The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs: A Streamable Playlist Curated by Consequence of Sound

So Con­se­quence of Sound has post­ed a list of The 100 Best One-Hit Won­der Songs, and before we dive in, we should point out that they’ve real­ly tried to do their best in the face of his­to­ry. I’m sure there are those out there who have been out­raged some way or anoth­er at the arbi­trary nature of the “one-hit won­der” des­ig­na­tion over the years. I know I have thrown a fit to see Mad­ness’ “Our House” called a one-hit-won­der in the States with­out men­tion­ing their 30 or so Top 40 hits in the UK.

If Amer­i­can chart suc­cess is a judge, the CoS writ­ers says, Beck would be a one-hit-won­der along with Radio­head. No, what we’re real­ly gun­ning for are artists who real­ly only have one bona fide hit to their name, and after­wards pret­ty much dis­ap­peared into the ether.

The Vapors’ “Turn­ing Japan­ese” is def­i­nite­ly one of those. Released in a flood of new wave/­post-punk fer­vor, it’s a catchy ear­worm that would both define the band and then entrap them. They nev­er had anoth­er hit and iron­i­cal­ly had cho­sen this as their sec­ond sin­gle, wor­ried that they might become a one-hit-won­der. Whoops!

And while the ‘70s and ‘80s are seen as the height of the one-hit-won­der, the 1990s sure are worth recon­sid­er­ing. We didn’t know it then, but the music indus­try was just about to col­lapse with the arrival of Nap­ster and the Inter­net, and the rise of elec­tron­i­ca brought with it a cor­nu­copia of one-off downtempo/triphop tracks, col­lege-rock­/­post-grunge anthems, and this sin­gle from Toronto’s finest, Len:

(Ah, 1999. Just before the world implod­ed.)

You can lis­ten to Con­se­quence of Sound’s list on Spo­ti­fy, if you so choose:

So what hap­pened to the one-hit-won­der? YouTube. Where else can you find nov­el­ty hits, par­o­dy songs, and pop cul­tur­al touch­stones these days? The major labels cer­tain­ly aren’t releas­ing them. That might be good for users, but it’s gonna be hell for pop his­to­ri­ans attempt­ing to assem­ble a com­pa­ra­ble list in the future.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Same Song Sung in 15 Places: A Won­der­ful Case Study of How Land­scape & Archi­tec­ture Shape the Sounds of Music

All of the Songs Played on “WKRP in Cincin­nati” in One Spo­ti­fy Playlist: Stream 202 Clas­sic Tracks

A His­to­ry of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (6)
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  • Fred says:

    About half of these songs of the dozen or so I’ve heard, I’d clas­si­fy as no hit won­ders. Guess I don’t lis­ten to a lot of pop music.

  • E says:

    I use Apple Music. Is there any way to import a Spo­ti­fy list onto a dif­fer­ent stream­ing ser­vice?

  • Fred says:

    I doubt it, but you can lis­ten to Spo­ti­fy for free.

  • Ged says:

    Dex­ies were def­i­nite­ly Not a one hit band. Wikipedia
    They are best known in the UK for their songs “Come On Eileen” and “Geno”, both of which peaked at No. 1 on the UK Sin­gles Chart, as well as six oth­er top-20 sin­gles.

  • Mark Lilback says:


    The Church’s Metrop­o­lis reached #11 on the main­stream rock chart.

    Dead or Alive’s Brand New Lover reached #15 on the hot 100.

    Sneak­er Pimps’ Spin, Spin, Sug­ar reached #2 on the dance chart and #87 on the hot 100.

    Peter Schilling hit #61 on the hot 100 and #16 on the dance chart with The Dif­fer­ent Sto­ry.

    Europe hit #3 on the hot 100 with Car­rie.

    Grow­ing up in the ’80s, Car­rie was a huge hit on MTV, and Brand New Lover and The Dif­fer­ent Sto­ry were in heavy rota­tion at the clubs.

  • jsmith says:

    The author appar­ent­ly has a knack for misiden­ti­fy­ing one-hit won­ders.

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