Our 10 Favorite One-Hit Wonders

Categories: Pop Life

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Doin' It In Texas: Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes
Where would the world be without one-hit wonders? Well, we really don't like to think about that.

One of the purest guilty pleasures in pop music -- and sometimes not even a guilty pleasure but an actual good song -- the one-hit wonder is much safer than its real-life counterpart; the one-night stand. But without getting too sociological about it, lately it seems like the nature of one-hit wonders has changed with the rise of YouTube and songs that "go viral." (Gross.) Even a decade from now, and the world never hears another word from either one again, would Psy or Rebecca Black even count as one-hit wonders? Somehow it doesn't feel like it.

It's these kind of questions that keep us up nights, so recently Rocks Off polled our writers to see what their favorite one-hit wonders are. (Their least favorites will come tomorrow, just in time for the weekend.) And for what it's worth, until he thought of a song he liked better, the editor wanted to cast his lot for Nena's 1983 Top 10 Teutonic synth-pop smash "99 Luftballloons." It's probably the reason we wound up studying German in high school. This one's for you, Captain Kirk.


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"Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds
There were a lot of great one-hit wonders in the '80s, but my favorite is Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)," better known to most of us as "that Breakfast Club song." In fact, it was the very first song I illegally downloaded from Napster.

I'm not sure why this one always stuck with me. The Breakfast Club is an incredibly stupid movie that was before my time, and the song was a flat, throwaway recording that the band had to be talked into by their record label. There's just something about the lyrics' melancholy anxiety, delivered in Jim Kerr's baritone croon, that's a little more affecting than it was probably meant to be. Plus the "La-la-la-la!" part at the end is really fun to sing along to. NATHAN SMITH


"Epic," Faith No More
Maybe the most influential and significant band to ever achieve one-hit wonder status, Faith No More only ever achieved mainstream success with one ubiquitous and admittedly amazing song: "Epic." While the majority of the public will probably never know them beyond that, they stand virtually alone amongst the vast landscape of one-hit wonders.

Not only is "Epic" taken off one hell of a record itself, The Real Thing, but every other album the band recorded went on to be an alternative landmark as well, cementing their status in the hearts of weirdo-rock fans around the world. COREY DEITERMAN


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"Flagpole Sitta," Harvey Danger
For all I know, Harvey Danger wrote plenty of good songs, but I only remember one of them. "Flagpole Sitta," which first made its way to my eardrums before I was even a teenager, is still one of the most infectious, angst-ridden and overall fun modern ballads that I've ever heard.

To this day, I bob my head and sing along whenever I hear it and, though I'm still not sure quite exactly what the song is about, "I'm not sick, but I'm not well" is as timeless of a sentiment as any. MATTHEW KEEVER


"Fade Into You," Mazzy Star
As a girl growing up in the '90s, I just assumed I was supposed to be somewhat angsty and introspective. All of my idols were: Lelaina Pierce from Reality Bites, Liz Phair, My So-Called Life's Angela Chase, etc. So it only made sense that when Mazzy Star released 1994's "Fade Into You," I felt deeply connected with it. Its haunting lullaby and existential lyrics made me feel like I really understood love, relationships, and sadness.

Of course I had no effing clue, but man. I sure felt like I did. Twenty years later. I still might not have a rat's-ass clue about life, but the song still sounds utterly perfect. SELENA DIERINGER


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"Good," Better Than Ezra
Better Than Ezra is the picture-perfect example of a "one hit wonder," as proven by the rise and fall of their commercial success. After Elektra signed Better Than Ezra and re-released their sophomore album Deluxe, "Good" went on to snag the No. 1 spot on Bilboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks, while the album was certified platinum in the U.S. and gold in Canada.

"Good" was also the first radio hit I remember loving, and I spent hours on the floor of my room waiting for it to come on the air so I could record it to a cassette tape. Though Better Than Ezra was eventually dropped from Elektra, the New Orleans-based band, still popular regionally, helped influence a wave of bands that would eventually infiltrate the '90s airwaves. ALYSSA DUPREE


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40 comments
alex.medrano
alex.medrano

Either disclose the fact that you rarely listen to music and are only 15 years old or rename this article, 10 songs I like by bands I know nothing about.

htownconcertgoer
htownconcertgoer

Not sure someone born in 1983 should be allowed to write articles that include 80's so called "One Hit Wonders".  This has been proven by the inability of the writer to get his facts straight: For example, Simple Minds has had numerous hits around the world (many in the USA as well) since forming in 1977, and have sold 150 million records and counting to date.  Mentioning Better Than Ezra (had a string of hits) leads me to believe the writer was going on memory recall instead of actually doing research.  I guess anyone with a face gets to just show up, get hired, and write an article.

htownconcertgoer
htownconcertgoer

Not sure someone born in 1983 should be allowed to write articles that include 80's so called "One Hit Wonders".  This has been proven by the writer's inability to get his facts straight:  For example, Simple Minds has had numerous hits around the world (many in the USA as well) since forming in 1977, and have sold 150 million records (and counting) to date.  Mentioning Better Than Ezra (had a string of hits) leads me to believe the writer was going on memory recall instead of actually doing research.  I guess anyone with a face gets to just show up, get hired and write articles!

Farticus
Farticus

Simple Minds a 1-hit wonder? They were huge in Europe before The Breakfast Club (like OMD was prior to "If You Leave" being featured in Pretty in Pink. All of these songs from them were pretty heavily featured on MTV:

Alive & Kicking

Sanctify Yourself (didn't say all of the songs were good)

All the Things She Said

See the Lights



MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

I LOVED "Touch of Grey," if for no other reason than it replaced "Trucking," as the Dead song you couldn't get away from.

Jenandtonic
Jenandtonic

I disagree with Better than Ezra being a one-hit wonder. They had several radio hits. "Desperately Wanting" anyone? That song was damn near inescapable.

Hesperus1855
Hesperus1855

Well, one way to categorize a one hit wonder from a bygone decade is how the present uses that track. For instance, this morning while watching The Weather Channel's "Local Weather on the 8s" segment sometime in the seven o'clock hour I found myself singing along with the tune playing in the background as the current and later conditions came on screen. 

It was Better Than Ezra's "Good." Now, I remember loving this song and jump-dancing around to it whenever it came on wherever I was (the car, a friend's house, a club, a bar). And even listening to it as I pulled up to an ex-girlfriend's place to drop off her stuff - I wanted to tell her something that would make her remember me (not to get back together, but just a few kind words so she knew we were okay on some level); I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, cranked up this song, and jotted down, "Thanks for the memories." 

Earlier today, there I was singing the words and I was transported back to a time when my biggest concern was getting back my Depeche Mode tapes from said ex. 

Anyhow, when the segment ended I was back in the present - son on my knee, wife kissing us both goodbye as she leaves for work, and I could not recall the name of the person who said she gave away "101" because she did not want to look at them and think of me. 

But I knew every word of "Good."

Label it - and the other songs here - if you must but it will never be just a one-hit wonder to me.   

rgwalt
rgwalt

I wholeheartedly disagree with your pick of Faith No More's Epic as a one hit wonder.  In my opinion, one hit wonders are band's that produce a single, intensely popular song, but never reach fame again.  Faith No More certainly does not fit this mold.  Their catalogue spans almost 20 years.  Their song "We Care A Lot" was sampled as the theme song for Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs.  Other singles, including Mid Life Crisis, Falling To Pieces, and Last Cup of Sorrow, all received regular air play on alt rock stations in the 90's.  Maybe Epic was their only single to receive air time on the top 40 hits station that Rocks Off was listening to in middle school, but that doesn't make Faith No More a one hit wonder.

Corey Deiterman
Corey Deiterman

Oddly enough, I think "The Killing Moon" probably gets more radio play "Lips Like Sugar" these days too.

Mary Ybarra-Sorola
Mary Ybarra-Sorola

Johnny Angel/Shelly Fabares (fabray); I also like 'Don't You Forget About Me'/Simple Minds, The Breakfast Club movie. Weird movie, but I can stand to see it yet again.

Mary Ybarra-Sorola
Mary Ybarra-Sorola

I like the song, 96 Tears/The Mysterians. I don't know if this was a one hit wonder, but I love the Japanese song, Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto. It brings back memories of my carefree youth when I would be cleaning house and listening to KNUZ rock radio, early 60's.

Aaron Matas
Aaron Matas

And Houston was the last concert blind melon played. I think at numbers.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith

The Vapors "Turning Japanese" is the ultimate one from my childhood.

Creg Lovett
Creg Lovett

If the Dead count, I would have said Chuck Berry. Not that anyone asked me...

ekhilton
ekhilton

I don't think the author really gets what a OHW really is....now, "ROCK ME AMADEUS" ?  That's more like it.

Angie Gregory Schwartzman
Angie Gregory Schwartzman

Calling the Grateful Dead a one hit wonder...you're just begging for a tie-dyed drum circle protest in front of your building.

DLege
DLege

? and the Mysterians - 96 Tears

Scarlette Lopez
Scarlette Lopez

What is love? By Haddaway. Why? 5 words- A Night At The Roxbury

Jeff Gilmer
Jeff Gilmer

I'd disagree with Echo and the Bunnymen being on the list.

gailmindy
gailmindy

Well, this is dating me but Sugarloaf's "Green-eyed Lady" comes to mind because our entire high school won a trip to Six Flags in Atlanta (circa 1975) for their concert. 

Matt Miller
Matt Miller

Wishing well - Terrance trent D'arby haha And i take great offense to you pitting Mazzy Star in a one hit wonder list. 3 now 4 albums and two top 50 albums of the 90's would disqualify them for this list.

Daddy Tang
Daddy Tang

"Don't Disturb this Groove"- The System

dpenn512
dpenn512

You can not say Butthole Surfers are a one hit wonder!!

Dave Gill
Dave Gill

Haha! True! Yeah, that will be a great article! SO many songs that seem to have once been hits, but just faded with time.

Houston Press Rocks Off
Houston Press Rocks Off

Thanks Dave. Good point, and something else we've been discussing -- songs that were "hits" when they were released but have been all but forgotten about today. Stay tuned. As it stands, since perhaps only you and Jim Kerr remember that "Alive and Kicking" climbed so high, we decided to allow it. It's a great song anyway.

Dave Gill
Dave Gill

Not to nitpick, but technically speaking, Simple Minds weren't a one-hit wonder. "Alive and Kicking" hit #3 in the US, while "Sanctify Yourself" and "All The Things She Said" also cracked the top 40. I have no idea why I know that. I was a casual fan of that band, at best! I can't remember my passwords at work, but I can remember chart positions for some washed-up band from 30 years ago!

rogerscorpion
rogerscorpion

@gailmindy I agree with '96 Tears', as well as 'Green-Eyed Lady' (I saw Jerry Corbetta & Sugarloaf play it here, at Uncle Sam's, btw). Another great OHW, to me, was 'Harden My Heart', by Quarterflash. 

foolio
foolio

Agreed! Anyone who thinks they are a one hit wonder has NO business being a music critic...especially in Texas

JohnSeabornGray
JohnSeabornGray

@gossamersixteen @dpenn512 Yup. True, "Who Was In My Room Last Night?" made it onto Beavis & Butthead, but that doesn't make it a hit. Butthole Surfers were awesome, nobody's saying they weren't, but they did, in fact, only have one hit.

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