We’d love to get a study on what percentage of hit songs are actually performed by one-hit wonders. While this list can’t shed any light on that data, we’re pretty sure, just by doing the research, that the percentage is significant. As you take this trip down memory lane with us, try to remember that we’re in no way disparaging these bands for being one-hit wonders. (Except in the rare cases where the songs actually suck.)
For the most part, we’re in deep admiration, because these artists managed to break through the competition and connect with millions of people. It takes a special combination of luck, skill, and awesomeness, to record a song with such longevity. Long live these guys and gals.
100. “So Alive” By Love And Rockets
Love and Rockets would never enjoy more success than they did in 1989 when they hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “So Alive.” The band continued playing together until around 2008, but frontman Daniel Ash admitted in 2009 that the end had probably come. “We’ve worked together since 1980,” he told SuicideGirls.com. “I really want to work with new people, I’m sure everybody feels the same.”
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]
99. “Gonna Make You Sweat” By C&C Music Factory
C&C Music Factory enjoyed some marginal success in the early part of the ’90s, but none of that would compare to the heights they reached with “Gonna Make You Sweat,” which starts with the instantly recognizable screech, “Everybody dance now!” The song hit No. 1 on nine charts, including four in the US.
98. “My Own Worst Enemy” By Lit
Lit’s brand of pop-punk produced one good album, and on that album, you would find “My Own Worst Enemy,” the band’s breakout hit. Most children of the ’90s remember it not only for its exploding guitar riff, but also for its bowling alley music video.
97. “California” By Phantom Planet
Phantom Planet’s 2002 track “California” charted in seven countries (including the US), enjoying its most success in Italy, where it reached No. 2, and Austria (No. 3). Great song; holds up a lot better than most of the one-hit wonders on this list.
96. “Steal My Sunshine” By Len
Brother-sister duo Marc and Sharon Costanzo had a huge hit with 1999’s “Steal My Sunshine,” going on to sell two million copies and receiving more fame than they were ever comfortable with. In 2002, they pulled the plug on a tour and went home, content to fade into the background. In 2012, they released a new album with the catchy single “It’s My Neighborhood” accompanying.
95. “She’s So High” By Tal Bachman
Bachman-Turner Overdrive co-founder Randy Bachman had a son in 1968. That son would score one hit of his own in 1999, entitled “She’s So High,” then he would promptly fade into obscurity. Tal Bachman only occasionally performs today with one of his most recent appearances a duet of his lone hit alongside Taylor Swift at a show in 2011. (Probably her idea.)
94. “Better Days (And The Bottom Drops Out)” By Citizen King
Citizen King came onto the scene in 1999 with “Better Days (And The Bottom Drops Out)” before disappearing as quickly as they’d arrived. The song only reached as high as No. 3 on the Modern Rock chart. The group disbanded in 2002.
93. “What It’s Like” By Everlast
Everlast’s 1999 release “What It’s Like” sounds like it could have been cut and released yesterday. It’s a timeless, gritty exploration of the causes behind other people’s issues. It was a strong No. 1 in the US.
92. “You Get What You Give” By The New Radicals
This 1998 song by the New Radicals came under a bit of fire for its closing chant:
“Health insurance, rip-off lying
FDA, big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they’re multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson,
Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
You’re all fakes, run to your mansions
Come around, we’ll kick your ass in.”
Singer-songwriter Gregg Alexander admitted that he wrote in the celebrity disses at the end to see which section the media would hone in on. He felt vindicated when the press jumped on the knocks at Beck, Hanson, Love, and Manson, and ignored the rest, but added that he felt no ill will towards any of his singing counterparts and would later apologize to Beck and work with Zac Hanson.
91. “Save Tonight” By Eagle-Eye Cherry
Terrific album and one of the best individual songs of the ’90s. Eagle-Eye Cherry is the younger half-brother of singer Neneh Cherry, who is also a bit of a one-hit wonder herself (“Buffalo Stance,” anyone?). Eagle-Eye’s music and lyrics had a lot more depth to them, though, and he’s the only one in the family to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
90. “Lullaby” By Shawn Mullins
Mullins never seemed happy with the spotlight following the success of his 1999 number “Lullaby.” Perhaps it was because most of his stuff falls in the Americana category, far away from this pop rarity. Mullins is a fantastic live performer, and I highly recommend getting your hands on the 2008 DVD of his show at the Variety Playhouse.
89. “Closing Time” By Semisonic
Always thought of Semisonic’s “Closing Time” as a drinking-alone-tonight anthem. The 1998 track reached No. 1 in the US, No. 2 in Canada, and even attracted the attention of one Weird Al Yankovic.
88. “Sex And Candy” By Marcy Playground
Marcy Playground’s 1998 hit “Sex And Candy” starts with that now legendary opening — “Hangin’ round, downtown by myself, and there she was…” From there, it ceases to make much sense, but it doesn’t have to. The band infuses an intoxicating combination of edge and melody with some really strong hooks and backbeats to permanently lodge the tune inside your brain once you’ve heard it.
87. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” By The Verve
“Bittersweet Symphony” broke into the top five on several charts throughout the globe, reaching as high as No. 4 Stateside. The video had a lot of walking and running in to people. It was also the subject of controversy surrounding a sampling from the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.” As for The Verve, the band has broken up and we wouldn’t expect a reunion from these guys any time soon.
86. “Are You Jimmy Ray?” By Jimmy Ray
In 1998, we were apparently having Vanilla Ice withdrawals, so we made a hit out of lookalike Jimmy Ray and his lone hit, “Are You Jimmy Ray?” The less we say, the better.
85. “If You Could Only See” By Tonic
“If You Could Only See,” from Tonic’s debut album, was the band’s most successful single far and away, reaching No. 11 in the US and spending 63 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100. It also performed well in Canada and Australia.
84. “Sunny Came Home” By Shawn Colvin
Shawn Colvin won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1998 Grammy Awards, largely on the back of her 1997 murder ballad “Sunny Came Home,” about a woman named Sunny who burns down her house to escape her past. The song reached No. 1 in Canada and the US.
83. “Bitch” By Meredith Brooks
Meredith Brooks could never replicate her “Bitch” success from 1997, and since about ’07, she hasn’t even tried. Why bother? When you reach the top 10 in four countries, you’re pretty much set for life.
82. “The Freshmen” By The Verve Pipe
“The Freshmen” hit No. 1 on US charts and No. 6 in Canada. The haunting arrangement and vocals hint at something terrible, but writer-lead singer Brian Vander Ark assures everyone that no one died. He used an ex-girlfriend from college as his jumping off point, and then modeled the song around her fictitious abortion.
81. “Return Of The Mack” By Mark Morrison
Was there a more perfect song in the ’90s than Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack”? It’s doubtful. Morrison, an English R&B artist, hit No. 1 in the US and his homeland, and broke the top 10 in 12 other countries. It’s a perfect arrangement and has aged extremely well.
80. “MMMBop” By Hanson
I remember ripping on Hanson back in the day, and truthfully, their output is but a small skid mark on the underwear of success, but if faced with the decision of them or Beiber, I’d take “MMMBop” any day.