Top 10 Favorite One Hit Wonders


Success in the music business depends on many factors. Some artists struggle for many years before they reach any level of recognition. They play bars, parties, and weddings as a means to an end. Frequently, they spend the little money they earn on recording and touring expenses. In contrast, some artists seem to gain fame overnight. Whether or not their popularity is well-deserved, they somehow manage to reach the top of the charts. However, fame has a shelf life. Eventually, people forget about the flavor of the week and move on to the next big thing. One hit wonders rise like the phoenix and fall like shooting stars. The mark they leave on this world may be forgotten over time. However, their musical legacy lives on in the memories of those who loved that single song. I have assembled a list of my top ten favorite one hit wonders. A few of my choices may surprise you. I hope that when you read this list, you will give these songs another shot and make them a part of your playlists.

10. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”

This song from 1981 deals with the pain of a dysfunctional relationship. Synthesizers and drum machines provide a catchy background to the bleak subject matter. Dance to your heart’s content while reliving unpleasant memories!

9. a-ha – “Take On Me

The innovative music video for “Take On Me” turned pencil-sketch animation and live action into an exquisite work of art. Musically, the song reaches a high note (literally) when a gorgeous falsetto enters the chorus.

8. Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”

There is an old Japanese proverb that says “fall down seven times, get up eight.” The song’s chorus echoes that sentiment. Inexplicably, it also lists a bevy of alcoholic beverages which, if consumed in a row, might make you collapse.

7. Norman Greenbaum – “Spirit in the Sky”

The vision of an afterlife varies between religions. Some imagine pearly gates and others imagine large grassy fields. Norman Greenbaum imagines an all-encompassing spirit. To each his own.

6. The Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star”

The first music video ever played on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It ushered in a new era and made the music video an important part of the cultural landscape. Nowadays, I think that it is more appropriate to say that YouTube killed the MTV star since the channel has transformed into a breeding ground for obnoxious reality shows.

5. The Knack – “My Sharona”

With its pulsing riff and heavy drum beat, “My Sharona” bounces out of your speaker like a pogo stick. Apparently, this song was written about a 17 year old girl when the author was 25. No, not creepy at all.

4. Wheatus – “Teenage Dirtbag”

If you have ever felt like a misfit in high school, you could probably relate to this song. This anthem to wallflowers everywhere has a fantastic chorus that feels almost cathartic when you sing along to it. Geeks unite!

3. OMC – “How Bizarre”

Playing this tune while cruising down the freeway is a perfect way to spend a summer day. The energetic acoustic guitars back cheesy rap lyrics that flow like a cool ocean breeze. Watch this video and laugh at its ridiculousness.

2. Nena – “99 Luftballons”

I cannot understand what they are saying, but this song still rocks. The atmospheric intro prepares you for a burst of new wave vivaciousness. It goes to show that music can overcome many barriers, including language.

1. Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come on Eileen”

I picked this as my favorite one hit wonder because it sounds so carefree and innocent. The catchy melody, clever key changes, and affectionate lyrics add up to an excellent pop song.

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