Imagine, if you will, a time before the modern internet—a time when you couldn’t log on and immediately find the answers to every question that popped into your head, a time when the itch of a pop culture curio went unscratched. Dave Holmes remembers that time; it was called 1991.
It was 30 years ago when Holmes—writer, podcaster, former MTV VJ—caught sight of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in “Motownphilly,” the debut music video from future megastars Boyz II Men. At the 2:38 mark, the video introduces viewers to Sudden Impact, a young boy band seemingly positioned to be music’s next big thing. But Holmes never heard of them again. In fact, no one did, and—because this was the early ‘90s—there was no Wikipedia to provide answers, no social media where would-be fans could speculate. Who were these guys? How did they score a spot in Boyz II Men’s breakthrough video? Did they ever actually make any music? Holmes has been obsessing over these questions for decades, and he’s finally hoping to find some answers in the brand new podcast, Waiting For Impact.
Waiting For Impact: A Dave Holmes Passion Project is a 10-part limited series from Exactly Right Media (the studio behind the hit podcast My Favorite Murder), hosted by Dave Holmes, which launches on October 12. As he sets out to solve the mystery of Sudden Impact, Holmes stumbles down a rabbit hole of ‘90s nostalgia, making surprising revelations, reflecting on the fleeting nature of fame, and—well, perhaps it’s better to hear Holmes explain it himself. You can listen to The A.V. Club’s exclusive premiere of the Waiting For Impact trailer below:
“In ‘91, the music industry was super flush,” Dave Holmes reminds The A.V. Club. These were the days of the monoculture, when radio play and MTV determined what was considered mainstream music. Well before his VJ days, Holmes says he was flailing in his personal life, but that music was his drug of choice: “[I needed] something to focus on other than my own downward spiral.” One such something came in the form of Sudden Impact’s three-second cameo in “Motownphilly.” He was taken by the moment, the pose, the bravado of it all. “I love the hubris of the way they’re all pointing, like, ‘Yeah, we’re pointing at you! You know us; here we come!’” But, upon closer inspection, the guys aren’t exactly oozing confidence—some of them look visibly nervous. “They’re not all making eye contact with the camera. And there’s a humanity to that, you know? Like, I feel like I know these guys.”
“For whatever reason, that [image] really stuck in my mind,” says Holmes. “I was always like, ‘There’s a story there, I know there’s a story there.’ And, 30 years later, I get to tell it.” Indeed, there are ten podcast episodes worth of story within Waiting For Impact and, while the host remains tight-lipped about whether or not he was able to track down the Sudden Impact guys, he teases that the investigation takes him much deeper than just, “Where are they now?”
Noting our increased interest in the ‘90s and a desire to reframe the stories of that decade, Holmes says Waiting For Impact taps into some major themes that feel just as relevant today as they did back then: “I’m so fascinated by popular culture before the Internet wrecked us, and fame at a time when everybody knew who the famous people were.” In exploring how a group like Sudden Impact could possibly disappear, the podcast delves into the subjective and ever-changing natures of fame and success. “Sure, the public-facing Sudden Impact begins and ends in three seconds of a music video, but that doesn’t mean that their story does.”
Along the way, Holmes will bring in friends, celebrity guests, and some “boldface names from 1991 whose careers have since changed course” to paint a bigger picture about how legends are made—and how dreams are frequently dashed—in the entertainment industry. One such guest is former New Kid On The Block Joey McIntyre, who joins the podcast to dish on “what it’s like to be very young and very ‘1991 famous,’” shedding some light on what a boy band like Sudden Impact might’ve been going through when they thought their music career was about to take off. And there’s another big guest who Holmes wants to keep a secret, but he teases they were a 2021 Emmy nominee, and that they may end up being his key to finding out how Sudden Impact fell off the face of the earth.
Subtitled “A Dave Holmes Passion Project,” the host recognizes how lucky he is to be able to tell this story: “Some would call it trivial, right? Any time I sink my teeth into something that I’m nuts about, there’s a voice in my head that this is too ephemeral, that no one will care.” But what Holmes will wind up uncovering with Waiting For Impact is a story “with real human drama, with stakes,” one that he’s proud to tell:
“We’re conditioned to want fame and fortune. And then, if you get a little taste of it, you just want more. But that’s not the right answer for everybody—it wasn’t for me. The person who would make fun of Sudden Impact for not ever breaking through might also look at my career and be like, ‘Oh, you suck, you failed.’ But I love doing what I do, and I’m like I feel tremendously lucky to be able to do it. So, yeah, I don’t know for sure, but I like to think I might feel a little bit of kinship to a Sudden Impact, career-wise.”
Exactly Right Media’s Waiting For Impact: A Dave Holmes Passion Project launches on podcast platforms on October 12.