41 Best One Hit Wonders Of The 80s (Top 1980s Picks)

The 80s were full of new experiences and sounds. With technology picking up steam and the Cold War looming over people’s heads, society as a whole was changing. This also meant a shift in music, with new wave pop coming to the forefront and synthesizers running a lot of the show.

But the decade also gave us some of the most iconic one hit wonders of all time. In this article, we’ll pick the 41 best one hit wonders to come out during the 80s. 

1. Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners 

Come On Eileen is one of those songs that just gets stuck in your head, but it takes the number-one spot on this list thanks to how many people still know it today. Despite the… interesting title of the track and the infinite ways you can spin it, the song was one of the biggest of the decade and remains a relevant pop culture piece today.

Released as a single from the band’s second studio album Too-Rye-Ay in 1982, it became their second number-one single in the UK and first in the US. It topped both the UK Singles Chart and US Hot 100 that year, continuing to rank as one of the best songs of the 80s in the subsequent decade polls.

2. 8675309 Jenny Jenny – Tommy Tutone

8675309 Jenny Jenny

Our next song inspired a fad so obnoxious that it all but eliminated a phone line in the phone book’s directory. The track 8675309 Jenny Jenny was released in 1981 on Tommy Tutone’s album Tommy Tutone 2 and would eventually have quite a chart run. It made it to the top of the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1982 and peaked at number four on the US Hot 100.

Both the phone number and the name Jenny were completely made up according to Alex Call, but people still call the number to this day, much to the chagrin of anyone unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of those calls. 

3. Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles 

The Buggles - Video Killed The Radio Star (Official Music Video)

The Buggles’ version of Video Killed The Radio Star was one of the biggest international hit singles of the 80s and owned the charts between 1980 and 1981. It served as their debut single in 1979 and was groundbreaking for using typical pop components but weaving them into a musically complex piece. It topped the charts in 16 different countries, though making it to number 40 on the Hot 100 was the best it could do in the US. 

4. I Know What Boys Like – The Waitresses 

I Know What Boys Like

Chris Butler wrote I Know What Boys Like when he was still a member of Tin Huey, and it was released as early as 1980, but it didn’t find much traction then. It wasn’t until he formed The Waitresses with Patty Donahue that the 1982 release of the song turned into a hit. While it only peaked at number 62 on the Hot 100, the track has been named one of the biggest one hit wonders of the 80s and 90s by publications like VH1 on several occasions. 

5. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow 

Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy

I Want Candy is one of those songs that just seems made for a Kidz Bop album. It was originally written in 1965, with some sources suggesting it was inspired by watching Candy Johnson dancing at the 1964 World’s Fair, though that hasn’t ever been confirmed.

Regardless, several versions of the track would turn out to be big hits, with Bow Wow Wow’s in the 80s being the one we remember the most today. While barely breaking into the top 60, it turned into a classic of the new wave genre and one of the biggest one hit wonders of the 80s. 

6. Take On Me – a-ha 

a-ha - Take On Me (Official Video) [Remastered in 4K]

The group a-ha’s Take On Me helped pave the way for a lot of songs and artists that would come later. And while they are still around and making music, this track was a massive hit and their only chart-topper. The pop song has a fresh and creative sound with the use of synths, but it was almost more famous for its music video than its chart run. It blended animation and live-action shots in a way that hadn’t really been seen before, wowing audiences and making the track that much more popular.

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7. Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Soft Cell - Tainted Love (Official Music Video)

Tainted Love began life in 1964 when it was composed by Ed Cobb. Gloria Jones first recorded it in that same year, but it wouldn’t be until 1981 that it achieved international fame. The duo Soft Cell reworked it into a synthpop song that replaced the guitars, bass, drums, and horns of the original. In 1981, the track made it to the top of the UK Singles Chart and sold over a million copies, and by 1982, the song reached number eight on the Hot 100.

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8. Hey Mickey – Toni Basil 

While I may or may not have believed this song was about Mickey Mouse as a kid rather than Toni Basil’s crush, that’s not really my own fault. Disney took advantage of the popularity of this hit single by making later versions about their renowned mouse.

Regardless, this was a fun, cheerleader-y track that still finds some kind of rotation today. One of the cool things about the song is that Basil never revealed the identity of the ‘Mickey’ in her song, so all we’re left with is the knowledge of how fine she thought he was. 

9. The Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance

Men Without Hats released The Safety Dance as the second single from their album Rhythm Of Youth, and it was inspired by their lead singer being ejected from a club for pogo dancing.

See, new dance fads popped up quite often throughout the 80s, but people could be kicked out of clubs for doing certain ones. This was a bit of a protest song, fighting against both the establishment and the way people’s creativity is often crushed. It was a massive success for the group and eventually was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. 

10. I Ran (So Far Away) – A Flock of Seagulls 

A Flock Of Seagulls - I Ran (So Far Away) (Video)

A Flock Of Seagulls might have been a one hit wonder, but this one song ended up being a pop-culture icon. From Chandler rocking their hairstyle on an episode of Friends to this track appearing in the futuristic episode of That ’70s Show, I Ran (So Far Away) lives on today. While it might have only been a fairly modest hit, the song was an outlier for them, not only straying from the narrative alien invasion that permeated the album it came on but also as a nationwide success for the group.

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11. I Melt With You – Modern English 

Modern English - I Melt With You (Official Video)

The 80s saw a lot of changes in society but one constant throughout the decade was fear of annihilation. The Cold War was peaking and many expected the world to come to an end at any time. This gets reflected in artistic themes, but some were able to put semi-positive spins on it. I Melt With You was one of those songs, preferring to submit to being melted by a nuclear attack but wanting to make sure that the couple embraces and becomes one as they’re vaporized—or melted—together forever. 

12. Take My Breath Away – Berlin 

Berlin - Take My Breath Away (Official Video - Top Gun)

Take My Breath Away wasn’t a song that you should be surprised became a hit single. As one of the highlights and biggest tracks to come from the Top Gun soundtrack, it eventually became known as one of the biggest rock ballads of all time. Written specifically for the movie, it’s best enjoyed while watching it, but it’s also a great mood-setter for those evenings you get alone without the kids.

13. Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood 

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (Official Video)

If you’re a problem overthinker, this just might be the song that helps you chill out a bit. And while it mainly focuses on not overthinking sex, the lyrics can apply to just about any situation you find yourself in. Relax was another hit that would be emblematic of the 80s’ one hit wonders and a track many would come to love but wouldn’t bring the band long-lasting success. 

14. Obsession – Animotion 

Animotion - Obsession (Official Music Video)

Animotion’s 1984 cover of Obsession took the song to new heights. While originally a duet, the track was changed into a synth-pop single for their debut album and ended up being their biggest hit single of all time.

It’s been used on several other pieces of media, from video games like Call Of Duty and Grand Theft Auto to TV programs like WWF’s Saturday Night’s Main Event and FT- FashionTelevision. The song ended up breaking into the top 40 on the US dance charts twice during the 80s, though it rose to number six on the US pop chart and number five in the UK. 

15. Whip It – Devo 

The new wave of pop in the 80s relied on satire for a lot of its tropes. Aside from obvious hints at the end of the world thanks to the Cold War, there were also nods to the rampant commercialism in the US and the old saying of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” Whip It leaned into those, making fun of how superficial many people had become and the shallow way they looked at things while also taking on the falsehood of telling people they could achieve anything they wanted. 

16. 99 Luftballons – Nena 

NENA | 99 Luftballons [1983] [Offizielles HD Musikvideo]

Nena’s 99 Luftballons was first released in Germany, though the US version would rework the title into 99 Red Balloons. The English version became a smash hit, serving as one of many anti-war protests of the era by describing the divisions within Germany while the Berlin Wall still stood. 

17. You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) – Dead or Alive 

Dead Or Alive - You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) (Official Video)

While this one has been refreshed and referenced by many other artists in later years, Dead Or Alive’s original version of You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) still holds up as a success. It made it to number 11 on the Hot 100 and has even found a place on her rankings of the 1001 Best Songs Ever. 

18. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell 

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me (Official Music Video)

Rockwell was well ahead of his time when he released a song about the lack of privacy in life and feeling like someone was always watching. While technology has made spying on normal people easier than ever, it was beginning to happen in the 80s and this track is a reflection of those times—though maybe 20 years earlier than our modern privacy debates. 

19. She Blinded Me with Science – Thomas Dolby 

Thomas Dolby - She Blinded Me With Science (Official Video - HD Remaster)

She Blinded Me With Science was another one of the 80s’ one hit wonders that owes much of its success to MTV. The 1982 hit made it to number five on the Hot 100 thanks to the heavy rotation its music video saw, and though Thomas Dolby’s music career didn’t go much farther than this hit single, his computer and software company sure did. 

20. Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder 

Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride (Audio)

Mathew Wilder almost didn’t get to release Break My Stride because his original label released him from his contract and didn’t think it would be a hit. It’s all about the singer not giving up on wooing a specific person and its upbeat tune appealed to a lot of people. 

21. Too Shy – Kajagoogoo

Kajagoogoo - Too Shy (Official Music Video)

Too Shy had some disco elements to it that were great, but it wasn’t those that bolstered its success. The song was about going all out in all aspects of life, from trying new things on the dance floor to finding the courage to talk to that attractive person you spotted. 

22. I Wanna Be a Cowboy – Boys Don’t Cry 

I Wanna Be a Cowboy

I Wanna Be A Cowboy came from Boys Don’t Cry’s self-titled album in 1985 and was the lead single for their album. It ended up being their only major hit, rising to number 12 on the Hot 100 despite failing in their native England by only reaching number 77 on the UK Singles Chart

23. Angel Eyes – The Jeff Healy Band 

The Jeff Healey Band - Angel Eyes

The Jeff Healy Band got a lot of exposure thanks to being involved in the 1989 hit film Roadhouse. After that appearance, they scored their only major hit with Angel Eyes, finally breaking onto the Billboard charts for the first and only time. Incredibly romantic and sweet, the singer is enamored with the way this beautiful woman could ever love him. 

24. We’re Not Gonna Take It – Twisted Sister 

Twisted Sister - We're Not Gonna Take It (Official Music Video)

We’re Not Gonna Take It might have been Twisted Sister’s only big hit single, but it remains a monster of classic rock to this day. An ultimate protest song that is fed up with the way the world works, it’s a piece of teenage angst wrapped up in the glam rock style that permeated the decade. 

25. (I Just) Died in Your Arms – Cutting Crew 

Cutting Crew - (I Just) Died In Your Arms (Official Music Video)

Cutting Crew’s (I Just) Died In Your Arms might be one of the most sexual songs to come out of the 80s. A pop-rock ballad for the ages, it’s another one of the titanic rock hits to come out of the era. Lead singer Nick Van Eede wrote it based on his relationship with his girlfriend of the time. 

26. Electric Avenue – Eddy Grant 

Eddy Grant - Electric Avenue (HD Audio)

Electric Avenue was one of the biggest hits of 1983, though many people today have no idea what it was written about. It was inspired by the Brixton riots of 1981 and was meant to protest the rampant unemployment, racism, and poverty that were kept in place by racist policing in certain London districts. 

27. Maniac – Michael Sembello

Maniac is one of the most high-energy singles to come from a film soundtrack. Serving as the biggest hit to come from the soundtrack of Flashdance, the song was nominated for an Academy Award and made it to number one on the US charts. 

28. Pass the Dutchie – Musical Youth 

Musical Youth - Pass The Dutchie

Pass The Dutchie is an awesome song and one that I covered in another article, dissecting the real meaning of the track. It got Musical Youth in a bit of trouble, as despite changing the lyrics of another song that invoked marijuana use to reflect sharing food, the underlying meaning of it was still there. It was the school kid’s only big hit single and one that still carries a bit of weight today. 

29. Two of Hearts – Stacey Q 

Stacey Q - Two Of Hearts (Official Music Video)

Two Of Hearts had a long run of success after its 1986 release. While it isn’t the easiest song to read between the lines, the catchy dance vibe and the hook were all it needed to remain relevant through the 2000s. 

30. St. Elmo’s Fire – John Parr 

John Parr - St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) (Official Music Video)

St. Elmo’s Fire is a real phenomenon that happens when a ship’s mast is struck by lightning. Instead of igniting, the electrified mast can begin shooting sparks from the tip, something that would obviously have been attributed to the supernatural in prior centuries. John Parr’s song that took on the phenomenon for a title relied on the 80s themes of kids navigating the world after college. 

31. Turning Japanese – The Vapors 

Turning Japanese was intended to be about teenage angst and having a massive crush on a girl, though many audiences read into it further than that. It wound up being The Vapors’ only hit single, peaking at number 36 on the Hot 100 and becoming one of the most memorable songs of the decade. 

32. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin 

Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy (Official Music Video)

Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy is one of those songs that just makes you feel good. It’s almost impossible to stay in a bad mood when you listen to it, and its themes of letting your troubles wash off of you still resonate with people today. While the track didn’t end up making him release other huge hits, it’s been used in countless other forms of media and has a far-reaching legacy that most one hit wonders only dream of clinging to. 

33. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls 

The Weather Girls - It's Raining Men (Video)

Hallelujah! It’s Raining Men is one of the most long-lived songs to come out of the 80s despite being a one hit wonder. A meteoric rise on the charts and a track about men falling all over themselves combined to score The Weather Girls an outstanding hit single. One of my favorite internet theories/memes is that this song and Bodies by Drowning Pool are about the same event, just from two different perspectives.

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34. Funkytown – Lipps Inc

Funkytown might have been the last big disco hit. While the genre had mostly died by the 80s, this dance tune still found a lot of traction with US listeners thanks to its fun beats. Plus, it was the perfect theme song for pizza and arcade places that opened up in the following years and were still going strong when I was a kid. 

35. The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades – Timbuk 3

Timbuk 3 - The Future's So Bright

This one was a bit ironic when looked at in hindsight. Timbuk 3 had been on the come-up when The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades was released, and it scored a big hit for them. However, it was decidedly their only hit single and was sort of the end of their career. While successful, they would never see another song rise to this same level. 

36. Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo

Wall Of Voodoo - Mexican Radio (Official Video)

Mexican Radio saw a recent resurgence on TikTok, but its roots were firmly placed in finding a spot on the high-wattage and unregulated Mexican radio stations that could be picked up near the border. In 1982, the song made it to number 58 on the Hot 100, though it would be their only successful single on that chart. 

37. Our House – Madness

Madness - Our House (Official 4K Video)

For some reason, I always think of the sitcom Full House when I hear this song despite them not being related. Our House tapped into the nostalgia of viewers to relate to an average family’s experiences. While most people are exhausted, looking back at things will make you think those difficult times were golden years and that’s basically the theme of the track. 

38. Puttin’ On the Ritz – Taco 

Taco - Puttin' On The Ritz (ZDF Silvester-Tanzparty, 31.12.1983)

Taco’s Putting On The Ritz was actually a cover of Irving Berlin’s song from the 20s. Adding in some modern flair and pairing it was one of the best music videos of the decade, this ode to getting dressed up to go out is the perfect track to listen to while getting ready and an amazing mood booster. 

39. In a Big Country – Big Country 

Big Country - In A Big Country

In A Big Country takes on the classic debate of a glass being half full or half empty. And while that saying is all about perspective, the song takes it a step further and applies the way you look at things to the way you choose to look at events. Just remember you can find the good in the bad and the bad in the good, but what you see is a reflection of how you decide to see things. 

40. We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart 

Jermaine Stewart - We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off • TopPop

We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off was a departure from the overtly sexual songs of the 80s and was a track that asks listeners to take things at a much slower pace. Having a good time doesn’t always have to mean sex, and this song was an ode to just enjoying spending time together. 

41. The Ballad of Jayne – L.A. Guns 

L.A. Guns - The Ballad Of Jayne (Official Music Video)

Our last entry came at the tail-end of the 80s. Released in 1989, The Ballad Of Jayne was a power ballad coming from L.A. Guns’ Cocked And Loaded album. After rising to number 33 on the Hot 100, the song would be remembered as one of the last great one hit wonders of the decade.

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