One-hit wonders … Some come and go. Some keep plugging away for years with hopes of making it to the top once more.
Whatever their story, each of these one-hit wonders topped charts with a song that will be stuck in our minds forever more.
Don’t believe us? Just try not to sing out the choruses of each song as you read them. We sure couldn’t!
1. Wheatus – “Teenage Dirtbag”
It’s hard not to join in on the sing song chorus of “Teenage Dirtbag”. Even if you haven’t shared the exact experience, most can relate to fawning over someone who seemingly doesn’t notice them. Afterall … it is the theme of nearly every high school rom-com.
The inspiration for the song came from the band’s guitarist Brandon B Brown.
In a 2012 interview, he explained there had been a satanic homicide near his house when he was 10. The murderer had been arrested wearing an AC/DC shirt.
“Here I was, 10 years old, walking around with a case full of AC/DC and Iron Maiden and Metallica – and all the parents and the teachers and the cops thought I was some kind of Satan worshipper. So that’s the backdrop for that song,” Brown explains.
He added, “When I sing: ‘I’m just a teenage dirtbag’, I’m effectively saying: ‘Yeah, f*ck you if you don’t like it. Just because I like AC/DC doesn’t mean I’m a devil worshipper…’”
“Teenage Dirtbag” never made it to the US Billboard Hot 100. But it did make it to #7 on the Alternative Songs chart. And it topped the charts in Australia, Austria and Flanders. It was also certified 2x Platinum in the UK. More recently, it has had a resurgence thanks to TikTok.
2. Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”
If you don’t recognize the song’s title, you’re sure to know the chorus – “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.”
“Tubthumping” is a 1990’s classic and an anthem for anybody needing a shot of confidence after a defeat.
Chumbawamba, the band who created this hit, was known for political songs that blended together folk, punk and dance with several other genres. While a tubthumper in the UK is a politician, the song itself was one of the least-political the band ever released. As a result, it garnered a lot of criticism from longtime fans. Everyone else? They loved it!
The song blew up worldwide, with the band urging fans to steal their albums.
While Chumbawamba continued to grow a fanbase in Europe following the song’s release, they never had another hit in America.
3. Semisonic – “Closing Time”
Next in our list of one-hit wonders is Semisonic with “Closing Time.” The meaning behind this song seems pretty clear – it’s about bar goers being asked to leave after a night of drinking. To this day, it’s still used by many bars when they’re ready to close up for the night.
But halfway through writing the song, lead singer Dan Wilson realized it meant more to him than that. At the time his wife was pregnant with his first child. He explained in an interview that, for him, the song had a double meaning.
He explained, “It’s all about being born and coming into the world, seeing the bright lights, cutting the cord, opening up into something deeper and more universal.” The band’s drummer confirmed, saying it was about “being sent forth from the womb as if by a bouncer clearing out a bar.”
“Closing Time” hit number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US and topped several more charts worldwide.
4. The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
If you have ever seen The Proclaimers live, you’ll know this is a staple of any show. If you haven’t seen them perform, you probably know this song from school dances, weddings and the occasional night out at the bar.
The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” is about wanting to spend the rest of your life with one person. When it first launched, many US stations refused to play the song due to the lyric, “”I’m gonna be the one who’s havering for you.” They thought “havering” meant something naughty … but in the UK it simply means babbling on.
Regardless, the song made it to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charted well for Modern Rock and Adult Contemporary. While this was The Proclaimers’ only hit in the US, they continued to chart 4 more times in the UK.
5. Lou Bega – “Mambo No. 5”
If you were tuning into the Disney channel after school in the early 2000’s, you may sometimes swap Monica for Minnie and Erica for Mickey. But no matter what set of lyrics come to mind, the moment you hear the Latin beat, chances are you know what you’re listening to.
That’s because Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” was a huge hit in 1999 and 2000 when it was released, topping charts in Canada, the US and worldwide.
The original song was composed by Cuban musician Dámaso Pérez Prado in 1949. But year’s later Lou Bega transformed it into a love song.
On VH1, Lou shared, “When I wrote the song, I believed it could be the thing it is today. All people hate it completely, that’s what I thought. I knew it wouldn’t swim in the middle because it was too different from all the stuff that was outside, so I’m quite happy with it. Mambo makes you happy, Latin music makes you happy, its sexual, its erotic, energetic, I think that’s the point.”
Whether or not these 5 songs from one-hit wonders bring you joy, one thing is for sure … each was a hit – even if it was the artists one and only.
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