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A one-hit wonder is a musical artist who is successful with one hit song, but without a comparable subsequent hit.[1] The term may also be applied to an artist who is remembered for only one hit despite other successes. This list contains artists known primarily for one hit song in the United States, who are described as one-hit wonders by the media.

Criteria[edit]

Music reviewers and journalists sometimes describe a musical artist as a one-hit wonder, based on their professional assessment of chart success, sales figures and fame.

For the purpose of his book The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders, music journalist Wayne Jancik defines a one-hit wonder as “an act that has won a position on Billboards national, pop, Top 40 just once.” In his definition of an “act”, Jancik distinguishes between a solo performer and any group he or she may have performed in (thus, for example, Roger Daltrey‘s “Without Your Love” is counted despite Daltrey’s numerous hits as frontman for the Who), and a number of musicians appear multiple times, either with multiple bands or as a member of a band and as a solo artist. (Eponymous bands are generally not separated; thus Charlie Daniels is not counted as a one-hit wonder for “Uneasy Rider” and the hits of the Charlie Daniels Band are credited to him.)

Fred Bronson, a journalist and former writer for Billboard magazine, in his book Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits, uses the criterion that an artist is ineligible to be categorized as a “one-hit wonder” if they have a second song listed on the Billboard Hot 100.

In both cases, the Billboard Hot 100 was used as an objective standard for one-hit wonder status, since Billboard magazine published the books.

Disc jockey and music writer Brent Mann points out how some artists have been called a “one-hit wonder” despite having other charting singles; in these cases, one signature song so overshadows the rest of the artist’s discography that only that song remains familiar to later audiences. As an example, English-born singer Albert Hammond enjoyed success with “It Never Rains in Southern California” (1972) rising to number 5 in the US, but his follow-up single, “I’m a Train” was dismissed by Mann as “totally forgotten” even though it charted at number 31 in 1974. In another case, Scottish rockers Simple Minds followed their big hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (appearing in the opening and closing scenes of the film The Breakfast Club) with “Alive and Kicking” which peaked at number 3 in the US, and “Sanctify Yourself” (Billboard Top 100 number 14), yet the band is remembered primarily for the first song.[5]

On the other hand, some artists with long, successful careers have been identified as one-hit wonders by virtue of having reached the Top 40 of the Hot 100 only once. Consequence of Sound editor Matt Melis lists Beck (“Loser“) and the Grateful Dead (“Touch of Grey“) as “technically” being one-hit wonders despite their large bodies of work.Entertainment Weekly mentions prolific artist Frank Zappa as a one-hit wonder because his only Top 40 hit was “Valley Girl” in 1982.

Chris Molanphy says that an artist can only be seen as a “one hit wonder” if they have never had a second Billboard top 10 hit, if any subsequent top 40 singles were released within six months of their first big hit, and if the artist has not had three or more top 10 or Platinum albums.[7][8]

Multiple appearances[edit]

British musician Tony Burrows sang the lead vocal on five one-hit wonders: Edison Lighthouse‘s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (February 1970); White Plains‘ “My Baby Loves Lovin’” (March 1970); the Pipkins‘ “Gimme Dat Ding” (April 1970); the First Class‘ “Beach Baby” (July 1974); and “United We Stand” (1970) by the first incarnation of the Brotherhood of Man.[9][10]

Joey Levine, American session singer best known for his prolific work in the bubblegum pop and commercial jingle genera, who had recorded hits for the Ohio Express (“Yummy Yummy Yummy“), also sang hits for the Third Rail, the Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus (“Quick Joey Small”) and Reunion (“Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)“).[11]

British singer Limahl sang lead vocal on two US one-hit wonder songs; the first, “Too Shy” in 1983, came during his tenure as the frontman for the group Kajagoogoo. The next year, he had another hit single as a solo artist with “The NeverEnding Story“, the title track to the film The NeverEnding Story. The latter song charted at number 17 in May 1985.

List of one-hit wonders in the US[edit]

Each artist listed here has been identified by at least two publications as being a one-hit wonder in the U.S. Some artists listed here have reached the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 more than once. The year indicates when the song charted or peaked.

See also[edit]

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