The world of one hit wonders is strange and wonderful. It’s a mystery how an artist can have a song, no matter how good or stupid it is, that captivates the world only to have them seemingly disappear months later. There are too many one hit wonders to cover, so let’s start with with rock artists who found major success with just one song. Some may not consider them one hit wonders, but if they’re known for one major song then they’re fair game.
“No Rain” – Blind Melon
Even if you don’t know the band or even the name of their hit single, you probably know the song. Or at least the album cover. Yes, it’s the one with the bee girl. Blind Melon were a decent enough alt rock band before they gained mainstream attention and fame thanks to this song. Because it was such a success the album reached number three on the Billboard 200. The track is still really popular and is considered one of the biggest songs of the 90s. It’s catchy, has a nice, flowing melody, and low key music that’s relaxing. Though they released “I Wonder” and “Change” as follow up singles, neither one could match the success of this song.
“Butterfly” – Crazy Town
Thanks to Linkin Park and their collaboration with Jay-Z, combining rock with rap was a popular option for bands in the early 2000s. Crazy Town came at the right time with their only hit single “Butterfly.” This song was all over the radio and middle school dances during the time. The idea of the song is pretty much “Wow! These ‘hardcore’ guys are being sensitive” because butterflies equal sensitivity, right? Though the song is on the cheesy side the hook is what gets you and keeps you singing it today.
“Cult of Personality” – Living Colour
Though Living Colour continued to release albums and even have one coming out this year, this song remains their biggest hit. Unless you’re a hardcore fan, you’d be hard pressed to name their other songs. At least the song kicks ass! It shook up airwaves when it was released in 1988. Strong vocals, intricate guitars, and blazing solos are only part of what makes this track so good. Unfortunately, the band faced discrimination since many found it hard to believe they were black. At least they haven’t let it stop them from making music.
“Sex and Candy” – Marcy Playground
This song was everywhere in the 90s. I actually remember hearing it when I was little and thinking it was a super dirty song based on the title. The single became the band’s most notable hit and one of the most popular songs of the era. Surprisingly, the band have continued to release new music with their latest album coming out in 2012, but like most of the artists here, they would never reach the heights they did with this song. Now, you can find their self-titled debut in thrift stores across America.
“Everything About You” – Ugly Kid Joe
This song gained popularity after being featured in Wayne’s World. The lyrics about hating everything along with the upbeat, melodic music make it a pretty catchy song. Listening to the song now, it’s pretty ridiculous. Singer sounds like what would happen if Anthony Kiedis fronted a glam metal band. In fact they look like they were a hair metal band disguised as a grunge band. They released two more albums during the 90s before calling it quits. They reunited in 2010 and are putting out a new record this year. Who asked for that?
“Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba
This is a song that refuses to die. Unlike a lot of the songs on the playlist, this one can still be regularly heard at sporting events and movie trailers that try too hard to be funny. With punchy music and the memorable verse of “I get knocked down/but I get up again/you’re never gonna keep me down” the song is irresistible. Whether you want to sing it or not, you’ll end up doing it anyway. It’s that infectious. The British band released other singles, but none of them match the success of this one. They actually have a lengthy discography that goes back to the 80s. Who knew.
“Headstrong” – Trapt
This is one of those rock songs you listened to in middle school and thought you were a bad ass. Released in 2002, the single was pretty popular and was featured in many films and video games. It even managed to win two Billboard Music Awards. Of course, the band continued making more music, including a new album coming out this year, but they are still remembered for this single.
“Roll to Me” – Del Amitri
By song title alone, you may not recognize it, but as soon as you hear the opening verse you can hear the collective groan of the world. The Scottish alternative rock band released this gem in 1995 and it’s been used in rom-com trailers ever since. It seems to be the go-to song when movies are looking for something playful, upbeat, and bright sounding. It’s been overused so much that TV shows have started poking fun at it. Whereas once you loved the song, now it makes you cringe.
“Mississippi Queen” – Mountain
If you’re like me, you first learned about this song from Rock Band. With blazing guitar licks and plenty of cowbell, the song is a sleazy, dirty track to jam out to. It appeared on the band’s debut album Climbing! and reached the 21 spot on the Billboard charts. Surprisingly, the band never had another hit as big as that one. They seem like one of those groups that should have a ton of hits based on the awesomeness of this single. They were releasing albums up until 2007. The song has been covered by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ministry, and W.A.S.P.
“Stacy’s Mom” – Fountains of Wayne
The sad thing about this hit single is it took Fountains of Wayne 10 years to reach mainstream audiences. The band formed in 1996 and already released two albums prior to this 2003 hit. Written as a tribute to The Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” the song is catchy and with a topic about lusting after a friend’s mother, is quirky. The song was so hot that by the end of the year everyone wanted them to shut up about this girl’s mom.
“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” – Iron Butterfly
It’s one of the most well known songs in rocks music history. Everyone knows it along with its hilarious origin story. It was even used in a classic Simpsons episode. The psychedelic keys, the weird title, and the wavering vocals make it memorable and the only reason we know of Iron Butterfly. The song was so big it led to their second album of the same name, to sell over three million copies at the end of 1970. They released a few more albums before breaking up in 1973. Oddly enough, like many artists on this list the band is back together and are currently working on a new album.
“Bitter Sweet Symphony” – The Verve
This one is a weird entry. This popular track that took orchestral samples from “The Last Time” arranged by David Whitaker, ended up being the British band’s only chart topping hit in the States. The video for the song also received major airplay on MTV, mainly because it was Richard Ashcroft walking down the street being a dick to people. It turns out in their native land, The Verve have several hit singles, including “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man.” This seems to be the case with a lot of overseas acts.
“Paralyzer” – Finger Eleven
Finger Eleven seemed to crop up out of nowhere thanks to this song, which mixes rock guitars and pop melodies. Even though the song got them mainstream attention in the States it wasn’t their debut single. In fact, the track comes from their fifth album Them vs You vs Me. The band has been active since the mid-90s in Canada, but it took this catchy song to launch their success. We haven’t heard much from them since.
“Face Down” – The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Though the band released their fourth album last year, they are still known for this 2006 hit. Dealing with domestic violence, the song features upbeat, fast guitars and melodic pop inspired vocals. It’s a freaking earworm. No matter how much you may not like it, you still find yourself singing it whenever it plays. The song peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was featured in several video games, including Saints Row 2. After this song, most forgot about the band.
“The Reason” – Hoobastank
This is another controversial choice for one hit wonder, but unless you’re a fan, it’s hard to name another massive hit from this band. Their debut single “Crawling in the Dark” did well enough, but it was this song that made everyone, including soccer moms, dig the band. Listening to it now, it’s still a pretty good song. It’s sweet, melodic, and mellow. It was so popular it reached # 2 on the charts. Since then, they’ve had some singles that have charted, such as “So Close, so Far” and “The Letter,” but they’ll always be remembered for this hit.
What’s you favorite rock one hit wonder? Is there one I missed? Let me know in the comments!