One-hit wonder

From Academic Kids

In the music industry, a one-hit wonder is an artist who is generally known for only one hit single.

One-hit wonders are common 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 and new wave.

The hits of many one-hit wonders are novelty songs that are, to an extent, deliberately short-lived, recorded for humor or to cash in on the latest pop culture fad. Examples include C.W. McCall’s "Convoy," related to the Citizens Band radio fad of the 1970s, and Buckner & Garcia’s "Pac Man Fever," related to the arcade game Pac Man. More commonly however, one-hit wonders are serious-minded musicians who struggled to continue their success after their popularity waned. Tragically, sometimes these artists only had one chart success due to untimely death or injury (such as Minnie Riperton and Blind Melon).

Though the term is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, fans often have a great passion for these memorable songs and the artists that created them. Some one-hit wonder artists, such as Tommy Tutone have embraced this following openly, while others distance themselves from their hit in an attempt to craft successful songs with different sounds.


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

In 2002, the US-American cable network VH1 aired a countdown of the “100 greatest one-hit Wonders.” The top ten consisted of:

  1. Los Del Rio - "Macarena" (1996)
  2. Soft Cell - "Tainted Love" (1982)
  3. Dexys Midnight Runners - "Come On Eileen" (1982)
  4. Right Said Fred - "I'm Too Sexy" (1992)
  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" (1984)

Gray Areas

Many one-hit wonders may have several hit singles but because those songs have been eclipsed by a much greater hit are nonetheless considered one-hit wonders. For example, Paul & Paula's "Hey Paula", The Knack's "My Sharona", Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and Free's "All Right Now" have overshadowed careers which, at one time, encompassed several somewhat popular songs.

Performers who are successful in one country but who are known for only one song in another are usually considered one-hit wonders in the latter. Germany’s Nena, Austria’s Falco, United Kingdom’s Madness and Canada’s Crash Test Dummies have each had considerable success in their homelands but are considered one-hit wonders in the United States; as, to a lesser extent, are ABBA, who enjoyed sustained success in many other countries.

Similarly, some performers are considered one-hit wonders in general but have had considerable success within their respective genres. Celtic music singer Loreena McKennitt, swing band Cherry Poppin' Daddies, heavy metal band Ratt and Christian rock band Jars of Clay are each stars within their respective genres but are known for only a single crossover hit each by the general public.

The term one-hit wonder does not, however, usually refer to performers who have had only limited success in the singles chart, but are considered significant for other reasons: album sales, live concerts, or influence on other musicians. Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, The Grateful Dead, Iggy Pop and Radiohead have each had only one song in the top 40 positions of Billboard Magazine’s list of most-played pop songs, yet none is considered a one-hit wonder.

By analogy, artists and bands who produce two major hits before fading into obscurity are sometimes called "two-hit wonders", but this term is not as commonly used.


  • The phenomenon of one-hit wonders was celebrated in Tom Hanks's film That Thing You Do!, which featured a fictional 1960s band called The Wonders that broke up shortly after their one and only hit single.
  • Norman Greenbaum is a double one-hit wonder. In 1968, under the name Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band, he had a hit with the novelty song "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago" and, two years later, experienced a single hit under his own name "Spirit In The Sky". Ironically, another group, Doctor and the Medics, became a one-hit wonder with their version of "Spirit In The Sky" in 1986. TV stars The Kumars also became one-hit wonders when they reached no.1 with Gareth Gates with the same song in 2003.

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. For example, author Joseph Heller wrote several novels but is still best known for Catch-22 and actress Natasha Henstridge has yet to match the success of the film Species.

See also

External Links

de:Eintagsfliege (Musik) ja:一発屋 nl:Eendagsvlieg sv:One-hit wonder


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