The most unforgettable one-hit wonders of all time

While many artists aim for long-lasting careers filled with chart-topping hits, not everyone follows that path. Some musicians find fame with just one unforgettable tune, earning them a one-hit wonder title that will stay with them forever.

From Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’ to Jojo Siwa’s latest release ‘Karma’, let’s take a stroll through some of the most memorable and best one-hit wonders in music history!

In this blog:

The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star

Kicking off our list is The Buggles with their timeless classic ‘Video Killed the Radio Star.’ Released in 1979, this synth-pop anthem topped 16 charts around the world, including the US Billboard Hot 100 where it reached number 40.

It was the first music video shown on MTV in the US but unfortunately The Buggles were unable to release anything quite as catchy and popular, making ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ their one-hit wonder. 

Soft Cell – Tainted Love

Taking a trip back to the ’80s, we can’t forget Soft Cell’s rendition of ‘Tainted Love.’ This synth-pop duo’s cover of the song became an instant sensation, reaching the number one spot on the UK Singles chart and making waves in the US. It featured on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 43 weeks, peaking at number 64.

Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

Another 80s one-hit wonder that made it on the list is Survivor’s 1982 hit ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ Featured in Rocky III, this anthemic track propelled the band to stardom, topping charts worldwide and becoming synonymous with the underdog spirit.

The song eached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and stayed within the top 10 for 15 weeks. It was also named the second best-selling single of 1982 in the US and certified platinum.

Kajagoogoo – Too Shy

Next, we have Kajagoogoo’s infectious hit ‘Too Shy.’ While the band had other notable tracks, none matched the success of this synth-pop gem, which soared to the top of charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Released in 1983, it reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the UK Singles chart for two weeks.

Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

Continuing our exploration of iconic one-hit wonders is Rick Astley’s unforgettable anthem ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ Released in 1987. this track skyrocketed to global fame and even became an internet meme.

‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ dominated charts in 25 countries and is now certified 5x platinum in the US. While Rick Astley went on to have a few more top 10 hits, the majority of people only really know this rickrolling masterpiece, so we’re classing it as a one-hit wonder! 

The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Another 80s one-hit wonder deserving of a place on our list is ‘I’m Gonna Be’ from the Scottish duo The Proclaimers. While you’d think that this song was only a hit in the UK, it did surprisingly well over the pond in the US.

Originally released in 1988 in the UK, ‘I’m Gonna Be’ wasn’t released in the US until 1993 after featuring in the film Benny & Joon, where it went on to reach number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby

In 1990, Vanilla Ice burst onto the scene with ‘Ice Ice Baby’. This song took the world by storm, hitting number one on both the UK’s Singles chart and the US Billboard Hot 100. It’s now certified platinum in both countries, too.

The song samples Queen and David Bowie’s hit ‘Under Pressure’, a decision which put Vanilla Ice under legal pressure (see what we did there?) with a copyright infringement suit for not crediting the sampled song or giving royalties to the artists. 

We’ve not heard much from Vanilla Ice since the release of ‘Ice Ice Baby’, with most of his other songs flopping on release.

Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy

Continuing with another 90s one-hit wonder, we have Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’. This cheeky anthem became a global sensation back in 1991, dominating airwaves and dance floors alike with its infectious groove.

It topped the charts in seven countries, including the US Billboard Hot 100. It’s now certified platinum in the US and gold in the UK.

Los Del Rio – Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix)

Originally released in 1993 by the Spanish pop duo, Los Del Rio’s song ‘Macarena’ became a global sensation when it was rereleased and remixed by the Bayside Boys in 1995.

Initially, the song reached number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100 but re-entered the charts a year later to claim number one for 14 weeks. It’s now 4x platinum in the US with over 11,000,000 worldwide sales to date.

Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of…)

The last of our ‘90s one-hit wonder entries is the iconic ‘Mambo No. 5’. Released in 1999 by German musician Lou Bega, this is actually a cover of the song originally recorded by Cuban musician Dámaso Pérez Prado.

‘Mambo No. 5’ made its way to number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making ‘Mambo No. 5’ Lou Bega’s only top 40 hit in the US.

Baha Men – Who Let the Dogs Out

Fast-forwarding to the turn of the millennium, we have the Baha Men’s party anthem ‘Who Let the Dogs Out.’ This infectious track took the world by storm, becoming a staple at parties worldwide. It was their first and only hit in the US, making it to the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Fountains of Wayne – Stacy’s Mom

Everyone knows the song ‘Stacy’s Mom’, but do you know any other songs from Fountains of Wayne? We didn’t think so… That’s because ‘Stacy’s Mom’ was the one and only mainstream hit by the band, making it Fountain of Wayne’s one-hit wonder. Released in 2003 as their first single, it reached number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Daniel Powter – Bad Day

Next on our list of best one-hit wonders is Canadian singer-songwriter Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’. This 2005 pop song charted top five in more than 10 countries and became the most-played song on European radio.

After the success in Europe, the song was released in the US where it topped the Billboard Hot 100, Pop 100, Adult Top 40 and Adult Contemporary charts. It’s now certified 3x platinum in the US and 2x platinum in the UK.

Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah 

Pop rock band the Plain White T’s are up next with their hit ‘Hey There Delilah’. Released in 2006 as an EP and released again in 2007 as a single, ‘Hey There Delilah’ became a sleeper hit for the band, gaining unexpected success in the US. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and is now certified 4x platinum with 4,476,000 sales.

Far East Movement – Like A G6

Jumping to 2010, American music group Far East Movement released their lead single from their third studio album which turned out to be a hugely successful one-hit wonder. 

Featuring Dev and The Cataracs, the song was the first single by Asian-American artists to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for three non-consecutive weeks. It’s now a certified 4x platinum hit in the US.

Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks

In 2010, Foster the People released their breakout hit ‘Pumped Up Kicks.’ Despite its dark undertones, this indie pop gem captivated audiences and spent eight consecutive weeks at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, it’s still the band’s most successful song and is certified 14x platinum in the US.

Gotye – Somebody That I Used to Know

In 2011, Australian singer Gotya released ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ featuring New Zealand singer Kimbra. The single was a global success and has become both artists’ signature song.

It topped the Billboard Hot 100 and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, receiving multi-platinum status in over 10 countries. While the song shot Gotye into the limelight, he wasn’t able to release another song as popular and has since disappeared from the top mainstream charts.

Psy – Gangnam Style

While Psy certainly isn’t a one-hit wonder artist in South Korea, in countries like the US and the UK, he’s simply known as the guy who made ‘Gangnam Style’… so we’re counting it!

Even with the majority of the lyrics in Korean, this K-pop song went globally viral in 2012, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping music charts in more than 30 countries.

Silentó – Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)

Just like Soulja Boy showed us how to superman with his song ‘Crank That’, American rapper Silentó’s single ‘Watch Me’ taught an entire generation how to whip and nae nae the house down. Released in 2015, the song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 spending an impressive six non-consecutive weeks there.

Jojo Siwa – Karma

Now, although Jojo Siwa’s debut single ‘Karma’ has only graced our ears for a few short weeks, its impact is already palpable. Transitioning from dancing shoes to a microphone, Siwa delivers a catchy tune that’s quickly gaining traction, albeit for unconventional reasons.

It’s currently positioned at number five on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart already and has gone viral on TikTok too. However, amidst its rising popularity, controversy has emerged. 

A previously unreleased song titled ‘Karma’s a Bitch’ by Brit Smith has surfaced on TikTok, bearing striking similarities to Siwa’s hit. This discovery has sparked confusion and anger among fans, leaving people questioning if Siwa actually wrote the song.

Despite the controversy, ‘Karma’ continues to climb up the charts. Whether it will secure a lasting place in music history or fade into obscurity as a one-hit wonder remains to be seen…

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