from Nik Kershaw, the pop philosopher who brought us “The Riddle”? Expectations raised! And “The One And Only” absolutely does not disappoint. “No one can be myself like I can / For this job I’m the best man / And while this may be true / You are the one and only you.”
The job of delivering this weighty message goes to Chesney Hawkes, a likeably harmless singer not destined for anything much, and so oddly appropriate for a song which thinks about declaring independence, dips a toe in the waters of freedom and then steps back in utter confusion. “I can’t wear this uniform without some compromises” – OK THEN, says The Man, happily changing said uniform’s fit. And what about the magnificently pouty “Don’t tell me I know best / I’m not the same as all the rest”? Not having seen source film Buddy’s Song, I can only guess that the “I know best” is meant to be reported speech, but that’s not how Chesney phrases it, and as it stands the lines capture the sheer incoherence of teenage frustration remarkably well.
Musically “The One And Only” is punchy without being interesting – it sounds like a dull 80s holdover until the goofily rockin’ guitar solo brings it to more vulgar life. But it’s Chesney’s incoherent self-assertion that makes this very much of its time. His affable, clean-cut slackness carries a hint of Bill And Ted, but this being 1991 I also find myself thinking of another song fuelled by impossible demands and compromises. Perhaps “The One And Only” is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the square majority: hurl your confusion at the world and be home in time for tea.