Throughout chart history, there is one constant that never seems to go away – the one-hit wonder. Artists who manage to strike it out with one big hit but then fade into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Their legacy is to be associated with that one (usually ridiculously overplayed) song. But which deserve to remembered, and which should be dumped into the dustbin of history as soon as possible? I’ll be taking a look at some of the best and worst one-hit wonders. You can disagree, but you’ll just be wrong.
Ooh Aah…Just a Little Bit – Gina G
One of the few Eurovision success stories Britain has had in recent decades, Gina G’s smash hit Ooh Aah…Just a Little Bit found its way to the top of the charts after her performance at the contest. And with good reason – the 90s was the decade of Eurodance bangers, and this one showed the Brits could do it too (ok, Gina G is actually Australian, but it still counts). The song is catchy, upbeat, can fill any dancefloor, and is probably a little unfairly forgotten in 2019. This is stretching the definition of one-hit wonder slightly since she did have a couple of other top 10 hits, but then dropped off the map quickly and seems to be known solely for this track. Personally, I think it should be played…just a little bit more.
Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles
As the song which signalled the transition from the 70s into the 80s, this one is truly legendary. Video Killed the Radio Star pulls off the feat of sounding both futuristic and retro at the same time, and not only that, it’s accompanied by a mesmerising music video which fit perfectly with the technological theme of the track. It’s easy to see why MTV picked it as the first music video they ever broadcast (a useful bit of pub quiz trivia for you there). While The Buggles didn’t last long, leading man Trevor Horn has went on to have a great career producing hit albums and singles for other artists. I salute him.
St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) – John Parr
Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s campy. But St. Elmo’s Fire wears its heart on its sleeve and I can’t think of a better workout tune than this. It also has the distinction of being far better than the film it was made for. Parr, a Nottingham native, became an American hero with this hit, and for good reason – when that chorus hits, you don’t want to do anything else but rock out. Sadly, he never achieved much success beyond this, but he’ll probably sleep well knowing it will be on 80s playlists for eternity.
Mickey – Toni Basil
Who knew a cheerleading chant could make a chart hit? Toni Basil did, when she released this earworm of a song back in 1982. Once you hear “oh Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey” you can never unhear it. Basil already had an established career as a choreographer when this song came out, and continued with it afterwards, but her name will be remembered for this and this alone. It’s a divisive song, and even I can’t decide whether it’s actually good or not – but I keep listening to it, so what does that say?
Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex
It’s not a school dance or a crappy wedding without this blaring through the speakers at some point. I’m not just of the opinion that Cotton Eye Joe is a bad song, I believe it does not have a right to exist. The entire concept of the song is terrible – a bunch of Swedes donning cowboy outfits and doing a techno version of country music. Yet we still subject ourselves to it, and why? It’s just a painful experience from start to finish. Don’t even get me started on the bit when the female singer comes in and starts doing the southern drawl. Let’s just consign this one to the past. Do your bit to remove all copies of it from existence.
We No Speak Americano – Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP
A more recent one-hit wonder, this takes the cake for being the most irritating. It’s essentially just sampling a 50s Italian song and throwing dance beats over it, and I actually liked it the first time I heard it. But then it got played to death and that “pa pa l’Americano” hook just gets on my nerves now. In truth, it’s easy to see why Yolanda Be Cool never had another hit, as this song just screams novelty.
What’s Up? – 4 Non Blondes
The soundtrack to every terrible hen do you’ve had the misfortune of witnessing, What’s Up? is another one that I wish would just fade out of existence. Nails on a chalkboard is probably better sounding than this song’s screeching mess of a chorus. And just to add insult to injury, the lyrics are basically nonsensical. 4 Non Blondes didn’t last too long (and with a name like that, it’s not hard to see why), but this song sadly never left with them.
Dancing in the Moonlight – Toploader
Right, I feel like I’m going to get hate for this one, but let’s be honest here. Is there any one-hit wonder more vapid than Dancing in the Moonlight? It seems like it’s supposed to make you feel happy and joyful, but instead it’s just a tedious chore. Somehow, this bit of middle of the road fluff has gained a cultural significance that it doesn’t deserve to have. More than I hate the song itself (and trust me, I hate the song), I hate what it represents.