The signature guitar riff and dance rhythm of “Unbelievable” are an indelible part of pop culture today, and as often as it has been played in films, video games, sporting events and the like, the average American can recognize it instantly. But fewer can identify who made the song famous.
British alternative dance-rock band EMF were by all accounts a one-hit wonder here in the U.S. (although they fared better on the charts in their homeland). “Unbelievable,” their 1991 debut single from their debut album Schubert Dip, shot to Number 3 in the UK and Number 1 in the U.S., effectively taking the world by storm.
What is remarkable about the tune is that it was allowed on the air at all. The recording of “Unbelievable” features background samples of comedian Andrew Dice Clay (considered one of the foulest-mouthed comics of the time), with a repeated line in the background of “What the f**k was that?” Somehow, it got past the censors, perhaps because many considered the line to be indiscernible amid the noise of the chorus. But if you listen for it—it’s definitely there.
While EMF never had a hit that came close to “Unbelievable,” the momentum of that one single was enough to keep them going for eight years and three subsequent reunions, the third of which took place in 2012.
The meaning of the name “EMF” is a subject of continued debate.