One-Hit Wonders from the ‘80s and ‘90s: Who’s Worth a Second Look?
Your all-time favorite summer smash.
That breakup ballad you can only listen to alone in the car — cranked to 11.
These are just a few key indicators that a song likely falls into the one-hit wonder category. The artists who performed these tracks seemed so full of potential, poised to go platinum and beyond. Then they vanished from our collective consciousness and were relegated to the dustiest corner of our record collections, never to be heard from again. Or were they?
Here at Decluttr, we see a lot of CDs from the one-hit wonders of the world and it got us thinking, “Should we take another look? Was there more than that one single?” Here’s our take on a few of these flash-in-the-pan pop stars from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
When was it popular? 1980
Worth revisiting? Only if you haven’t heard it on the radio on the way to work this morning. This is easily one of the most overplayed songs of the ‘80s.
Did you know? This is the hit that almost never was. The band members put up their own money, $15,000, to fund the music video. Lucky for them it was picked up by MTV, put into heavy rotation and the rest is history.
Just the Two of Us
Grover Washington, Jr.
When was it popular? 1981
Worth Revisiting? The song is timeless. Like it or not, we’re sure you’ll hear it again…and again…and probably again. In other words, you’ll be revisiting it whether you want to or not.
Did you know? The song won a Grammy for best R&B song in 1982. It’s also one of the most covered R&B songs of all time. In fact, there’s even an Austin Powers cover, called the “Dr. Evil Mix,” where Dr. Evil sings to Mini Me.
Puttin’ on the Ritz
When was it popular: 1983
Worth revisiting? Only if you’re a fan of repetitive pop songs. This one’ll stay stuck in your head for days.
Did you know? Dutch singer Taco’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz” is a synthesized version of an old Fred Astaire song. In the music video there’s actually a tap dance solo added as homage to Astaire.
When was it popular? 1984
Worth revisiting? Only if you want to get the melody stuck in your head again. This song is one of the most recognizable in history and is also one of the most successful non-English songs to top Billboard charts stateside.
Did you know? The band recorded an English version which they strongly disliked. Keyboardist Uwe Fahrenkrog has been quoted as saying it was a mistake, mentioning how the song sounds silly translated. Don’t feel bad, Uwe. We prefer the German version too.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
When was it popular? 1985
Worth Revisiting? Possibly. When was the last time you saw Zoolander?
Did You Know? The BBC actually banned this song when it was first released because they felt it was a tad too scandalous for the airwaves. My, how times have changed.
Take On Me
When was it popular? 1985
Worth revisiting? Maybe. If you are a fan of ‘80s synthpop or needlessly confusing animated videos, then definitely. Although not nearly as popular in the United States, many fans consider “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.,” the second single from the same album, to be infinitely superior.
Did you know? A-ha is still going strong. With nine studio albums already under their belt, they’re preparing to release a new LP later this fall.
Pump Up the Volume
When was it popular? 1988
Worth revisiting? Yes, if only to remind yourself it’s time to get rid of Jock Jams, Volume 1.
Did you know? “Pump Up the Volume” is truly a one-hit wonder and was the only single released under the moniker M|A|R|R|S. Born from the arty British 4AD record label, it ushered in a brand new sound in electronic music that was mostly ignored on this side of the pond.
What I Am
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
When was it popular: 1989
Worth Revisiting: Most def. The song’s “wah-wah” guitar effects in conjunction with Brickell’s voice are timeless. This song hasn’t aged a bit.
Did You Know: Lead singer Edie is married to Simon & Garfunkel’s Paul Simon. She’s also been consistently releasing albums since “What I Am.” In fact, she her last release was a 2013 bluegrass album.
Ice Ice Baby
When was it popular? 1990
Worth revisiting? No. Odds are you’ll hear it at the next wedding you go to anyway. If you’re desperate for that catchy bass line, check out “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. It’s the same hook with 100 times the cool points.
Did you know? Mr. Ice’s real name is Rob Van Winkle, but we’ll hold off on the obvious jokes. These days Van Winkle has turned his attention to refurbishing properties as a successful real estate flipper. You can follow his adventures on “The Vanilla Ice Project,” which is currently airing on the DIY Network.
I’m Too Sexy
Right Said Fred
When was it popular? 1992
Worth revisiting? Not a chance. This song was annoying 20 years ago and it’s even worse today. In fact, it’s so bad that even the Alvin and the Chipmunks cover is better.
Did you know? Even though Right Said Fred was a bona fide one-hit wonder in the U.S., they were quite popular in their native England.
When was it popular: 1997
Worth revisiting? Totally. Is it bizarre that “How Bizarre” is just as catchy 20 years later?
Did You Know? “How Bizarre” was voted as the 34th greatest New Zealand song of all time. Funny, we can’t think of 33 other New Zealand songs.
Los Del Rio
When was it popular? 1996
Worth revisiting?Only if you’re running out of songs to play at your wedding reception or you want to show off your dance moves at the office holiday party.
Did you know?The song was so popular they decided to make a Christmas version. They spread some holiday cheer by adding lines from various Christmas carols over the song. Sound ridiculous? That’s ‘cause it is.
When was it popular? 1997
Worth revisiting?Most definitely. Out of nowhere Chumbawamba’s one-hit wonder became a global sensation. It sounded great back in the ‘90s and it still sounds good today. Go ahead. We dare you to listen and not tap your feet.
Did you know?The band turned down a $1.5 million offer to use their song in a World Cup ad. Instead, they decided to license it to a soccer video game and various TV ads.