We all know and enjoy the classic hits that are often blasted in our local bars and distributed weekly on the radio, but there are a select few songs that stand out from the crowd and remain timeless in their own right. These songs, known often as “one-hit wonders”, are all written by artists who recently had a sudden burst of fame, only to have their career fizzle out soon after. Although most of us can hum the notes along, here’s a list of the best one-hit wonders of all time that you must listen to!
What is a One-Hit Wonder?
First and foremost, let’s define what a one-hit wonder really is. Put simply, one-hit wonders are songs that have shot up to the top of the charts, bringing their artists one burst of unprecedented fame and glory, only to vanish soon after. Despite the infamous “15 minutes of fame” concept, these few tunes still remain in our hearts, heads, and hips and continue to thrill us many years later.
The Most Iconic One-Hit Wonders
Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus
Kicking off this list is a song that probably crossed your mind as soon as you thought of one-hit wonders: Billy Ray Cyrus’s 1992 single “Achy Breaky Heart”. The country rock anthem is one of the most recognizable songs of the 90s and has stayed relevant to this day despite its clichéd lyrics.
Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
Natalie Imbruglia, a former home and away actress, released her masterpiece “Torn” in 1997 which rocketed to the top of the Australian, UK, and US music charts. The intimately touching song has remained a fan favorite over the years, sampling the 1987 song “El Ritmo de la Noche” by the Ecuadorian band Los Chicos.
Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
The 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby” is often panned as one of the most corny rap songs of all time, but the cheeky piece will forever remain one of the most iconic one-hit wonders of all time. Produced by Van Winkle himself, the hip-hop track was the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts and earned him a platinum selling status.
Mambo No. 5 – Lou Bega
Funk and Latin fusion, Lou Bega’s 1999 hit “Mambo No. 5” features the renowned 1940s mambo jazz classic that stole the show. It was an instant hit, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard Top 100 and selling more than 5 million copies worldwide.
Macarena – Los Del Rio
This one-hit wonder needs no introduction. Los Del Rio’s 1995 smash single “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” is one of the most recognizable party songs of all time, inviting us to do the namesake dance with our friends. Debuting at number 35 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and peaking at number 1, the song has since been sampled in many other songs and became a karaoke classic.
Gangnam Style – Psy
If you had to pick one song to represent the early 2010s, you’d probably choose Psy’s 2012 single “Gangnam Style” as the epitome. The South Korean rap track skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained there for 5 weeks. Since its release, the music video has already gained almost 3 billion views and has earned the illustrious title of the first video to reach 1 billion views on YouTube.
The Worst One-Hit Wonders That You Shouldn’t Listen To
Hey Mickey – Toni Basil
Toni Basil’s 1982 pop anthem “Hey Mickey” is not just one of the worst one-hit wonders of all time, but one of the worst songs ever written. The repetitive lyrics of the song make it painful for any listener, and it doesn’t even sample a traditional pop track.
Mmm Bop – Hanson
Perhaps the worst bubblegum pop single of all time, Hanson’s 1997 track “Mmm Bop” has no redeeming qualities. The meaningless lyrics and repetitive chorus promises only one thing: an instant headache.
My Humps – The Black Eyed Peas
Who could forget the 2005 hit single “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas? An absolute crime of modern music, the single contains the most simplistic and downright corny lyrics to have ever been written, cementing its awful reputation.
We Built This City – Starship
It’s hard to tell which is more horrifying: the 1980s new wave style of Starship’s single “We Built This City” or its disgusting lyrics. The overall tone and melody of the song makes it unbearable to listen to, and it’s no wonder why it fell off the charts soon after.
Despite the plethora of one-hit wonders, there’s no denying that they’re all an integral part of musical culture. Whether you’re a fan of achy breaky heart or more fond of gangnam style, you can rest assured knowing that the best one-hit wonders of all time are here for you to dance the night away. Don’t forget to check out the list of the one-hit wonders you should avoid too – after all, “it takes a certain gusto” to enjoy them. Enjoy your listening!