A one-hit wonder is any entity that achieves mainstream popularity, often for only one piece of work, and becomes known among the general public solely for that momentary success. The term is most commonly used in regard to music performers with only one hit single that overshadows their other work. Sometimes, artists dubbed "one-hit wonders" in a particular country have had great success in other countries. Music artists with subsequent popular albums and hit listings are typically not considered a one-hit wonder. One-hit wonders usually see their popularity decreasing after their hit listing and most often don't return to hit listings with other songs or albums.
In 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 [the] national, pop, Top 40 record chart just once."
This formal definition can include acts with greater success outside their lone pop hit and who are not typically considered one-hit wonders, while at the same time excluding acts who have multiple hits which have been overshadowed by one signature song, or those performers who never hit the top 40, but had exactly one song achieve mainstream popularity in some other fashion (that is, a "turntable hit" or a song that was ineligible for the top-40 charts). One-hit wonders are usually exclusive to a specific market, either a country or a genre; a performer may be a one-hit wonder in one such arena, but have multiple hits (or no hits) in another.
VH1's list of "10 greatest one-hit wonders"
The top ten consisted of:
- "Macarena" – Los del Río (1996)
- "Tainted Love" – Soft Cell (1982)
- "Come on Eileen" – Dexys Midnight Runners (1982)
- "I'm Too Sexy" – Right Said Fred (1991)
- "Mickey" – Toni Basil (1982)
- "Who Let the Dogs Out?" – Baha Men (2000)
- "Ice Ice Baby" – Vanilla Ice (1990)
- "Take On Me” - A-ha (1985)
- "Rico Suave" – Gerardo (1990)
- "99 Luftballons" – Nena (1984)
Channel 4's "50 Greatest One Hit Wonders"
A 2006 television poll, conducted by Channel 4 in the UK, asked viewers to select their favourite one-hit wonder from a shortlist of 60. Respondents could also vote by e-mail to select a song that was not on the original list, if they so wished. The top 10 were:
- "Kung Fu Fighting" – Carl Douglas
- "99 Red Balloons" – Nena
- "Sugar, Sugar" – The Archies
- "Can You Dig It?" – The Mock Turtles
- "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" – Monty Python
- "Spirit in the Sky" – Norman Greenbaum
- "Who Let the Dogs Out?" – Baha Men
- "The Safety Dance" – Men Without Hats
- "Take On Me" - A-ha
- "Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please" – Splodgenessabounds
"20 to 1: One Hit Wonders"
In 2006, the Australian series 20 to 1 aired the episode 20 to 1: One Hit Wonders, a list of songs that had been the only one by that artist to have success in Australia.
C4's UChoose40: One Hit Wonders
In September 2006, New Zealand's terrestrial music channel, C4, aired an episode dedicated to "One Hit Wonders" on the weekly theme-based chart show, UChoose40, where the chart was ranked entirely by viewer's votes from the website.
The top ten ranking are as follows:
- "Teenage Dirtbag" – Wheatus (2000)
- "How Bizarre" – OMC (1996)
- "Because I Got High" – Afroman (2001)
- "Ice Ice Baby" – Vanilla Ice (1990)
- "Eye of the Tiger" – Survivor (1982)
- "Tubthumping" – Chumbawamba (1997)
- "My Sharona" – The Knack (1979)
- "Video Killed the Radio Star" – The Buggles (1979)
- "Who Let the Dogs Out?" – Baha Men (2000)
- "I Touch Myself" – Divinyls (1991)
Classical music one-hit wonders
Deutsche Grammophon and Vox Records have both released albums of classical one-hit wonders. Many of the works on the CDs are from composers who have two or more works that are popular in classical music circles, but have a single work that has become popular outside these circles. The two CDs differ, but the works common to both are:
- Johann Pachelbel – Canon in D
- Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings
- attrib. Tomaso Albinoni – Adagio in G minor (this was written by Remo Giazotto and contains no Albinoni material)
- Jean-Joseph Mouret – Fanfare-Rondeau from Symphonies and Fanfares for the King's Supper (theme to Masterpiece, formerly Masterpiece Theatre)
- Luigi Boccherini – minuet from String Quintet in E
- Jeremiah Clarke – "Trumpet Voluntary", more properly known as "Prince of Denmark's March"
- Jules Massenet – Meditation from his opera Thaïs
- Pietro Mascagni – "Cavalleria rusticana"
- Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov – "Caucasian Sketches"
- Amilcare Ponchielli – "Dance of the Hours" from the opera La Gioconda
- Charles-Marie Widor – Toccata from Symphony for Organ No. 5
- Marc-Antoine Charpentier – Te Deum
- Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska – Maiden's Prayer
Other examples of classical one-hit wonders are Léo Delibes's "The Flower Duet", Vittorio Monti's Csárdás, Enrico Toselli's Serenata 'Rimpianto' Op.6 No.1, popularly known as "Toselli's Serenade", and Jean Paul Egide Martini's Plaisir d'Amour.
Outside of music
The term one-hit wonder is occasionally applied to other media.
In the sports world, there are several athletes known to casual sports fans for one event in their careers. Examples include Mike Jones, an American football player who tackled Kevin Dyson at the one-yard line on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV; David Tyree, a wide receiver who became famous for a helmet-assisted catch during the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII; Timmy Smith and Mark Rypien, both Washington Redskins stars that ended up out of football shortly after winning Super Bowls XXII and XXVI respectively; Armando Galarraga, a pitcher who is primarily known for one near-perfect game he played in June 2010.
NASCAR driver Derrike Cope, who won the 1990 Daytona 500 in a surprise victory after Dale Earnhardt blew a tire on the last lap (though he later won a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race that season at Dover International Speedway); Buster Douglas, who was the first boxer to ever knock out Mike Tyson and Jimmy Glass, a goalkeeper, who is remembered for scoring a goal in the last seconds of the final day of 1998–99 English Third Division that kept his club in The Football League. His subsequently released biography was titled One-Hit Wonder.
In darts, there are also some players who had only a very short run of success. Kirk Shepherd provides one example - he reached the 2008 PDC World Championship final as a non-seeded qualifier, but never managed to have success at another major tournament afterwards and was sometimes called a one-hit wonder by the media.
The term "cup of coffee" is used to describe a baseball or ice hockey player who has only a short stint (i.e., long enough to drink a cup of coffee and not do much else) in Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League respectively and then spend the rest of their careers in the minor leagues.
- List of one-hit wonders in Ireland
- List of one-hit wonders in the United Kingdom
- List of one-hit wonders in the United States
- Signature song
- Summer hit
- That Thing You Do!
- "One-Hit Wonder" by Blair Packham, a 2004 song about the classic one-hit wonder "Monster Mash" by Bobby Pickett.
- Homo unius libri – Latin phrase meaning "man of one book".
- 15 minutes of fame
- Melis, Matt; Consequence of Sound staff (20 September 2016). "The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs". Consequence of Sound.
- Mann, Brent (2003). 99 Red Balloons ...and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806525167.
- Rahsheeda, Ali (2 May 2013). "100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the '80s". VH1. Viacom International. Rahsheeda cites at least three examples of this: Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio," which peaked at number 58 in the U.S.; The Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like," which peaked at number 62; and The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men," which peaked at number 46 (but was a chart-topper on the dance charts and reached the top 40 on the hip-hop charts).
- Life (14 November 2009). "One Hit Wonders". onehittwonders.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on 12 February 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Walters, Mike (24 December 2008). "Darts: Kirk Shepherd threatens to go back to day job". mirror. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
- Mordden, Ethan (1980) A Guide to Orchestral Music. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504041-4
- Jancik, Wayne (1998). The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders. New York: Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7622-9
- One Hit Wonders, 2003, Dg Deutsche Grammophon, catalog number 472700. The composers DG includes in this compilation are: Richard Addinsell, Tomaso Albinoni, Hugo Alfvén, Samuel Barber, Luigi Boccherini, Joseph Canteloube, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Jeremiah Clarke, Léo Delibes, Paul Dukas, Reinhold Glière, Ferde Grofé, Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Aram Khachaturian, Edward MacDowell, Pietro Mascagni, Jules Massenet, Jean-Joseph Mouret, Carl Orff, Johann Pachelbel, Amilcare Ponchielli, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Emil Waldteufel, Peter Warlock, and Charles-Marie Widor.