When putting together this list of the top 50 biggest one hit wonders of the 90s I was astounded how many artists had huge hits, looking to be on the fast track to stardom, only to fade away in a few short months. However, though these artists were never able to duplicate the formula that made them so successful the first time around, not all the songs on this list have been relegated to the dustbin of obscurity. In fact, several of these songs would make a list of the best songs of the 90s in any genre, and more than a few still enjoy regular play on radio stations throughout the world. Here are my picks for the biggest one hit wonders of that decade:
50 – Jimmy Ray – Are You Jimmy Ray? – Perhaps a better question would be Where Are You Jimmy Ray? After reaching #13 on the U.S. Billboard Charts in 1997 with this hit Jimmy Ray has vanished into thin air.
49 – White Town – Your Woman – Back to back from 1997, Your Woman is the work of one man techno-pop band WhiteTown. It peaked at #23 in the U.S., but was a massive hit across the pond, reaching #1 on the UK charts.
48 – Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sitta – This on again off again band recently announced their retirement in May of 2009 after 15 years in the music biz. This came as a surprise to many who hadn’t heard peep from them since 1998 when they released this catchy punk tune. It gets the occasional spin on radio stations today, or if you dust off your American Pie DVD you’ll recognize the tune in the soundtrack of that cult teen movie.
47 – Kriss Kross – Jump – Not much lyrical meat here, but this bouncy hiphop tune by two kids who liked to wear their clothes backwards still gets people jumping in the club on a regular basis.
46 – Skee-Lo – I Wish – Another 90s hiphop song that enjoyed its moment in the sun. This tune peaked at #13 in the U.S. back in 1995 and is one of those songs that you realize you’ve completely forgotten about when you hear it on the radio.
45 – Big Mountain – Baby I Love Your Way – Originally a Peter Frampton hit this song made a comeback in 1994, performed by one hit wonder extraordinaire Big Mountain on the soundtrack of the movie Reality Bites. The song hit #6 on the charts, and after their brief moment of fame BigMountain faded back into obscurity.
44 – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get – This is one of the rare songs on this list that is arguably more popular today than when it was released back in 1997 on the album Let’s Face It. The song has proven to be a popular choice for movie soundtracks, appearing in films like Step Brothers and Chasing Amy in the intervening years since its release.
43 – Better Days (And the Bottom Drops Out) – Citizen King – Apparently these were the best days for Citizen King, who went gold with this one hit back in the summer of 1999.
42 – Len – Steal My Sunshine – Quirky and fun the song Steal My Sunshine by the artist known only as Len entertained us briefly in 1999, getting in under the wire to make this list of the top 50 biggest one hit wonders of the 90s. Still a catchy tune and easy to sing along to, but despite cracking the top 10 of both the U.S. and the UK charts with the song Len could never again capture lightning in a bottle.
41 – Tal Bachman – She’s So High – Yes, we have one hit wonders here in Canada too, and Tal Bachman is one of our proudest exports. His 1999 hit She’s So High showed off the incredible vocal abilities of this singer-songwriter out of Winnipeg. The song was a huge hit in his native country, reaching number one on multiple charts, and earning the artist a pair of Juno awards. However, he could not find the success enjoyed by fellow Canucks Bryan Adams, The Barenaked Ladies, or Nickelback and faded even from the hearts and minds of Canadians.
40 – Merril Bainbridge – Mouth – This unique 1994 song by Australian songstress, Merril Bainbridge enjoyed a six week run atop the Aussie music charts. However, her 15 minutes of fame wasn’t just limited to her home country. She also made it all the way to number 4 on the U.S. charts as well, assuring her status as one of the biggest one hit wonders of the decade.
39 – Brian Setzer Orchestra – Jump Jive an’ Wail – For a brief time in the late 90s it looked like swing music was poised to make a huge comeback. With Zoot Suit Riot by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and this immensely popular song by the Brian Setzer Orchestra cracking the consciousness of pop music, swing music and the accompanying music was very much in vogue…for a time. However, unlike the internet, sandwiches, and rap music this trend would turn out to be nothing more than a fad, and Brian Setzer and his orchestra vanished from airwaves nearly as quickly as they appeared.
38 – Dishwalla – Counting Blue Cars – There are some who would argue this alternative rock band’s inclusion on this list of one hit wonders. They don’t really cater to the world of pop with their music and have enjoyed success in their genre for better than a decade. However, when it comes to mainstream public consciousness their 1996 single Counting Blue Cars is probably the only song by the group the average listener can name and thus, in my opinion, they qualify.
37 – Culture Beat – Mr. Vain – One of the most annoying songs of the 90s is also one of its biggest one hit wonders. Techno and dance music was immensely popular in the first half of the decade, and this was as big a hit as any. Thankfully the trend faded as grunge music started to take over and groups like Culture Beat, 2 Unlimited, and C&C Music Factory had largely disappeared by the mid 90s.
36 – Robin S. – Show Me Love – Actually one of the better dance songs of the previously mentioned era, this track made it all the way to the #5 on the U.S. billboard chart and #1 on the dance chart way back in 1993.
35 – Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe – A strange blend of techno and country there is something about this song that just tugs at your feet. The video, featuring a bunch of hillbilly hayseeds, is laugh out loud funny. This song still gets play at the clubs and never fails to fill the dance floor.
34 – Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack – Not sure where he was returning from, or where he went to, but for one week in 1997 this guy made it all the way to #2 on the charts, and only failed to achieve #1 because of the awesome star power of one hit wonder boy band Hanson’s MMMBop.
33 – Marc Cohn – Walking in Memphis – A powerful mix of blues and rock this 1991 hit is an anomaly on this list. When this song was released music industry experts would have bet big money that Marc Cohn would go on to a long, prolific career with a string of hits and accompanying Grammy awards. However, things obviously did not work out that way and now Cohn finds himself on a list of dubious distinction with the likes of Kriss Kross, Len and Culture Beat. Life is strange indeed.
32 – Shakespeare’s Sister – Stay – Hauntingly melodic, featuring a pair of ghoulish looking brunettes, this song in no way resembled the fun pop beats of the 80s band Bananarama from which Shakespeare’s Sister was spun off. The song reached #4 in the U.S. and topped the charts in the UK, but Shakespeare’s Sister had even less staying power than Bananarama, and despite 5 more years of music releases never cracked mainstream radio play again.
31 – Haddaway – What is Love – Fans of SNL or the goofy 90s Will Ferrell comedy movie A Night at the Roxbury will instantly recognize this classic dance tune. It is almost impossible to hear this song without bobbing your head to the side, and when it comes on in the club watch out for the mad stampede as everyone in the place rushes the dance floor.
30 – Nicki French – Total Eclipse of the Heart – Another remake marks our entrance to the top 30 one hit wonders. Bonnie Tyler originally propelled this song to number one in the charts more than a quarter century ago with her 1983 release, and Nicki French almost duplicated the feat taking her dance remake as high as #2 back in 1994.
29 – Everything But the Girl – Missing – As it turns out this uniquely named band has gone missing, vanishing from the public eye (at least here in North America) since reaching number 2 on the singles charts back in 1995.
28 – The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony – Like Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis, Bitter Sweet Symphony seemed like it would be a launching pad for a long successful career. Instead it turned out to be just lightning in a bottle and earns The Verve a deserving spot on the list of the biggest one hit wonders of the 90s.
27 – Vengaboys – We Like To Party – Okay, I’ll grant you this song is catchy and bouncy, but after you’ve heard it for the 100th time you are ready to pull your hair out. Still, I can’t deny this one was a big hit on the radio and an even bigger smash in the clubs. I’m just glad Vengaboys didn’t manage to duplicate the success of the Spice Girls (another group that should have been a one hit wonder).
26 – OMC – How Bizarre – Nothing bizarre about the brevity of this group’s career. Another song that quickly became irritating because of the massive radio play it received. OMC’s one and only hit made it to number one in their home country of New Zealand, as well as Canada, Australia, South Africa, and several countries in Europe. American listeners were ever so slightly more sensible, only allowing How Bizarre to crack #4 on their own charts.
25 – Meredith Brooks – Bitch – Meredith Brooks really doomed her career with this one. I mean, a song like Bitch has one hit wonder stamped all over it. Where do you go from there? Apparently nowhere, as Meredith Brooks quickly found out.
24 – The Verve Pipe – The Freshmen – Two “Verve” bands on the list, and this song is every bit as good as Bitter Sweet Symphony. The Freshmen is one of my personal favorite songs of the 90s, and I remain hugely disappointed to this day this obviously talented band’s career fizzled out so quickly.
23 – Semisonic – Closing Time – This track not only got massive radio play, but for a long time became the default last slow dance song in clubs across North America. Unfortunately Semisonic used up all their talent on this one song, and once listeners finally grew tired of it it was “closing time” for Semisonic’s music career.
22 – Shawn Mullins – Lullaby – I could never figure out if I liked this song or not. Catchy and easy to sing along to it quickly became stuck in your head and wouldn’t leave. It stayed stuck in the head of the nation long enough to reach #7 on the charts and even landed Mr. Mullins a Grammy nomination.
21 – Marcy Playground – Sex and Candy – An interesting band name and an even more interesting song title made this one stand out for a short time in 1997. Not much meat here, but it is one of the best karaoke songs of the 90s, mainly because the monotone melody can be sung accurately by almost anyone who can carry a tune.
20 – Deep Blue Something – Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Obviously big fans of actress Audrey Hepburn the song is actually a reference to the movie Roman Holiday. However, I guess the band decided the name Roman Holiday to lack a certain something so instead named it after another Hepburn film – Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Whatever the inspiration there can be no question it is a great song and earns a worthy spot as one of the top 20 one hit wonders of the decade.
19 – Joan Osbourne – Of of Us – This haunting track was a massive worldwide hit in 1995, hitting the top 10 across much of the globe. Much deeper than much of the fluff on this list the song asked theological questions about how seeing God’s face would impact belief systems in our world. The song found a large following, but unfortunately Joan Osbourne did not.
18 – Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight – Definitely one of the cooler band names on the list, Eagle Eye Cherry burst onto the scene with this track from the 1997 album Desireless. The album went multi-platinum and the song reached #5 on the billboard charts. Then…nothing. “Come tomorrow I’ll be gone” indeed.
17 – Ini Kamoze – Here Comes the Hotstepper – Talk about a flash in the pan, this reggae dancehall hit made it all the way to #1 back in 1994. Here comes the hotstepper, and don’t blink, because there he goes.
16 – Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever – Talk about irritating songs, was there a more annoying song in the 90s than this one? I feel compelled to include it on the list because it somehow managed to get all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.
15 – Whoomp! (There It Is) – Okay, so maybe there was a more annoying song in the 90s. Thankfully this one didn’t get a ton of play on mainstream radio (at least not where I lived), but you couldn’t escape it at the club. They’d play this one three times a night minimum, and each time I’d be subjected to having to listen to 95% of the club singing along with the chorus. Ugh.
14 – Wreckx-n-Effect – Rump Shaker – One of the top hiphop songs of the 90s, this was another club anthem that got people stampeding for the floor. This song was hugely popular back in 1993, and the band rode that wave of popularity all the way to #2 on the mainstream charts and #1 on the rap charts that year.
13 – Divinyls – I Touch Myself – A controversial song for its time the song nonetheless propelled this Australian band to #4 on the U.S. charts, and the #1 spot in their native country. The song was a breath of fresh air in a “safe” pop scene back in 1991, but sadly the group never managed to capitalize on their success, and haven’t made much noise internationally since.
12 – Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5 – I remember being in Mexico in 1999 and this song was absolutely massive. You couldn’t go an hour without hearing it, and every time the song played everyone listening went nuts. The song’s popularity wasn’t just limited to Latin-American countries though. It was a worldwide phenomenon, hitting #1 in countries all over the world that year.
11 – House of Pain – Jump Around – One of the best rap songs of all time is also unfortunately a one hit wonder. Front man Everlast went on to release What It’s Like but that doesn’t count. This song, now over 15 years old is still enormously popular on radio stations, in clubs and at parties, and DJs never fail to fill the dance floor when they spin this track.
10 – Hanson – MMMBop – A little controversy as we enter the top 10 one hit wonders of the 90s. Though fans of Hanson might argue they had more hits I am only willing to give them credit for this one, and even that is grudging. What was I saying earlier about annoying songs? Still, I’ve got to admit it deserves a spot on the list considering it went #1 in 27 countries! It’s hard to believe that so many different cultures all have such poor musical taste.
9 – Chumbawumba – Tubthumping – Even stranger than Marcy Playground’s Sex and Candy Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping wins the prize for strangest band name/song name combo on this list. Incredibly catchy, you just can’t help singing along to this one. Good thing for fans of this band, since there has been nothing before or since to whet your appetite for Chumbawumba music. “I get knocked down but I get up again!” “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” might be the more appropriate phrasing.
8 – The Cardigans – Lovefool – featured in the movie Romeo and Juliet this 1996 song made a huge splash on the worldwide charts that year. Unfortunately, unlike Mr. Shakespeare the Cardigans quickly displayed a lack of creativity and no more hits were forthcoming.
7 – The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Not sure why this one isn’t called I Will Walk 500 Miles but I guess it’s less a mystery than Tubthumping. This is one of the catchiest songs on the list, and one of my favorites as well. Some might argue that this Scottish band’s song I’m On My Way is good enough to keep from this dubious list, and I agree with the sentiment. Unfortunately, aside from its appearance in the movie Shrek the song has failed to achieve any sort of chart success so therefore doesn’t count. Sorry.
6 – Deee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart – Talk about a funky band, this eclectic mix of dance, disco, funk and hiphop made Deee-Lite a household name for a brief time in the 90s. Featuring a rap solo by Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest the song still remains reasonably popular on radio stations, and I still see its funky music video from time to time.
5 – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – Mark Wahlberg has gone on to a solid acting career, appearing in films like Boogie Nights and The Departed but whatever became of the poor Funky Bunch? This song’s commercial success might have been at least partially fueled by the legions of young female fans who lined up to buy the record after seeing Wahlberg’s Calvin Klein underwear ads, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that this hiphop dance song hit number 1 on the U.S. billboard charts.
4 – Blind Melon – No Rain – If their lead singer Shannon Hoon hadn’t died of a drug overdose in 1995 there is little question in my mind that this band would have reeled off a string of hits and wouldn’t be within a country mile of a one hit wonders list. Sadly however, Mr. Hoon’s and Blind Melon’s time was all too short. No Rain was one of the best songs of the 90s period, and it is too bad the world never got to experience more music from the band.
3 – Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy – If I were compiling a list of the funniest songs of the 90s, or perhaps the stupidest songs of all time then this Right Said Fred classic would certainly challenge for top spot. This one certainly has to go in the category of what were we thinking? The song was hugely popular in clubs and though it defies the imagination actually spent 3 weeks at #1 on the U.S. billboard charts in 1992.
2 – Los delRio – Macarena – The one hit wonder that just wouldn’t end. First it was popular on the radio, then you got to hear it in the night clubs, and finally for about 10 years every wedding you went to would subject you to the song and its accompanying line dance? Sound familiar? Los del Rio’s hit would be number one on this list, but it has irritated far too many people to give it the crown. However, because of its enormous popularity worldwide it must be given its due, and earns a worthy spot as runner-up on this list.
1 – Six Mix-a-Lot – Baby Got Back – With Los del Rio out of the picture there can only be one choice for top spot on the list of the top 50 best one hit wonders of the 90s. Sir Mix-a-Lot’s ode to the female behind is not only one of the best rap songs of all time, it is one of the most universally loved songs ever recorded. I can’t name a single person who doesn’t like this song. Amazingly people just don’t seem to get tired of it, and the song continues to get plenty of play to this day. I guess it doesn’t matter if you are a one hit wonder as long as that one song continues to be a hit.