Our 10 Favorite One-Hit Wonders
Doin' It In Texas: Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes
Where would the world be without one-hit wonders? Well, we really don't like to think about that.
One of the purest guilty pleasures in pop music -- and sometimes not even a guilty pleasure but an actual good song -- the one-hit wonder is much safer than its real-life counterpart; the one-night stand. But without getting too sociological about it, lately it seems like the nature of one-hit wonders has changed with the rise of YouTube and songs that "go viral." (Gross.) Even a decade from now, and the world never hears another word from either one again, would Psy or Rebecca Black even count as one-hit wonders? Somehow it doesn't feel like it.
It's these kind of questions that keep us up nights, so recently Rocks Off polled our writers to see what their favorite one-hit wonders are. (Their least favorites will come tomorrow, just in time for the weekend.) And for what it's worth, until he thought of a song he liked better, the editor wanted to cast his lot for Nena's 1983 Top 10 Teutonic synth-pop smash "99 Luftballloons." It's probably the reason we wound up studying German in high school. This one's for you, Captain Kirk.
"Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds There were a lot of great one-hit wonders in the '80s, but my favorite is Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)," better known to most of us as "that Breakfast Club song." In fact, it was the very first song I illegally downloaded from Napster.
I'm not sure why this one always stuck with me. The Breakfast Club is an incredibly stupid movie that was before my time, and the song was a flat, throwaway recording that the band had to be talked into by their record label. There's just something about the lyrics' melancholy anxiety, delivered in Jim Kerr's baritone croon, that's a little more affecting than it was probably meant to be. Plus the "La-la-la-la!" part at the end is really fun to sing along to. NATHAN SMITH
"Epic," Faith No More Maybe the most influential and significant band to ever achieve one-hit wonder status, Faith No More only ever achieved mainstream success with one ubiquitous and admittedly amazing song: "Epic." While the majority of the public will probably never know them beyond that, they stand virtually alone amongst the vast landscape of one-hit wonders.
Not only is "Epic" taken off one hell of a record itself, The Real Thing, but every other album the band recorded went on to be an alternative landmark as well, cementing their status in the hearts of weirdo-rock fans around the world. COREY DEITERMAN
"Flagpole Sitta," Harvey Danger For all I know, Harvey Danger wrote plenty of good songs, but I only remember one of them. "Flagpole Sitta," which first made its way to my eardrums before I was even a teenager, is still one of the most infectious, angst-ridden and overall fun modern ballads that I've ever heard.
To this day, I bob my head and sing along whenever I hear it and, though I'm still not sure quite exactly what the song is about, "I'm not sick, but I'm not well" is as timeless of a sentiment as any. MATTHEW KEEVER
"Fade Into You," Mazzy Star As a girl growing up in the '90s, I just assumed I was supposed to be somewhat angsty and introspective. All of my idols were: Lelaina Pierce from Reality Bites, Liz Phair, My So-Called Life's Angela Chase, etc. So it only made sense that when Mazzy Star released 1994's "Fade Into You," I felt deeply connected with it. Its haunting lullaby and existential lyrics made me feel like I really understood love, relationships, and sadness.
Of course I had no effing clue, but man. I sure felt like I did. Twenty years later. I still might not have a rat's-ass clue about life, but the song still sounds utterly perfect. SELENA DIERINGER
"Good," Better Than Ezra Better Than Ezra is the picture-perfect example of a "one hit wonder," as proven by the rise and fall of their commercial success. After Elektra signed Better Than Ezra and re-released their sophomore album Deluxe, "Good" went on to snag the No. 1 spot on Bilboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks, while the album was certified platinum in the U.S. and gold in Canada.
"Good" was also the first radio hit I remember loving, and I spent hours on the floor of my room waiting for it to come on the air so I could record it to a cassette tape. Though Better Than Ezra was eventually dropped from Elektra, the New Orleans-based band, still popular regionally, helped influence a wave of bands that would eventually infiltrate the '90s airwaves. ALYSSA DUPREE
"Lips Like Sugar," Echo & the Bunnymen As Echo & the Bunnymen's only charting U.S. Top 40 hit, "Lips Like Sugar" came as the band was already splintering. The Liverpool quartet had been bridging post-punk and pop for several years to become one of the '80s' most influential bands, but by 1987 a fatal motorcycle wreck and the usual personality squabbles had left them almost out of gas.
Almost. Will Sergeant wrote plenty of similar guitar licks to "Sugar," but never nailed it the cascading way he does here, while singer Ian McCulloch didn't need to do any more than be his usual brooding self. Gloomy, radiant perfection. CHRIS GRAY
"No Rain," Blind Melon My favorite one-hit wonder would have to be Blind Melon. Their 1992 hit "No Rain" made it to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart and No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was huge, and became just as famous for its video featuring a little girl in a bee costume as its actual content. "No Rain" is a pretty good song, but it doesn't have much to do with my choice of Blind Melon. It wasn't even close to their best song -- hell, I prefer their later, far less successful single "Galaxie."
Put simply, the band was hugely underrated. Their self-titled debut album which featured "No Rain" was very good, but to me, their sophomore album Soup was damn near a masterpiece. It's a gorgeous, inventive, searing album from front to back, much darker and more mature than their debut could have prepared us for. If you haven't heard it, give it a play. It still holds up. JOHN SEABORN GRAY
"Pepper," Butthole Surfers 1996 is arguably the greatest year for one-hit wonders of all time, but there is one that stands out just for sheer absurdity. That a band named Butthole Surfers managed to get a hit single on the airwaves is just wonderful. And it's a great song, with one hell of a hook and it just sounds so freaking cool.
Plus the song takes place in Texas. Texas forever, yo. CORY GARCIA
"Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand," Primitive Radio Gods First of all, it's impossible to dislike a song with such a well-cultivated title. The entire thing is definitive '90s alt-rock: a whopping six mesmerizing minutes that never drag on thanks to its dreamy tone, the piano's arrow-through-the-heart sadness and the hypnotic chorus.
Not only that, but the band sampled B.B. King without losing any of the bluesiness in his velvety voice against the thumping groove of the beat, a perfect juxtaposition to singer Chris O'Connor's near-monotonous vocals. The rest of the album was admittedly garbage, but "Phone Booth" was so flippin' good. Do dooo, do-do-do-do-do. You know you want to sing along. ANGELICA LEICHT
"Touch of Grey," The Grateful Dead The Grateful Dead are probably not the first name you think of in the one-hit wonder conversation, but according to chart history, it counts. Released on 1987's In the Dark, "Touch of Grey" peaked at No. 9 on Billboard, and became the Dead's only commercially successful single.
Even though the band was synonymous with '60s and '70s hippie culture, they were apparently never popular among people who were actually purchasing music. But "Touch of Grey" charted so high largely due to the video's heavy rotation on MTV, with marionette skeletons dressed in the Dead's clothes, jamming along to the song at one of their famed live gigs. JIM BRICKER
Get the Music Newsletter