25 in the 2000s: one-hit wonders

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Thursday, December 24th, 2009

25 in the 2000s: one-hit wonders

this is part of an ongoing series called 25 in the 2000s. if you want a bit of information about the series, you can find the introduction here.

it’s difficult to talk about an era of music without bringing up the topic of one-hit wonders. while the conversation is inevitable, it’s much more difficult to pin down exactly what defines a one-hit wonder. one on hand, it’s a band who comes out of nowhere, blows up with one song and then we never hear of them again. and then, there’s the bands that are legitimately good bands, but just happen to only have one song that really hits the radio waves. and then, there’s the bands that have had some minor hits, but had one particular song that just blew up. this list will deal with all of those. there are some songs/bands on here that almost pained me because they’re a legitimately great band (like my #1), but definitionally, they are a one-hit wonder. so, here it is.

[you can listen to all the tracks in the embedded player here or, if you’d like to fill your ipod up with a playlist of awesome, you can download a zipped file with all the tracks at the bottom.]

25. crank dat superman. soulja boy tell ’em.

24. who let the dogs out. the baha men.

23. all the things she said. t.a.t.u.

22. i wanna be bad. willa ford.

21. hey there delilah. plain white t’s.

20. i try. macy gray.

19. hit ’em up style (oops). blu cantrell.

18. you’re beautiful. james blunt.

17. 1985. bowling for soup.

16. smooth criminal. alien ant farm.

15. tipsy. j-kwon.

14. lips of an angel. hinder.

13. this is why i’m hot. mims.

12. collide. howie day.

11. butterfly. crazy town.

10. stacy’s mom. fountains of wayne. this is the classic definition of a one-hit wonder. bad no one has heard of: check. catchy, kitschy song: check. everybody singing it: check. fun video: check. all the stars aligned for this band we’ll never hear of again.

09. mambo no. 5. lou bega. much like stacy’s mom, lou bega came out of nowhere to make a hit that was custom-fit for the transition into the aughts. one of the hallmarks of a one-hit wonder is the novelty factor and this certainly has it.

08. take a picture. filter. filter had all the tools to become a consistently good band. and then they didn’t. much like their long line of one-hit wonder predecessors (i.e. extreme’s more than words or sugar ray’s fly), filter neglected their hard rock roots to make a radio-friendly pop hit.

07. the reason. hoobastank. in my humble opinion, this could be one of the worst songs of the decade. now, don’t get me wrong, the first 1,000 times i heard this song on the radio, i was ok with it…but that next 100 million times made me want to never know the reason to anything… but, nevertheless, this is one of the quintessential one-hit wonders of the decade.

06. 1234. feist. feist is an example of an artist that i really hate to put on this list. why? because she’s really, really good. but, she can thank apple for the ipod commercial that made her an instant one-hit wonder. 1234 is fun, catchy and custom-fit for one-hit wonder status.

05. bad day. daniel powter. much like feist can thank apple, daniel powter can thank american idol, as his song was played every single week as contestants packed their bags and went home. granted, prior to that, he had major airplay, but AI’s exposure helped to launch it into orbit.

04. lean back. terror squad. in all fairness, fat joe isn’t really a one-hit wonder. technically, this isn’t a fat joe track, but rather, a terror squad track. with that said, this song catapulted into the top 40 thanks to a great rap and a catchy dance. bar none, it’s one of my favorite raps of the last decade.

03. i kissed a girl. katy perry. we all know the story: katy hudson, the cute christian artist who’s the daughter of a pastor becomes the late-2000s sensation who sang about lesbian experimentation. yeah… much like the typical one-hit wonder formula, this little novelty song was actually, ultimately, a really, really good pop song. while we aren’t sure where perry’s career is heading, it’s safe to say that at this point, she falls squarely in one-hit wonder status.

02. love song. sara bareilles. a good pop song needs a great hook. a great one-hit wonder needs an artists who suddenly appears and then disappears quicker. this song has both those things. it’s a great song from an artist who we’ll likely never hear from again. sadly for sara bareilles—whose whole album makes for a collection of great pop songs—her talent will likely be lost in her inability to produce another love song.

01. crazy. gnarls barkley. without a doubt, this is a painful selection. let me be clear: gnarls barkley is a great, great band. both their albums are some of the best of the decade and i expect their next offering will be just as good. so, these aren’t your typical one-hit wonders who show up and then drift away into the abyss. what makes them a one-hit wonder, though, is the word hit. while they have consistently made great music, they’re just not a band that generally produces accessible pop music for the masses. crazy is like getting struck by lightning: it could certainly happen twice, but it’s much, much more likely to only happen once.

so there you have it. there’s the list. what do you think? i’ve certainly missed some big stories. what are they? i’ve, no doubt, ranked some things too high or too low. what are they? help me to flesh out and “correct” my list.

wanna take this list home with you?? download the entire list here.

see you in a few days with my next list: songs.


  1. Kimberly says:

    I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree on Katy Perry. She has already had several hits, accompanied by videos that ACTUALLY get played on television, and even has an Unplugged album. She has been officially pushed out of one-hit-wonder status. Plus, she's my official hula-hooping accompaniment.

    And, I would place Macy Gray in the same category as Feist – she may have had limited commercial radio exposure, but retained a solid fan base.

  2. ryanByrd says:


    i think you hit on what's difficult about these lists. much more than even feist, katy perry & macy gray (for sure), a band like gnarls barkley has really great albums that are considered some of the best of the entire decade. BUT, if we're talking about legitimate hits, then all these people are one-hit wonders.

    you know, people would be surprised by this, but i actually really, really like katy perry's unplugged album. but again, i kissed a girl is her only legitimate hit. ur so gay got some buzz, but the vast majority of people only heard of her when i kissed a girl hit the radio.

  3. Slippery When Wet says:

    I've got to disagree on Katy Parry too. She has had two top three hits, "I Kissed a Girl" and "Hot N' Cold". That alone should disqualify here from this list but, I also think your not giving her enough time. She is currently working on another album which should be the real test for her. One hit wonders are about a lack of staying power; if the next record tanks then I think she could have a place here but for now I think she is showing enough potential to keep her of this list.

    The second group I have a problem with is Hoobastank. At first I was pretty unhappy with you for putting them on the list but now that I've thought about it a little I not only see where you are coming from but kind of agree. I first thought of "Crawling in the Dark" and "Running Away". Then I realized that these were only big hits to me and were not all that famous. "The Reason" was their only big hit and thats why I see where you are coming from. I would still have left them of the list. I would put them is on the list of "bands who had a hit that killed them". I have to agree with you that "The Reason" was terrible. That one note that starts it of still rings eerily in my head.

    I really think there are arguments to be made for Hinder, Macy Gray, and Bowling For Soup to not be on the list. I'm just not a big enough fan of any of them to take the time or energy to try to back it up.

    I think you might ad Keane with "Somewhere Only We Know" to this list.

    Well thats all I've got to say. I hope this was comment was only slightly too long.

  4. Hardin says:

    I'm going to have to disagree with Filter. Their mid-1990's song "Hey Man, Nice Shot" didn't chart as high as "Take a Picture" on Billboard's Hot 100, but it did chart. Additionally it reached #10 on Billboard's Modern Rock list. Plus I hear it more on radio today. It was a hit by any standard.

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