The music industry has always produced a lot of talent, with musicians striving to produce hit after hit. However, this industry is also known for several one hit wonders whose stars burned out before fans could get enough of them. Over the years, fans have been treated to one hit wonder songs across a wide variety of genres.
Below are some of the top one hit wonder songs that top various charts, some even making it to the top 40 in the Billboard Hot 100. This article covers the songs alongside artists who made single hits before disappearing
1. Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
Chumbawamba graced the stage in the 80s, making music focused on the political scene of their time. Most of their songs combined aspects of punk, dance, and folklore from various music genres. This band is the best example of a one-hit band performing one song and losing its luster. Despite being formed in the 80s, the band struggled to get airwave for their music until they produced Tubthumping in 1997.
The song was about getting hammered and was warmly received across the globe, giving the band a celebrity status. Despite their hit song, the band never released another hit in America.
Next: Best 90s one hit wonders
2. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Most people thought this hit song was released in the 80s, but it was actually launched in 1965 when Gloria James recorded it. The song did not receive airwave till 1981 when it was revamped and transformed into a masterpiece by popular British synthpop duo Soft Cell. Despite their success with Tainted Love, the duo never made another hit song. However, Marc Almond, one of the musicians, went on to pursue a solo career that saw him score a solo smash in his duet with Gene Pitney, Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart.
Next: Best one hit wonders of the 1980s (80s list)
3. Take on Me – A-ha
A-ha is still considered a popular band in their native home, Norway. However, to the world, this group is a one-hit-wonder despite performing at the Lillehammer Olympics of 1994. They are known for their cool animated videos and lead singer with a high range. Their song Take on Me was widely listened to, elevating the band’s status greatly. The song has a catchy riff that is supported by an awesome video.
Next: The best 80s songs (our list of favorites from the 1980s decade)
4. The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens
The Lion Sleeps Tonight was largely popularized by the Disney movie, The Lion King, in the 90s. Despite being associated with the film, the song was originally released in 1961 by The Tokens. It was sung as a cover of the 1939 Zulu song ‘Mbube.’ Over the years, various musicians have come up with their own versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. However, The Token’s version was the first to bring the song into the limelight. The band produced more songs in the 60s and 70s but did not receive as much success as the jungle-themed classic.
Next: The definitive best cover songs of all time
5. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
Walking on Sunshine made huge waves in the 80s and is still used in movies and events today. The song by Katrina and the Waves made a huge impact at the time, spending 21 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, topping at number 9 in June 1985. After this success, the band could not make other hit songs, releasing a few tracks in the mid-to-late 80s, but none as well received as this iconic track.
Next: The best songs about sun and sunshine of all time (our list)
6. Billionaire – Travie McCoy
In 2009, Gym Class Heroes decided to break from music, forcing the lead singer Travie McCoy to pursue a solo career. A year later, the singer launched Billionaire, which soared up the charts to become a major hit. Billionaire, featuring sensational musician Bruno Mars, topped at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. A decade later and McCoy is still trying to make a comeback. However, he has featured in several hit tracks by other musicians.
Next: The best one hit wonders from the 2000s
7. Turn Me On – Kevin Lyttle
Kevin Lyttle joined the music industry with a storm after releasing his self-titled album in 2004. He is known for his single, Turn Me On, which he said is a major source of income still. Since its release, various musicians have produced several covers and samplings. Despite not duplicating the success of this song, Kevin Lyttle owns publishing rights for songs such as Questions by Chris Brown and Let Me Hold You by Cheat Codes.
Next: The top sexy songs of all time (great sex laced tracks)
8. Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
Bitter Sweet Symphony is one of the most popular orchestral notes that we repeatedly play in our minds without realizing it. The track was released by Britpop group The Verve in 1997. It later rose to secure a position among the top 15 Billboard Hot 1000 in 1998.
The song received overwhelming support and was nominated for multiple MTV VMAs before earning a Grammy nod. Despite its success, The Verve could not emulate the success, forcing them to retire early. However, the song lives on in popular covers by Beyoncé and Limp Bizkit.
9. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something
The Breakfast at Tiffany’s song draws its name from a classic movie featuring iconic actress Audrey Hepburn. This hit song was released by Deep Blue Something, becoming the only song by the band to make it to mainstream media. Since the song’s release, the band is yet to grace the stage with another hit song. The band even expressed frustration for having to talk about the same song repeatedly in multiple interviews and shows. However, in a recent interview, they expressed their joy in producing something that resonated with people and still received airplay.
Next: The best 90s songs from the decade (our definitive list of favorites)
10. Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
Don’t Worry, Be Happy has often been mistaken to be one of Bob Marley’s songs. However, the popular song was released by Bobby McFerrin. The song rose to become number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988. Despite leading a successful career as a jazz conductor, McFerrin could not produce another iconic hit song to rival Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
Next: The best reggae songs of all time (top tracks from the genre)
11. There She Goes – The La’s
There She Goes is one of the most popular yet controversial songs of all time. Music fans and enthusiasts have often debated whether the song is about a deadly substance or a girl. This discussion is fueled by a line in the song, ”Pulsing thru’ my vein.”
The La’s had a huge following in the United Kingdom but faired moderately in other markets such as the U.S. However, the song was made popular when it was featured as a themed soundtrack in the 90s movie, The Parent Trap. The song was later adopted by Sixpence None the Richer, who released its cover 11 years later. This cover rose to number seven on the U.S. Adult Top 40.
Next: The best songs about love at first sight (our list of absolute favorites)
12. Macarena – Los del Rio
Macarena is considered one of the best hit songs of all time. Despite receiving airwaves across the globe, Los del Rio’s original version of this song did not receive the necessary attention. It was popularized by the Bayside Boys, who brought a whole new perspective to the song.
Today, the song is played in various events, including weddings, sports, parties, and even official public events. Even with the song constantly playing in different corners, most Americans can’t remember the duo who composed the song. Los del Rio’s song Macarena was the only one from the group to achieve mainstream success topping the charts in 1996 to secure number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Next: The best kids dance songs of all time (clean tracks for children to dance to)
13. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
Natalie Imbruglia’s rise to fame was not sponsored by her original work. Her hit song, Torn, was a cover of Ednaswap’s 1993 single ”Torn.” Natalie’s version received worldwide recognition, even being chosen as the best pop song by popular showbiz magazine Q Magazine. The song was also classified as one of the most played songs on U.K. radio in 1998. Natalie’s next album toped at 35, with her three follow-ups failing to achieve mainstream success. Torn was further popularized by the sensational boy band One Direction when they performed it on the X Factor and at a Radio 1 Live Lounge performance in 2015.
Next: The best songs about ending a relationship (breakup songs)
14. Mambo No. 5 – Lou Bega
The song’s original version was released by Cuban musician Damaso Perez Prado in 1949. However, it didn’t receive enough airplay till it was picked up by Lou Bega, who performed its cover in 1999. The song has received a mixed reaction from fans, with some terming it as annoying while others are enjoying the sing-along tunes.
The song became number one in nine countries, peaking at number three on U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Mambo No. 5 became so popular that Disney created their own version using Disney characters. Lou Bega’s only other song to hit was ‘Tricky Tricky,’ which featured on Hot 100 in 1999 at number 74.
Next: The best Disney songs of all time (our list of definitive favorites)
15. California – Phantom Planet
California did not make it as a commercial hit but became popular among millions as the theme song of a popular T.V. show, The O.C. The song played throughout the show’s four seasons, becoming a household favorite. However, the band never received mainstream success for any of their other songs in the U.S. and officially disbanded in 2008.
Next: The best songs about California of all time (our list)
16. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne
Stacy’s Mom is a popular party song by Fountains of Wayne and is classified as a true crowd-pleaser. The song’s popularity grew among revelers, even getting nominated for the Grammys. Stacy’s Mom didn’t perform well commercially despite becoming number 21 and becoming one of the first songs to reach number one on iTunes. Years later and the band struggled to deliver another club banger, which likely played a role in them disbanding in the early 2010s. Despite this, they certainly had one of the best songs of the 2000s!
17. Cupid Shuffle – Cupid
Cupid has been in the music industry for awhile, releasing several albums. However, his song, Cupid Shuffle, is the only song to receive mainstream success. The song peaked at number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100. It received airplay for its popular line dance that rivals the Electric Slide. Cupid’s vocal range is among the reasons the song performed outstandingly. Cupid later tried auditioning for The Voice to revamp his career but did not get the attention of any of the judges.
Next: Great party songs to get down and dance to
18. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye ft. Kimbra
Somebody That I Used to Know was a great hit that received several awards and nominations, including a nod at the Grammys. The song also stayed at the top of the charts for eight consecutive weeks. However, Gotye has yet to release a follow-up to his 2011 album, Making Mirrors, which did not receive the attention that Somebody I Used to Know got. On the other hand, Kimbra is still making music despite not producing a track to mirror her previous success.
19. Closing Time – Semisonic
Fans widely mistook Closing Time to be the work of Third Eye Blind. However, the song was actually released by Semisonic and remained the band’s only hit.
A staple of every bar in North America, you’ll likely hear this track as the establishment closes and kicks you out for the night. Definitely one we’ve heard quite a few times, to say the least!
Next: The best bar songs of all time (our list of picks)
20. Save Tonight – Eagle-Eye Cherry
Norwegian musician Eagle Eye Cherry entered the U.S. music industry with a bang, releasing his hit song Save Tonight in 1997. After Save Tonight, Eagle Eye was unable able to match its success. The song peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning the musician a celebrity status. This song would see Eagle Eye Cherry feature on various shows and American late-night T.V.
21. I’ll Be There For You – The Rembrandts
This song has grown to become a household tune in most American homes. The song was featured on the hit show Friends, which aired for more than ten years. The song’s success was received with mixed reactions from band members and fans alike. In an interview, one of the band members, Danny Wilde, stated that the success enjoyed brought by the song came at the cost of their original fans. Despite releasing other marginally popular tracks such as Just The Way It Is, the band will forever be remembered by I’ll Be There For You due to the wave of popularity that Friends had in North America.
The top songs about best friends and friendship of all time (our list)
The best 70s one hit wonders (1970s)
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.