One in a Million
Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1993
Original album - Very
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Stephen Hague
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)
This driving song, propelled by its locomotive rhythm and galloping bass synthesizer line, can barely conceal its essentially (but not unavoidably) gay subtext. The narrator tries to assure his erstwhile, unfaithful lover that he won't stand in his way or try to prevent his leaving, despite the fact that, as he puts it, "of course I'll feel rejected." But at the same time he warns him that only "one in a million men can change the way you feel"implying that he himself is that one man. In short, he's telling his lover that he's free to go, but that he'll have a hard time finding as much happiness and satisfaction as he can enjoy by staying.
Neil and Chris created this number by combining elements of two other unfinished songs they had worked on. One was from nearly ten years before and featured the title line "One in a million men"; the other, called "It's Up to You," they had just recently started but were having difficulty completing. That second song's lyrics are echoed in the line "Baby, it's up to me" and, less obviously, in the low, heavily distorted computerized voice at the very end saying "It's up to you"—which, frankly, had always sounded to me like the sound of an old train engine grinding to a halt, appropriate enough given the track's aforementioned "locomotive rhythm."
Our heroes had toyed with the idea of offering this song to the popular British "boy band" Take That (one of whose members was their future collaborator Robbie Williams), but they ultimately decided against it.
- One of my site visitors has shared a most intriguing theory that "One in a Million" may have been at least partly inspired by an earlier song with the exact same title by the band Guns n' Roses, from their 1988 album G N' R Lies. The GNR "One in a Million" generated a good deal of controversy among those who considered it to be homophobic, xenophobic, and racist—and, in light of its lyrics, not without good reason. But, as revealed in Chris Heath's book PSB versus America, Guns n' Roses lead singer and writer of the song Axl Rose, was a Pet Shop Boys fan who had visited them backstage following one of their March 1991 Performance tour shows in Los Angeles. (He asked why they hadn't performed his favorite PSB song, "Being Boring," and suggested that their "My October Symphony" had helped inspire the arrangement of his own song "November Rain.") Could it be that the PSB "One in a Million" is an "answer song" of sorts to the GNR "One in a Million," meant to convey some sort of response or message to their fan Axl, perhaps telling him in effect that, yes, he deserves love and understanding in spite of everything? (Rose was once diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and he revealed in a 2011 interview that he had been physically and sexually abused as a child. Of course, these facts were surely not known by the Pet Shop Boys when they wrote this song.) I can't say that I agree with this interpretation—especially considering the romantic relationship that the lyrics virtually insist upon—but it's not without a good deal of merit if only as a possible source of inspiration. You know, I've always wondered why the Boys didn't title it "One in a Million Men."
- This song boasts a common, tried-and-true pop music device, though it's not at all common for PSB. In fact, it's downright rare for them: a climactic key change. Virtually a cliché in the work of some artists—just try to find a Barry Manilow single that doesn't raise its key near the end—it would appear that the Pet Shop Boys have scrupulously all but avoided it. But not in "One in a Million." Its climactic key change in the final repetitions of the chorus does precisely what climactic key changes are meant to do: push the energy up a couple notches, imparting an epic feel to the proceedings. Coming as it does, a rarity in a PSB track, it's nothing less than thrilling to hear.
Incidentally, I can think of only three other PSB songs with this sort of "classic" climactic key change: "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)," "Go West" (interestingly, the very next song on Very after "One in a Million"), and "Winner." It's certainly possible, even likely, that I'm overlooking a few others. A number of other PSB tracks have their own key modulations, but they're generally not of this familiar climactic variety.
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- Album version (3:53)
Official but unreleased
- Mixer: [unknown at this time]
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