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Thursday, September 26, 2019
The 57 best one-hit wonders of all time
A one-hit wonder is a singer/group that has only experienced real mainstream success with one hit song.
Often, people will only remember the name of the song, and not the singer/group behind it.
We've rounded up the best one-hit wonders of the past 60 years, including classics like "Macarena" and "Mambo No. 5."
Even though an artist may be a one-hit wonder, they still might have contributed one of the most famous songs of all time. Take Tommy Tutone, for example. You might not know the band, but you can definitely recite the number "867-5309" — Jenny's phone number.
In the last six decades, many one-hit wonders have blessed our ears (or not so much) — we've rounded up the top 57 in the US of the past 60 years (and while some may have found moderate success across the pond, they practically disappeared stateside).
Take a trip down memory lane to revisit these classic jams.
Channel, while touring Europe, was accompanied by a little-known band (at the time) named the Beatles. There's a popular urban legend that suggests that the harmonica part in "Love Me Do," the Beatles's first single, was inspired by Channel and this song, but Lennon had already been playing the instrument for a few years.
You might not know the song by name, but chances are you've heard "Wipe Out" — either The Surfaris version or a cover. It's been used in over 20 movies and TV shows. In fact, it pops up at least once a decade.
The only virtual band on this list, The Archies was made up of the fictional characters in the "Archie" universe: Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie. "Sugar, Sugar" was a number one song in 1969, and became The Archies' signature song.
"O-o-h Child" was ranked at 402 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, so it might come as a disappointment that Five Stairsteps never had another mainstream success.
They had multiple Top 40 hits on the R&B charts, but only peaked at number eight with "O-o-h Child" on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has been used in many different TV shows and movies, including "How I Met Your Mother," "Scandal," and "Guardians of the Galaxy."
However, Knight's career plateaued after "Mr. Big Stuff," and was she was never able to replicate that level of success. But the song lives on: it was the top Soul Single of 1971, has been covered by many artists, and is frequently sampled in other songs.
King Harvest's one and only hit single made it to number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though the group has gone through various ups and downs (like break-ups and a fluctuating roster), they released another single in 2016.
"Magic" was recorded by Scottish band Pilot in 1974, and was their first hit single. It peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, and was number 31 on the end-of-year Billboard Hot 100.
The song remains their biggest (and only) hit in the US. Thirty five years after its release, former Disney Channel star Selena Gomez covered the song for the soundtrack of her show "Wizards of Waverly Place."
"Got to Be Real" has been called a defining moment in disco history, though Cheryl Lynn isn't a huge name in mainstream music. "Got to Be Real" was her debut single and topped the US R&B charts, though it didn't even crack the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 — neither did any of her other singles.
"I Melt With You" wasn't a massive hit originally — it only reached 76 on the Billboard Hot 100. But it's nearly impossible to find someone who can't at least hum along to the catchy song. This is because of its high usage in pop culture: It's been used in "Valley Girl," and covered by both Jason Mraz and Bowling For Soup for "50 First Dates" and "Sky High" respectively. It's also been featured in multiple commercials.
No, "Pass the Dutchie" isn't about smoking marijuana, though many people these days use the term "dutch" as slang for a joint — technically, in the context of the song, a dutchie is a cast-iron pot that's hung over an open fire, according to Urban Dictionary.
"Always Something There to Remind Me" by Naked Eyes (1983)
"Always Something There to Remind Me" was originally recorded in the '60s, and enjoyed mild success.
But the definitive version will always be Naked Eyes' synth-heavy cover, which eventually rose to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was the group's debut single, but also their peak. Their next big hit failed to crack the top 10.
Their version remains culturally relevant 30 years after its release — it was recently featured in a trailer for the newest season of "Arrested Development."
A rare non-Spanish foreign language hit, the German "99 Luftballons" topped the charts in 1983, and was even popular enough to warrant an English version, though this one didn't do as well in the US (it didn't reach the Billboard Hot 100).
Nena never had another song hit the top 100 in the US.
Grant has had three songs chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (two of which hit the perfectly respectable spots of 53 and 26). But his almost-chart-topping smash hit "Electric Avenue" will remain his biggest song — and it's a true bop to boot. Just try listening to "Electric Avenue" without singing along.
The song peaked at number one on the Hot 100, and topped charts around the world. Simple Minds capitalized on its success and actually scored another top five single with "Alive and Kicking," but the band's enduring legacy will always be "Don't You (Forget About Me)."
Billy Medley and Jennifer Warnes have both had mild success as solo artists, but nothing ever compared to their smash hit "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" — though Medley achieved more number ones as part of the musical duo The Righteous Brothers. The two never collaborated again.
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers (1988)
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and is the only song by The Proclaimers to chart in the US to date.
It's a popular choice at sporting events, especially in their home country of Scotland. Popular sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" also had a running gag throughout the show, in which the song was the official road trip music of two main characters, Marshall and Ted.
"There She Goes" is a controversial song, as there's some debate about whether it's about a girl or heroin, mostly because of the lyrics "Pulsing thru' my vein."
The La's found moderate success in their native UK, but not even their original version of the song made much of an impact on the charts. Many '90s kids remember the song mainly from "The Parent Trap."
Sixpence None the Richer released a cover version 11 years after the original in 1999, which hit number seven on the US Adult Top 40.
But their one bona-fide hit is the acoustic ballad "To Be With You." The certified Gold song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The group never had another song that reached that same level of mainstream success.
Part of "No Rain's" legacy is the "Bee Girl" featured in its music video. American actress Heather DeLoach is still best known for portraying a tap-dancing bee in the 1992 video, which spawned many a Halloween costume.
"Oh my God, Becky, look at her butt." With that one sentence, you already know you're in for a true banger. "Baby Got Back," an ode to women and their curves, has recently received new life from being sampled in Nicki Minaj's smash hit "Anaconda."
But "Baby Got Back" was huge in its own right. It spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat none of the rapper's other singles came close to reaching. Even if you think you hate this song, give it one more try (when was the last time you listened to it in its entirety?) and just try not to smile.
"What's Up?" doesn't actually feature the lyrics "what's up" anywhere in the song. It would have made much more sense to name the song "What's Going On," but the group didn't want to cause any confusion with the iconic Marvin Gaye slow jam.
Part of the song's charm is how genuinely fun it is to sing. That chorus will get any crowd screaming at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately, 4 Non Blondes was not long for this world, and broke up just a year after the song was released.
But not many people know the artist behind this dance hit. "What Is Love" was recorded by Trinidadian-German artist Haddaway. It was his debut single, and ended up becoming his signature song. His only other song to reach the Billboard Hot 100 peaked at number 41.
"Macarena" is inescapable at weddings, sporting events, parties, and essentially any public event. But who is Los Del Río? Many Americans would be hard-pressed to remember the duo behind this iconic song. Their only other song to reach the charts was "Macarena Christmas" in 1996, which reached number 57 on the charts.
Whether or not you find yourself charmed by "I'll Be There For You" depends on whether you're a fan of "Friends" or not. And since "Friends" is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, it's a reasonable assumption. If you don't find yourself clapping along during the theme song — this song isn't for you.
The members of The Rembrandts have gone back and forth about their feelings for the tune. Danny Wilde told The Independent in 2004 that he believed that the mainstream success of the song cost them many of their original fans, who thought they sold out.
While The Wallflowers are a pretty successful alternative band, their biggest mainstream crossover is "One Headlight," which hit number two on the Billboard Top 40. It also won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group in 1997.
The album "Torn" appears on "Left of the Middle," which was certified double Platinum in the US, mainly because of the success of "Torn." However, Imbruglia's next album peaked at 35, and her three follow-ups have failed to chart. Her only other single to reach the Hot 100 was 2002's "Wrong Impression," which only reached 64.
"Torn" was exposed to a new generation when boy band sensation One Direction chose to perform the song during their time on "The X-Factor," and again at a Radio 1 Live Lounge performance in 2015.
"Save Tonight" was Norwegian musician Eagle-Eye Cherry's big break in the US — or at least, it was supposed to be. He could never replicate the success of this soft-rock jam, which peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, and led to Eagle-Eye Cherry making the rounds on American late-night TV and not much else.
"Bitter Sweet Symphony" can potentially be credited for the break-up of The Verve. The song spawned a bitter lawsuit that ended with The Verve giving up all their royalties from the song to The Rolling Stones, who claimed that the band had used more of their song "The Last Time" than they had agreed upon.
"You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals (1998)
"You Get What You Give" was New Radicals' first single, and ended up being one of only two — the group broke up shortly after the release of their only album "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too."
While they broke up in 1999, the song is continually used in pop culture, from"Glee" and "Community" to movies like "A Walk to Remember" (which also featured a cover of their other song "Someday We'll Know" by star Mandy Moore).
Who knows if New Radicals would have remained a one-hit wonder — they broke up before they could release more music. As it stands, "You Get What You Give" lives on as their only hit.
If a running joke throughout an entire movie is about whether or not a song was sung by its actual band or Third Eye Blind, it's a one-hit wonder. At the climax of "Friends With Benefits," Justin Timberlake's character finally admits he was wrong: "Closing Time" is, in fact, sung by Semisonic, not Third Eye Blind.
The perfect last call anthem remains Semisonic's only hit.
The song has lived on in movie soundtracks (see: "Loser" and "She's Out of My League"), but Tal Bachman has faded from the spotlight. His last single, "Aeroplane," was released in 2004 and failed to chart. Bachman didperform his hit song with Taylor Swift in 2011, ensuring that a new generation will enjoy "She's So High."
"Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" by Nine Days (2000)
"This is the story of a girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world." Any self-respecting pop-punk fan's ears will perk up at the opening lyrics to "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)." The song appeared on the band's fourth album, but their first to be on a mainstream label. It reached number six on the Hot 100, and number one on Mainstream Top 40.
Nine Days is still together, but none of their albums have come anywhere near the success of "The Madding Crowd" (none have charted), and the guys in the band have all moved on. Lead singer Hampson still moonlights as a musician, but by day he's a perfectly respectable English teacher at a Long Island high school.
"What Would You Do?" deals with some heavy subject matter (mothers living in poverty who turn to prostitution to provide for their kids), which is why its commercial success was a bit of a surprise. The song topped the US Rap chart and reached number eight on the Hot 100.
City High only released one album in 2001, and their other two singles, besides "What Would You Do?," failed to make the same impact. Their follow-up, "Caramel," reached number 18, and their last single "City High Anthem" failed to chart.
"I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by The Darkness (2003)
"I Believe in a Thing Called Love" was supposed to help British band The Darkness break into the US market, and was believed to signal the return of glam rock. Neither happened.
"I Believe in a Thing Called Love" was very successful in the UK, and mildly successful in the US (where it reached nine on the Billboard Alternative chart), but it has endured as an emblem of the 2000s. It has been heavily covered by different artists, and used in many different forms of media, ranging from a commercial starring Taylor Swift to appearing on the "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" soundtrack.
If a party ever needs to be livened up, queue up "Stacy's Mom." Even though it might be a bit juvenile, "Stacy's Mom" is a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser.
But the Grammy-nominated song is Fountains of Wayne's only song to ever chart — and even "Stacy's Mom" didn't do that well commercially. It peaked at number 21, though it was one of the first songs to ever reach number one on iTunes.
And in a true test of "one-hit wonder" status, many people don't even realize that Fountains of Wayne is behind this ode to hot moms — it's commonly mistaken for a Bowling for Soup song.
Cupid has released multiple albums, but has only had real success with "Cupid Shuffle," a song that reached 66 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has become an extremely popular line dance, rivaling the Cotton-Eye Joe or the Electric Slide — except "Cupid Shuffle" is actually a good song. Cupid has a truly spectacular vocal range, making the song enjoyable to listen to. Plus, it's a really simple dance — even police horses can get in on the fun.
Cupid even auditioned for "The Voice," to try and re-energize his career, but unfortunately none of the judges turned their chairs around, eliminating him from the competition.
But Gotye hasn't released a follow-up to his 2011 album "Making Mirrors," which itself didn't make a huge splash in the US besides "Somebody That I Used to Know." Kimbra is still making music, but in terms of album sales she also hasn't come anywhere close to that level of success. Her most recent album, which was released in April 2018, peaked at 43 on the Billboard charts.