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Successful Pop Stars Who Were One Hit Wonders

Updated on December 2, 2020

One hit wonder may seem easy to define. It's a singer or band who have had one big hit and disappear forever. Right? It's actually a little more complex than that. So, the Village Voice decided to come up with it's Three Rules To Define The Term "One-Hit Wonder." The article's author Chris Molanphy points out some interesting facts.

Many One Hit Wonders Have a Successful Follow Up Single

When music channel VH1 compiled their list of top 100 one hit wonders much of the list consisted of acts who had more than one hit. According to the Village Voice, 75 of the VH1's top 100 list actually had a successful follow up single. Vanilla Ice made the list with Ice Ice Baby but his follow up Play That Funky Music peaked at #4 on the Hot 100.

Carly Rae Jepsen of Call Me Maybe fame had a successful top 10 follow up with Good Time. New artists who've had a big hit often enjoy what Molanphy calls a "honeymoon period" on pop radio. Robin Thicke is an example. Blurred Lines was his first mainstream hit. Radio initially embraced the follow-up single Give It 2 U, but the song never really clicked with listeners causing radio programmers to lose interest. The song peaked at #25 on the Hot 100.

All Along the Watchtower is the only top 40 hit by Jimi Hendrix
All Along the Watchtower is the only top 40 hit by Jimi Hendrix

Some Very Successful Artists Are One Hit Wonders

Some examples given by Molanphy are Radiohead, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. They are:

"acts whose popularity is reflected on the album chart more than the Hot 100."

Others have success on genre charts like rock, country, and R&B. These artists have successful careers and dedicated followers. Many have been influential in music.

Other notable one-hit wonders are Iggy Pop, Janis Joplin, Public Enemy, Norah Jones, Garth Brooks, Ben Folds Five, Snow Patrol, Merle Haggard, Arlo Guthrie, and Fountains of Wayne. That's quite an impressive list.

And it's not just nonmainstream artists who have more album than single success. Justin Bieber and One Direction are examples of successful album sellers who often didn't always have a huge presence on American top 40 radio.

New Zealand native Lorde is another example. Her song Royals spent nine weeks at the top of the Hot 100. Her follow-up Team was also a top 40 hit. Her second album Melodrama was a critical and commercial success despite not spawning any major hits. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. Lorde may never be a successful singles artist again, but she will likely continue to be an album seller.

Perceived One Hit Wonders

Some singers are thought to be one hit wonders even though they actually had multiple top 40 hits. This is often because they've had one massive hit that overshadows everything else they've done. The Village Voice uses the example of Rick Springfield who is best known for Jessie's Girl. When NPR mistakenly referred to him as a one-hit-wonder, angry fans pointed out that he's had 21 Hot 100 hits, 17 of which made the Top 40. Five of those were top 10 hits. Needless to say, Springfield had a very impressive career.

Some One Hit Wonders You May Remember

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2013 LT Wright


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    • Learn Things Web profile imageAUTHOR

      LT Wright 

      7 years ago from California


      That's right. It is all really about single success or lack of it on the Hot 100 rather than career success overall.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      People take one hit wonder a bit too literally. It usually refers to acts that don't have longevity on the hot 100 for whatever reason.

    • Learn Things Web profile imageAUTHOR

      LT Wright 

      7 years ago from California


      A lot of successful artists aren't very well know. They're succeeding within a certain genre but often are largely unknown outside of it.

    • WriterJanis profile image


      7 years ago from California

      I can see how this makes sense between the hits and the albums.

    • Learn Things Web profile imageAUTHOR

      LT Wright 

      7 years ago from California


      I was surprised by Hendrix as well. He was quite a bit before my time, so I had assumed he was a chart success since he's still so well known.

    • loveofnight profile image

      Loveofnight Anderson 

      7 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      I was actually surprised to see Hendrix on the list, thanks for the share.


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