One-Hit Wonder: Wikis


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A one-hit wonder is a person or act known mainly for only a single success. The term is most often used to describe music performers with only one hit single.



Some one-hit wonders are the result of novelty songs during fads. Examples include Rick Dees’ "Disco Duck", related to the disco craze of the 1970s; C. W. McCall's "Convoy", related to the CB radio craze of the 1970s; and Buckner & Garcia’s "Pac-Man Fever", related to the 1980s-era arcade game Pac-Man.

Some artists, such as Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, had their careers cut short by death, while others, such as New Radicals and The La's, broke up immediately after their one hit. In the 1960s and early 1970s, session bands such as Edison Lighthouse or Alive N Kickin' producing just a single 45 record were common. More commonly, however, one-hit wonders are serious-minded musicians who struggled to continue their success after their popularity waned.

Because one-hit wonders are popular for only a brief time, their hits often have nostalgic value and are featured on era-centric compilations and soundtracks to period films. One-hit wonders are normal in any era of pop music, but are most common during reigns of entire genres that do not last for more than a few years, such as disco, new wave and grunge.[citation needed]

Though the term is sometimes used in a derogatory manner, some fans often have a great passion for these songs and the artists who created them. Some one-hit wonder artists have embraced this following openly, while others distance themselves from their hit in an attempt to craft successful songs with different sounds, or embark on new careers as songwriters (such as Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes and Gregg Alexander of New Radicals), recording industry executives (such as Gerardo), or even game show hosts (such as Chuck Woolery of The Avant-Garde). One-hit artists who possess a significant legacy of music outside of the singles world (e.g. or Buffy Sainte-Marie with Illuminations) may however distance themselves severely from their hit single ("Mister Can't You See") as they are likely to feel their hit in no way represents what they stand for.

Questions of definition

Most American music industry insiders consider a song in the top forty positions of the Billboard Hot 100 to be a hit. Thus, any performer who recorded only one song that reached the Top 40 is, technically, a one-hit wonder. However, the term is more generally applied to musicians best known for only one song.

Wayne Jancik's book The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders (Billboard Books, 1998) defines a one-hit wonder rather strictly, as "an act that has won a position on Billboard's national, pop, Top 40 just once." He therefore includes such performers as Janis Joplin (for "Me and Bobby McGee") or Jimi Hendrix (for "All Along the Watchtower"), solely on the basis of their Top 40 performance. In his definition of an "act", Jancik distinguishes between a solo performer and any group he or she may have performed in; thus Roger Daltrey is distinguished from The Who. He restricts his reporting time to the period from the start of the "rock-and-roll era" (defined by the author as 1 January 1955 to 31 December 1992). The latter date was picked to allow a five-year "lag time" before publication for a listed one-hit wonder to produce a second hit; this does not allow for a longer hiatus between hits for a particular performer. For example, Lenny Kravitz is listed for "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over" (No. 2, August 1991);[1] the book therefore misses subsequent hits, such as "Fly Away", which peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1999.

In the United Kingdom, the term one-hit wonder is used to describe a singer or band who had only one hit reach the Top 75 on the UK Singles Chart.[citation needed] The term was first used by the Guinness Book of Hit Singles in the 1970s, and originally referred strictly to those artists whose first chart action was: "a number one hit, and then nothing else, ever." This is now commonly known as a "pure" or "true" one hit wonder, or "number one hit wonder."[citation needed]

Below is a list of some criteria that also affect a performer's status as a one-hit wonder:

Other uses

The term "one-hit wonder" is occasionally used to refer to an artist, other than a musical performer, who is best known for a single work. Examples in literature include Harper Lee's only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which sold 30 million copies; and author Joseph Heller, who wrote several novels, but is still best known for Catch-22. Margaret Mitchell never wrote another book after her first novel, Gone With the Wind, was a smash best-seller. The Eye of Argon, Jim Theiss' only work of fiction, is an unusual example: it is famous (or rather infamous) for its lack of quality. The term is also applied to the film industry: one such case lies in the career of actress Natasha Henstridge, who has yet to match the success of the 1995 film, Species. Classical composers such as Johann Pachelbel, despite being very popular in his time, known today almost solely for Pachelbel's Canon, are also sometimes described thus.[3]

In the sports world, there are several athletes known to casual sports fans for one event in their careers. Examples include Bill Mazeroski, who is the only player in Major League Baseball history to end a seventh game of the World Series with a walk-off home run;[4] Paul Henderson, a Canadian ice hockey player who scored the deciding goal in the 1972 Summit Series; and Jimmy Glass, an English football goalkeeper, who is remembered for scoring a goal in the last seconds of the final day of 1998-99 English Third Division that kept his club in The Football League. His subsequently released biography was titled One-Hit Wonder.

In drug culture, the term 'one-hit wonder' is often applied to highly potent specific varieties of substances, such as certain strains of cannabis that require only one "hit" (a single inhalation of smoke), or a "hit" of LSD (a single dose), to achieve the desired psychoactive effects.

In the world of web analytics, "one-hit wonder" is used to describe a user who comes to a site from a search engine, views the piece of content he was searching for, and then leaves, never clicking an ad or engaging in any way with the site. The phenomenon is particularly germane with respect to publishers putting "paywalls" around content, and the recent struggles of news and newspaper publishers in the face of changes brought about by the Internet. The term was first used in this respect by web programmer Tim Burden on his blog [5], and has also been used by news business pundit Jeff Jarvis [6].

Lists of greatest one-hit wonders

VH1's list of "100 greatest one-hit wonders"

In 2002, the American cable network VH1 aired a countdown of the VH1's 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders,[2] It listed musicians with only one American hit, regardless of international success, which has been substantial and long-lived for musicians like a-ha and Nena (see below). In fact, if the "only one American hit" criterion had been strictly applied, a-ha and Falco would not be eligible for the list, as they each actually had two top-20 US hits—although as noted above their second hits were greatly overshadowed in the US by the prior hit. The same goes for Vanilla Ice: his follow up to his #1 hit was a #4 hit titled, "Play That Funky Music". Gerardo also had another Top 15 hit. Los del Río likewise had two top 40 hits, though both were versions of "Macarena."

The countdown also omitted acts such as Jimi Hendrix and Grateful Dead who, while technically charting with only one single, became too well-known for their entire bodies of work to merit inclusion on the list. They did get mentioned, though, in a short segment of one-hit wonders that had popular followings. The top ten consisted of:

  1. Los del Río — "Macarena" (1995)
  2. Soft Cell — "Tainted Love" (1981)
  3. Dexys Midnight Runners – "Come On Eileen" (1982)
  4. Right Said Fred — "I'm Too Sexy" (1991)
  5. Toni Basil — "Mickey" (1982)
  6. Baha Men — "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (2000)
  7. Vanilla Ice — "Ice Ice Baby" (1990)
  8. a-ha — "Take On Me" (1985)
  9. Gerardo — "Rico Suave" (1991)
  10. Nena — "99 Luftballons" (1983)
  11. Debby Boone — "You Light Up My Life" (1977)

Soft Cell, Dexys Midnight Runners, Right Said Fred, Baha Men, a-ha and Vanilla Ice have had multiple hits in the UK and would therefore not qualify as one-hit wonders. Gerardo has never had any hits in the UK at all, but he is still a highly honored performer in his homeland of Ecuador, as well as in other Latin American countries. This leaves only Toni Basil, Nena and Los del Río from this list as one-hit wonders on both English-speaking sides of the Atlantic, though Nena has continued her success in Germanic countries.

Channel 4's "50 Greatest One Hit Wonders"

A 2006 television poll, conducted by Channel 4 in the UK, asked viewers to select their favourite one hit wonder from a shortlist of 60.[7] Respondents could also vote by e-mail to select a song that was not on the original list, if they so wished. The top 50 were:

  1. "Kung Fu Fighting" — Carl Douglas
  2. "99 Red Balloons" — Nena
  3. "Because I Got High" — Afroman
  4. "Sugar, Sugar" — The Archies
  5. "Can You Dig It?" — The Mock Turtles
  6. "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" — Monty Python
  7. "Spirit in the Sky" — Doctor and the Medics (also Norman Greenbaum)
  8. "Who Let the Dogs Out" — Baha Men
  9. "The Safety Dance" — Men Without Hats
  10. "Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please" — Splodgenessabounds
  11. "Groove is in the Heart" — Deee-Lite
  12. "Trouble" — Shampoo
  13. "It's Raining Men" — The Weather Girls
  14. "All by Myself" — Eric Carmen
  15. "Jilted John" — Jilted John
  16. "I’ll Be There For You" — The Rembrandts
  17. "Doctorin' the Tardis" — The Timelords
  18. "Rock Me Amadeus" — Falco
  19. "Video Killed the Radio Star" — The Buggles
  20. "Je t'aime... moi non plus" — Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg
  21. "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)" — Lou Bega
  22. "Turning Japanese" — The Vapors
  23. "Mickey" — Toni Basil
  24. "Mouldy Old Dough" — Lieutenant Pigeon
  25. "Pump Up the Volume" — M/A/R/R/S
  26. "Lovin' You" — Minnie Riperton
  27. "Axel F" — Harold Faltermeyer
  28. "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" — Eamon
  29. "I'm the Urban Spaceman" — The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
  30. "Spaceman" — Babylon Zoo
  31. "My Sharona" — The Knack
  32. "Shaddap You Face" — Joe Dolce Music Theatre
  33. "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" — Baz Luhrmann
  34. "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs (Lowry’s Song)" — Brian & Michael
  35. "MacArthur Park" — Richard Harris
  36. "Monster Mash" — Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers
  37. "Rapper’s Delight" — Sugarhill Gang
  38. "Fire" — Crazy World of Arthur Brown
  39. "The One and Only" — Chesney Hawkes
  40. "Louie, Louie" — The Kingsmen
  41. "Since Yesterday" — Strawberry Switchblade
  42. "My Boy Lollipop" — Millie Small
  43. "Read a Book, Nigga" — D'Mite
  44. "Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime)" — Morris Minor and the Majors
  45. "Just Say No" — Grange Hill Cast
  46. "Woo Hoo" — The Rock-A-Teens
  47. "Japanese Boy" — Aneka
  48. "Save Your Love" — Renee and Renato
  49. "Brimful of Asha" — Cornershop

Even this list is riddled with inaccuracies, since at least fifteen of the fifty acts ranked in the Top 50 by the poll had multiple Top 40 hits in the UK singles chart, thus disqualifying them from the appellation 'one-hit wonder', although the success of the other hits was (with one very notable exception) of a lesser measure than those included in the poll:

  • Millie reached No. 30 with 'Sweet William' in 1964.
  • Lieutenant Pigeon reached No. 17 with 'Desperate Dan' in 1972.
  • Carl Douglas reached No. 35 with 'Dance the Kung Fu' in 1974 and No. 25 with 'Run Back' in 1977.
  • The Buggles reached No. 16 with 'Living in the Plastic Age' and No. 38 with 'Clean Clean' in 1980.
  • Splodgenessabounds reached No. 26 with the double A-side 'Two Little Boys' / 'Horse' in 1980.
  • Doctor and the Medics reached No. 29 with 'Burn' in 1986.
  • Falco reached No. 10 with 'Vienna Calling' in 1986.
  • Deee-Lite reached No. 25 with the double A-side 'Power of Love'/'Deee-Lite Theme' in 1990.
  • Chesney Hawkes reached No. 27 with 'I'm a Man Not a Boy' in 1991.
  • Shampoo reached No. 27 with 'Viva La Megababes' in 1994, No. 21 with 'Delicious' in 1995, No. 36 with 'Trouble (1995)' in 1995, and No. 25 with 'Girl Power' in 1996, thus notching up no fewer than five hits including two different versions of 'Trouble'.
  • Babylon Zoo reached No. 17 with 'Animal Army' and No. 32 with 'The Boy with the X-ray Eyes' in 1996.
  • Cornershop reached No. 23 with 'Sleep on the Left Side' in 1998 and No. 37 with 'Lessons Learnt From Rocky I To Rocky III' in 2002.
  • Baha Men reached No. 14 with 'You All Dat' in 2001 and No. 16 with 'Move It Like This' in 2002.
  • Afroman reached No. 10 with 'Crazy Rap' in 2002.
  • Eamon (featuring Ghostface) reached No. 27 with 'Love Them' in 2004.
  • Eric Carmen charted many times in his prior career with The Raspberries, and as a solo act, although he was far more successful in his native U.S. A decade after "All By Myself", he returned to prominence through his work on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, charting with "Hungry Eyes" and also writing "Almost Paradise", a hit for Mike Reno and Ann Wilson.
  • Most notably, The Timelords reached the UK Top 40 eight times—once under that name; once as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu; once as 2K; and five times, including one #1, under their best-known name, The KLF.

"20 to 1: One Hit Wonders"

In 2005, the Australian series 20 to 1 aired their episode 20 to 1: One Hit Wonders, a list of songs that had been the only one by that artist to have success in Australia.

# Title Performer
20 "Tainted Love" Soft Cell
19 "Mambo No.5" Lou Bega
18 "Venus" Shocking Blue
17 "Achy Breaky Heart" Billy Ray Cyrus
16 "Mickey" Toni Basil
15 "I'll Be Gone" Spectrum
14 "Tubthumping" Chumbawamba
13 "Counting the Beat" The Swingers
12 "Slice of Heaven" Dave Dobbyn & The Herbs
11 "Rockin' Robin" Bobby Day
10 "Pass the Dutchie" Musical Youth
9 "Don't Worry, Be Happy" Bobby McFerrin
8 "99 Luftballons" Nena
7 "Spirit in the Sky" Norman Greenbaum
6 "Come on Eileen" Dexys Midnight Runners
5 "Funkytown" Lipps Inc
4 "Turning Japanese" The Vapors
3 "Video Killed the Radio Star" The Buggles
2 "Born to Be Alive" Patrick Hernandez
1 "My Sharona" The Knack

C4's UChoose40: One Hit Wonders

In September 2006, New Zealand's terrestrial music channel, C4, aired an episode dedicated to "One Hit Wonders" on the weekly theme-based chart show, UChoose40, where the chart was ranked entirely by viewer's votes from the website. Moreover, Meredith Brooks's hit single "Bitch" was mentioned on the candidates list but failed to make the Top 40.

The top ten ranking are as follows:

  1. "The Final Countdown" — Europe (1986)
  2. "Teenage Dirtbag" — Wheatus (2000)
  3. "How Bizarre" — OMC (1996)
  4. "Because I Got High" — Afroman (2001)
  5. "Ice Ice Baby" — Vanilla Ice (1990)
  6. "Eye of the Tiger" — Survivor (1982)
  7. "Tubthumping" — Chumbawamba (1997)
  8. "My Sharona" — The Knack (1979)
  9. "Video Killed the Radio Star" — The Buggles (1979)
  10. "Who Let the Dogs Out?" — Baha Men (2000)
  11. "I Touch Myself" — Divinyls (1991)

Classical music one-hit wonders

Deutsche Grammophon and Vox Records have both released albums of classical one-hit wonders. Many of the works on the CDs are from composers who have two or more works that are popular in classical music circles but have a single work that has become popular outside these circles. The works will be familiar to most people because they have been used in commercials or in movies and television shows. The two CDs differ but the works common to both are:

  1. Johann PachelbelCanon in D
  2. Samuel BarberAdagio for Strings
  3. attrib. Tomaso AlbinoniAdagio in G minor (this was actually written by Remo Giazotto and contains no Albinoni material)
  4. Jean-Joseph MouretRondeau from Symphonies and Fanfares for the King's Supper (theme to Masterpiece, formerly Masterpiece Theatre)
  5. Luigi Boccherini — minuet from String Quintet in E
  6. Jeremiah Clarke — "Trumpet Voluntary", more properly known as "Prince of Denmark's March"
  7. Jules Massenet — Meditation from his opera "Thais"
  8. Pietro Mascagni — "Cavalleria rusticana"
  9. Léo Delibes — "The Flower Duet" from the opera Lakmé
  10. Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov — "Caucasian Sketches"
  11. Amilcare Ponchielli — "Dance of the Hours" from the opera "La Gioconda"
  12. Charles-Marie Widor — Toccata from Symphony for Organ No. 5
  13. Aram Khachaturian — "Sabre Dance" from the ballet "Gayane"
  14. Marc-Antoine CharpentierTe Deum
  15. Tekla Bądarzewska-BaranowskaMaiden's Prayer

Two-hit wonders

Some artists have managed to gain recognition for just two songs based on one or more of the above criteria. These acts are often referred to as two-hit wonders, a term used by many fans. Two-hit titan is another term with the same meaning. There are some situations where an artist or group had a long and lasting following and popularity, but technically only had 1 or 2 singles that became chart hits. Notable examples of two-hit wonders in the United States include:

NB: The peak positions shown are in the Billboard Hot 100 only and do not hold true in other countries. For example, some of these artists have had more than two hits in other countries:

  • Neneh Cherry has had nine distinct solo Top 40 hits in the UK and Sophie B. Hawkins four.
  • Marc Anthony has had continued success in Latin American countries, as well as the Latin music market in the US.
  • Crowded House had multiple top 40 singles and albums in Australia, where the band was formed, and New Zealand, the homeland of its main creative force Neil Finn.
  • a-ha had 18 top 40 hits in the UK and 22 top 40 hits in Germany. "Summer Moved On" was a #1 radio hit across Europe 15 years after "Take On Me".
  • Falco had massive success in German-speaking countries, with two singles reaching #1 in both his native Austria and Germany, a third hitting #1 in both countries and in Switzerland, and a fourth hitting #1 in Germany only.

By contrast, others have had only one hit in another major market:

  • A Taste of Honey charted in the UK with "Boogie Oogie Oogie" only.
  • Wang Chung's only Top 40 hit in their native UK was "Dance Hall Days".

Still others have had two but not both the same songs:

  • In the UK, Billy Ray Cyrus charted with "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Could've Been Me" in 1992, but did not chart in 2008 at all.

The peak positions also do not hold true for other charts in the US. For example:

  • Restless Heart had six #1 country hits (among them "I'll Still Be Loving You") and nine other top-10 country hits (among them "When She Cries"). In addition, they had a #1 adult contemporary hit with "Tell Me What You Dream" in 1993.
  • Vertical Horizon has since charted on the Billboard Adult Top 40 several times.
  • Billy Ray Cyrus had five top-10 country hits between the two named hits, and several other Top 40 country hits.
  • Buddy Jewell has had four Top 40 country hits.
  • Steve Holy has had ten top 40 country hits.

Because of the methodology used in compiling this list, spin-off or successor acts are considered as separate from the originals, even though the later acts may be seen by the wider public as connected to the original act. For example, several members of the original Jefferson Airplane formed the spinoff band Jefferson Starship, which had two Top 10 hits under that name, and three #1s plus another Top 10 as Starship.

See also



External links

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