Biggest one-hit wonders of all time

There’s no official definition of the term “one-hit wonder” in the music world, but it usually refers to a recording artist who has had a sole No. 1 hit (or one that charted near the top for a substantial stretch of time), with the artist’s other efforts failing to reach similar heights. (Some artists, however, reached those heights 20 times.) Music industry trade publication Billboard applies the term to anyone whose second single falls short of the Top 25.

Sometimes, one-hit wonder artists are great successes in fields other than popular music. Lorne Greene, star of the long-running TV Western “Bonanza,” had a No. 1 hit in 1964 with “Ringo,” a unique spoken-word recording. Radio and TV personality Rick Dees, whose weekly Top 40 claims to be the longest continuously running hit music countdown in the world, topped the charts himself (as Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots) with “Disco Duck” in 1976. Neither probably expected, nor needed, to repeat that one success.

However, legendary musical artists like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Garth Brooks and the Grateful Dead are all technically one-hit wonders, too, in that none had more than one song among the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart throughout their careers. Not having more than one top hit, obviously, doesn’t imply a lack of talent or a thriving music career.

Even those performers who have faded from the pop scene, though — the likes of E.M.F., Timmy T., Mims, Divine — have earned a place in music history: They might be one-hit wonders, but they have accomplished a feat few have.

To determine the biggest one-hit wonders, 24/7 Wall St. identified the songs with the longest stays on the weekly Top 40 charts, based on the Billboard Hot 100, from 1980 to 2012. Only songs that reached No. 1 were considered. Additionally, artists must have charted on the Top 40 no more than twice, either as individual artists or by featuring on another artist’s song, and must have sold fewer than 5 millions albums throughout their careers, not including singles. Songs that were originally recorded for a film or television show were not considered. The American Top 40 consists of the top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and was obtained from Billboard. Data on certified album sales came from the Recording Industry Association of America.


20. “One More Try”
> Artist: Timmy T
> Weeks on Top 40: 16
> Entered charts: Jan. 19, 1991
> Left charts: May 4, 1991

Californian Timmy T (born Timothy Torres) scored his only No. 1 hit, which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 25 weeks. This song is not to be confused with the Rolling Stones tune of the same name from 1965.

19. “Maniac”
> Artist: Michael Sembello
> Weeks on Top 40: 16
> Entered charts: July 2, 1983
> Left charts: Oct. 15, 1983

Although Michael Sembello had minor success with his song “Automatic Man,” it pales in comparison to the No. 1 hit “Maniac.” The single’s popularity was no doubt bolstered by its inclusion in the 1983 film “Flashdance.”

18. “I’m Too Sexy”
> Artist: Right Said Fred
> Weeks on Top 40: 17
> Entered charts: Jan. 18, 1992
> Left charts: May 9, 1992

English duo Right Said Fred found quick success when they released their debut single “I’m Too Sexy” in 1992. While the goofy single only spent three weeks at No. 1, it stayed in the Top 40 for another 14.

17. “More Than Words”
> Artist: Extreme
> Weeks on Top 40: 17
> Entered charts: April 13, 1991
> Left charts: Aug. 3, 1991

Extreme was formed by Massachusetts-born vocalist Gary Cherone (who went on to have a brief career as lead singer for Van Halen) and Portuguese guitarist Nuno Bettencourt (later to tour with Rihanna). The band recorded this acoustic love ballad as a contrast to their more usual rock music.

16. “Mickey”
> Artist: Toni Basil
> Weeks on Top 40: 17
> Entered charts: Oct. 9, 1982
> Left charts: Feb. 5, 1983

Toni Basil is a multiple Emmy and Grammy nominee, choreographer, actor, director, and dancer, and was named a Living Legend of Hip Hop by Hip Hop International in 2008. Though “Mickey” was hailed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the groundbreaking singles of the ’80s, it was Basil’s only smash hit recording.

15. “This Is Why I’m Hot”
> Artist: Mims
> Weeks on Top 40: 18
> Entered charts: March 3, 2007
> Left charts: June 30, 2007

Mims (full name Shawn Mims) had a huge hit with this “memorably minimalist chest-bump anthem” (in the words of Stereogum). The follow-ups, however, were tepidly received, and Mims subsequently turned to Silicon Valley, creating an app, RecordGram, with two partners.

14. “Butterfly”
> Artist: Crazy Town
> Weeks on Top 40: 18
> Entered charts: Feb. 3, 2001
> Left charts: June 2, 2001

Written by Crazy Town lead singer Shifty Shellshock (otherwise known as Seth Binzer), “Butterfly” samples “Pretty Little Ditty” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band Crazy Town toured with. The song, identified by the Federal Trade Commission as inappropriate for underage listeners, didn’t top the charts until a year-and-a-half after it was released.

13. “Informer”
> Artist: Snow
> Weeks on Top 40: 19
> Entered charts: Feb. 6, 1993
> Left charts: June 12, 1993

Darrin Kenneth O’Brien, the Canadian reggae-rapper who performs as Snow, got into the Guinness Book of World Records for this song, named the biggest selling reggae single of all time. Subsequent recordings failed to duplicate the success of “Informer,” and since 2009, when his longtime partner died of cancer, he has devoted himself to charities funding cancer research and to helping residents of nonprofit housing.

12. “Laffy Taffy”
> Artist: D4L
> Weeks on Top 40: 20
> Entered charts: Oct. 29, 2005
> Left charts: March 11, 2006

Atlanta rappers D4L (which stands for “Down for Life”) initially created this song as a smartphone ringtone before it came out as a single.

11. “Here Comes the Hotstepper”
> Artist: Ini Kamoze
> Weeks on Top 40: 23
> Entered charts: Oct. 15, 1994
> Left charts: March 18, 1995

Ini Kamoze had modest success as a reggae artist, but he wanted to try something in a different format in an attempt to gather more airplay. The chorus on this track is sampled from the Cannibal and the Headhunters version of “Land of 1,000 Dances,” and the bass line is sampled from “Heartbeat” by Taana Gardner. “Hotstepper,” a Jamaican term for a fugitive from the law, is the singer’s nickname.


10. “Baby Got Back”
> Artist: Sir Mix-A-Lot
> Weeks on Top 40: 24
> Entered charts: May 2, 1992
> Left charts: Oct. 10, 1992

Seattle rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot’s derriere-themed hit has been widely covered and parodied and referred to in everything from “Friends” to “Shrek.” Last year, the singer, born Anthony Ray, debuted a real estate-themed reality show called “Sir Mix-a-Lot’s House Remix” on the DIY Network.

9. “Fireflies”
> Artist: Owl City
> Weeks on Top 40: 25
> Entered charts: Oct. 10, 2009
> Left charts: March 27, 2010

Owl City is Minnesotan Adam Young’s electronic-pop project. He apparently doesn’t care that he produced no successful follow-ups to this No. 1 hit, telling Songfacts, “I don’t really care if people only know me for ‘Fireflies.’ I just do my own thing.”

8. “Lately”
> Artist: Divine
> Weeks on Top 40: 25
> Entered charts: Sept. 12, 1998
> Left charts: Feb. 27, 1999

This gospel-inspired ballad by R&B trio Divine topped the Billboard charts only a few weeks after the three young members of the group graduated from high school. Follow-ups faltered, and the group disbanded in 2000.

7. “Bad Day”
> Artist: Daniel Powter
> Weeks on Top 40: 27
> Entered charts: March 11, 2006
> Left charts: Sept. 9, 2006

With this song, Daniel Powter, who is from British Columbia, became the first Canadian to top the U.S. charts since Nickelback did so four years earlier. Billboard named Powter the top one-hit wonder of the years 2000 to 2007.

6. “Lean Back”
> Artist: Terror Squad
> Weeks on Top 40: 27
> Entered charts: July 3, 2004
> Left charts: Jan. 15, 2005

Big Punisher and Fat Joe, two already notable Latino rappers from the Bronx, formed the core of this late-1990s/early-2000s group. “Lean Back” reached the top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 list before the album featuring it was released. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.

5. “Hey There Delilah”
> Artist: Plain White T’s
> Weeks on Top 40: 28
> Entered charts: May 26, 2007
> Left charts: Dec. 1, 2007

Plain White T’s lead singer Tom Higgenson wrote this song about a woman named Delilah DiCrescenzo, whom he was trying to woo (he failed). Last year, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the band began pitching a TV series based on the song.

4. “You’re Beautiful”
> Artist: James Blunt
> Weeks on Top 40: 29
> Entered charts: Dec. 24, 2005
> Left charts: July 8, 2006

English singer-songwriter James Blunt scored his sole Top 40 hit with this soulful pop ballad. The song did exceptionally well on the charts — it was on the Billboard Hot 100 for 38 weeks — and was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. But even Blunt, as he told Hello! Magazine in 2014, found the overplaying of the track “annoying.”

3. “Everything You Want”
> Artist: Vertical Horizon
> Weeks on Top 40: 34
> Entered charts: Feb. 19, 2000
> Left charts: Oct. 7, 2000

Released nearly a decade after the band’s formation, Vertical Horizon’s “Everything You Want” was a huge success for the alternative rock band from Washington, D.C. In addition to spending 34 weeks in the Top 40, the song was Billboard’s Most Played Single of 2000.

2. “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)”
> Artist: Los Del Rio
> Weeks on Top 40: 37
> Entered charts: May 18, 1996
> Left charts: Jan. 25, 1997

Anyone alive during the mid-1990s will remember the inescapable fad that was the “Macarena.” Complete with its signature dance, the song was played everywhere – from sporting events to the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

1. “Somebody That I Used To Know”
> Artist: Gotye feat. Kimbra
> Weeks on Top 40: 44
> Entered charts: Feb. 11, 2012
> Left charts: March 2, 2013

Australian electronic musician Gotye scored his one top 40 hit with this infectious 2012 pop song. The track — which samples Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa’s 1967 song “Seville” — spent an impressive 44 weeks in the Top 40 and eight weeks at No. 1. “Somebody That I Used to Know” also won the awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

24/7 Wall Street is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.


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