One-hit wonder

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For other uses, see One Hit Wonder (disambiguation).

A one-hit wonder is any entity that achieves mainstream popularity and success exactly once, and becomes known among the general public solely for that momentary success. The term is most commonly used in regard to music performers with only one top-40 hit single that overshadows their other work but is not limited to that field, such as having only one successful album with a string of hits.

Music industry[edit]

Music journalist Wayne Jancik, whose book, The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders, published in 1997 and covering the period from the start of the rock and roll era in 1955 to 1992, defines a one-hit wonder objectively as "an act that has won a position on [the] national, pop, Top 40 just once."

Jancik's The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders, because of the publisher's limitation on size, only includes the top twenty One-Hit Wonders, or roughly half of the one-hit wonders that made the Top 40 from 1955 through 1992, and (because it was officially licensed by Billboard magazine) used the Billboard Hot 100 as its reference chart. The author has published a website "'One-Hit Wonders,' The Book", which includes all the one-hit wonders' profiles that were excluded from the book.

This formal definition can include acts with greater success outside their lone pop hit and who are not typically considered one-hit wonders, while at the same time excluding acts who have multiple hits which have been overshadowed by one signature song, or those performers who never actually hit the top 40, but, had exactly one song achieve mainstream popularity in some other fashion (that is, a "turntable hit" or a song that was ineligible for the top-40 charts). One-hit wonders are usually exclusive to a specific market, either a country or a genre; a performer may be a one-hit wonder in one such arena but have multiple hits (or no hits) in another.

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

In 2002, the American cable network VH1 aired a countdown of the VH1's 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders, hosted by William Shatner.[1]

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). Under Jancik's criteria, A-ha, Falco, Vanilla Ice and Gerardo would not qualify for the list, as all four had additional hits in the top 20 outside their signature hits; they are nonetheless commonly considered one-hit wonders because those other hits did not survive in recurrent rotation. 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. "Macarena" – Los Del Rio (1993)
  2. "Tainted Love" – Soft Cell (1982)
  3. "Come on Eileen" – Dexys Midnight Runners (1982)
  4. "I'm Too Sexy" – Right Said Fred (1991)
  5. "Mickey" – Toni Basil (1982)
  6. "Who Let the Dogs Out?" – Baha Men (2000)
  7. "Ice Ice Baby" – Vanilla Ice (1990)
  8. "Take on Me" – A-ha (1985)
  9. "Rico Suave" – Gerardo (1990)
  10. "99 Luftballons" – Nena (1984)

Channel 4's "50 Greatest One Hit Wonders"[edit]

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. Respondents could also vote by e-mail to select a song that was not on the original list, if they so wished. The top 10 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" – 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

"20 to 1: One Hit Wonders"[edit]

In 2006, the Australian series 20 to 1 aired the 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 & 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[edit]

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.[2][3]

The top ten ranking are as follows:

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

Classical music one-hit wonders[edit]

Classical composers such as Johann Pachelbel, who is known today almost solely for Pachelbel's Canon despite being very popular in his own time, are also sometimes described as one-hit wonders.[4]

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 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 MouretFanfare-Rondeau 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, although Khachaturian's "Masquerade Suite" is also well known
  14. Marc-Antoine CharpentierTe Deum
  15. Tekla Bądarzewska-BaranowskaMaiden's Prayer

Other examples of classical one-hit wonders are Vittorio Monti's Csárdás, Enrico Toselli's Serenata 'Rimpianto' Op.6 No.1, popularly known as "Toselli's Serenade", and Jean Paul Egide Martini's Plaisir d'Amour, and Ravel's "Bolero", known in popular culture from the movie "10" and as Torvil and Dean's ice-dance performance music.

Two-hit wonders or more[edit]

Several musical artists have had one track with outsize notability yet have also achieved widespread success a second time, perhaps evolving their sound for a long while. Some of these groups and single performers maintain cult followings or otherwise gain cultural influence despite failing to achieve a constant chart presence; others may only ever chart as "one-album wonders," with both of their two hit singles (the breakthrough debut and the follow-up) from the same album. As in the commentary above, the definition of 'hit' and 'success' is, of course, still partially subjective.

In 2014, Rolling Stone named the following twenty artists the Greatest Two Hit Wonders:[5] Note that these peak chart references are to the Billboard Hot 100.

  1. Men Without Hats - "The Safety Dance" (#3, released 1983) & "Pop Goes the World" (#20, released 1987)
  2. Golden Earring - "Radar Love" (#13, released 1973) & "Twilight Zone" (#10, released 1982)
  3. ? and the Mysterians - "96 Tears" (#1, released 1966) & "I Need Somebody" (#22, released 1966)
  4. Young M.C. - "Bust a Move" (1989, Number Seven) and "Principal's Office" (1989, Number 33)
  5. Quiet Riot - "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" (1983, Number 31) and "Cum on Feel the Noize" (1983, Number Five)
  6. Animotion - "Obsession" (1984, Number Six) and "Room to Move" (1989, Number Nine)
  7. Tone-Loc - "Wild Thing" (1988, Number Two) and "Funky Cold Medina" (1989, Number Three)
  8. Tesla - "Love Song" (1989, Number 10) and "Signs" (1991, Number Eight)
  9. The Left Banke - "Walk Away Renée"(1966, Number 5) and “Pretty Ballerina” (1967, Number 15)
  10. Jesus Jones - "Right Here, Right Now" (1990, Number Two) and "Real, Real, Real" (1990, Number Four)
  11. A-ha - "Take on Me" (1985, Number One) and "The Sun Always Shines on TV" (1985, Number 20)
  12. Janis Ian - "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)" (#14, released 1966) and "At Seventeen" (#3, released 1975)
  13. Cutting Crew - "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" (#1, released 1986) & "I've Been In Love Before" (#9, released 1986)
  14. Ugly Kid Joe - "Everything About You" (#9, released 1991) & "Cat's in the Cradle" (#6, released 1993)
  15. Sisqó - "Thong Song" (#3, released 1999) & "Incomplete" (#1, released 2000)
  16. Dream - "He Loves U Not" (#2, released 2000) & "This Is Me" (#39, released 2001)
  17. KT Tunstall - "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" (#20, released 2005) & "Suddenly I See" (#21, released 2005)
  18. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch - "Good Vibrations" (#1, released 1991) & "Wild Side" (#10, released 1991)
  19. General Public - "Tenderness" (#27, released 1984) & "I'll Take You There" (#22, released 1994)
  20. The Rembrandts - "Just the Way It Is, Baby" (#14, released 1990) & "I'll Be There for You" (#17, released 1995)

As an example of how nebulous the 'two hit wonder' concept can be, the aforementioned Sisqó has maintained popularity for many years in large part given that, outside of being a single artist, he has "seen plenty of heavy-breathing chart action... as the lead singer of Dru Hill". Dutch hard rock outfit Golden Earring, with their aforementioned 1982 hit even being incorporated into the official The Twilight Zone pinball game,[5] has such an appeal in their homeland, outside of their Anglo-American hits, that they're the most well-known band ever to come from the Netherlands.[6]

Outside music[edit]

The term one-hit wonder is occasionally applied to other media.

The term one-hit wonder is often applied to either 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, or a person with a significantly low tolerance to such drugs that it only takes a single "hit" to achieve desired effects.

In sports[edit]

In the sports world, there are several athletes known to casual sports fans for one event in their careers. Examples include Paul Henderson, a Canadian ice hockey player who scored the deciding goal in the 1972 Summit Series; Mike Jones, who tackled Kevin Dyson at the one-yard line on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV; David Tyree, a wide receiver who became famous for a helmet-assisted catch during the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII; Timmy Smith and Mark Rypien, both Washington Redskins stars that ended up out of football shortly after winning Super Bowls XXII and XXVI respectively; NASCAR driver Derrike Cope, who won the 1990 Daytona 500 in a surprise victory after Dale Earnhardt blew a tire on the last lap; Buster Douglas, who was the first boxer to ever knock Mike Tyson out; 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.

Some athletes have become remembered for a single mistake in their careers as opposed to a triumphant moment. Notable examples of such athletes include Buffalo Bills placekicker Scott Norwood, who is infamous for a missed 47-yard field goal that cost his team the Super Bowl; Bill Buckner, who at the 1986 World Series made a fielding error in which a baseball rolled through his legs; Steve Smith, who scored an own goal near the end of the third period in game 7 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Quarter Finals causing the Edmonton Oilers to lose to the Calgary Flames; and Jim Marshall, who, as part of the Minnesota Vikings, ran 66 yards (mistakenly into his own end zone) and scored a safety for the San Francisco 49ers.

In tennis, the term "one-slam wonder" can be referred towards players who have either won only one Grand Slam singles title during his or her career, or players who have currently only won one Grand Slam singles title but have the potential to win even more in their careers.[7] Andy Roddick is said to have enjoyed a successful tennis career, despite winning only one Grand Slam singles title – the 2003 US Open – in his entire career.[8] Other players who won only one Grand Slam singles title in their entire career include Carlos Moyá, Petr Korda, Gastón Gaudio, Thomas Johansson, Albert Costa, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Anastasia Myskina, Gabriela Sabatini, Jana Novotná, Andrés Gómez and Michael Chang.[9]

The term "cup of coffee" is used to describe a baseball or ice hockey player who has only a short stint (i.e., long enough to drink a cup of coffee and not do much else) in Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League respectively and then spend the rest of their careers in the minor leagues.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]