One-hit Wonders with greatest impacts throughout history

By Jake Schroeder
One-hit Wonders with greatest impacts throughout history
Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage/Getty Images

When a piece of music gained huge popularity, its musician might utilize this opportunity to build his or her billions-of-dollars career. Yet, it usually takes time to evaluate whether the song launches a promising career or it is just a one-hit wonder. Throughout history, a few singers just failed to produce their second signature song, no matter how many impacts their previous work made.
Despite being just a flash in the pan, some one-hit wonders created so much influence on the music world that the singer name has still been held in high esteem for a long time. According to sales volume, chart positions, downloads and views number as well as media coverage, the list below names top 30 one-hit wonders throughout the time. Just check and see if some of your top-choice songs rank a position here.

‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell, 1982

Highest Rank: No.8 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The female singer Soft Cell released ‘Tainted Love’ in 1981 with a modest outcome. Ranking at the ninetieth position on some American chart then fading away, its comeback after 19 weeks was such a surprise to everyone. ‘Tainted Love’ then got its peak chart position at #8 on Billboards.

‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell, 1982
Photo Courtesy: Pete Cronin/Redferns/Getty Images

The song seemed to struggle several hard times to eventually make a splash. The reputable musician Gloria Jones first recorded the song in the 1960s decade, then published it again in 1976. However, her two attempts failed to bring many significant effects.
Thanks to Soft Cell’s effort, ‘Tainted Love’ made a breakthrough by being listed on Billboard’s Hot 100 for a 43-week period. Additionally, the song even ranked the top position in some foreign music charts.

‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-a-Lot, 1992

Highest Rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
After 12 weeks since its release date, ‘Baby Got Back’ remarkably ruled the Billboard chart for more than a month. At the end of the 90s decade, Billboard also placed the song on the #30 position of its Decade-End chart.

‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-a-Lot, 1992
Photo Courtesy: Rick Kern/WireImage/Getty Images

At first, MTV even banned the song due to some inappropriate words in the lyrics. On its comeback, the song topped many charts and brought the rapper Sir Mix-a-lot a Grammy in 1993.
In the aftermath of its success, some movies and TV series included ‘Baby Got Back’ in their original soundtrack. Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Friends series are some notable examples. More than two decades later, the song, once again, was mentioned by many music lovers as Nicki Minaj samples it in her newly published product “Anaconda”.

‘Ice Ice Baby’ by Vanilla Ice, 1990

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The top rank on Billboard’s Hot 100 meant a lot to “Ice Ice Baby”, which was much more than just the most-wanted position of all music artists. This song set a milestone for being the very first hip-hop song to have this honor. In the meantime, the song also ruled many foreign charts.

‘Ice Ice Baby’ by Vanilla Ice, 1990
Photo Courtesy: Walter Iooss Jr/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The sales figure of ‘Ice Ice Baby’ vastly surpassed other music products of Vanilla Ice and brought him three Platinum certifications. 
On the other hand, the song also got Vanilla Ice in some minor troubles since its hook showed many similarities to the hit “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. Finally, a part of the royalties needed to be paid back to the duo.

‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor, 1982

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The journey for ‘Eye of the Tiger’ to become a hit was one in a million. In 1982, when the movie “Rocky III” was in the making, the actor Sylvester Stallone was not approved to use Queen’s song “Another One Bites the Dust”. Later on, Sylvester found “Eye of the Tiger” as a perfect match. Since then, the song became a must-have of many film soundtracks.

‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor, 1982
Photo Courtesy: Carol Kaelson/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

With its appearance on the film, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ conquered the top of Billboard for one and a half month. Due to this song, the Grammy for “Best Rock Performance” went to Survivor in that year.
Another success of this song is becoming 8x Platinum for just the number of online downloading. 

‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred, 1991

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
“I’m Too Sexy” is the one and only signature song in Right Said Fred’s music career. This song got the top position in both domestic and international record charts. The two lists of “100 Greatest Songs of the ‘90s” and “40 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ‘90s” also had this song included.

‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred, 1991
Photo Courtesy: Manfred Schmid/Redferns/Getty Images

The song influenced Taylor Swift in her released single “Look What You Made Me Do” in 2017.This indicated that the impact of this one-hit wonder on pop music was beyond time and space. 
However, believe it or not, the song was once listed in the Blender’s “Top 50 Worst Songs Ever”.

‘What’s Up?’ by 4 Non Blondes, 1993

Highest rank: No.14 on Billboard’s Hot 100
“What’s Up” is like a treasure in 4 Non Blondes’ career. Besides the 14th position on Billboard’s chart, it ranked the first and second on many other countries’ charts.

‘What’s Up?’ by 4 Non Blondes, 1993
Photo Courtesy: Paul Natkin/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Twelve years after its release date, the song became a trend again after a parody video entitled “HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA.” 
After this event, many people uploaded their cover or remix versions of the parody video. It, consequently, led the song to reach more than 1.5 hundred million times of playing.

‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba, 1997

Highest rank: No.6 on Billboard’s Hot 100
If you are a fan of punk rock, then you must have heard about “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba. At its time, the song remained in the Top 10 in the UK chart for nearly 3 months.

‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba, 1997
Photo Courtesy: Martyn Goodacre/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The impacts that “Tubthumping” made seemed to develop internationally as it appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100 list for 31 weeks. Additionally, the tune owned the first spot of many national record charts outside the UK.
Thanks to “Tubthumping”, Chumbawamba earned a Brit Award nomination. One year later, EA and FIFA’s World Cup video game chose the song to be the anthem.

‘Mambo No.5’ by Lou Bega, 1999

Highest rank: No.3 on Billboard’s Hot 100
In 1999, Lou Bega covered a mambo and jazz dance song by Damaso Perez Prado. Its name is “Mambo No.5”. Thanks to this event, the song was then re-popularized it again after its first release in 50 years before. 

‘Mambo No.5’ by Lou Bega, 1999
Photo Courtesy: ullstein bild/Getty Images

Here is some statistical success of Bega’s version: achieving Top 1 on many foreign charts; staying No.1 for 8 weeks in Australian chart, and 20 weeks in French chart; becoming Platinum in various countries. 
However, this brought Bega several troubles regarding the ownership of the song.

‘Take Me On’ by A-ha, 1985

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
A-ha seemed to undergo a lot of struggles before eventually getting their song “Take Me On” to a brand new level. After one year with three times of release and re-release, the tune topped the chart in the UK.

‘Take Me On’ by A-ha, 1985
Photo Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The music video was considered as a mixture of art and innovation. After the popularity of the video, A-ha was awarded six trophies at the VMAs by MTV. The success of the song skyrocketed, ruling Billboard’s Hot 100 and remained in the chart for consecutive 27 weeks. 

‘Bad Day’ by Daniel Powter, 2005

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
Up to now, the one-hit wonder ‘Bad Day’ by Daniel Power remained its heat from a decade ago. In the past, the song once ruled the Billboard’s Adult Top 40 for impressive 19 weeks.

‘Bad Day’ by Daniel Powter, 2005
Photo Courtesy: James Emmett/Redferns/Getty Images

In 2004, the original record of “Bad Day” was used in an ad of Coca-Cola in France. However, it was not until the song appeared in the show “American Idol” that success and popularity came to Powter.
“Bad Day” set a record as the first song to have the total purchase number of 2 million digital copies. The fact that it became 3x Platinum was not a surprise at all.

‘La Bamba’ by Los Lobos, 1987

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
Since the boy band Los Lobos covered the song “La Bamba”, they upgraded the song to a higher level. Their recorded version topped the music charts in many countries, then went 2x Platinum in the United States. Prior to Los Lobos, many bands had recorded the tune yet failed to catch much attention.

‘La Bamba’ by Los Lobos, 1987
Photo Courtesy: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

The origin of the heated song was a Mexican folk melody. It was modified and first released in the late of 50s, then was listed in some music charts.
Three decades later, the song came back and became a phenomenon.After the publication of Los Lobos’ version, “La Bamba” then appeared on the original soundtrack of the film with the same name. 

‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum, 1969

Highest rank: No.3 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The record of ‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum, at the time, became a phenomenon in many countries. Though the rock tune did not rule the Billboard, they remained a significant name in the chart for 15 weeks.

‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum, 1969
Photo Courtesy: GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

Within one year since its release date, ‘Spirit in the Sky’ was certified Gold by 2 million copies purchased by the fans.
The popularity of the song did not end there. It came back and ranked the top position on global chart since Doctor and the Medics recorded the piece. Until now, we can sometimes hear this familiar rhyme in some video games or commercial ads.

’99 Luftballoons’ by Nena, 1984

Highest rank: No.2 on Billboard’s Hot 100
’99 Luftballoons’ was one of few pieces of music whose both original and translated versions became hits. The German version was the top-selected among American and Australian music lovers. In the meantime, the English version sounded more attractive to the British, Canadian and Irish audiences.

 ’99 Luftballoons’ by Nena, 1984
Photo Courtesy: TORSTEN SILZ/DDP/Getty Images

The German version got four Gold certifications to its name. Meanwhile, the English version was also certified one Platinum and one Gold. 
Its popularity remained until the present days. Occasionally, we may hear a small part of the song in our favorite TV series or some commercial ads. Noticeably, the tune helped to relieve the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina with the total raised fund of $200,000.

‘Harlerm Shake’ by Baauer, 2013

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
In February 2013, a funny and cool dance video was uploaded and immediately caught the attention of many Internet users. After that, the song used in the video, “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, became a hit.

‘Harlerm Shake’ by Baauer, 2013
Photo Courtesy: Michael Tullberg / Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Thanks to the public interest, ‘Harlem Shake’ quickly climbed to the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and kept the ranking for 5 weeks. In some countries, the tune even snagged 2x Platinum.
‘Harlem Shake’ even changed the perception of music success. Billboard then considered to include video streams as a criterion to evaluate a song.

‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ by Baha Men, 2000

Highest rank: No.21 on Billboard’s Top 40
The popularity of the song ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ could be traced back to 2000, when Baha Men recorded and released the tune. The song was listed in the original soundtrack of “Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (1998)”, and was favored by many athletes. 

‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ by Baha Men, 2000
Photo Courtesy: NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

The tune was then adapted into another variant as it was picked as an anthem of New York Mets. “Who Let the Mets Out?” was the title of the new version.
Intriguingly, as its songwriter Anslem Douglas disclosed, the song lyric narrated the criticism of women towards inappropriate behaviors from men.  

‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia, 1997

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40
Right after its release date, ‘Torn’ climbed to the top spot of six countries. In Australia, Natalie’s home country, the tune is currently holding the record of the top radio-played song. ‘Torn’ even made a Grammy nomination in the year.

‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia, 1997
Photo Courtesy: Sergione Infuso/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images

Thanks to ‘Torn’ and its enormous numbers of stream, Natalie became one of the most-streamed female music artists. 
In 2017, the millennials unveiled the fact that ‘Torn’, Natalie’s debut single, was actually a cover song. This revelation incurred a heated debate on Twitter, causing much regret to her fans.

‘Lately’ by Divine, 1998

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The single “Lately” in 1998 was the highlight throughout the music career of the girl group Divine. The tune received Platinum certifications in the US, after selling 1.1 million copies in total.

‘Lately’ by Divine, 1998
Photo Courtesy: Michael Crabtree/PA Images/Getty Images

The R&B girl group were formed with three talented singers Kia Thornton, Nikki Bratcher and Tonia Tash. However, apart from their first album, they rarely joined together in any musical projects. Two years later, the group finally disbanded, regretfully. 

‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexys Midnight Runners, 1982

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
‘Come On Eileen’ marked the outstanding international success of Dexys Midnight Runners. It topped the charts in many countries outside the UK, where the band came from.

‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexys Midnight Runners, 1982
Photo Courtesy: David Corio/Redferns/Getty Images

Here are some statistical achievements of ‘Come On Eileen’. It went 2x Platinum, then got 1.33 million copies sold nationwide, and ranked the third place in the list “100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of All Time” published by VH1.
The tune was also included in the original soundtrack of some reputed movies.

‘Rico Suave’ by Gerado, 1990

Highest rank: No.7 on Billboard’s Hot 100
After its release date in 1990, ‘Rico Suave’ was evaluated by different points of view, which showed mixed reviews about the song. While Billboard and VH1 held the song in high esteems, Blender’s “50 Worst Songs Ever” also included its name. 

‘Rico Suave’ by Gerado, 1990
Photo Courtesy: Jason Binn/WireImage/Getty Images

Whether you love it or judge it at a low level, it was undeniable that the song had changed the rule of the game. It had a great impact on not only the music industry but also the culture of entertainment.

‘Gangnam Style’ by PSY, 2012

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
In 2012, there came the Korean guy who surprised the whole world. Thanks to its signature dance moves and catchy rhythm, PSY’s “Gangnam Style” on Youtube attracted audiences all over the world. All eyes were on Youtube screen to see it become the first video with 1 billion views.

‘Gangnam Style’ by PSY, 2012
Photo Courtesy: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Nowadays, “Gangnam Style” is still the video with the highest number of thumbs up. Moreover, the tune grabbed the top spot of many domestic and international charts with Platinum certifications in some countries.  
This song also opened a door for Korean music to new opportunities. Its global phenomenon brought much attention to the entire K-Pop industry.

‘Pass the Dutchie’ by Musical Youth, 1982

Highest rank: No.10 on Billboard’s Hot 100
Let’s get shocked by the figures of this one-hit wonder: 5 million copies sold all over the world, the top spot in the UK, tenth ranking in the US. This reggae-style tune also topped the chart in many other countries.

‘Pass the Dutchie’ by Musical Youth, 1982
Photo Courtesy: Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The catchy rhythm of “Pass the Dutchie” became the inspiration for many future music productions. Many big-name of the music industry claimed to sample this song in their work.
Besides, some movies such as “The Wedding Singer” (1998) and “Scooby-Doo: The Movie live-action (2002) included the song in their film soundtrack. 

‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil, 1982

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
After its release in 1982, “Mickey” immediately reached the second position in the British record chart, then went up as a global phenomenon with the top spot on the chart of some other countries. Little did the audiences know that its first publication was pretty a failure.

‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil, 1982
Photo Courtesy: Jake Mitchell/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Some music fans called this song “Hey, Mickey” due to the lyric. However, at first, Toni Basil decided to entitle it “Kitty” before picking the official name. 
The tune reached Platinum status in many countries. After that, many music giants chose to sample or reuse this song in their future music productions.

‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua, 1997

Highest rank: No.7 on Billboard’s Hot 100
“I’m the Barbie girl, in the Barbie world”. This line sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Its simple, repetitive lyric and catchy tune brought the song to the top position in the British and the Australian charts. 

‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua, 1997
Photo Courtesy: Tim Roney/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Actually, Aqua gained their reputation with various former music productions, yet “Barbie Girl” is the single that they are most known for. 
Thanks to the bubblegum pop, Aqua was brought to both valuable opportunities and complicated trouble. The band had a chance to perform on Eurovision, then were sued by Mattel company for mentioning Barbie, the doll product line of the brand. 

‘Macarena’ by Los Del Rio, 1996

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
Before making an international wave, the song “Macarena” by Flamenco duo Antonio Romero Monge & Rafael Perdigones impressed the Spanish audiences and climbed to the top on the national chart. 

‘Macarena’ by Los Del Rio, 1996
Photo Courtesy: Gonzales Photo/Jarle H. Moe/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Their global reputation was made since the English remixed version of the song was released by two American music artists. After that, the tune reached the peak position on Billboard’s Hot 100 and remained it for a consecutive 14-week period. 
In 1997, there were 11 million copies of the song sold all over the world. 

‘My Sharona’ by The Knack, 1979

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The song “My Sharona” of The Knack was once praised by The New York Times as the symbol of the new music era. The song was worth that compliment, as it topped the Hot 100 and ranked the first on Billboard’s Year- End chart.

‘My Sharona’ by The Knack, 1979
Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage/Getty Images

Following the heat of “My Sharona” on many record charts, the tune received Gold certification. Fifteen years later, after being in the soundtrack of the series “Reality Bites”, the song came back to the Hot 100 chart.

‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies, 1969

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The story behind the one-hit wonder “Sugar, Sugar” was once in a lifetime. The song was recorded and performed by a cartoon band, The Archies. Amazingly, this virtual music band owned a song which ruled the Hot 100 for four weeks. 

‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies, 1969
Photo Courtesy: GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

The song received the Gold certification after selling 1 million copies at that time. Actually, if it was evaluated by the present criteria, it might become Platinum.

‘Whoomp! (There It Is)’ by Tag Team, 1993

Highest rank: No.2 on Billboard’s Hot 100
The one-hit wonder “Whoop! (There It Is)” was one of the songs with the longest remaining time in the top ten 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. To be specific, it made a row of 24 weeks appearing on the top list. 

‘Whoomp! (There It Is)’ by Tag Team, 1993
Photo Courtesy: Martina Raddatz/Redferns/Getty Images

The tune was chosen to be on the original soundtrack of various movies. Elf (2003) and Addams Family Values (1993) are two notable examples. 

‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)’ by Scott McKensie, 1967

Highest rank: No.4 on Billboard’s Hot 100
In the 1960s decade, the hippie mainstream became a trend among American youngsters and then spread to many other countries. In California, some hippies were developing a plan for International Pop Music Festival. In this context, the song “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” was written to ease the situation.

‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)’ by Scott McKensie, 1967
Photo Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The song experienced 4 weeks in a row on the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. It also ranked the first position in foreign music listings.
Due to its historic value, some films in the future used this song in their soundtracks. These films include Forrest Gump (1994) and The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019).

‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ by Gotye featuring Kimbra, 2012

Highest rank: No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100
Despite being just a passing fad, “Somebody That I Used To Know” brought Gotye and Kimbra many things that all music artists can ever dream of. The song became 11x Platinum in Australia, 8x Platinum in the US, and its copies were ordered by millions of music fans all over the globe. 

‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ by Gotye featuring Kimbra, 2012
Photo Courtesy: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

What is more, this priceless single did bring the duo two Grammy winnings. It could be said that these singers had invested their all potential, talents and dedication into this masterpiece.

‘Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)’ by Silentó, 2015

Highest rank: No.3 on Billboard’s Hot 100
With two catchy lyrical lines “Whip” and “Nae Nae”, together with the signature dance moves, Silentó had his debut single rule the many music charts worldwide, including the honored Billboard’s Hot 100. 

‘Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)’ by Silentó, 2015
Photo Courtesy: Paras Griffin/WireImage/Getty Images

The sales figure of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) was out of the ordinary when it comes to a debut single. The success of this one-hit wonder even reached further heights with Platinum certifications in many countries.