THE mystery song I wrote about last week is by a band many consider a one-hit wonder, which is unfair, because they did have another hit and they’re still international stars today, almost 25 years after their breakthrough song.
It’s really not fair to lump so many acts together under the heading “one-hit wonders.” Some one-hit wonders, like Right Said Fred, probably knew they’d shot their creative load with their one gimmicky, attention-grabbing song. They practically sold their souls to the devil (or at least Casey Kasem) for that can’t-miss hit, knowing full well that they could never duplicate its success. For them, one disposable hit was better than obscurity.
But other one-hit wonders — the ones with actual talent — are probably still scratching their heads, trying to figure out why their just-as-good follow-up songs never connected with listeners the way their big hit did, why they were relevant one minute and discarded the next even though they had lots more to offer.
So here are some one-hit wonders from the past 30 years who got exactly what they deserved and nothing more. (And later this week I’ll list some other wonders who unfairly got the shaft for reasons we may never understand.)
One-Hit Wonders Who Shot Their Loads
→Toni Basil, “Mickey”: Hey Toni! Choreographers should be happy to get one hit.
Taco, “Puttin’ On The Ritz”: OK, so you’re gonna take a 50-year-old Irving Berlin song and add synths, robotic drums and lethargic, off-key vocals. We’ll let you get away with it once.
t.A.T.u., “All The Things She Said”: Two young Russian lesbians get one hit. And after they reveal they’re not really lesbians? No hits.
Paul Hardcastle, “19”: A dance song about young soldiers, the Vietnam war and post-traumatic stress disorder. Where do you go from there? Funkytown?
Buckner & Garcia, “Pac Man Fever”: They actually had the balls to dip into the well a second time, but follow-up single “Do The Donkey Kong” didn’t score. Jesus, was “Kiss My Asteroids” that far behind?
Chumbawamba, “Tubthumping”: They never did get back up again.
Len, “Steal My Sunshine”: After sampling the Andrea True Connection, there was no more, more, more.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood, “Relax”: They came, they came and they went.
Nena, “99 Luftballons”: Pop!
Baltimora, “Tarzan Boy”: A Tarzan yell for the chorus? This guy was actually out of ideas before his first song.
→Musical Youth, “Pass the Dutchie”: Not a gateway hit.
Crash Test Dummies, “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm”: Umm, who were these guys?
Big Country, “In a Big Country”; Living in a Box, “Living in a Box”: If you don’t even have enough ideas for song titles …
The Divinyls, “I Touch Myself”: We got excited by them for a while, then lost interest and nodded off.
OMC, “How Bizarre”: You know what would be bizarre? If this guy’s not busing tables today.
Snow, “Informer”; Vanilla Ice, “Ice Ice Baby”: Before Eminem, solo white rappers got one chance to suck.
Alien Ant Farm, “Smooth Criminal”: Steal a Jacko song, punk it up for the kids, score a hit, and … and then what?
Right Said Fred: “I’m Too Sexy”: But not too talented.
Tag Team, “Whoomp! There It Is”: Turns out there was no there there.
Baha Men, “Who Let The Dogs Out”: Who let these guys near a recording studio?
Lou Bega, “Mambo No. 5”: A little bit of Bega went a long way.
The Dream Academy, “Life In A Northern Town”: Ah-hey ma ma ma, hey-dee-da-na-ya … then all of the work shut down … (OK, I actually like this song. And they did have a second Top 40 hit in the U.S., but not even the band remembers it.)
And while compiling this list, I was depressed to learn that a few other shoulda-been-one-hit wonders actually squeezed out additional Top 40 turds: Aqua (“Barbie Girl”), Gerardo (“Rico Suave”) and Men Without Hats← (“The Safety Dance”) all managed to fool us a second time. Go figure …