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The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs

Because sometimes one hit is all you need...

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If anyone ever asks you to work on a list of the best one-hit wonders, do yourself a favor: Smile, pivot, and flee full speed in the opposite direction faster than you can say, “Oh … my … God, Becky.” We all know what a one-hit wonder is, right? Um, no you actually probably don’t. We’re still not sure that we’ve got it entirely figured out. The standard definition (determined by who, Right Said Fred?) of a one-hit wonder is a band who has cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 only once. What, you had a late-career single make 41? Sorry, thanks for playing, but charting 41 isn’t the same as 40, right? Um, no … maybe? It gets no easier when you have to wade through dozens of other Billboard charts that count for everything except, apparently, determining a one-hit wonder. And what about all those charts in other countries – yeah, we ignored them. Great, this list is making us xenophobic now.

But that’s getting pretty damn technical, and we’re not numbers people here. Because, technically, Beck is a one-hit wonder. As are the Grateful Dead and even Radiohead if they hadn’t snuck in at 37 with “Nude” back in 2008. Very lucky, Mr. Yorke. Can you imagine if you scrolled through a list of the 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs and found Beck sitting at the top spot? You’d collectively crash our site’s server in a contest to see which commenter could say the cruelest thing about our music knowledge, mothers, and cats. Hey, leave our pets out of this.

right said fred The 100 Best One Hit Wonder Songs

So, that being said, we all know what the real definition of a one-hit wonder is, right? For us, it’s an act who reached their peak popularity with a high-charting hit and then saw that popularity wane and never return once their song ran its course. They’re an artist, band, or group who we’ll forever identify with one song. Did we still have to make some gut calls? Sure. Technically, Twisted Sister are a one-hit wonder, but we all know “I Wanna Rock” as well as “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Warren Zevon had a lot more going on than his howling “Werewolves of London”, but the charts don’t tell that story. The Verve? Okay, so we pay some attention to the UK charts. You won’t find them here.

But here’s what we really want you to 100% understand about this list and how it differs from so many other one-hit wonder lists. We actually like all these songs. Some we flat-out love. Somewhere along the line, the term “one-hit wonder” became a dubious distinction, a badge of ignominy. Why? Some bands only score one hit, but some of these songs are so good that those artists only needed one hit to secure their permanent place on our playlists. So, sorry, Toni Basil. Apologies, Sir Mix-a-Lot. No dice, Frankie. See ya back in Hollywood. Yeah, we remember you guys, but that doesn’t mean we want to hear your songs anywhere near as often as we do.

So, here they are. The one-hit wonders that we love best. As a cherry, we even picked out a second song we think could’ve been a hit for each act. But again, there’s no shame in having only one hit. After all, these one-hit wonders have something that 99.9% of the acts out there don’t have and never will. That’s right. A hit.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director


100. Europe – “The Final Countdown” (1986)

It’s not surprising that the song “The Final Countdown” was conceived around the track’s keyboard intro. Thirty years later, that’s the part that remains iconic. The TV show Arrested Development even went on to reintroduce it to a new generation by making magician Gob use it as his entrance music for his magic tricks, err, illusions. But at the time, it was a launchpad to the top of the charts for Swedish rock group Europe. The song went number one in 25 countries, and the album of the same name went on to sell three million copies. Sure, no one really knows any of their other songs (though they technically had another “hit” with “Carrie”), but the band is still active today, playing casinos around the world. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Rock the Night”


99. EMF – “Unbelievable” (1990)

Oh! You might not remember the record Schubert Dip; hell, you might not even remember the band EMF at all. But the second that rough-hewn sample of comedian Andrew Dice Clay plays and the crowd roars immediately after, you’ll remember “Unbelievable”. The alternative dance band from Cinderford, Gloucestershire, jammed a whole bunch of lyrics into their verses, some of which fit better than others, but when you’ve got a certified grade-A hook delivered straight from Jock Jam heaven, you can pack as many forgettable verses as you like alongside. The song has been featured in countless soundtracks, but more fittingly is played in sporting arenas across the globe. The group had a handful of more middling singles in the UK, but failed to crossover again and have since split and reunited a couple of times. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Children”


98. Michael Sembello – “Maniac” (1983)

Singer-songwriter Michael Sembello’s pedigree already included working as a guitarist for Stevie Wonder at the young age of 17, but that doesn’t mean that a nudge and a little luck aren’t still needed to score a number-one hit. His synthpop song “Maniac” ascended the charts due to its inclusion in the popular 1983 romantic drama Flashdance, an opportunity Sembello stumbled upon when his wife accidentally included it on a tape that she sent to executives at Paramount looking for music for the soundtrack. The song has since become inseparable from main character Alex Owens vigorously training and practicing dance moves in her warehouse. “Maniac” rose to the number-one slot on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1983 and remains one of the highest-grossing songs ever written for a film. Today, Sembello still creates music and has released six studio albums. –Sonia Vavra

Two-Hit Wonder? “Gravity”


97. The Surfaris – “Wipe Out” (1963)

Surf rock had such a big moment that it seemed like everybody had beachfront property. While The Beach Boys may go down as the ultimate band of the surf movement, The Surfaris’ “Wipeout” stakes a claim as one of the most iconic singles. That comes in some part due to its instrumental nature (well, other than that dude laughing and saying the title at the song’s open), setting it up perfectly for use in dozens of surfing and beach scenes in film and TV. It’s simple, but the shimmying rhythm and upbeat riff are earworms through and through. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “Point Panic”


96. White Town – “Your Woman” (1997)

It’s a shame that Jyoti Prakash Mishra and his one-man band White Town arrived several years ahead of the blogosphere, where he might have found a more receptive audience for his slightly off-kilter pop experimentation. Then again, the great thing about White Town’s 1997 mega hit “Your Woman” is how far ahead of its time it sounds. With a trumpet sample lifted from Al Bowlly’s “My Woman” and a lyric sheet that emphasizes fluid gender identity, “My Woman” would’ve been just as big a hit (probably bigger) if it had dropped in 2016. Mishra’s troubled relationship with EMI and insistence on doing his own thing left him an afterthought by the early 2000s, though his 2010 single “Cut Out My Heart” shows that he’s still got some bangers left in the tank. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Cut Out My Heart”


95. Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music” (1976)

Wild Cherry aren’t much of a household name, but they recorded one of the most well-known funk songs to date, which makes them as common as the household fruit they mock. “Play That Funky Music” was written by Rob Parissi, the band’s lead singer, and quickly shot to the top of the Hot Soul Singles chart when he and the rest of the band dropped it in 1976. As if it wouldn’t with a bass line that ripe. Those slapped lines and straightforward accents make the most stiff person dance. By the time the woodblock comes in during the bridge and the eponymous line gets called out in the chorus, it’s got everyone wiggling along. To date, it’s sold almost 3 million records in the United States alone. Over 40 years later, the song still holds up, too, raising the question: Could a funk rock revival be the change we need? I won’t say yes, but I certainly won’t say no either. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “I Feel Sanctified”


94. Len – “Steal My Sunshine” (1999)

Toronto’s Len might have only had one hit, but what a hit it was. “Steal My Sunshine” rose to the heights of No. 9 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1999, back when doing so had rarely ever mattered more. The ska-flecked pop hit was inescapable, and though the band would never reach those heights again (and is currently on the ninth year of an indefinite hiatus), “Steal My Sunshine” endures as both a catchy, unusually infectious reminder of that brief and weird time when ska began to fuse with whatever Smash Mouth was doing at the time and as a pretty great Parks and Recreation punchline. Also, the arm of Len is long; former member Brendan Canning would go on to form Broken Social Scene after his run with the band. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Cryptik Souls Crew”


93. Ronald & Ruby – “Lollipop” (1958)

Rewind back to the ’50s and grab a seat at your local diner. No matter what time of day you go in, chances are you’re bobbing along to the sugary 1958 single “Lollipop”. Pop duo Ronald & Ruby wrote the song supposedly without much hard work. After all, its effortlessness is what works in its favor. It’s been half a century and it still crosses generational gaps. Less than two minutes in length, “Lollipop” is an easy one to toss into movie scores and commercials alike, getting the point across without its simplistic charm fading. Unfortunately, Ronald & Ruby avoided major press because they were an interracial duo and knew that fact might jeopardize their career. Thank goodness they slid this song across the counter with enough force to still treat nostalgic masses today, though, or else we wouldn’t know what we were missing out on. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Lovebirds”


92. Billie Myers – “Kiss the Rain” (1997)

Coventry-born singer-songwriter Billie Myers worked as a nurse and an insurance agent while she crafted her first album of material, her passion for the art in the face of difficulty readily apparent. It seems more than coincidence that “Kiss the Rain” and Dawson’s Creek (a show it appeared on) arrived at the same time, the lovelorn outsider an essential trope of the late ‘90s. Myers’ lush growl and the clanging guitar were the perfect soundtrack to so many late nights with foreheads pressed against the windowpane, raindrops dripping down in the moonlight. You may only find Billie Myers’ name at the top of the charts once, but “Kiss the Rain” producer Desmond Child worked on smash songs ranging from “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” to “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. Myers, meanwhile, went on to release two more records without much pop success, doing some great work as a vocal advocate for gay rights and same-sex marriage, as well as for mental health awareness. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “You Send Me Flying”


91. Grover Washington Jr. – “Just the Two of Us” (1981)

If we were searching for the number-one contributor to overpopulation, this song would be a strong contender. The granddaddy of babymakers, R&B king Bill Withers and jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. created a perfectly executed hit that was way beyond its years. Washington unfortunately passed away in 1999, but his work lives on, one winelight night at a time. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “Mister Magic”


90. Shocking Blue – “Venus” (1969)

“Venus” is really two or three great pop songs crammed into the space of one, which might explain why we never heard much else from Shocking Blue; they blew their whole cache of hooks on just one single. But my, what a single it is! From that jangly, stuttering guitar line that kicks off the tune to perhaps the great pre-chorus of all time (“She’s got it!”), this one takes no prisoners on its way to psych pop nirvana. Speaking of Nirvana, Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” found a second life as one of the grunge trio’s early covers. That kind of qualifies as a hit, right? –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Love Buzz”


89. Mark Morrison – “Return of the Mack” (1996)

As both a video time capsule of fantastic mid-‘90s R&B fashion (offset black leathers! high-cropping turtlenecks!) and a surprisingly effective kiss-off song, “Return of the Mack” sampled the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” and threw the most inescapable hook possible atop it. (Seriously, try to get this out of your head after playing it.) While Morrison had a few hits in his native England, “Return of the Mack” was it for him Stateside, despite climbing all the way to No. 2 during its chart run. A fun thing to do next time you get in an argument: Respond with a “you lied to me” in Morrison’s exact inflection. –-Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Crazy”


88. The Cascades – “Rhythm of the Rain” (1962)

It’s probably not a surprise that a song called “Rhythm of the Rain” was written during a thunderstorm. Still, Cascades songwriter John Gummoe couldn’t have foreseen that a song he wrote while on watch in the Navy would one day sell a million copies and become a hit in 80 countries. Beyond the stormy sound effects and raindrop keys, the brief song manages to tap into all the regrets, pining, and holding out hope that come when “the only girl [we] care about has gone away.” Ironically, when Gummoe’s bandmates drop in with their harmonies, it creates the effect of him seeming truly alone with only his thoughts and the raindrops as companions. While the band never found another song that captured the public’s imagination like “Rhythm of the Rain”, it’s hard to imagine them being forgotten – not as long as broken hearts and rainstorms persist. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “The Last Leaf”


87. Luscious Jackson – “Naked Eye” (1996)

Luscious Jackson aren’t an easy band to pin down, with a catalog that fluctuates from disco funk (“Here”) to chilled-out alt-pop (“Take a Ride”). As with their friends and labelmates the Beastie Boys, there’s something definitely “New York” about the group, and that might end up being the best way to describe their particular sound. Their 1997 single “Naked Eye” embodies this facet of their identity with its cool urban groove and spoken-word verses, both of which exude the vibe of pre-9/11 Manhattan. Listening to “Naked Eye” in a modern context, the song comes across like Sleater-Kinney by way of Lilith Fair, which is to say it embodies the late ‘90s rock sound quite perfectly. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Here”


86. Pilot – “Magic” (1974)

Some songs often serve as punctuation, calling cards for certain moments (think: Queen’s “We Will Rock You” pre-game and “We Are Champions” post-game). Produced by Alan Parsons, Pilot’s breadwinner, “Magic”, conjures all sorts of giddy feelings, the type of anthem you might want to hear after a surprising-yet-enviable left turn in life. Which is why the single has popped up in a handful of films, most of them not very good, but out of the bunch worth mentioning: Happy Gilmore. Anyone who’s ever seen the joy that races across Adam Sandler’s face when he finally gets the golf ball in appreciates the brilliant marriage of sound and screen. As for Pilot, those Scottish rockers (and former Bay City Rollers) would move on to other big-name outfits like The Alan Parsons Project and 10cc, where they’d find … well, you know what to do. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “January”


85. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” (2003)

There was a brief moment in 2003 where the success of The Darkness’ “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” made many wonder whether ’80s-inspired glam was set to return. Well, it wasn’t, making The Darkness a singular hit-maker for an entire genre revival. It’s for the best that butt rock didn’t come back, though The Darkness do make a compelling argument for its merits with glass-shattering vocals, flexing guitar solos, and karaoke-ready lyrics. The Darkness found more success abroad and still hold their share of apologists, but the song’s success is still surprising to this day. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Growing On Me”


84. Wall of Voodoo – “Mexican Radio” (1982)

New wave bands were a dime a dozen back in 1982, so you had to do something kind of different if you really wanted to stand out. In Wall of Voodoo’s case, “something kind of different” involved adding a whimsical mariachi organ melody and a maddeningly repetitive chorus to their one-hit single, “Mexican Radio”. The band would go on to release three more albums before breaking up in 1988, but they’d never did recapture the insane catchiness of “I’m on a Mexican radio!” Considering how many folks had that line permanently stuck in their heads throughout the ‘80s, that might be for the best. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Far Side of Crazy”


83. Republica – “Ready to Go” (1996)

In the mid-to-late-‘90s, if you needed a song that screamed “alternative” for your teen film and/or extreme sports clip package, you called in for “Ready to Go”. The English techno-punk band rose to prominence around the same time as Garbage, and the similarities are conspicuous before long. After singing the hook on N-Joi’s “Anthem” a few years prior, Saffron was enlisted by Republica’s founders, and so a hit was born. It’s all snotty alt-rock attitude, but in a decade that bred some of the loosest possible interpretations of the genre, it’s an effective reminder of a sound that came and rather quickly went. Though the band went on hiatus for much of the aughts, they reunited in 2008 and are still playing new material today. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Drop Dead Gorgeous”


82. The Vines – “Get Free” (2002)

After the insane blowup of “Get Free” from their first record, the song became the epitome of what a badass Australian rock band sounds like. It creates a surge of adrenaline that makes you want to party hard or get in a high-speed car chase, emotions that strum the chord of superstardom. From the very beginning, sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll were at the forefront for The Vines, especially for frontman Craig Nicholls, who had an insane punk rock meltdown during their performance on The Late Show with David Letterman; you know you’ve entered the threshold of superior punk when Letterman has to ask on-air if “you’re alright.” They’ve put out a few records over the years, including a pretty solid single that was released in April of this year. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “Ride”


81. Everything but the Girl – “Missing” (Todd Terry Club Mix) (1994)

Everything but the Girl is a wild story, so allow me to digress: In the beginning, the English duo, comprised of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, were heavily invested in a brand of jazz and soul dubbed “sophisti-pop” and spent much of the ’80s and early ’90s working in that revue — and mostly unnoticed. That all changed in 1995 when Brooklyn DJ Todd Terry remixed the second single off their eighth (!) studio album, “Missing”. What was a light, low-tempo ballad about separated lovers turned into a global hit, burning through nightclubs and, eventually, up the charts in countries everywhere. It was a major crossover success.

According to Thorn, though, it was always intended to be a club hit: “It was written with that idea in mind, totally … we put on sort of a laid-back house groove instead. Then when we gave it to Todd, he took it in a really, really strong New York house direction, which had a real simplicity to it, but it was very infectious.” Whether you credit Thorn or Terry (or both), one thing’s for sure: “Missing” is still one of the best late-night grooves to ever save the night — and was quite influential on the outfit. From there, they would go on to continue experimenting with electronica on 1996’s Walking Wounded and 1999’s Temperamental. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Wrong”


80. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy” (1982)

Pop in the ’80s was no joke, and this holds true with Bow Wow Wow’s rendition of “I Want Candy”. The song was originally written in the ’60s, but was later re-popularized by the English new wave/pop band in 1982. The success of this remake is largely due to its memorable music video, featuring lead singer Annabella Lwin’s energy and trippy FX, which premiered and played in heavy rotation during the rise of MTV. The band has broken up and reformed several times with different members over the years, and Lwin now performs as “Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” –Sonia Vavra

Two-Hit Wonder? “Do You Wanna Hold Me”


79. Bobby Day – “Rockin’ Robin” (1958)

If there was a ’50s hit that deserved to stay on the charts for weeks on end, it was “Rockin’ Robin”. Bobby Day recorded the song back in 1958. As his only hit single, it spent a criminal one week at the top of the charts before being bumped down a few places. To this day, it remains one of the key songs of that decade and perhaps one of the best uses of whistling. The song’s alternate downbeat emphasis, cheery hand claps, and childish lyrics made it one fit for play just about anywhere, not to mention the loose jazz drumming. Even now, Day’s emphasis on the blues guitar line brings a smile to anyone who hears it. Then again, maybe that’s because they got caught singing the words “tweedle-lee-leedle-lee-lee” like the sun only sets for birds. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Over and Over”


78. Anita Ward – “Ring My Bell” (1979)

Legend has it that the infectious “Ring My Bell” was initially intended for 11-year-old Stacy Lattislaw, eventual auteur of such teen tunes as “Attack of the Name Game” (yes, a rap version of the rhyming name song). But hand the tune over from the youth to then-23-year-old Anita Ward, and the song transitioned from a song about calling someone up on the phone to something far sexier. The Memphis-born disco vocalist got a degree in psychology and started teaching before she ever took to the booth, but the slinky, groovy “Ring My Bell” is an absolute star turn, an earworm of idyllic, chiming proportions. Ward put out a second album, then hit a rough spell that included label disputes and a severe car accident, returning only 10 years later for a final LP in 1989, long after the disco moment had faded. Her voice still sounded great on a brief 2011 return, but the formula hasn’t aged quite as well. That said, “Ring My Bell” absolutely hit its moment and feels like a teleportation chamber to the late ‘70s. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Don’t Drop My Love”


77. Robert Knight – “Everlasting Love” (1967)

There’s no science behind what will or won’t be a hit. Producers Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden originally brought Robert Knight “Everlasting Love” to use as a B-side. Now, it stands as one of only two songs in history (the other, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”) to be a Top 40 hit in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. You can credit the success of this version to its Motown-approximating sound, unique string-like organs, and Knight intentionally delivering his lines slower than the melody, but its enduring appeal might be simpler than all that. People mess up. They hurt each other, even those closest to them. “Everlasting Love” throws itself on the mercy of a hurt lover and asks for a second chance. When will a song like that ever stop being relevant? –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Love on a Mountaintop”


76. Lipps Inc. – “Funkytown” (1980)

Come on, Madonna. “Funkytown” was the only song to reach the number one spot in 28 countries until Madonna’s “Hung Up” came along 25 years later and hit number one in nearly twice that number of countries. Disco act Lipps Inc. came out of nowhere with the hit, but it stayed for a month on the Top 40 chart, likely due to how infectious it is as a dance song and how many reasons people wanted to escape the politics of the time back in 1980. The song originally comes as an eight-minute extended version, as all disco tracks must, that saw scissors snip it in half for the radio. Lipps Inc. have that to thank for their fame. Without it, one of the best songs to sport improv dance moves to wouldn’t have been the iconic track it is today. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Designer Music”


75. Big Country – “In a Big Country” (1983)

Talk about peaking too soon. Big Country’s only song to crack the Top 40 in the US was track one on their debut album. It’s also a rare case where a song title references the recording artist’s name. So, there’s that. But the truth about Scottish band Big Country is that their debut album, The Crossing, is a underrated album from front-to-back, and they weren’t able to match that early creative achievement again. They would offer up flop after flop in the US, despite a decent showing in the UK. The band still performs today, though without original singer Stuart Adamson, who became increasingly troubled in the years following their initial success, struggling with alcoholism and eventually hanging himself in a hotel room. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Inwards”


74. The Flys – “Got You Where I Want You” (1998)

If you recall The Flys’ 1998 post-grunge single “Got You (Where I Want You)”, you either a.) saw Disturbing Behavior and maybe owned its underrated soundtrack (which, admittedly, cruelly left off Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”) or b.) loved the Katie Holmes and James Marsden-featuring music video where everyone dives off a cliff at the end. Then again, you might have just listened to a lot of rock radio in the late ’90s and found this diamond in the very, very ugly rough. Either way, this slice of dreamy alternative was enough to give the Hollywood rockers a nationwide hit, something they were never really able to accomplish in the years after. Fun fact: Members Adam and Josh Paskowitz are related to the infamous (and, sadly, now departed) Jewish surfer Doc Paskowitz, so that’s pretty rad. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “She’s So Huge”


73. Barrett Strong – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959)

Here’s a good trivia stumper: Who scored Motown’s first hit single? If the fella beside you comes up with Barrett Strong, leave your pub’s trivia night immediately – you’re being hustled. However, the second the song’s unmistakable, chugging piano lead or Strong’s insincere proclamation that “the best things in life are free” pipes out of the jukebox, everyone in the joint knows “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Whether we grew up on Strong’s version or covers from artists as iconic as The Beatles and as quirky as The Flying Lizards, “Money” is hardwired into our internal iPods. Ironically, Strong, whose strongest claim to fame is as a Motown songwriter (the man wrote “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”), didn’t compose his own hit. Regardless, nearly 60 years later, “Money” continues to talk, and it’s still what we want. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “You Got What It Takes”


72. Toadies – “Possum Kingdom” (1994)

The Toadies are a prime example of the benefits of timing. Who’d have thought that a little group out of Fort Worth, Texas, singing from the perspective of a dead cult member inviting you to join him in death at Possum Kingdom Lake would wind up with a hit? But then the combination of Vaden Todd Lewis’ dark lyrics (“Behind the boathouse/ I’ll show you my dark secret”), Darrel Herbert’s whammied guitar riff, and a massive hook fit right in with the just-crested grunge moment. The song was apparently conceived as a sequel to “I Burn”, in which cult members set themselves ablaze to reach nirvana. You’ll never have more fun repeating “Do you wanna die?” at the top of your lungs. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “Tyler”


71. The Youngbloods – “Get Together” (1967)

The first time I heard The Youngbloods’ “Get Together” was in a more sarcastic context, with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic screaming the chorus at the top of his lungs at the beginning of “Territorial Pissings”. But the song itself is a pleasantly earnest plea for peace amidst the tumult of Vietnam and the 1960s. No other song better embodies the hope and altruism that were so central to the budding hippie movement, and it continues to stand as one of the brighter beacons from that era. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Darkness, Darkness”


70. Kris Kross – “Jump” (1992)

In a time when rap was still a burgeoning commodity in the charts, there wasn’t a formula much safer than that of Kriss Kross. Two rambunctious pre-teens sampling The Jackson 5, James Brown, Schoolly D, and more had the vibe and hook for crowds familiar with rap, even if a little cheesy, and had the crossover appeal to get mid-’90s bar mitzvahs rocking. Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac got people jumping on the dance floor even if their verses weren’t always stellar, Jermaine Dupri’s loping production perfectly fit for an all-ages jam. If this one didn’t have you craving your own Cross Colours or wearing your baseball jerseys backwards in ’94, you didn’t have a pulse. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “I Missed the Bus”


69. The Vapors – “Turning Japanese” (1980)

Either The Vapors forgot to knock on wood or this was some type of reverse jinx when the English power-pop band decided to wait to release “Turning Japanese” as their second single in fear of becoming a “one-hit wonder.” They never were able to get back on the charts and unfortunately became their worst nightmare: a one-hit wonder. After 34 years of inactivity, the band was spotted in a London bar playing “Turning Japanese” but got off the stage directly after and left the premises in true one-hit wonder fashion. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “Jimmie Jones”


68. Primitive Radio Gods – “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” (1996)

These days, curated movie soundtracks are rare, but still have the potential to be blockbusters. In the ’90s, a movie didn’t even particularly have to be a hit in order to have a song (or a whole soundtrack) from it do well. Primitive Radio Gods’ only foray into mainstream culture came on the back of a much-hyped and not-very-well-liked in its time film, The Cable Guy. But regardless of what Jim Carrey fans felt about the flick, they couldn’t deny the laid-back melody or the B.B. King sample that provides a chorus. In truth, the song was pretty ahead of its time (Moby and Fatboy Slim would soon also conquer the alt charts with similarly repurposed samples) though the band never really did anything of note again. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Motherfucker”


67. Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes – “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (1987)

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes got together to sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” in 1987. The single landed on the charts after being the theme song of romantic drama Dirty Dancing, most famous for its role during the film’s grand finale when Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey finally perform their dance and famous lift.
Even today, the song is frequently played on throwback radio stations and at weddings. This is the only song that Medley and Warnes ever recorded together, but both singers continued their solo careers following their joint hit. –Sonia Vavra

Two-Hit Wonder? Their only song together.


66. The Capitols – “Cool Jerk” (1966)

Everyone likes a song you can groove to. But a song that comes bundled with its own dance? Now, you’re talkin’! Like Chubby Checker (“The Twist”) before them and Los del Río (“Macarena”) decades later, The Capitols scored big with a song that let listeners know precisely which move to bust. Originally dubbed “Pimp Jerk” in honor of those cats too bad to do The Jerk like everyone else, the band ultimately settled on the more marketable title “Cool Jerk” — a move that vaulted them to a top-10 single. And while the band never ignited another dance craze (not even among pimps), we still have that same question running through our minds half a century later: Can you do it, can you do it, can you do it, can you do it? Cook jerk, come on, people! –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “We Got a Thing That’s in the Groove”


65. Corona – “The Rhythm of the Night” (1993)

“The Rhythm of the Night” has enjoyed a slight revival in recent years thanks to its appearance on the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack, but Italian outfit Corona’s sole hit was genuinely inescapable in 1995 when it crossed the sea. On the strength of an uncredited Giovanna Bersola’s vocals, “Rhythm” follows in the lineage of other European club hits that came to America some time after their peak foreign prominence. The hard-charging production, and even the charmingly vogue-friendly cutaways, allow the track to transcend its simplistic (by modern standards) sound. Now, come on. I know you wanna say it. –-Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Do You Want Me”


64. ? & the Mysterians – “96 Tears” (1966)

The children of migrant farmers producing early strains of punk in Michigan in the ’60s, ? and the Mysterians are a unique case to say the least. Inspired by surf rock, the British Invasion, and oddball science fiction in equal measure, members of the band were apparently also trained in traditional Mexican music. Frontman Question Mark (aka Rudy Martinez) claimed he’d been to the future, and considering how in step the sublime “96 Tears” are with proto-punk and garage acts that followed, it doesn’t seem unreasonable. The choppy organ chords, swirling guitar, and subterranean bass all shade Mark’s vague but broken lyrics, describing a relationship destined to end in slightly less than 100 tears. They wrote “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” only to see it sunk by Smash Mouth, and they released some amazing, raw jams, but “96 Tears” was the straightforward hook that brought them crossover appeal. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “I Need Somebody”


63. Edison Lighthouse – “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (1970)

English pop band Edison Lighthouse can be counted as a one-hit wonder, but their lead singer, Tony Burrows, for a time, was an absolute hit machine. In 1970, Burrows had four chart-climbing hits with, count ‘em, four different groups (Edison Lighthouse, The Pipkins, White Plains, and Brotherhood of Man). How does that even happen? Well, in the case of Edison Lighthouse, they were primarily a studio group who recruited Burrows to sing lead for them. Heck, when telly’s Top of the Pops called because “Love Grows” was tearing up the UK charts, the band had to actually find stand-ins who could mime alongside Burrows. While the singer never really found a permanent home with any one group, “Love Grows” has found a place in our lovestruck hearts forever. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “It’s Up to You, Petula”


62. Peter Schilling – “Major Tom (Coming Home)” (1983)

If you ever wanted a sequel to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, Peter Schilling has you covered. In seriousness, it must have taken some audacity to craft a song featuring Bowie’s character, but in Schilling’s defense, the song rips. Originally recorded in German, the new wave anthem got makeovers several times after its 1983 release, Schilling updating the track as he saw fit through 2003. And as is fit for a song that rips off another, “Major Tom” would later be copped by Blink 182 not for its content, but for its melody. Check this out and then check out “Man Overboard”.

Two-Hit Wonder? “The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)”


61. Duncan Sheik – “Barely Breathing” (1996)

What perhaps makes so many ’90s singles stand tall above the rest is the economy of sound. There’s traditionally something lingering between the lines, whether it’s a synth patch or some curious guitar line or even a harmony. Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing” comes littered with them, from the twirling lead guitar in the background to the halcyon hits that massage the chorus to the coastal piano that builds the bridge. Sheik’s vocal hooks are front and center, sure, but it’s the wall of sound that makes this such a memorable hit — and probably explains why the song nabbed a BMI Award for Most Played Song of the Year in 1997. As to why he could never bottle lightning twice, he’s since blamed his record label for trying to sell him as something he wasn’t: the cute, sensitive singer-songwriter. Still, the guy’s penned over half a dozen albums and has found a new life writing music for plays, especially his work on the Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening. Yeah, he’s breathing just fine. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Wishful Thinking”


60. Norman Greenbaum – “Spirit in the Sky” (1969)

Do us a solid: hit play, shut your eyes, and try not to think of one of the many movies in which you’ve probably heard “Spirit in the Sky”’s bouncing opening chords as you do it. Having trouble? It makes sense. It’s a versatile hit as one-hit wonders go, its Christian leanings (despite Greenbaum’s Jewish upbringing) and retro bounce ensuring that it continues on as one of pop culture’s favorite ways to hearken back to one of America’s most transitional eras. And to be fair, that guitar riff is a damn classic. Greenbaum has fallen quiet in the modern era, but sometimes it helps to just go back to that place that’s the best. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Petaluma”


59. Sneaker Pimps – “6 Underground” (1996)

Strangely, the Sneaker Pimps that produced “6 Underground” are very unlike the Sneaker Pimps that came both before and after that record. Kelli Dayton provides lead vocals for the track, but she was only recruited to sing just prior to the recording and was dismissed from the band after the album’s release. But for one bright moment, the Hartlepool outfit had the combination of trip-hop smooth and a sultry female lead, the kind of thing that could guarantee a hit back in 1996. But there was something special about this combination, a pop-friendly core that they couldn’t replicate when Liam Howe and Chris Corner chased more personal tunes afterward. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Spin Spin Sugar”


58. 4 Non Blondes – “What’s Up?” (1992)

Now, follow me on this one: The title phrase “What’s Up?” never appears in 4 Non Blondes’ song, but they didn’t want to call it “What’s Going On” for fear of confusion with Marvin Gaye, even though frontwoman Linda Perry repeats that line on the song’s hook. Whatever you want to call it (and, seriously, that hook was way more ubiquitous than the title), this one thrums with that early ‘90s angst and an epic vocal performance. If nothing else, the “What’s Up?” video is worth checking out for Perry’s top hat-goggles combination in the music video. Seriously, that was a look. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Spaceman”


57. Ten Years After – “I’d Love to Change the World” (1971)

The early 1970s was a transitional era for rock music and the world in general, with America finally pulling out of Vietnam and the hippie counterculture slowly fading into the mainstream. The bluesy British group Ten Years After somehow captured all of this tumult in their 1971 single “I’d Love to Change the World”, which is at once the platonic ideal of ‘60s folk rock and a bold step forward into a new era of big-time guitar solos and flamboyant genre-mashing. The song’s chorus (“I’d love to change the world/ But I don’t know what to do”) finds a band admitting their limits but stretching toward the sky anyway. It’s powerful stuff, even if Ten Years After never reached the same heights again. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Love Like a Man”


56. Kajagoogoo – “Too Shy” (1983)

Those highway synths, those coke basslines, those yacht rock keys … you’ve stepped into some Kajagoogoo. Produced by Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes and legendary engineer Colin Thurston, “Too Shy” thrives from its jarring change-ups, going from an atmospheric midnight rambler amid the breaks to a dance hall explosion by the chorus. It’s lush, it’s weird, it’s a quintessential ’80s jam that deserves to be on every Reagan-era compilation. It’s a damn shame the English outfit could never find more success stateside; instead, they coasted by on a couple of Top 10 hits over in the UK. (Hell, lead singer Limahl would go on to pen the titular theme song for 1985’s The NeverEnding Story.) Today, you know you’ve got a savvy DJ nearby if you hear this ditty creep up on you — don’t be shy, y’all. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Ooh to Be Ah”


55. Eagle-Eye Cherry – “Save Tonight” (1997)

Four minutes of post-grunge americana is all it takes for Eagle-Eye Cherry to convince Americans he’s from their country and they should fall in love with his song. The Swedish musician is Neneh Cherry’s sister but never achieved the same sort of fame she did. Still, single “Save Tonight” hung around the radio charts of Ireland, the US, the UK, and his homeland of Sweden for quite some time. All that rushed acoustic guitar and deep vocal gruff made some light-hearted “doo-doo’s” and otherwise cheesy notes ones people would sing along to in bars for years to follow its 1997 release. Grab a beer bottle and lift it up to the redneck gods. —Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Falling In Love Again”


54. King Harvest – “Dancing in the Moonlight” (1972)

Picture an outdoor ‘70s pool party lit by a full moon with décor straight out of the film Boogie Nights, and you’ll start to hear “Dancing in the Moonlight” playing in the distance. King Harvest consisted of four American expatriates who met in Paris and danced all the way to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. However, the band was fairly short-lived and started crying in the daylight when Van Morrison started to get miscredited for a record they never even recorded. The single has seen a recent second life after being featured in a few shows and films the past three years, and the band randomly released an album in April of last year. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “Take It Easy, Take It Slow”


53. Tommy Tutone – “867-5309/Jenny” (1981)

Some one-hit wonders become classics because of their iconic use in a film or TV show or public event. Others simply endure through the craft of their production. Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” might be the only entry on this list that caused a legal snarl the nation over and continues to periodically annoy random people to this day. The power-pop band’s gold-certified ode to the perfect girl’s number on a bathroom wall has often been mistaken as an ode to a prostitute, but frontman Tommy Heath has publicly insisted that it’s simply an innocent homage to an old flame. And in 1982, it couldn’t have been a more timely ode to the touch-tone telephone or to the excitement of finally pulling some digits. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Angel Say No”


52. Meredith Brooks – “Bitch” (1997)

For many of us born in the ’80s, Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” was our extra guilty pleasure — the B-word was in the title for godsake! I was a cocky, little, blonde asshole running around telling everyone I was a bitch, a mother, a child, and a lover. I mean, come on! (It was the first Mpeg Layer 3 file my brother downloaded that took a full weekend: from Friday 7 p.m. to Monday 6:59 a.m. The dial-up internet downloaded at a maximum 2kb per second … So take me as I am!) Beyond that saucy little bit of fun, the hook is an absolute showstopper, an anthem of simplified feminism awestruck by the idea of someone being both a sinner and a saint. Brooks’ song was often tarred as an Alanis Morissette rip-off, but it’s got far more of a sweet-tooth, not so concerned with raw personal specifics as it is with being entirely easy to relate to. “Bitch” was so big that it earned Brooks a Grammy nomination, a feat she couldn’t match even with the Lilith Fair crowd backing her. To see the falloff, one of her post-“Bitch” achievements was producing a Jennifer Love Hewitt record. But for one song, Meredith Brooks was on top of the world. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “What Would Happen”


51. The Casinos – “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (1967)

The most curious thing about The Casinos’ lone shuffle to the top of the charts is that their hit song, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”, already sounded like an oldie when it struck big back in 1967. The Cincinnati-based Casinos were a doo-wop group scoring a doo-wop hit several years after that genre’s popularity had waned — with a song that had originated as a country tune no less. By no means is that a chart-topping formula to emulate, but there’s definitely something timeless about this behind-the-times song. Classic harmonies like these never grow stale, and what desperate young man with his heart set on the perfect girl can’t appreciate the deal this song tries to broker: “Tell me you’ll love me for a million years/ Then if it don’t work out/ Then you can tell me goodbye.” That’s quite the trial period, no? Read the fine print, ladies. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “I Still Love You”


50. Semisonic – “Closing Time” (1998)

Was there ever a more college-fit ’90s song that middle schoolers could learn with ease? Semisonic released “Closing Time” in 1998 and made a bunch of new friends. Bartenders have Semisonic to thank for making last call that much easier. Keyboardists have Semisonic to thank for making them a necessary member in battle of the bands contests. Kids scrambling to find a deep quote for their high school yearbook have Semisonic to thank for “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” And yet for all of that, it’s still fun as hell to sing along to, hence why it got a “Weird Al” Yankovic nod and an endless list of pop culture references there after. —Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Secret Smile”


49. Love and Rockets – “So Alive” (1989)

One of the early progenitors of alternative rock, fusing pastiches of underground rock with trendy pop, Love and Rockets came to fruition following the demise of Bauhaus. When the goth rockers called it quits, and Peter Murphy went solo, guitarist Daniel Ash, drummer Kevin Haskins, and bassist David J decided to give this crazy thing called music a spin again and found success with their oft-forgotten side project. Though they carved out seven albums to their name from 1985 to 1998, none of them could top the sultry sounds of their 1989 Billboard shuttle “So Alive”. Although it starts off like a Robert Palmer anthem, what with Haskins’ stocky beat, things take a delectable turn for the sexy as it slithers around Ash’s vocals. Those background singers, however, sound right out of Eric Clapton’s “Heaven Is One Step Away”. Maybe they are? No, they’re not. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Sweet Lover Hangover”


48. Divynls – “I Touch Myself” (1990)

There are sex jams that are subtle in their message, underplaying their overtones to avoid public scorn or the possible censorship of a song. Then there’s “I Touch Myself”, Divinyls’ charmingly sex-positive hit about the joys of getting off to that special somebody on your mind. Divinyls were far bigger in Australia than anywhere else during their run, but frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett was working with names like Cyndi Lauper and Chrissie Hynde when “I Touch Myself” broke out in 1991; despite starting as more of a rock-oriented act, it was their later pop phase that saw the most crossover success. Topping out at No. 15 on the Billboard charts, “I Touch Myself” is one of the more thoroughly charming ‘90s one-hits, and perhaps this list’s most unrepentantly sensual. Although Amphlett unfortunately passed away in 2013, the band is part of Australia’s recording Hall of Fame. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Pleasure and Pain”


47. The Ides of March – “Vehicle” (1970)

You wouldn’t think a name like The Ides of March would bode well for a band; then again, it proved far luckier than this Berwyn, Illinois, four-piece’s original name, The Shon-Dels. As it turned out, a more Shakespearean name and adding a brass section was the vehicle the band needed to drive to the top of the charts — lofty heights that eventually found them supporting acts like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin. And while the metaphor of being a vehicle that can take a woman anywhere she wants to go isn’t quite “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” the Bard and groundlings alike would have made merry to this driving, call-and-response jam. Great god in heaven, thou knowest thou love it! –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Superman”


46. Mountain – “Mississippi Queen” (1970)

No one will dispute that Mountain’s performance at Woodstock 1969 was historic. The same way no one will argue that “Mississippi Queen” is still one of the best FM jams this side of the river. (What does that mean? Just go with it, goddammit.) The New York outfit’s two-and-half-minute single is the type of wheezy chugger that Eric Forman and the gang might have blared in the Vista Cruiser or the type of stomper your dad might have used to warm up the car stereo when you were a kid — you know, like Homer Simpson did for Bart. While the band’s follow-up records, namely 1971’s Nantucket Sleighride, found mild success in a major rock ‘n’ roll world, they never could stop bowing to the Queen. In a weird and disturbing twist, the band’s bassist and keyboardist Felix Pappalardi would later be shot and killed by his wife in April 1983. Prior to the murder, she actually contributed to Mountain by designing the band’s album covers and even penning some of their lyrics. How tragic on all fronts. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “For Yasgur’s Farm”


45. Thunderclap Newman – “Something in the Air” (1969)

There’s not many times when the attention won’t be on the guy in the band named “Thunderclap.” However, with all due respect to Andy “Thunderclap” Newman, this is one of those rare occasions. So, who’s on bass? Bijou Drains. Bijou who? Pssst, kids. It’s The Who’s Pete Townshend! Thunderclap Newman was actually a pet project Townshend cooked up to show off the talents of his friends drummer and singer “Speedy” Keen (a former chauffeur for The Who), jazz pianist Andy Newman, and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. “Something in the Air” turned out to be the very first song the group recorded together, a jam that in many ways came to signal the last gasp of the ’60s. Though the band barely made it out of the decade themselves, Keen’s falsetto insistence that “we have got to get it together now” will belong to the ages. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Accidents”


44. King Missile – “Detachable Penis” (1992)

As made clear by my fellow Consequence of Sound editors, this song wasn’t as ubiquitous in other parts of the country as it was in Southern California in the ’90s. Bummer for them. King Missile’s “Detachable Penis” should be a rite of passage for every music listener. Where else can ripening young minds contemplate the advantages and drawbacks of having a removable dick? The song is mostly a spoken-word monologue that recounts the speaker’s frequent misplacements of his sexual organ and the search to find it. It’s funny and dry, the backing harmonies that simply recite the song’s title adding to the overall effect. The band was never made for stardom, existing as the comedic art-rock project of John S. Hall consistently for the past 30 years. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Jesus Was Way Cool”


43. The Ad Libs – “The Boy from New York City” (1964)

Consequence of Sound may have its roots planted firmly in indie rock soil, but those bands aren’t where I turn when I go to my “happy place.” Instead, I time travel back to the ‘60s and ‘70s and doo-wop and soul and Motown and artists like The Ad Libs. Take their lone hit, “The Boy from New York City”; it’s a perfectly crafted three minutes of back-and-forth between Mary Ann Thomas and her cohorts about the new out-of-towner Kitty’s set her eyes on. It’s not a song that’ll send tears streaming down your face or one that you’ll necessarily remember where you first heard it. But damn if listening to Thomas’ gorgeous voice and the intricate doo-wop backing and accents of the group (which seem to reveal new bells and whistles with every listen) doesn’t bring a smile to my face every time. That’s not to say this period or these genres can’t hit you with the feels. God, can they ever do that. But it’s a reminder that sometimes music is created purely to be enjoyable and feel good, and that’s why I’ve never once turned down a chance to hear Kitty tell me about the fella from the Big Apple. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “He Ain’t No Angel”


42. Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” (1984)

The legacy of Dead or Alive is at least a little bit dependent on where you live. In the UK, the band had a number of high-charting hits, and their sexually provocative videos were a source of some controversy. In the US, they’re generally considered a one-hit wonder whose one hit was reappropriated by Flo Rida and also loops endlessly over Meatspin. (If you’re either young or old enough to have missed the age of Meatspin, do not seek it out.) Dead or Alive is among the more moderately successful artists on this one-hit list, and as such, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” is a dated but nevertheless infectious song, a pop hit wildly of its time. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Brand New Lover”


41. Jean Knight – “Mr. Big Stuff” (1971)

Who doesn’t love walking around to “Mr. Big Stuff”? Sure, it’s a righteous slam against egotistical pricks, but hot damn if it wasn’t made for days and nights that call for tight slacks, new shoes, and a perfect ‘do. Since its Summer 1971 debut, Jean Knight’s empowering blockbuster single for Stax Records has never really left pop culture. It’s appeared in dozens of movies, countless commercials, and even a handful of other songs, having been sampled by the likes of Beastie Boys, TLC, Everclear (!), and John Legend. Shortly after its release, the song would be certified double platinum and score a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. In a cruel twist of fate, Knight would lose to Aretha Franklin, whose “Bridge Over Troubled Water” proved to be an impossible match. Sadly, her luck didn’t change thereafter; she left Stax and found only mild success on smaller labels. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “My Toot Toot”


40. Phantom Planet – “California” (2001)

People love songs about California. From The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas to Tupac and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the radio waves have long been strewn with references to the sand, trees, and sun of the Golden State. So when Phantom Planet’s “California” became ubiquitous as the theme song of The OC, it spoke to the track’s strength that it was chosen to be the representative California song for the popular series. The LA band had already established a small but devout following before the song’s success, but couldn’t really capitalize on the show and take the project to the next level. That said, the song’s drummer, Jason Schwartzman, enjoys a successful acting career, and singer Alex Greenwald currently performs in the band Phases. There is life after one-hit wondering. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Lonely Day”


39. Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran (So Far Away)” (1982)

The unofficial national anthem for anybody who ever sped through Miami in a drop-top while attempting to solicit cocaine on a brick-sized cell phone, “I Ran (So Far Away)” has become a kind of functional shorthand for the ‘80s by its very sound. A Flock of Seagulls’ top-10 hit is among the most propulsive new wave hits of the era, and for all of its flagrant overproduction and general melodramatics, it’s among the genuine best as well. Though their run was ultimately short-lived (follow-ups to that hit first record failed to perform in line with expectations), the band dropped at least one (and arguably two; see below) songs that stood the test of time when so many of their immaculately coiffed contemporaries came and went. And their one hit even became MTV’s most-played video ever, for a time. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Space Age Love Song”


38. Marcie Blane – “Bobby’s Girl” (1962)

You don’t have to ask Marcie Blane what she wants to be. Head cheerleader? Nope. Governor? Pffft. Bobby’s girl? Ding-ding-ding. Right third time. Blane, barely 18 when she recorded her iconic version of “Bobby’s Girl”, sounds even younger on record, and it’s extremely easy to imagine her daydreaming in study hall and scribbling her first name next to Bobby’s last over and over again. It’s a trivial song in the grand scheme of things, but we all remember that irrational age when all that mattered was being with that certain someone – in Blane’s case, a desire made all the more difficult because Bobby’s dating someone else. In 1964, Blane returned with “Bobby Did”, a song in which a girl gets dumped by Bobby, but listeners ultimately preferred being her wingperson over picking up the pieces. Can you blame ’em? –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Bobby Did”


37. Dionne Farris – “I Know” (1995)

One of the more remarkable touchstones of ’90s alternative was how every band seemingly got together and tossed a bunch of random instruments in a pile to see what’s up. Dionne Farris was hip to that idea. After singing with hip-hop collective Arrested Development, the New Jersey R&B singer called up bassist/producer Milton Davis and eclectic guitarist David Harris, and the three knocked out some demos that caught the ears of Columbia Records. By 1994, Farris was scorching up the Billboard charts and charming the Grammys with her 1994 debut, Wild Seed – Wild Flower, mostly thanks to “I Know”. The hit, which cleverly strung together R&B, dance pop, slide guitar, and acoustic rock, was unstoppable, becoming the No. 1 most played song on mainstream Top 40 radio stations for 1995, while spending 10 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Mainstream Top 40. She never could follow the song up, though, opting for rootsy covers that she sold to various film soundtracks. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Passion”


36. The Monotones – “Who Wrote the Book of Love?” (1958)

Ah, to live in a more innocent time like the late ‘50s. If I were to walk down the street today asking people who wrote the Book of Love, they’d probably think I was referring to the Kama Sutra. This Book, as sung about by The Monotones, reads far simpler: love her, stay together, keep the passion burning, and don’t part without giving it another go first. Actually, that’s pretty damn good advice, and it’s no less valuable after learning that Monotones lead singer Charles Patrick drew his inspiration from a Pepsodent toothpaste commercial (“wonder where the yellow went” became “wonder who, who wrote the book of love”). So remember, kids: Love her with all your heart, and brush after every meal. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Fools Will Be Fools”


35. Real Life – “Send Me an Angel” (1989)

It’s funny when a song has a second life (see above: Everything but the Girl’s “Missing”). For Real Life, the Australian band’s angsty single “Send Me an Angel” touched heaven in early 1984 and once again in 1989. In between that time, the synth-juiced jogger appeared in films like 1986’s Rad, 1987’s Teen Wolf Too, and 1989’s The Wizard. That’s one hell of a lifespan, and much longer than that of the cherub who visited George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. All joking aside, there’s something sad and desolate about the tune, its angelic harmonies soaked in a bleak desperation that congeals with the urgency of vocalist David Sterry and Richard Zatorski’s sweeping synth work. It’s a beautiful song and one they’d never live up to again as the band suffered from lineup changes and a (very sad) reliance on said single. Ahem, it’s been “remixed” over 17 times. “Indiana, let it go.” –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Catch Me I’m Falling”


34. Marcy Playground – “Sex and Candy” (1997)

“Sex and Candy”, like its title, combines a couple of unexpected bedfellows, specifically the low-slung guitar and atmospherics of grunge and some serious hippie vibes (“yeah, mama,” “dig it”). John Wozniak’s hitch-stepped guitar adds a dose of mystery immediately undercut by comparing someone to “double cherry pie.” The track ensured that the band’s debut self-titled album would go platinum, but Marcy Playground’s ping-ponging fusion of folk warmth, psychedelia, alternative, and clean rock meant it was difficult to pin down exactly who they were or where they were going. Add to that the fact that they took a few years between records and you can see why the national audience couldn’t latch onto Marcy Playground. That said, they released a record as recently as 2012, so who knows, maybe they have another hit coming. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “It’s Saturday”


33. Billy Paul – “Me and Mrs. Jones” (1972)

There’s a lightness and naiveté at the heart of most love songs that climb the charts. Teen girls scribble the names of boys in their diaries, and boys fall in love at first sight with their dream girls – things are almost always new and hopeful. Even when breakups occur, a consoling melody usually accompanies the painful retelling, and we sense that things will ultimately work out. Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” is not that type of song. We’re years beyond puppy love and high school sweethearts here and have entered into the world of adult relationships, where life complicates quickly. “Me and Mrs. Jones, we got a thing going on,” Paul relates in a soulful croon. “We both know it’s wrong, but it’s much too strong, to let it go now.” Tempted and tormented by forbidden fruit, both the protagonist and the titular Mrs. Jones know the right thing to do, but it’s just not going to happen. Paul, a pioneer of Philly soul, continued recording and performing right up until his death this past April, and his memory will live on with soul fans everywhere each time those illicit lovers rendezvous in secret at the same café. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Am I Black Enough for You?”


32. Wheatus – “Teenage Dirtbag” (2000)

Maybe you’re like me and didn’t really know you loved “Teenage Dirtbag” until you heard the soldiers on HBO’s Generation Kill singing it while they stormed Iraq. Regardless, everything about the Wheatus single is trapped in that period of late-’90s/early-aughts, from its power-pop sonics to the McG-esque music video to the fact that said music video features Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari from their film Loser. And that all kind of rules, especially when the lyrics are based on a guy who likes heavy metal and doesn’t want to be judged for it. Who can’t relate to that? As for the band, Wheatus enjoyed more success overseas than in America, even charting in the UK with a cover of Erasure’s “A Little Respect”. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “A Little Respect”


31. J. Frank Wilson and the Caveliers – “Last Kiss” (1964)

Part of rock and roll’s appeal has always been its youthful, rebellious spirit. It aims at that age when we feel like the whole world awaits us and no harm can touch us. J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers’ “Last Kiss” depicts those illusions coming to a screeching, life-altering halt for one young man. A simple driving date turns into a deadly accident and a tragic farewell kiss. Some may find the whole trying-to-get-to-heaven angle hokey, but it’s such a powerful coming-of-age moment, when this boy, trying to make sense of tragedy, defies his age by pledging to live for somebody else. Though most people luckily never find themselves in this situation, it’s within our sphere of understanding to imagine having a loved one snatched away from us. That roadside kiss remains one of the most cinematic moments in music history, a scene so powerful that we still can’t look away or change the radio dial all these years later. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “A Teenager in Love”


30. Young MC – “Bust a Move” (1989)

Queens rapper Young MC has plenty of enjoyable songs to his name, but none of those songs launched him to household-name status the way “Bust a Move” did. The 1989 hit came out of the gate flying. Fueled by sparse guitar strums, the song gets most of its groove from a use of silence. Sure, the background yelps and street-style drumming add plenty of beat, but “Bust a Move” is primed for made-up moves on the dance floor. Young MC handles it well, rambling off lines about winning a girl over by showing your best moves. How could you not join him? Even when he says, “Come on, fatso: bust a move!”, you take that order with a giant grin and obey. Which, let’s please note, may be the only hit single that uses the phrase “fatso” in a positive way, or uses the grade-school insult at all. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “You Know”


29. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – “What I Am” (1988)

It might have arrived in the late ‘80s, but “What I Am” has to be one of the earliest harbingers of the art-hippie aesthetic that would come to characterize so much of the successful adult contemporary music of the 1990s. It’s all there: pop philosophizing in the lyrics, the tasteful and mandolin/organ-flecked instrumentation, the high-soaring hook over what’s otherwise a borderline-jammy affair. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ breakout single from their debut, and their only hit of note, still works thanks to the wink with which most of its (admittedly silly) lyrics are delivered, and Brickell’s confrontational inquiry of “Are you what you are or what?” is delivered with the kind of fire that keeps the song popping up on radio stations with surprising frequency to this day. Plus, some of the song was folded into Brand Nubian’s “Slow Down”, a jam in its own right. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Circle”


28. Cheryl Lynn – “Got To Be Real” (1978)

Oh, come now. You had to assume disco would be well-represented on this list, and I can’t think of a better ambassador for the doomed genre than Cheryl Lynn and her groovy, bass-driven 1978 hit “Got To Be Real”. Well, “doomed” might be a bit strong, as all signs point to a 2010s disco resurgence led by the likes of artists like Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, and Bruno Mars. They’d all do well to use Lynn’s biggest track as a template, because it’s got everything that makes the genre great: soulful vocals, periodic blasts of horns, and a bass line that makes you want to do mean things to the dance floor. Mean, filthy things. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Shake It Up Tonight”


27. The Exciters – “Tell Him” (1962)

There’s something spooky about the hook in “Tell Him”, no? Those bells and that bouncing bassline, at least to me, has always sounded like something tall and menacing lurking down a long, dark corridor. Oh well, the power of music, apparently. Speaking of ghosts, here’s a cool story Ghostbusters mastermind Paul Feig might appreciate: Originally, “Tell Him” was titled “Tell Her” by writer Bert Berns, but when singer Johnny Thunder couldn’t make it work, producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller gave it another try with The Exciters, changing the gender of the song. As we all know today, it worked wonders, and the female doo-wop group, who only had one male member in their outfit, Herb Rooney (you know, like Chris Hemsworth to our gals in gray), achieved international success with the single. That overseas magic would come in handy later down the road when vocalist Brenda Reid and her then-husband Herb swooned ol’ Londontown with their 1975 hit, “Reaching for the Best”. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Do-Wah-Diddy”


26. Biz Markie – “Just a Friend” (1989)

While most songs on this list will get their fair share of karaoke butchering, none may be quite as perfectly suited to that treatment as “Just a Friend”. The song itself finds Biz detailing girls who put him in the friend zone in a rather loose rhyme scheme and rhythmic flow, then stepping into a heart-over-technique interpolation of Freddie Scott’s “You Got What I Need” on the hook. This one succeeds because of Biz Markie’s irrepressible charm, an off-the-charts likability that converts a good idea into a brilliant one. “Let me tell you a story about my situation/ I was talking to this girl from the US nation,” he begins, one of his better-rhymed couplets. But you’re not listening to “Just a Friend” for lyricism; you’re listening because Biz oozes fun. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “Make the Music”


25. When in Rome – “The Promise” (1987)

For some of these one-hit wonders, simply mentioning an artist or a song title is enough to evoke vivid memories. But for When in Rome and their song “The Promise”, it’s likely you’d have to hear the song to remember it. But what a great ’80s jam it is, the verse’s deep vocals reminiscent of Ian Curtis while the dance-rock production skews more towards New Order. The song almost cracked the Top 10 in the US, peaking at number 11, but wound up being a flash in the pan for the band. They’d only release the one album before breaking up just three years after “The Promise” hit the airwaves in 1987. And one small aside: For a great cover of this song, look to Sturgill Simpson’s relaxed country version, which appeared on his breakthrough album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Heaven Knows”


24. Blind Melon – “No Rain” (1992)

Released at the height of the grunge era, Blind Melon’s “No Rain” was probably some record executive’s wet dream: a palliative for listeners who liked Nirvana’s aesthetic but found the band’s sound a bit too abrasive. Divorce it from that context, however, and the song loses none of its luster. The clean, crisp guitar lead continues to resonate today, as does the image of that poor, adorable girl prancing around in her bee costume. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Change”


23. Steam – “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (1969)

It could be argued that one of the true hallmarks of the one-hit wonder is the gulf between the immediate ability to recall the song’s hook and the ensuing struggle to recall any other part of it. This may not be any more pronounced than it is in the case of Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”. Considering that Steam wasn’t even an actual band at the time of the song’s recording (producer Paul Leka worked with a studio group), it’s a pretty solid legacy. And that legacy was cemented in the late ‘70s when the Chicago White Sox started to use the song’s hook as an overture for struck-out players in baseball games, giving birth to its eternal life as a condescending thing for crowds to chant at professional athletes from time to time. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “It’s the Magic in You Girl”


22. Bruce Channel – “Hey! Baby” (1961)

It doesn’t get much simpler than Bruce Channel’s (pronounced like the perfume) “Hey! Baby”. Boy sees girl, boy likes girl, boy works up the courage to ask her out. It’s all very Richie Cunningham. Channel rode that relatable scenario to three weeks at number one and a million records sold. Apart from the singer’s famous proposition of “I wanna know-oh if you’ll be my girl,” the tune’s most recognizable feature remains Delbert McClinton’s prominent harmonica riff. In the early ‘60s, John Lennon (yes, The Beatle), a fan of “Hey! Baby”, asked McClinton for some harmonica tips – advice that quickly got put to use on “Love Me Do”. While Channel never topped the charts again, his hit lives on in pop culture and on radio. And I guess inspiring John Lennon can pad that resume as well. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Mr. Bus Driver”


21. Concrete Blonde – “Joey” (1990)

We already praised Concrete Blonde’s lovely anthem “Joey” on our ranking of Alternative Number Ones, but we’ll just go ahead and do it again. Besides being a hit on alt radio, the song also performed across the pop channels, making its way up into the top 20 in 1990. It’s a notedly personal song, not only using a specific name for the title, but telling the true story of loving someone with a drinking problem. Vocalist Johnette Napolitano transfers her pain to both her lyrics and her performance, singing with the vulnerability that such a stark song deserves. It’s not the type of fodder that typically tops any charts, but its success at the time was well deserved. And despite never charting again, Concrete Blonde enjoyed several runs of activity, lasting nearly 20 years combined. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “God Is a Bullet”


20. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love” (1981)

When your hit single is a cover, it’s time to wonder what it is you’re good at: performing or songwriting. In the case of English synthpop duo Soft Cell, it’s certainly the former. While they held several Top 40 hits in the UK, few made it over to the US the way “Tainted Love” did. The song — originally written by Ed Cobb of the Four Preps and first recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964 — found new life in their dark, suggestive cover released later in 1981. To this day, in part with a little help from Rihanna, that submarine beep is impossible to hear without the creeping synth line sauntering behind it in your brain. Now show us your best dramatic microphone grab and lean back for that punchy “Ooh” that leads into the titular phrase. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”


19. The Human Beinz – “Nobody but Me” (1968)

When people talk about bands being screwed by record labels, in the truest sense, remember the case of The Human Beinz. The band were signed to Capitol in the late 1960s, and on the release of their first single, “Nobody but Me”, their name (The Human Beingz) was actually misspelled without the ‘g.’ Because the song ended up being their only charting hit and the band was told an amendment would be made on following releases, it was never corrected. And so the Ohio band lives in infamy, having left a charmingly loose, toe-tapping single in their wake. But the Beinz might have the last laugh yet; the song’s appearance in Kill Bill Vol. 1 should keep those “no”s humming for a while longer yet. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Turn On Your Love Light”


18. Godley and Creme – “Cry” (1985)

“You don’t know.” Have there ever been three more poignant words for depression? Think about all the times you’ve been crushed, unable to move, defeated, almost paralyzed to the point of agony, whether it’s from a breakup, a death, or a separation. Nobody knows how you feel, nobody can relate, nobody can understand, no matter how hard they try. That’s the conceit of Godley and Creme’s timeless ballad “Cry”, a soothing chunk of pop rock that hits the soul like an Andy Warhol-stamped can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. The British duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme came together after checking out of 10cc and finally struck gold eight years later with the hit song. They kept busy, though, directing music videos for basically everyone (something Creme continued to do after the band’s demise), which is one reason why the single’s accompanying clip was so inventive: a morphing collage of tearful mugs. If you think that’s emotional, check out the song’s inclusion in the season two episode of Miami Vice: “Definitely Miami”. You’ll never look at Ted Nugent the same way ever again. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Under Your Thumb”


17. Eddie Holman – “Hey There Lonely Girl” (1969)

Eddie Holman’s show-biz career began at age 10 when he took the stage at Amateur Night at The Apollo Theater and absolutely killed it – no small feat. Years later, after honing his vocal chops with Philadelphia soul acts like The Delfonics and The Stylistics, “Hey There Lonely Girl” emerged and changed his life forever. Once you hear Holman’s falsetto ring out on this consoling single, it’s impossible to ever forget it. Unlike most falsettos, Holman’s registers as rich and full as a normal delivery, and the high notes he bends and hits going into the choruses ranks among the greatest vocal performances in music history. Now an ordained minister in Philadelphia, Holman continues to perform and uses the arts to encourage young people down positive paths. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Am I A Loser From The Start”


16. Spacehog – “In the Meantime” (1996)

Right as grunge reached its commercial peak, the last thing you’d expect to hear was a band mining David Bowie’s style and content for hits. But that’s exactly what Spacehog did and did well on “In the Meantime”, a song about aliens from an album about aliens by a band whose name is probably about aliens. What’s not alien is just how hooky the track is, particularly the way the vocals and the lead guitar mirror each other in the intro. And in hindsight, the song has one-hit wonder written all over it. The mid-’90s just saw glam rock die, and even though Spacehog was more T.Rex than Poison, the band served as a reminder that those two iterations of glam shared the same DNA. Spacehog would try to follow up “In the Meantime” with a couple unsuccessful albums, but success is relative when you’re titling records The Hogyssey. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Space Is the Place”


15. Macy Gray – “I Try” (1999)

Starting out singing in Jazz cafes, Macy Gray used her signature raspy voice to gain attention in the pop and R&B worlds. That attention reached an amazing peak with “I Try”, sung with the exquisite anguish of a gorgeous, shining beacon of heartbreak, and Gray became an instant commercial apogee of symphonic soul in the US of that time. The song was a massive success, leading to tons of TV and movie appearances. But her attempt at a follow-up was overshadowed by the tragedies of 9/11, which occurred a week prior to the release of The Id; though the record sold oodles in the UK, fans in her home country just weren’t in the buying mood, and she hasn’t reached that level of American awareness since. However, she has turned to jazz, releasing an intriguing new record using binaural technology to further accentuate that unique voice. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Still”


14. Free – “Alright Now” (1970)

If you were born into an era where ‘70s Americana rock was the epitome of uncool, ditch the hate. A pulse that doesn’t beat a little quicker during the intro of “Alright Now” is one out of beat with the heart of rock ‘n’ roll. Alongside a clamour of sound (piano, drums, and guitar), Free’s loose-limbed grooves clang through buoyant, warm dudes-in-town swagger and surefire ‘70s rock melodies, becoming a hit of a generation. The riff might recall The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” with a shout-out to Pete Townshend, but it’s an undeniable power anthem that’ll always make you feel unstoppable. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Wishing Well”


13. Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come On Eileen” (1982)

Legend has it that Eileen was a real girl that frontman Kevin Rowland grew up with, a relationship that developed into a sexual romance when the two were only 13 years old. Rowland grew up in a conservative Catholic household where the topic of sex was extremely taboo, especially at 13 — instead of learning about the birds and the bees, he wrote “Come On Eileen”. Now we’re tipping our hats to the conservative upbringing that gave us one of the best songs to drunkenly yell as we sway arm-in-arm with our best pals in our favorite pub. If it wasn’t the fiddles, it was the mind-sticking ‘torra loo rye aye’ that shot the hit to the top of the charts and into a timeless anthem of our English best. The band has started and stopped a couple of times and gone through about 50 members to this day, but that hasn’t prevented them from touring or showing up in major films such as Get Him to the Greek and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “Geno”


12. Doris Troy – “Just One Look” (1963)

If, like me, you learned everything you know about romance from oldies, then love at first sight is the expectation – that’s how young men fall in love. But Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” finally clued in listeners that women can get struck by that lightning bolt too. “Just one look, and I fell so hard-hard-hard,” Troy recalls, that brilliant repetition on the final word of each line acting like the stagger following Cupid’s initial blow. Troy, known as “Mama Soul” to her fans, may have gotten just one look from the charts, but she also worked with luminaries like Solomon Burke and Dionne Warwick and even sang backup on classic recordings by The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and George Harrison. Technically a one-hit wonder, but just one look, that’s all it took for us to fall head-over-heels for Ms. Troy’s unforgettable voice. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Time”


11. Nazareth – “Love Hurts” (1975)

Blame Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City), or That ’70s Show, but for so many would-be romantics out there, nothing beats hearing the weeping sounds of Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” when it comes to feeling the burn of love. The way Dan McCafferty seemingly bleeds from the mouth on the mic (“I know it isn’t true…”) or how Manny Charlton rips at his own six heart strings, it’s the sound of midnight teenage angst, when all that’s left to lean upon is your car. Originally written by songwriting duo Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the song has been sung by The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Jim Capaldi, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, Cher, Rod Stewart, The Who, Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, and the list goes on. In other words, it’s a song that works with multiple tongues, but the biggest of ’em all was Nazareth’s, who made it their most enduring hit, even over the memorable titular track to their 1975 sophomore album, Hair of the Dog. To date, the Scottish rockers still perform and tour, despite a soap opera’s worth of lineup changes, and we’re willing to bet the love still hurts. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Hair of the Dog”


10. Haddaway – “What Is Love” (1993)

Thanks to Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, and Saturday Night Live, Haddaway will forever be linked to the infamous Butabi Brothers and the 1998 cult classic comedy A Night at the Roxbury. For years, the two comics entertained NBC’s millions of viewers with their (admittedly hilarious) one-note gag about two doofus brothers who just couldn’t cut it in the clubs. But when you separate the laughs from the emotional single, it’s incredibly difficult not to dig deep and fully enjoy “the feels.” The Trinidadian-German Eurodance artist struck a raw nerve with his minimalistic club hit, issuing something that urged listeners to embrace their inner angst through the art of dancing. Like a strange concoction of New Order, Culture Club, and Jan Hammer, the grooves and change-ups tickle all parts of the body, dipping the mind in a sweet and bitter glaze that insists upon seconds, thirds, or eighths. He came close to hitting that gooey spot again with “Life”, also off his eponymous debut, but the track just didn’t stick. Decades later, he’s still kicking it, and this writer would be willing to drop everything to see him. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Life”


09. The Church – “Under the Milky Way” (1988)

After releasing their fifth album, Starfish, in 1988, The Church finally hit the jackpot with “Under the Milky Way”, a single that was, according to frontman Steve Kilbey, “accidentally written and accidentally became a hit.” The Australian alt-rockers created an anthem that has soundtracked a myriad of onscreen sequences; who could forget the bizarre party scene in Donnie Darko, sending the hit song back onto the charts and into the iPod’s of America’s indie youth. It’s been covered by tons of bands (The Killers, Sia) and was voted in 2008 the greatest Australian song in the past 20 years. It’s nearly three decades later and The Church is still in session, although Kilbey has said that he would be happy if he never had to play the song ever again; 30 years of listening to those bagpipes just might push anyone over the edge. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “The Unguarded Moment”


08. Nena – “99 Luftballons” (1984)

The cutest anti-war protest song is one few Americans actually understand. In 1983, German band Nena released their self-titled album and, with it, introduced the world to the simple hook of “99 Luftballoons”. Guitarist Carlo Karges saw balloons released during a 1982 Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin and wondered what it would’ve been like for them to transform into UFOs and fly over the Berlin Wall. Thus, a song was born. The song became so popular in Europe that Nena recorded a new version with English vocals. That English version gets creative, though, and colors the balloons red whereas the original version just describes them as “air” to fix syllable emphasis. It makes it cuter to imagine the balloon UFOs as red, so it’s almost for the better, but the real focus falls on the song’s crystal-like synth and chugging rhythm section anyway, so most people don’t notice. — Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann”


07. Harvey Danger – “Flagpole Sitta” (1997)

The late ’90s sucked. It wasn’t awful — “awful” would happen by summer 1999 and continue into the aughts — but it was pretty miserable. Rock ‘n’ roll was enjoying the excess and proliferation of post-grunge mediocrity, and alternative rock was being sold to network television on a nightly basis. There were exceptions, naturally, and one breath of life during the spring and summer of 1998 was Harvey Danger’s spirited single “Flagpole Sitta”. A response to the Seattle grunge scene, according to drummer Evan Sult, the track oozes with cynicism and teenage contempt, but not in a way that feels pedantic or limited to the age. Singer Sean Nelson, who would go on to form the cruelly underrated The Long Winters and work with The Decemberists, Robyn Hitchcock, and Nada Surf, sells every single word, thanks to a jaunty melody that’s almost campfire-esque. It’s also cleverly produced, as exhibited by that perfunctory guitar slide that more or less ropes everyone into singing: “Paranoia, paranoia/Everybody’s coming to get me.” Yeah, they had some great albums after this, but the cretins weren’t listening. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Little Round Mirrors”


06. The Contours – “Do You Love Me” (1962)

Apparently, once upon a time, the way to a woman’s heart was shaking across a dance floor. Looks, prospects, and personality were negotiable if you knew your way around a mashed potato. That’s not quite how my parents describe the early ‘60s, but that’s the premise behind The Contours’ lone chart-topper, “Do You Love Me”. Wanna know the real kicker? Motown’s Berry Gordy wrote it for a then-hitless group called The Temptations. When they couldn’t be found, Gordy happened to bump into The Contours in a studio hallway – so it goes. So much stands out about this ageless barn-burner – the spoken-word intro, the false ending, both unique for the time – but especially how screaming Billy Gordon and a group of soul singers could wail as hard as their rock and roll contemporaries. Really, couldn’t you imagine Ferris Bueller singing this on a parade float? –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)”


05. A-ha – “Take On Me” (1984)

Video made this radio star. The Norwegian synthpop outfit originally recorded “Take On Me” under the title “Lesson One”, and it tanked. They learned their lesson quicker than you can count the times it’s been spewed on the walls of your nearest karaoke bar by re-releasing a new video directed by Michael Jackson collaborator Steve Barron. The video took months to create — because tracing live footage over pencil-sketch animation (rotoscoping) was as tedious in the ‘80s as those disaster perms — but it was worth the wait. The MTV Video Music Awards launched their career, embedding A-ha into the brains of every human on the planet. It’s not just the video that was responsible for any a-ha moments: Take that melodramatic rattle, steep it in glammy new wave that fuses a soothing synth backbeat, haloed keys, and pristine vocals, and you’ve got the uncanny formula for a song to sound decades old, yet utterly refreshing. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “The Sun Always Shines on TV”


04. Five Stairsteps – “O-o-h Child” (1970)

Who are the “First Family of Soul”? If you answered The Jackson 5, you aren’t wrong. But just know that Chicago soul sibs Five Stairsteps held the title first. The group, originally made up of four teenage brothers and a sister, were discovered at a talent show by Fred Cash of The Impressions and introduced to Curtis Mayfield, who signed them to his Chicago imprint. Though they remained a popular act for a solid decade before things began to dissipate, “O-o-h Child” stands as their only bona fide hit – but what a calling card. The song, an uplifting hand on the shoulder, begins with sister Alohe Jean promising that “things are going to get easier,” before passing the mic for a series of solos, harmonies, and instrumental swells. When the five join together and promise that “things will get brighter someday,” every part of you wants to believe them. It’s a song that simply says that things won’t always be this difficult, so hang in there. I can’t imagine that message ever not finding someone in need of it. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Ooh, Baby Baby”


03. Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn” (1997)

While it might have seemed like Natalie Imbruglia climbed out of obscurity and into our hearts in 1997 with “Torn”, that was not actually the case. Imbruglia was already a successful actress, appearing as a regular on Aussie soap Neighbours in the early ’90s. Her cover of the Ednaswap song “Torn” was her first international single, and the song wound up being an absolute smash, finding success on pop, AAA, and alternative formats.

But a big part of the song’s success hinged on conquering MTV and VH1. That path might seem a little foreign considering it no longer exists, but everything from the way the video is shot from a single camera angle while Imbruglia and her dude “act” the part of a relationship to the undeniable on-camera presence the singer contributed to the success. When she looked straight in the camera to mouth the blunt, vulnerable lyrics, it connected with audiences beyond what could have been reasonable expectations at the time. Imbruglia would never find widespread musical success again, but with “Torn”, once was enough to make a huge impact. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “That Day”


02. The Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” (1979)

One of the most illustrative rap songs to exist came early in the game. So early that it was one of the first songs to introduce hip-hop to listeners at large. The Sugarhill Gang revolutionized the music world with the release of “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979. Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson, and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien took their name from the Harlem neighborhood of the same name despite growing up in Englewood, New Jersey, adding to what would become a critical hip-hop scene in the years that followed.

As culturally important as it is historically significant, the song, at its most basic, is pleasing based off sound alone. The track’s funk bassline takes its time plodding around while a disco guitar clip strums over it, creating an easy flow that invites listeners to sway along. That, paired with the song’s easy-to-learn shout-outs, makes it a household track, even for little kids.

But it’s the lyrics, like most rap songs, that make “Rapper’s Delight” a one-hit wonder that stands the test of time. It’s jam-packed with quote-able phrases (“I’d like to say hello/ To the black, to the white, the red and the brown/ The purple and yellow,” “The chicken tastes like wood,” “Just throw your hands up in the air/ And party hardy like you just don’t care”), but by far the most famous is “Hotel, motel/ Holiday Inn.” Decades in, that resurfaces regularly in music as a nod from artists who know their history, no matter what genre their song falls under. It’s a timeless form of artistry that prioritizes fun, ridiculousness, and talent equally, never once taking itself too seriously — which makes it that much better. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Apache”


01. Modern English – “I Melt with You” (1982)

Modern English deserved a better fate. After all, the English outfit were one of the few new wave acts of the ’80s that could pen music durable enough to outlive its sugary decade. But, how do you top a song like “I Melt With You”? It’s not just difficult; it’s near impossible. If you’ve learned anything from this list, it’s how easy it is for a bona fide radio hit to be cemented as a hallmark in the fabric of time, sort of like little Polaroids trapped in a super-glued scrapbook. What perhaps elevates Modern English from the frozen bunch is how their landmark hit has managed to tap into the lives of every generation since its 1982 debut.

Why? Mostly because there’s nothing really flashy about the song. It’s a simple construction — guitars and drums and timeless poetry — and literally every one who’s ever been head over heels (or Chucks?) about someone can relate to its central thesis: “There’s nothing you and I won’t do/ I’ll stop the world and melt with you.” Granted, pop culture has done its damndest to make sure it’s remembered as an ’80s song — from its silver-screen debut in 1983’s Valley Girl to this past summer’s Stranger Things — but that has never once stopped it from soundtracking school dances or kicking off a mixtape between two young lovers.

Over three decades later, Modern English continue to melt the world, only on their own terms. Although the last single of theirs that made any sort of dent was 1984’s “Hands Across the Sea” — that is, if you’re not counting their spot on the Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead soundtrack with their pretty great single “Life’s Rich Tapestry” — that hasn’t stopped them from releasing new albums. In fact, just this past year they released their eighth studio album, Take Me to the Trees, their first recording to feature the original band in 30 years. Again, it doesn’t have a “I Melt with You”, but it doesn’t necessarily have to, either.

Bottom line: It’s rare for musicians to ever write one good song, let alone a great one. Modern English, and the other 99 acts on this list, managed to write great songs that captivated the world. I think you have to respect that. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “Hands Across the Sea”


Playlist

Stream the entire collection, minus a few exceptions, with our Spotify playlist below.

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