An artist primarily known for one hit song. If they're lucky, their next single may chart as well, but despite the ubiquitous fame of their number one hit, they never really take off.
It is not uncommon for a group to be a one-hit wonder then break up, allowing one or more members to become (more) successful solo acts. It is also not uncommon for the one hit to be atypical of their oeuvre. Also compare Tough Act to Follow and One-Book Author. And, of course, if sufficient backlash is applied, they will Never Live It Down. Note that a one-hit wonder on the American charts may be a different story in other countries; many popular European artists, like Gary Numan and Frankie Goes To Hollywood charted only once in America. For that matter, many American artists have only charted once in their homeland but are popular in Europe (or vice versa: European artists that were more popular in the United States). Likewise, there are many artists who only once reached the mainstream Top 40, but are respected figures and even trendsetting within their genre; several such examples are shown below.
There are countless examples, so this article will only list a handful of representative samples. Compare No Hit Wonder, wherein an artist manages long-term success without even so much as one big hit, and Two Hit Wonder, where an artist is lucky enough to score a second hit. Also see Hitless Hit Album, where an artist has a hit album with no hit songs. Contrast Breakthrough Hit, where one hit leads to a string of later hits. Also compare Signature Song which is the biggest hit. Many of the artists listed here are mislabeled because they have a signature song but still had lesser hits.
Has nothing to do with One-Hit-Point Wonder.
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Music examples by genre:
Chumbawamba: They had only one international hit, "Tubthumping," which sounds nothing like their other songs (they started out in The Eighties with anarcho-punk and went poppier as time went on). The song itself is actually supposed to be totally meaningless to anyone who isn't British—it's about Old Labour post-Tony Blair. That's right.
The band even went as far as to lampshade the commercial success of "Tubthumping" when the lead singer wore a T-Shirt reading "ONE HIT WONDER" when the band were musical guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Cracker: Although they had a few hits on the rock charts in the mid '90s, the only song of theirs anyone seems to remember is "Low."
The Downtown Fiction have only managed one well-known song, "I Just Wanna Run".
Deep Blue Something: Their 1995 song "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was their only song to make an impression in pop culture. They managed a second semi-hit in the UK with "Josey", but even there are mainly remembered only for the former.
For Squirrels: One of the few examples of this trope brought about by Author Existence Failure. Around the time they released their album and the single "Mighty K.C.", the band was involved in a traffic accident that killed their lead singer, bass player, and manager.
Fuel, the American band best known for their hit "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)" which peaked at #30. On the Rock charts, however, they are far from one hit wonders. Their song "Shimmer" went #2 on Alternative radio and nearly made the Hot 100's top 40. Likewise, "Falls On Me" was a bigger pop radio hit than "Hemorrhage" was, but because it was only starting to fade on rock radio as it peaked on pop, it allowed for a much higher overall peak. "Hemorrhage" is still, by far, their best known song.
Marcy Playground: "Sex & Candy." Granted, their follow up "Saint Joe on the School Bus" hit the top 10 on the rock charts, but wasn't even a minor pop hit.
Matchbook Romance have a fairly large following, but non-fans/the general public know them mostly for "Monsters".
The Plimsouls: Alt rock band from The Eighties that garnered a minor hit with "A Million Miles Away" after it appeared in the classic Valley Girl soundtrack. The band promptly broke up after that, though, and has re-formed sporadically ever since.
The Ready Set: Their song "Love Like Woe" peaked at #27, but none of their other songs charted.
Republica is primarily known for their one hit single, "Ready to Go", which hit #13 on the U.K. charts, cracked the Top 100 U.S. Singles and charted internationally. Their follow-up single, "Drop Dead Gorgeous", ranked higher on the U.K. charts but bombed everywhere else.
White Town: Jyoti Mishra (yes, it's just one guy) had a big hit in 1997 with "Your Woman" which was essentially a "Dear John" Letter set to music. Mishra has been a musician since 1989, but nothing he never made before or since "Your Woman" has had any mainstream success.
Delbert McClinton: A true rarity, as he managed to be a one-hit wonder on three different charts with three different songs. First, he hit #8 on the pop charts in 1980 with the blues-rock song "Givin' It Up for Your Love". Then he got to #13 on Mainstream Rock Tracks in 1992 with "Every Time I Roll the Dice"note which barely made Top 40 in Canada as well. Then he got to #4 on the country charts in 1993 as a duet partner on Tanya Tucker's "Tell Me About It".
NewSong: "The Christmas Shoes" was a huge crossover hit (#1 AC, #42 pop, #31 Country), and they've been pretty silent outside their demographic ever since.
Interestingly, a cover of "The Christmas Shoes" was also the only Top 40 country hit for the short-lived Girl Group 3 of Hearts one year later.
Jars of Clay: This Christian alt-folk band had a massive crossover hit with "Flood" in 1996, reaching #37 on the pop charts and #12 on the Modern Rock chart, with their appearance on the latter chart being the first time the Modern Rock and Christian charts ever housed the same song at the same time (the effect of Not Christian Rock has made such crossovers much more common in later years). It's also been the only song of theirs to ever gain any sort of mainstream support.
Carl Orff: He is known mainly for one work, his cantata Carmina Burana. Indeed, he's known mainly for the Standard Snippet from this, the opening (and closing) cantus "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna", although "Gassenhauer" is also pretty well-known.
Mason Williams: A talented comedy writer who worked with the Smothers Brothers and Saturday Night Live. He was also a talented classical guitarist, and he showcased those skills on his lone hit in 1968, "Classical Gas".
Johann Pachelbel: Canon in D major is perhaps one of the most famous and frequently performed classical works. Though some of his organ works are popular with organists, the overwhelming majority of the general population, if they know him at all, only know the Canon.
Tomaso Albinoni: This 18th-century Italian composer has the dubious honour of being considered a one-hit wonder for a piece he didn't even write. "Albinoni's Adagio in G minor", frequently used as the background music for Tear Jerker scenes in films and television, was in fact written in the 1950s by Italian composer Remo Giazotto, who claimed to have based the work on a manuscript fragment recovered in 1945, but could offer no proof of this claim.note Whether or not he was telling the truth remains a matter of contention. The Adagio therefore qualifies Giazotto as a one-hit wonder rather than Albinoni (whose works are mostly known only by Baroque music enthusiasts).
Pietro Mascagni: He's really only well-known for his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry), which was also one of his first major works.
Ruggero Leoncavallo: His only well-known work is the two-act opera Pagliacci, which is often paired with Cavalleria Rusticana in a one-hit wonder double bill.
The song "Mattinata" is relatively well known, as it was written for and a favorite of Caruso. But disregarding that, to turn it around, Leoncavallo is mainly known not just for the opera, but for one moment in it (the aria "Vesti la giubba").
Jules Massenet: Like Orff, this French composer is known only for a single movement from a work rather than a whole work. He's mostly known for "Meditation", a passage for solo violin and orchestra from his opera Thais, often used in film and television scores for emotional scenes.
Amilcare Ponchielli: The only thing he is remembered for is "The Dance of the Hours" from his opera La Gioconda, which was both used in the original 1940 Fantasia and adapted by comedy singer Allan Sherman for his 1963 song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh".
Luigi Boccherini: Mostly remembered solely for the Minuet in A major from his String Quintet in E major, Op. 11 No. 5, used prominently in such films as The Ladykillers among others.
Charles-Marie Widor Although the French composer's works are popular with organists, most listeners probably only know the concluding Toccata from his Organ Symphony No.5 in F minor, Op. 42 No. 1, a popular recessional.
Paul Dukas: Today, this French composer is remembered mostly for writing The Sorcerer's Apprentice of Fantasia fame, although the fact that he was a fanatical perfectionist and destroyed or abandoned many compositions after he became dissatisfied with them means there is not much other music by which to remember him.
The Joe Dolce Music Theatre: "Shaddup You Face" became a million-selling number one in many countries, but nothing else he made could even chart, let alone become a major hit.
Elmo & Patsy: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is a classic Christmas novelty song. Interestingly, Patsy isn't even on that song, so it's often just credited to Dr. Elmo.
Jeff Foxworthy: Although he released several "songs" that included snippets of his comedy set to music, usually with a chorus from a country music singer, the only one that sniffed the country music top 40 was "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas", a half-song, half-recitation that he performed as a Solo Duet.
The Goodies: They had a string of comedy hit singles in the 1970's that were a natural spin-off from their TV comedy show. What makes them a one-hit wonder is the fact that their first single, "(Do, Do, Do) The Funky Gibbon", a parody of disco dance crazes, was initially taken as a straight song in the USA and made it into the lower reaches of the Dance and Disco charts... before they realised... it remains the boys' only American chart success.
Larry Groce, who is primarily a country, folk, and children's music singer, had a #9 hit in 1976 with the novelty song "Junk Food Junkie".
Mancunian folk singer/comedian Mike Harding had only one British hit, with a spoof C&W song called The Rochdale Cowboy, about a seriously geographically confused cowboy living in Rochdale, England.
It's hard being a cowboy in Rochdale/Cos the spurs don't fit right on me clogs;''
It's hard being a cowboy in Rochdale; 'cos folk all laugh when I ride past, on our Alsatian dog.''
Morris Minor and the Majors: Their only big hit was the Beastie Boys parody "Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime)". The followup, a Stock Aitken Waterman parody called "This Is The Chorus", did less well. In his book One Hit Wonderland, former member Tony Hawks explains that the first record sold to kids who wanted to wind up older siblings who listened to the Beastie Boys. The second record made fun of the music that said kids actually listened to, so it flopped.
Napoleon XIV: "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" was a number 3 hit on the Hot 100 in 1966. Not only couldn't he score another hit, but the song didn't even have a proper flipside. Instead it was just "!aaaH-Ah ,yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er'yehT", which was just the song played backwards.
"Weird Al" Yankovic: Obviously, he is not a one hit wonder, but his polka medleys usually include many one-hit wonders. He did have only one top 40 hit in the UK with "Eat It", but not in the US where he is much more popular ("Eat It", "Smells Like Nirvana", and "White and Nerdy" all cracked the Top 40, with the last of these actually hitting the Top 10; "Like A Surgeon" and "Amish Paradise" just barely fell short).
Ylvis with the viral hit "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" in the fourth quarter of 2013. They've released many other singles, but "The Fox" is the only one ever to have charted. Like most viral hits, they almost certainly will not have a second hit.
Jessica Andrews: The teenaged singer from Tennessee had charted several minor entries between 1998 and 2003, but her only one by which most would remember her was her #1 smash "Who I Am". The song was a crossover on the pop, AC, and Latin Airplay (!) charts, and was used as the theme to Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye.
Leon Ashley: He had his only #1 hit in 1967 with "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)". Most impressive in that he promoted and distributed the single by himself and managed to get it all the way to #1 after failing to even chart on three different major labels beforehand. And the song was popular enough that five other versions charted in the next decade — including pop/AC versions by both Frankie Laine and Brook Benton, and another country version by Claude King, all in the same year. Ashley had a few other hits on country radio, such as the top 10 "Flower of Love" and the Canadian number-one hit "While Your Lover Sleeps," but neither are well-remembered today.
Steve Azar: "I Don't Have to Be Me ('Til Monday)". Azar first charted on defunct River North Records in 1996, and broke through in late 2001-early 2002 with that song via Mercury Records. A followup stopped in the mid-20s, and Mercury did nothing else with him until 2004, when he developed a vocal cord cyst that forced him to put his career on hold. He returned in 2005 with another song that went nowhere, and hopped from indie label to indie label, with little to no success for his next 3 subsequent albums.
Big & Rich: While the country duo's only massive hit was 2007's "Lost In This Moment," it is not their most famous song. Instead, that honor goes to their 2004 novelty hit "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," which has sold nearly four times as many digital copies as "Lost In This Moment."
James Bonamy: Florida-based singer Bonamy had a #2 hit in 1996 with "I Don't Think I Will." He never again made the top 20, although he did have a few minor top 40 hits.
Debby Boone: "You Light Up My Life." MAD once quipped that she was trying to make a lifetime career out of one hit song. Boone — the daughter of 1950s pop singer Pat Boone and granddaughter of early country pioneer Red Foley (Pat's father-in-law) — would have a few more successes on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, including 1980's "Are You On the Road to Loving Me Again."
Larry Boone (no relation) had five albums and fourteen singles, but his only big hit as a singer was "Don't Give Candy to a Stranger" in 1988. He switched to songwriting, which proved to be more fruitful for him, with Tracy Lawrence getting the lion's share of his work.
Lane Brody: An on and off chart presence from 1977 to 1986 with a few almost-hits, including "Over You" from the Robert Duvall film Tender Mercies. But her only hit of any sort was in 1984 as a duet partner on Johnny Lee's "The Yellow Rose", a rewrite of the old standard "The Yellow Rose of Texas" which was the theme song to the short-lived NBC soap opera The Yellow Rose.
Karen Brooks: Another female singer whose only hit was a duet with someone more famous: namely, T.G. Sheppard, on the #1 hit "Faking Love" in 1983.
Garth Brooks: Probably the most bizarre case of this phenomenon. Brooks never released his songs to pop radio and didn't release retail singles, which caused him to never appear on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 until 1999. The song that he hit the Top 40 with — the only time the best selling solo artist in American history ever did — was "Lost in You" from his failed Chris Gaines project. The best he's done otherwise is #45 with a cover of KISS's "Hard Luck Woman" for a tribute album (naturally, this wasn't released to country radio). The biggest country/pop crossover he ever had was "Wrapped Up in You" (#5 country, #46 pop) in 2001. Even stranger: "Lost in You" was not even released to country radio at all. (Of course, he was no slouch at country radio, having 19 #1 hits and many more Top 10 singles.)
The Buffalo Club: They were a very short-lived group founded in 1997 by John Dittrich, then-former drummer of Restless Heart; Ron Hemby, a one-time member of the Christian group The Imperials; and Charlie Kelly, a former guitarist for Tom Wopat (not to be confused with Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum). "If She Don't Love You" hit #9 that year, but the next two singles failed to take off ("Nothing Less Than Love", a Bryan White cover, got to #26, and "Heart Hold On" only made it to #53). Dittrich quit before the third single and returned to Restless Heart, and the other two members called it quits by year's end. The label they were on closed its Nashville division in March 1998, with The Buffalo Club being the only act they ever sent into the top 40.
Bob Carlisle and the Raybon Brothers were both one-hit wonders with the same song, in the same year, released at the same time. "Butterfly Kisses", to be specific. (Marty Raybon, one of said Raybon brothers, had several hits in the country music band Shenandoah first. Incidentally, there was a third version of the song by Jeff Carson at the same time, although he wasn't a one-hit wonder.)
This happened more often in the 1950s, when record labels released competing versions of popular songs tailored to different audiences, but in 1997, Bob Carlisle's popular radio song was very hard to find, which helped the Raybon Brothers tune with its sales. Carlisle's album of the same name topped the Billboard 200, but never reached higher than number 191 afterwards. Meanwhile, Carson's version was little more than his label (Curb Records) cashing in on the trend, as they are also a prominent CCM label.
Anita Cochran's 1997 hit "What If I Said", a duet with Steve Wariner. Wariner had several other hits dating to the winter of 1981, but hadn't touched the charts in nearly three years when this was released, so the duet started a brief comeback. Cochran wasn't so lucky.
Dick Curless, whose only Top 10 hit was the truck driving song "A Tombstone Every Mile". Also his first single. The eyepatch-wearing country singer did nearly return to the top 10 with the follow up "Six Times a Day," which peaked at 12, but that was his last top 20 hit.
Billy Ray Cyrus — Miley's dad, singer of numerous top 40 country hits, accomplished actor (both on Miley's show and an earlier program called Doc) ... yet, many still refuse to know him for more than "that bad dance song" "Achy Breaky Heart".
Billy Ray Cyrus has had many other country hits, but none as big as "Achy Breaky Heart", which had also been his only major pop crossover until he added Miley Cyrus to his existing "Ready, Set, Don't Go" in 2006. However, he was a bit more popular in Canada, where "In the Heart of a Woman" (the first single off his second album) was the biggest country hit of 1993. Also, "Some Gave All" (the title track of his first album) often makes appearances next to Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" on July 4, even though it was never a single.
Interestingly, "Achy Breaky Heart" was reprised in French (as "Achy Breaky Dance") by Quebecer Stef Carse, and he was also a one hit wonder with that song. Oddly enough, he now sings... Opera.
Linda Davis is not unlike the aforementioned Cochran in that her only well-known hit was a duet with someone more famous. Specifically, she was the duet partner on Reba McEntire's "Does He Love You", which went to #1 in 1993. Davis at least managed to get into the lower half of the country Top 20 two years later with "Some Things Are Meant to Be" and again in 1998 with "I Wanna Remember This", but none of her solo efforts were nearly as well known. Her daughter, Hillary Scott, has fared much better as one-third of Lady Antebellum.
After Brooks & Dunn split up in 2011, both of its members maintained solo careers on the same label. Ronnie Dunn scored a Top 10 hit with "Bleed Red" but failed to follow up, and was abruptly dropped. (By comparison, Kix Brooks's only Top 40 chart showing post-B & D was "New to This Town" at a mere #31.)
Ty England, "Should've Asked Her Faster". Ty was Garth Brooks' guitarist, and broke free in 1995. He's apparently still friends with Garth.
Pat Green, though popular in Texas with remarkable consistency from 1995 to the present, managed only one big airplay hit on country radio: "Wave on Wave" in late 2003-early 2004. He had a few other songs reach Top 40, including "Feels Just Like It Should" and "Let Me", which both fell just short of the Top 10, but "Wave on Wave" remains the only song by which most people outside Texas would recognize him. He is but one of many examples of a Texas-based artist whose rowdier stylings are out of step with what radio in the other 49 states will play.
Heartland, "I Loved Her First". Shot to #1, fell like a rock, nothing else afterward. Amazingly, this song was the first top 40 hit for their entire label, and it made them only the second country music band ever to send a debut single to #1note Diamond Rio was the first, and Zac Brown Band later became the third. Since then, the band has also shed four of its six original members and taken in a new member, and the label has failed to break anyone else out.
Eric Heatherly, whose only hit was a cover of The Statler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall" in 2000. His rockabilly-leaning take on a classic 60's hit was one of the few not pop-leaning songs in the same year that had George Strait and Alan Jackson lamenting the death of more traditional-leaning country in their song "Murder on Music Row". Mercury Nashville was undergoing a restructure at the time, so he got lost in the shuffle. A second album never came to be for Mercury, neither did a new attempt on DreamWorks Records (some advance copies got out, but never the final product). Heatherly also had two hits in the lower end of the top 40 (one from the same album as "Flowers on the Wall", one from the unreleased DreamWorks album), but they are quite obscure today.
James House, "This Is Me Missing You". He had one unreleased rock album for Atlantic in the early 80s, and some very low singles on MCA between 1988 and 1990. House managed Top 10 with this song in 1995, but never hit Top 40 again. He also wrote a few notable songs, including Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing", and contributed to a lot of soundtracks.
Rebecca Lynn Howard, "Forgive". For some reason, MCA never released another single from the album. She tried to follow it up for several years on 4 different labels, racking up three unreleased albums in the process. However, she had a number-one AC hit as Jim Brickman's partner on "Simple Things".
Ray Kennedy, "What a Way to Go". His debut single hit #10 on the charts, and he never returned to the top 40 afterwards. However, he has kept himself in the black as a record producer, usually with Steve Earle as the production team "Twang Trust".
A strange zig-zag came with The Kentucky Headhunters. Their only big chart hit was their cover of Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me", which hit #8 in 1990. However, far more fans will recognize them from the far lower charting "Dumas Walker", the single before it.
The Headhunters suffered from a Sophomore Slump, with frontmen Ricky Lee and Doug Phelps parting for a new duo called Brother Phelps, which got a Top 10 hit with "Let Go" in 1993 but failed to take off. Doug ultimately rejoined the Headhunters once Brother Phelps failed to pan out.
Comedian Vicki Lawrence, better known for her roles on The Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family had a major pop and country hit with non-comedic song "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia".
Chris LeDoux, a rodeo star and singer-songwriter, had been recording and sporadically charting since the 1970s, and was famous enough to get name-dropped in Garth Brooks' "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" (and honored after his 2005 death by Brooks' "Good Ride Cowboy"). His only hit was "Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy", a 1992 duet with (an uncredited) Brooks, which went to #7. LeDoux has a large catalog of popular songs, but only one other cut of his ("Cadillac Ranch", which came right after "Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy") made even Top 40.
The Lost Trailers — a five-piece band who had been together six years. They had already released three albums, the third of which had two singles that just barely missed Top 40, and was preceded by a single that was withdrawn shortly before release. (That withdrawn single? "Chicken Fried", later Covered Up by Zac Brown Band, whose version was a chart-topping debut.) The Trailers got their only hit in 2008, when "Holler Back" landed in the Top 10. After two more duds off the album containing it, the Trailers broke up… only for the guitarist to reuse the name from 2011 onward with a new lead vocalist.
C.W. McCall — in real life, an advertising executive by the name of William Fries — recorded a series of spoken-word songs about trucking and life on the road. None were more famous than "Convoy." The CB-jargon laced song about rebellious truck drivers frustrated with paying tolls and various other restrictions topped both the country and pop charts in January 1976. Even though he did have one other top 5 country hit (the sentimental "Roses for Mama" a year later) and the now-obscure song "Wolf Creek Pass" crack the top 40 a year earlier, McCall is forever known for "Convoy."
Also taking advantage of the C.B. radio craze of the mid-1970s was another advertising executive, Jay Hughley. Asked one day to incorporate C.B. jargon into a jingle, he purchased a citizen's band radio, listened for awhile and took notes ... and after writing his jingle came up with a tune called "The White Knight." Recording as Cledus Maggard and the Citizen's Band, he took the comic tale about a truck driver suckered into a corrupt highway patrolman's speed trap (full of mid-70s C.B. jargon) to #1 on the country charts and top 20 of the pop charts. Nothing else he put out afterward made top 40 in either chart.
Mark McGuinn, "Mrs. Steven Rudy". One of the best selling country singles of 2001, but the small indie label he was on at the time had financial problems. As a result, the follow-ups went nowhere (even though they were top 40 hits) and a second album never came to fruition.
Ken Mellons, "Jukebox Junkie". Mellons' tribute to the jukebox hit #8 in 1994. He had two songs that very barely made the top 40, and after that, nothing.
Ned Miller, "From a Jack to a King". He was never too big on having a singing career, and often had stage fright. He had a couple of other country hits, but only "From a Jack" on pop. Famously covered by Ricky Van Shelton, who had many other hits.
Tim O'Brien, who sang duet vocals on Kathy Mattea's "The Battle Hymn of Love", which reached #9 in 1990. The song is O'Brien's only chart entry, likely due to bluegrass being his main genre.
James Otto, "Just Got Started Lovin' You". Biggest country hit of 2008, yet nothing else afterward made it even halfway up the country charts.
Bobby Pinson, "Don't Ask Me How I Know". A moderate #16 hit in 2005, which he proved unable to follow up on. He exited the label and chose instead to write songs for others, including Sugarland and Toby Keith.
The Remingtons. Comprising Richard Mainegra and Rick Yancey, formerly of also-one hit wonder group Cymarron (see "Soft Rock" below), and Jimmy Griffin of the successful band Bread, this band was the first act signed to BNA Records. They hit Top 10 right out of the gate with "A Long Time Ago" in late 1991-early 1992, and despite a couple more minor hits, they never had anything else take off. Denny Henson (of Dan Fogelberg's backing band) replaced Yancey on their second and final album, which completely flopped. Griffin and Yancey had later work in other projects, but Mainegra and Henson seemed to completely disappear afterward.
Tim Rushlow was originally the lead singer for Little Texas from 1988 to 1997. Under his watch, the band had over a dozen Top 40 country hits, with him singing lead on all but one ("My Love", which was sung by keyboardist Brady Seals instead). When the band broke up, he tried to go solo in 2000 on Atlantic Records, but just as his song "She Misses Him" reached #8, Atlantic closed its Nashville division. An indie label picked up the album and issued two more singles, but they went nowhere.
Tim became a one-hit wonder a second time in 2003 as frontman of the six-piece band Rushlow, whose "I Can't Be Your Friend" went to #16 before a label restructure that stalled their second single and ultimately resulted in them being dropped. Tim Rushlow and cousin/bandmate Doni Harris did two singles in 2006 as Rushlow Harris, but neither went anywhere and they broke up. Among the other four members of Rushlow, three are now in Jason Aldean's road band (which pulls double duty as three-fourths of the production team New Voice Entertainment), while one is now in Jake Owen's road band.
Perfect Stranger, "You Have the Right to Remain Silent". Curb Records picked up the song after a small indie label managed to get it into the top 40. It managed a decent crossover (#4 country, #61 pop), but the band never even hit the country top 40 again.
Mike Reid, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, had a number one hit in 1991 with "Walk On Faith." Although he had previously reached number 2 duetting with Ronnie Milsap on "Old Folks," he never reached the top 10 again on his own.
Jeannie C. Riley hit #1 on the country and pop charts in 1968 with "Harper Valley P.T.A.," and today it remains her only Top 40 song on the pop charts. At country, however, she had several more Top 10 hits.
Rockin' Sidney was one of the top musicians of zydeco, a creole R&B-blues fusion genre. "My Toot Toot" was the only song of his to ever become a major hit, reaching top 20 on the country charts in 1985.
Rock singer Leon Russell is yet another artist who can claim a #1 country hit but nothing else that came even close on that chart, either as himself or as "Hank Wilson", the pseudonym under which he releases most of his country music work. In 1978, Russell and Willie Nelson had a #1 with a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel". (Russell has had two top 40 pop hits, neither of which was Heartbreak Hotel.)
Sons of the Desert are known for their collaboration with Lee Ann Womack on her major crossover hit "I Hope You Dance." On their own merit, the group only had one major hit, 1997's "Whatever Comes First." They also sang a Call and Response on Ty Herndon's #1 hit from 1998 "It Must Be Love", but did not receive chart credit.
Keith Stegall had only one major hit on his own as a singer, 1985's "Pretty Lady". However, a couple years later, he shifted his focus to the role of Record Producer, most notably as Alan Jackson's right-hand man, and has been a producer ever since (except for one album he did in 1996 as a side project).
Tommy Shane Steiner is another example of a one-hit wonder whose only hit was a country/pop crossover. The song was "What If She's an Angel", which hit #2 country and #39 pop in 2001. He had two more singles that went nowhere, and was never heard from again.
In the early 1990s, Restless Heart lead singer Larry Stewart departed for a solo career. He hit Top 5 with "Alright Already", but never made it higher than #34 afterwards. Many years later, he and the other four members of Restless Heart rejoined for good.
The Tractors had one Top-40 country hit, the #11 "Baby Likes to Rock It". The song is referenced in Stephen King's Desperation, which is set in a part of the country that would have radios blaring random country songs like that.
Vince Vance & the Valiants get special mention here, since their only chart entry was "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (not to be confused with the Mariah Carey song). This is the most-played Christmas song in the entire genre, and it was popular enough to make the country chart six times (although its peak of #31 was not achieved until the sixth time around; furthermore, due to so many Christmas songs clogging the charts with constant re-entries, Billboard changed the rules in 2000 so that Christmas songs could not re-enter). The song "Bomb Iran" was a popular novelty hit in 1980, and managed to live on thanks to John McCain.
Billy Edd Wheeler was one of the few artists on the country charts to have a top 10 single and no other top 40 hits. His 1964 song "Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back" reached third place on the charts, but his second-highest peaking single just missed the top 50.
Chely Wright, "Single White Female". A slow starter, Wright did not have this #1 hit until her fourth album. Her previous album had a #14 hit with "Shut Up and Drive", and she would later hit #11 with "It Was", but "Single White Female" is the only song by which most would recognize her.
Johnnie Wright, whose only hit was "Hello Vietnam," which topped the country charts. He had more success with his group, Johnnie & Jack.
Michelle Wright (no relation to either of the above two). In the U.S., her only hit was 1992's "Take It Like a Man" at #10, although she also scraped the bottom of the charts a few other times. She has been far more popular in her native Canada, with a long string of hits dating from 1987 (including "New Fool at an Old Game", which was Covered Up by Reba McEntire in the US).
Yankee Grey, a six-piece band from Ohio. They had a big hit in 1999 with "All Things Considered," followed up with the barely remembered top 20 hit "Another Nine Minutes," and failed to do anything else of note. The label dropped them, the lead singer quit, they did an independent album with the keyboardist singing lead, and that was all she wrote.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood: "Relax", in America at least. Back home, meanwhile, their Welcome to the Pleasuredome became the fastest selling debut album in British chart history (and remained such from 1984-1993), and they become only the second act in British music history to have their first three singles - "Relax", "Two Tribes" and "The Power of Love" - reach number one (for five, nine and one week(s), respectively).
Edelweiss: "Bring Me Edelweiss" reached number one on many European charts and around the world in 1988. Supposedly they did it following the advice of The KLF's "The Manual (How To Have a Number One the Easy Way)". The song is indeed built on various samples: the melody of ABBA's "SOS", "Last Night a Deejay Saved my Life", small samples from Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" and... Disney's famous "Goofy Holler" note YAAAAA-HO-HO-HO-HOOOEY!!!.
Kim Lukas: "All I Really Want" was a hit in 1999 in many European countries and even in Canada. The follow-up, "Let It Be the Night" charted in a few countries, but weren't massive.
Jumalatar: "Are We Thinking The Same Thing". They disbanded after their second EP, Frenzy / Easy to Groove, which failed to catch on.
The Supermen Lovers: "Starlight," best remembered for the music video featuring a rat and those creepy potato-men.
Qkumba Zoo: A South African trio, their song "The Child (Inside)" became a minor hit in the U.S. in 1996. Nothing else was able to catch on there.
Dyce: "Tomorrow Can Wait", mainly because it was remixed by Cascada.
Reina: "Find Another Woman". She later had the minor hits "If I Close My Eyes" and "Forgive", but those failed to reach the heights of her first hit, and are less well remembered.
The Tamperer feat. Maya - "Feel It", heavily sampled from the Jackson 5's "Can You Feel It, " while lifting most of the lyrics from mid-90s house anthem "Drop a House" by Urban Discharge. The follow-ups "If You Buy This Record (Your Life Will Be Better)" and "Hammer to the Heart" were major hits in a few other countries, but none were as big as "Feel It."
3rd Party: "Can U Feel It" (no relation to the above Jacksons song) was the only original hit scored by the dance pop trio (not counting their cover of Gary Wright's "Love is Alive," which was nevertheless not as big of a hit), although "Waiting For Tonight" became a hit via being Covered Up by Jennifer Lopez.
Sk8: "My Imagination"
Baauer's "Harlem Shake" was the number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 for five whole weeks, all because of a massive dance craze. However, the sensation only surrounded that one song, and not Baauer himself. Although Baauer is fairly popular in the Trap fanbase, he remains virtually unknown outside that group other than having his name attached to the iTunes single, so it's very unlikely he will ever have another Top 40 hit again.
Sarina Paris's "Look at Us". She had more limited success with "Just About Enough", and never again achieved the popularity of her first single.
Dubstar's "Stars" was their only song to chart internationally, although they had several smaller hits in their home country.
East Beat Syndicate released a total of two singles, and only "Love Transmission" managed to chart anywhere or was remembered by anyone; the follow-up, "1000 Nights and One", languished in obscurity.
Ondina's "Summer of Love". Her previous single, "Into the Night", is mostly forgotten.
Belgian singer Lara Fabian only cracked the Top 40 once with "I Will Love Again", which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, and No. 32 on the Hot 100. However, "Love By Grace" became a classic in Brazil.
Havana Brown released a remix of her song "We Run the Night" with Pitbull in 2011, which reached #26 in the US and #1 on the US dance charts. Nothing else she's done has touched any North American chart, although she remains moderately successful in her native Australia.
Icona Pop had a massive hit in 2012/2013 with "I Love It". Their follow-up singles weren't particularly successful in their native Sweden, let alone the U.S.
Although she has sung numerous Eurobeat songs under other aliases, Ann Lee (Annerly Gordon) only had one international Top 10 hit: "2 Times". Her only other charting single was "Voices", which peaked at #6 in Spain.
Alexandra Stan had a #21 hit in 2011 with "Mr. Saxobeat". Her most recent hit outside that song was a #37 track in Italy that same year.
Edward Maya reached #16 with "Stereo Love". Other than that, he's had absolutely no U.S. hits. In fact, he's hardly had any other hits worldwide.
Crush: "Jellyhead" (specifically the dance remix) was one of only two singles to make the charts in either the UK or US, and their only charter in the latter country. Even then, it barely qualifies as a hit, reaching #50 on the UK Singles Chart and #43 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi Singles Sales Chart.
Wild Cherry: "Play That Funky Music" is the only thing anyone remembers them for. That, and having a white singer (Rob Parissi) who sounded incredibly black. Although they just missed the top 40 with a "Play That Funky Music" rewrite called "Baby Don'cha Know," right down to the subject matter (the refrain went, "Baby, don'cha know that the honky's got soul?").
Can you name a single song made by Carl Douglas? Other than "Kung Fu Fighting"? His hit was originally going to be "I Want to Give You My Everything", with "Kung Fu Fighting" being recorded as a B-side. The owner of Pye Records reportedly insisted that the latter instead be placed on the A-side, and the rest is history. After "Kung Fu Fighting" finished its run, he invited people to "Dance the Kung Fu," but nobody accepted. He charted in the top 40 a few more times back in the U.K., but is still considered a one-hit wonder there.
Rick Dees & his Cast of Idiots: Dees was a popular radio DJ in Memphis who wrote "Disco Duck," a parodic novelty song about the disco fad. The song was #1 in the US for one week. Dees' follow-up "Dis-Gorilla" only hit #56, and despite one last comeback attempt (1984's "Eat My Shorts," a few years before the Simpsons were introduced), he stuck with radio, where's he's done pretty well for himself in the ensuing years, and now hosts a nationally syndicated radio show.
Lipps Inc.: Have they done anything of note besides Funkytown? They've hit the Hot 100 again with "Rock It," but that only made it to #64. They followed up with another single, "Designer Music", but nobody remembers it, and a cover of Ace's "How Long?" charted in a few other countries, but not in America.
Patrick Hernandez is now only remembered for his worldwide hit "Born to Be Alive", and for Madonna being one of his backup dancers.
Kano: "I'm Ready", another one-hitter from the last days of disco, is best known for having been sampled in "Whoomp! (There it Is)" by Tag Team, also a one-hit wonder, and a few other songs. They had a few more hits back in Europe and also pioneered the Italo-disco movement. Strangely enough, "I'm Ready" never charted there.
The Roc Project: - "Never (Past Tense)" cracked the US top 100 in 2003 and nearly made the UK top 40. They had a second single, "Deja Vu", and a full-length album, but never achieved a second hit. Tina Arena, the vocalist on the track, is a one-hit wonder in the U.S. but is big back in Australia.
Forest for the Trees: "Dream" was the only charting single for the solo project for BECK producer Carl Stephenson.
Larissa: "I Do Both Jay and Jane"
K5: "Passion"; they later had the lesser hit "Lift You Up".
Josefine Garline: "The Young Generation", her only single from her sole album of the same name.
M|A|R|R|S: "Pump Up The Volume". This song is especially notable because its the band's only single. They were a one shot collaboration between two bands on the successful British indie label 4AD: Dream Pop duo AR Kane, and the electro-reggae group Colourbox. The song was a massive hit and a major influence on electronic music and sampling in pop music for years to come. The group was only active for about six months in 1987, and aside from the B-side to "Pump Up the Volume", never released another track. Ever. Despite the massive hit, neither Colourbox nor AR Kane had any hits on their own; in fact, neither bothered to capitalize on the fame at all: Colourbox split up immediately after "Pump Up the Volume" came out, and AR Kane left 4AD after a couple singles, finishing their career on Rough Trade Records.
Precious: "Precious Little Fantasy", which interpolated the riff from Kraftwerk's "Computer World".
Bomfunk MC's - "Freestyler". Their earlier song "B-Boys and Flygirls" was a hit in some countries, but never reached the heights that "Freestyler" got to. In the UK, "Uprocking Beats" made it to #11.
Yello: "Oh Yeah" was their only charting single in the US, although "The Race" reached No. 7 in the UK.
Meshuggah fans will name many better songs, but the one song of theirs everyone with an interest in metal knows is "Bleed". This may be that it's one of their few songs which is in 4/4 time signature. It has over 4 million views on YouTube - a number near-unprecedented for metal in general, doubly so for such a deliberately exclusive band - and iTunes lists it as their most popular song, significantly more so than any on the album it promoted and dramatically more than other songs. Don't expect them to ever repeat this.
Ralph McTell is only known for his song "Streets of London," as shown here. His follow up "Dreams of You" cracked the top 40 a year later, but stalled at #36.
Although Fairport Convention'sLiege and Lief has been described as the most influential folk album of all time, their only single to chart was "Si Tu Dois Partir." This French-language cover of "If You Gotta Go (Go Now)" by Bob Dylan spent nine weeks in the UK singles chart in 1969, peaking at #21.
Peter Sarstedt, with "Where Do You Go To, My Lovely" in 1969, as shown here. Follow-up "Frozen Orange Juice" did crack the top 10 later that year, but was not the hit its predecessor was.
"Part of the Union" by The Strawbs was one of the biggest UK singles in 1973, and a UK no. 2. It is also a definite Black Sheep Hit, and despite the fact that "Lay Down" nearly hit the top 10 a few months earlier, a major crisis led to two departures in the band. However, they weathered the storm, and are still gigging and recording 35 years and 30 albums later.
The Lumineers 2012 hit "Ho Hey" reached #3 in the U.S. Their first followup reached #70, and none of their other songs charted at all.
Technically, The Ides of March are a one-hit wonder with their 1970 hit "Vehicle" (#2), but in Chicago, they had other hits on local radio ("You Wouldn't Listen", "Superman", "L.A. Goodbye").
The Ides of March's lead singer and main songwriter (Jim Peterik) later joined Survivor.
The Time are another example of a band whose best known song wasn't their highest charting hit. They are best known for "Jungle Love," a #20 hit from 1984 that has been used in many movies to this day. However, their biggest hit was actually 1990's "Jerk Out", which hit #9.
The Kingsmen, and their famous cover version of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie". They had three top-40 follow-ups: 1964's "Money" and "Death of An Angel," and 1965's top 10 "The Jolly Green Giant." Oldies radio has forgotten all about these, though, so the group is widely considered to be a one-hit wonder.
Ram Jam, known pretty much only for their version of "Black Betty."
"Easy Livin'" was the only Uriah Heep song that became a Top 40 hit in America, and even then it only reached #39, although "Stealin'" also received quite a bit of album-rock airplay and topped the New Zealand singles chart.
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony has had a lot of Hip-Hop hits, in fact enough to create a 2 disc greatest hits album. Yet radio and music video outlets only wants to play "Tha Crossroads". Even when they're trying to promote new material programmers only want them to perform "Tha Crossroads".
Think about any song in this genre that tried to introduce a new dance. Eight times out of ten the artists who made those songs are One Hit Wonders.
MC Hammer had six top 40 hits in his career, five of which went top 10 . However, five of the six songs are almost completely forgotten. Guess which one isn't? Yup, it's "U Can't Touch This." Interestingly enough, it was the lowest-peaking of the five top 10 hits he had (it only hit #8). This is mostly because "U Can't Touch This" was only released in the form of a rare 12-inch single, because Capitol Records was afraid that a single release would hurt his album sales. In all honesty, it was robbed of a well-deserved number-one spot.
Also, Vanilla Ice had two top 10 hits, "Ice Ice Baby" and "Play That Funky Music." Today, people are only familiar with the former, likely because of the lawsuit by Wild Cherry that destroyed his career.
Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" was a number one hit. His only other top 40 hit was "Good Morning", which only reached 40.
Spose: In 2010, "I'm Awesome" became a surprise hit for this little-known rapper. The follow up "We Hate Money" didn't chart anywhere.
Rap Metal band Crazy Town had a number one hit in the US with "Butterfly". It was also their only single ever to reach the Billboard Top 100.
Static Major's only hit came from singing the chorus of Lil Wayne's "Lollipop". This was not in his control because died before the song was even released. Rock band Framing Hanley's cover of it is also pretty much the only thing they're known for as well.
Static Major was also a member of the R&B group Playa, who had a single top 40 hit in their repertoire as well, that song being "Cheers 2 U."
Fort Minor, the hip-hop side project of Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, is an interesting case. Their one hit was "Where'd You Go," which went Top 5, but they are far better remembered for the follow-up "Remember the Name" (which ironically no one remembers who sings it), which did not make the top 40, but has been used in countless movies and became something of a sports anthem.
"Come On & Ride It (The Train)" by The Quad City DJ's. They had another top 40 hit with the Space Jam theme, and it is fondly remembered, but more as a song from a movie than as a hit.
House of Pain only had one Top 40 hit in the US, "Jump Around" (they did manage four other Top 40 hits in the UK). Group member Everlast managed to be a one-hit wonder twice over, as he also achieved only one Top 40 hit in his solo career, "What It's Like". While it was nowhere near as big as "Jump Around" was, he managed to have a few other minor hits on the alternative charts, which are probably better remembered today than any of House of Pain's other songs.
Most people who know of April March are only familiar with the song "Chick Habit," aka "The High-Pitched End Credits Song From Death Proof". She's actually released a number of albums, and is quite popular in France.
The Folk Implosion, a side project of Sebadoh/Dinosaur Jr. member Lou Barlow, managed a #29 entry on the Hot 100 in 1995 with "Natural One", from the film Kids. As a Lo Fi band with a somewhat non commercial sound, its not quite surprising that aside from this Black Sheep Hit, they never troubled the pop charts again. In fact, they never even hit the Alternative charts afterwards.
In 2012, Gotye had a massive hit with "Somebody That I Used To Know." It was the biggest song of the year, but nothing else came even close. In fact, in almost no country has a Gotye song not named "Somebody That I Used To Know" appear on a national chart. Due to being completely left-field, it is unlikely he will ever have another major hit again. That being said, his albums have sold well and he does have a few other well-known songs, such as "Heart's A Mess".
The same could be said for his song partner Kimbra, really.
Foster The People had a surprise hit in 2011 with "Pumped Up Kicks." Because indie-pop songs rarely ever became major crossover hits at the time, they, like Gotye, were seen to be too left-field to score a second hit. They've had a couple of more hits on the alternative charts, but haven't done anything on a national chart since "Kicks."
Alex Clare seems to be heading in this direction with his hit "Too Close." The song only became popular because of an Internet Explorer commercial, and his album didn't sell very strongly, leaving his career in the dust. He did lend his vocals to the moderately successful Rudimental track "Not Giving In" and the UK top 10 "Endorphins" by Sub Focus. As far as his own songs go, he hasn't charted since.
Although they're very well-known among fans of British indie rock, with a few fairly recognizable songs such as "Recover", The Automatic are mostly known to the general public for their one smash hit, "Monster" and were universally considered a One-Hit Wonder until "Steve McQueen" came out a few years later.
Dave Brubeck, with Take Five. He is well known in Jazz circles for other of his songs as well, but Take Five has become his signature song.
For 12 years, PSY has been one of the most popular musicians in South Korea, with such hits as "Bird," "Right Now," and "Champion." Overseas, he is best known for his smash hit song from 2012, "Gangnam Style," and pretty much nothing else. Although its 2013 followup "Gentleman" was a #5 hit on Billboard, it fell quickly, and it's very unlikely that PSY will ever be known for anything else given the massively memetic nature of "Gangnam Style".
Even among American K-Pop fans, PSY was not very popular before "Gangnam Style" came out, compared to such acts as Girls' Generation or Super Junior, but of course, most non-Koreans can't name another song from the entire genre, let alone anything else PSY made.
Quite possibly the quintessential One-Hit Wonder is Los del Rio, who you know as the duo who released the scourge on humanity known as the "Macarena" and absolutely nothing else.
Additionally, it's not the original version that we all know and love. The well-known version is actually a remix by the Bayside Boys, probably because it added English lyrics. The original version of the song also charted on the Hot 100, peaking at #23. A third version of "Macarena", called "Macarena Christmas" also hit the Hot 100 and went top 5 in Australia.
Los del Rio has been well known in flamenco music before and after "Macarena," but has had no interest in making another pop hit.
There was also a cover version by Los del Mar at the same time, which proved to be their only hit.
"Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys. They had two more minor chart entries on the AC and Adult top 40 charts, but "Heaven" will forever be the only song most will recognize them by. The corresponding album is also one of the more notable 21st-century aversions of the Loudness War.
Son By Four - A popular Puerto Rican salsa group, their only hit in the English-speaking world was the top 40 "Purest Of Pain," a remake of their Spanish song "A Puro Dolor."
In 1999, German producer Lou Bega added word to mambo standard "Mambo No. 5" with later hit #3 in the US and spent 20 weeks at #1 in France
Dexys are one of the prime examples of a group being very well known in their homeland but considered one hit wonders elsewhere. Other British groups this applies to include Status Quo, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Right Said Fred, Take That, BB Mak, and The Verve. Oasis is an exception. While they only had one big hit in America ("Wonderwall"), and it is hands down their best-known song, they have always been very well-known there and are never considered one-hit wonders.
And to The Knack and their debut single from 1979, "My Sharona". The follow-up single "Good Girls Don't" just missed the top 10, and "Baby Talks Dirty" also reached the top 40. Still, who remembers the other two songs?
The Boomtown Rats had a number of hits in the UK but are only known in the US for "I Don't Like Mondays".
And for having Bob Geldof in them.
Technically a NO hit wonder in the US, as "I Don’t Like Mondays" didn't even crack the top 40.
The Vapours had an international hit with "Turning Japanese" but no fanbase back home to build on. Never heard from again. Their song "Jimmie Jones" cracked the top 40 of the Mainstream Rock charts in 1981, and proved to be their only hit on that chart, as the chart didn't exist when "Turning Japanese" peaked.
They did have two other U.S. hits - "Wishing (I Had a Photograph of You)" and "Space Age Love Song", but "I Ran" tends to overshadow them both.
"Wishing" is technically their only hit in the UK, though "I Ran" seems quite well known too.
Men Without Hats had "The Safety Dance," an entirely awesome song that remains their only real impression in music history.
They also had a top 20 hit in the US with "Pop Goes the World," which was never as famous as their biggest hit.
"Maniac" by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack.
It's notable that its cover version/remix by Mark McCabe was also a one hit wonder.
As for Sembello himself, he technically had a second top 40 hit with "Automatic Man".
Beyond that, the only other well-known stuff he did was scoring and contributing soundtracks for Gremlins, Cocoon, The Monster Squad... and Independence Day! Okay, maybe not the last one.
Gary Numan is often considered to be an archetypal one hit wonder in the United States, for "Cars". In Europe (especially the UK), however, he was one of the most popular recording artists of the late 70's and early-to-mid 80's. One of the few American Gary Numan superfans in the 80's was Trent Reznor, who credits Numan as a massive influence for Nine Inch Nails.
Paul Hardcastle's "19", although he also had the sleeper hit "Rain Forest". In the UK, he had a second top 10 hit with "Don't Waste My Time" and everyone knows "The Wizard" from its use as theme for Top of the Pops.
Toni Basil's"Mickey". Hit #1 in December 1982, and she never charted in the top 40 again. The songs "Over My Head" and "Suspense" were top 10 dance hits, but "Mickey" was still her most successful song there.
In 1983, Matthew Wilder had a New Wave/Synthpop song which topped out at number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 entitled "Break My Stride". No other song released by him ever came that close to the top. However, another song of his, called "The Kid's American" did reach the top 40.
The Flying Lizards had a sort of hit (#5 in the UK, #50 in the US) with their baffling, stripped-down, nearly emotionless cover of "Money (That's What I Want)" in 1979.
The landscape of Canadian music is littered with the corpses of barely-remembered new wave acts from the 80's:
Blue Peter's one and only hit, "Don't Walk Past" (released on their second and final full album), was played on MTV in its heyday, garnered a few Canadian music awards and resulted in the group touring as an opening act for The Police. More than twenty years later, the group only gets together a few times a year to play local gigs in Toronto, where "Don't Walk Past" is the opening number.
Martha and the Muffins had a massive hit with the quintessential "Echo Beach" in 1980. They had a number of other singles and a few big hits in Canada (although none as big as "Echo Beach"), but were hardly heard from in the rest of the world. The song "Black Stations/White Stations" charted in both the UK and the US (and was their only Hot 100 hit there), getting up to #2 on the Dance charts, but it never hit the top 10 in any international market.
The Payolas, a Vancouver-based new wave group, had a bonafide hit with "Eyes of a Stranger", which appeared on the soundtrack to 1983's "Valley Girl", reached the top of the charts in Canada and hit the Top 25 U.S. Mainstream Rock Singles. Their second single, "Never Said I Love You", reached the Top 10 in Canada, but failed to chart anywhere else.
A reworked version of the band, renamed Rock and Hyde, had another hit with "Dirty Water", which cracked the Top 20 in Canada and hit #6 on the U.S. rock charts, but again, their output afterwards failed to chart.
The Toronto-based rock group Toronto (whose band members all hail from...Toronto) had their one and only hit single with "Your Daddy Don't Know", which reached the Canadian Top 5 singles. The only reason it garnered any sort of awareness in recent years was due to The New Pornographers covering it for the soundtrack to FUBAR. Toronto had a few other minor hits including "Start Tellin' The Truth" and "Girls Night Out", but never again hit the top 10 nor the US Hot 100.
"Genius of Love" was the Tom Tom Club's only Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hit. They were formed out of former members of the Talking Heads. Interestingly, back home in the UK, "Genius of Love" never made it past #65, but they reached the top 10 with “Wordy Rappinghood.” They did have a second top 40 hit in the UK with "Under The Boardwalk," but that missed the top 20. "Under The Boardwalk," however, was their only top 10 New Zealand hit, despite the former two songs both having gone top 40 there. So, that means Tom Tom Club could be considered one hit wonders three times. Interestingly, "Genius of Love," the only song that is officially a one-hit wonder, is probably the best remembered because of Mariah Carey.
Another band to be a one hit wonder on both sides of the Atlantic with different songs: Icicle Works. “Love Is a Wonderful Colour” was their UK hit, while “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” was the song that charted in the US, and is the better-remembered of the two, despite its US peak (#37) being well below "Love Is a Wonderful Colour"'s UK peak (#15).
Peter Schilling reached #1 in 4 countries with "Major Tom (Coming Home)" and the song is still played on radio in the United States, but afterwards he largely faded from the limelight outside of Germany, though he continues to release albums. His song "The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)" was a Swedish top 10 hit and also hit the Hot 100, but failed to go top 40.
New York based band Industry only had one album and were known for their only hit, "State of the Nation", which topped the charts in Italy and went Top 10 in Sweden, but only made #80 in the US. Once the band disbanded, its keyboardist Jon Carin became a member of the post-1987 version of Pink Floyd.
German New Wave duo Bruce & Bongo topped the German and Austrian charts in 1986 while going top 10 in Italy and Switzerland with their bizarre novelty song "Geil". They tried to repeat this feat with "Hi Ho", a cover of "Heigh Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to no avail, despite a #29 placing in Germany.
There are quite a lot of examples of this in the UK:
Modern Talking only had one top 40 hit in the UK, the #4 "Brother Louie." They were far more successful in continental Europe.
Scottish New Wave group Fiction Factory hit #6 in 1984 with "(Feels Like) Heaven" but couldn't go top 40 ever again.
Strawberry Switchblade went top 5 with "Since Yesterday," then completely vanished afterwards.
Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie cracked the top 40 in 1989 with "The Rattler", hitting #37. While they never hit the top 40 again, keyboardist Shirley Manson would go on to have major success with Garbage.
Orange Juice hit #8 in 1983 with "Rip It Up." Follow-up "Flesh of my Flesh" just missed the top 40, stalling at 41. Frontman Edwyn Collins would go on to have a hit of his own in 1996 with "A Girl Like You" from Empire Records. It hit #4 in the UK, #32 in the US, and topped the charts in Belgium.
Interestingly British Wang Chung was this in their home country with "Dance Hall Days", but are not in the US where they had 4 other hits, including "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," which is probably much better known there than "Dance Hall Days" is.
M scored a #1 hit with "Pop Muzik" late in 1979. Nothing else made the Top 200 and the only other British hit they had was #33 with "Moonlight and Muzak," although another single peaking at #15 in 1989 was just a remix of "Pop Muzik."
O-Zone had one very, very successful song: "Dragostea Din Tei" (aka the numa-numa song). The band would dissolve soon after this song topped the lists. However, they were quite popular in their native Romania.
In a few countries, they did have a second hit, "Despre Tine." However, they will always be remembered for that song that a fat guy lip synced to.
Kajagoogoo, with "Too Shy". A Saturday Night Live skit poked fun at their one-hit wonder status when the band is said to have released a greatest hits album containing only the one song.
Might be true in the US, though they had four top 20 hits (three of them top 10) in their native Britain.
In both countries, the lead singer Chris "Limahl" Hamill had a hit with the "Never Ending Story" theme. He had another minor UK hit with 1983's "Only For Love," but it didn't come close to the heights of "Never Ending Story."
Meja - "All 'Bout The Money", although "I'm Missin' You" gets some airplay in the Philippines, and she was featured in Ricky Martin's "Private Emotion".
A great many girl and boy bands from the late 90's:
She Moves - "Breaking All The Rules" cracked the top 40 in 1997. A cover of Tim McGraw's duet with Faith Hill, "It's Your Love," stalled in the 60s.
Bosson - "We Live." This Swedish singer had some more hits back in Sweden, including the big European hit "One in a Million," but never did anything in the US after "We Live".
React - "Let's Go All The Way." Member Tim Cruz later joined the boy band B3, who had a few hits in Austria and Germany, the biggest being a cover of the Bee Gees' "I.O.I.O."
EYC - "This Thing Called Love." The group had a few more hits in the UK.
The Connells, with "'74-'75". They had a few hits on the U.S. Modern Rock chart, but none of them were "'74-'75".
David Naughton might just be considered a one-hit wonder in two different genres. He sang the theme song to his short-lived TV series "Makin' It", which reached #5 in 1979. Then he starred in An American Werewolf in London in 1981, which still remains his best known role.
Hedgehoppers Anonymous, a band mostly consisting of RAF members, hit #5 in the U.K. with "It's Good News Week" in 1965; the song also charted in some local U.S. markets.
Technically, "Run With Us" does not qualify as a pop hit even in Canada (it only reached #69 on the main singles chart), though it did reach the Top 10 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Don Williams: On the pop charts, definitely a One-Hit Wonder (1980's "I Believe in You"). On the country charts, definitely not (over 50 charted hits, with 17 of them hitting #1).
Evan and Jaron with "Crazy for This Girl". Jaron Lowenstein, one-half of the duo, became a one-hit wonder in his own right in 2010 with the country-pop crossover "Pray for You" (credited to Jaron and the Long Road to Love). Jaron even calls himself a "one-hit wonder twice" on his own Twitter page.
Singer Tony Burrows had more than one hit, thanks to singing lead with a multitude of studio-only groups that each had just one top 40 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. His biggest hits were "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" (Edison Lighthouse, 1970), "My Baby Loves Lovin'" (White Plains, 1970), "Gimmie Dat Ding" (The Pipkins, 1970) and "Beach Baby" (First Class, 1974). (He sang lead vocals on another song, "United We Stand" by the Brotherhood of Man in 1970, but that act had another top 40 hit in the U.S. six years later, but that was without Burrows). That means that Burrows was a one hit wonder four (or five) times! In fact, all of the 1970 hits charted within three months of each other!
Minnie Riperton, a female R&B vocalist best known for her extreme vocal range, had her only hit with "Lovin' You" in 1975. Her impressive vocal skills were displayed on many other songs, but she never had another top 40 hit on any chart, and she died of cancer in 1979. She managed to have a few more hits on the R&B charts, including three which became hits after she died, but never hit the pop top 40 again.
Similarly, legendary Mexican singer Selena had just one English hit with "Dreaming of You" in 1995, the same year she was tragically murdered. Her song "I Could Fall In Love" was a radio hit before "Dreaming of You," but wasn't eligible for the Hot 100 due to not being released as a single.
Exile actually subverted this: while they only had one big pop hit with "Kiss You All Over" in 1978 (and a #40 with "You Thrill Me"), they Re Tooled as a country music band in the 1980s. They had a pretty good streak (including ten #1 hits at country radio) until lead singer J.P. Pennington left in 1989. They had two more Top 10 hits at country without him, but their career came to a screeching halt afterward.
The pop surge of the late 90's led to many failed Canadian pop groups, none of which had the clout or longevity to outlast their debut albums:
B4-4 had a huge hit single in the summer of 2000 with "Get Down", a thinly-veiled ode to oral sex. The single peaked at #4 on the Canadian pop charts, but their next single, "Go Go", didn't even crack the top 20. They released one more album in 2003 before calling it quits.
The Boomtang Boys, whose sole hit "Squeeze Toy" (a thinly-veiled self-pleasure metaphor) was the only one to crack the Top 10 Canadian singles chart. The song "Movin' On" topped the Canadian Singles Chart in 2002, but by then, record sales have greatly fallen and the chart was barely credible.
Bratt Pack only had one Top 10 hit with "Carousel" in Canada, which was regarded by many as the unofficial anthem of 2000 due to its ubiquitous airings on Muchmusic. Their follow-up single, "Senorita", barely cracked the Canadian charts, and they broke up soon after.
Distinct Nature, ironically, fell apart after a decade of working together because of the success of their only hit single, "Human", based on the Human League song of the same name. Their next two singles bombed, and the group was released by their label, Hi-Bias Records, immediately thereafter.
11:30, a Montreal dance-pop duo featuring a pair of twin sisters, had a #10 hit in 2000 with "Olé Olé".
Identically Different, whose album charted at the top of the Canadian charts with the single "Busted". Disappeared from the face of the earth soon after.
McMaster and James' self-titled album had one single, "Thank You", which received several awards and cracked the Canadian Top 10 singles chart, but the bankruptcy of BMG in 2001 and fading exposure led to the duo parting ways.
The Moffatts are a borderline case. They were heralded as Canada's answer to the Backstreet Boys (regardless of the fact that - unlike BSB - they played their own instruments and wrote their own songs), but they only had one #1 single with "Bang Bang Boom" from their 2000 album Submodalities (along with a top-five hit, "I'll Be There for You"). The band broke up soon after the album was released, with the members citing unfair comparisons to other teen pop groups. Today, they're more or less seen as a punchline to the pop deluge from the late 90's. The Moffatts had a few other hits outside of Canada, such as the UK top 20 "Miss You Like Crazy", but none of them were really that massive.
Out Of Your Mouth - This Calgary-based rock band had a Canadian top 40 hit with their cover of Madonna's "Music." They never came close to those heights again. Frontman Jason Darr formed the group Neurosonic, who had a minor rock radio hit in 2008 with "So Many People."
SoulDecision had their one and only hit with 1999's "Faded", which reached the top of the Canadian singles chart and became a major American hit the next year. After two other top 20 hits, a lack of support from the Canadian music industry killed their follow-up, Shady Satin Drug, and they disbanded soon afterwards.
Former lead singer Trevor Guthrie's solo career had a resurgence in 2013, after he was featured as a guest vocalist on Armin van Buuren's song "This Is What It Feels Like", which cracked the Top 10 on both the Canada and U.S. dance charts. Considering that he only stepped out of virtual anonymity after nearly 15 years to appear in it, it remains to be seen if he'll do anything else.
Voices in Public had a #1 Canadian hit with "Just My Luck" in 2001 before falling off the radar. Their post-single output was singing "Oh Canada" at baseball games and releasing a Christmas album in 2004.
The American Idol ripoff Canadian reality series Popstars produced several pop groups, who immediately crashed and burned after their debut singles due to mismanagement from their production company and waning public interest. Sugar Jones, an all-female pop group formed at the end of the first season, had one #1 single, "Days Like That", and a second single ("How Much Longer") that never charted. Season 2's Velvet Empire died a quick death after their #1 single "Frontin' On Me", as their album sales tanked and the group disbanded.
Canadian Idol hasn't had much success with its contestants either.
Season 1 winner Ryan Malcolm, for example, sent his first hit, "Something More," to the top of the charts. His follow up "Star of All the Planets," never made it past #79. He hasn't done that badly with his group Low Level Flight, however. Runner-up Gary Beals also had only one hit with "Summer Nights".
Season 5's Brian Melo also had only one major hit, "All I Ever Wanted," which fell short of the top 10.
Season 6's Theo Tams only had one big hit to his name: "Sing". He never made it past 63 afterwards, but become popular on the AC charts.
The Casinos, a doo-wop group, had a big hit with "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" in 1967, well after the end of the doo-wop era. After only one more low-charting single, they disbanded. The song was later covered by Eddy Arnold, Glen Campbell (as part of a medley with Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love"), Toby Beau, and Neal McCoy.
Jennifer Paige, who had a hit song with "Crush."
Ké, who topped the charts in the UK, Germany and Italy with his "Strange World" (1996), never had another successful song. He's most remembered for the video where he stripsin a toilet.
Every British boy band not named One Direction has become a one hit wonder in the U.S.
Westlife had a minor top 40 hit in 2000 with "Swear It Again," but with Backstreet Boys/NSYNC mania still in full swing, Americans never connected, and they had no success afterwards.
Five's "When the Lights Go Out" became a top 10 hit back in 1998. Back home, Five were never as popular as Take That or Westlife, so their lack of American success is more understandable.
The Wanted's "Glad You Came" became a massive hit in 2012. They were destined to great American success...but then came One Direction, and almost the entire population of American teenage girls favored the latter, rendering The Wanted's popularity Stateside almost nonexistent a few months later. Their album flopped hard when it was released that April, and follow-up singles went absolutely nowhere.
An unusual pop hit in 1983 was "I Couldn't Say No", a duet between Robert Ellis Orrall and Carlene Carter. The former was a rock singer from Boston; the latter, the daughter of country singers June Carter and Carl Smith (June Carter later married Johnny Cash). Both had a couple rock albums out at that point, but "I Couldn't Say No" represented their only chart hit for many years. Orrall later went on to have two minor hits at country radio in 1993 before giving it up in favor of alternating between writing country hits for others and releasing indie rock albums. Meanwhile, Carter charted a few country hits between 1990 and 1995 (including three songs that went to #3), seemingly disappeared for 13 years, then put out another album in 2008.
"Sugar, Sugar" was a massive hit in the UK in 1969; it spent eight weeks at number one and a further 23 weeks in the Top 40, going on to be the biggest selling single of that year. The Archies never troubled the British charts again. In the US, however, they had a few other hits, but even there "Sugar, Sugar" is pretty much the only thing they're remembered for.
Rebecca Black's "Friday" was a massive viral sensation in 2011 (which didn't actually chart high on the Hot 100) , mostly due to all of the negative publicity the song received. That one song irreparably damaged her career before it even got started. The follow-up, hit "My Moment" gained a lot of hype at first similar to the hype that "Gentleman" would get two years later. The song was completely forgotten in about two weeks, and follow-ups garnered almost no attention. Today, she is remembered for one song, and one song only: "Friday."
Rick Astley was huge back in the late 1980s and is not a one-hit wonder, having two number-one hits and many other top 10 songs. Despite all of that, he is often considered a one hit wonder for his first hit "Never Gonna Give You Up," due to its re-entry into pop culture through the Rickrollingphenomenon.
Though Todd in the Shadows stated that he doesn't consider Astley a one-hit wonder and refused to a One Hit Wonderland segment on him.
Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" was a number-one hit in late 1969, but they never again hit the top 40. Justified, as Steam was never a band to begin with, and was just a name slapped onto a recording by three studio musicians who didn't bother crediting themselves because they viewed it as a throwaway novelty song. After the song was a success, member Paul Leka formed a touring Steam group.
The Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine," a song about a street musician who plays for money. It not only became the Pipers' only number-one hit, not only was it the first number-one hit for the Buddah Records label, but it was the first bubblegum chart topper in history! Follow-ups "Rice is Nice" and "Jelly Jungle" flopped, and less than a year later, they broke up. Bill Barlett would become a one-hit wonder twice, as he was the guitarist for Ram Jam ("Black Betty").
Interestingly enough, the song that "Green Tambourine" replaced at the top of the charts, "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" by John Fred and his Playboy Band, is another example of a one-hit wonder. The song, which was inspired by a misheard lyric in The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," was about girls who wore large sunglasses on the beach. Ironically, it replaced the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" on top of the charts.
Like Astley, Haddaway produced several hit songs, but is now known as "that guy who made What Is Love" due to its Rickroll-esque memetic status. However, it actually was his only hit in the United States, while Astley followed up with many more hits. He had two more minor in the States with "Life" and "Rock My Heart", but neither reached the top 40, but few people remember those songs now worldwide, let alone in the U.S..
Sheb Wooley, better known as an actor in westerns such as Rawhide, probably isn't an example as he had a number of top 40 hits on the country charts including a #1 hit and another one that reached the top 10. However, he had only one song (not a country song) break into the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100—"Purple People Eater", a #1 hit in 1958.
A Touch of Class' song "Around the World (La La La La La)" was ridiculously popular when it came out in 2000, was number one on the hit lists for longer than most other European pop songs and is still quite well-recognized. The band had two other songs who did well enough, but only for a short time (they are not generally recognized nowadays) and not at all good compared to Around the World - "My Heart Beats Like a Drum (Dam Dam Dam)" and "I'm in Heaven (When You Kiss Me)". Their other singles had very little popularity which was one of the reasons they split up after only four years.
Everything but the Girl - They've had plenty of hits in the UK, but non-Brits would have a hard time naming anything they've done besides "Missing." To make matters worse, the hit was just a dance remix of the song that sounded nothing like they usually do.
Hoku, the daughter of noted Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho, hit #27 in 2000 with "Another Dumb Blonde" from the movie Snow Day. Keep in mind that she's also well-known for "Perfect Day," which appeared in the movie Legally Blonde and was memorably used in JCPenney and Beaches Resorts commercial campaigns. However, it didn't chart on the Hot 100.
The Click Five, a boyband who had just one hit in 2005 with their song "Just the Girl" before they disappeared into obscurity. However, they did manage to garner an unlikely huge fanbase in Southeast Asia.
The Jonas Brothers are not a one-hit wonder, but their top 5 hit "Burning Up" features a rap by their bodyguard Big Rob. Rob appears on some of their other songs, but none of those charted.
Nick Lachey, the Breakup Breakout of Ninety Eight Degrees and former husband of Jessica Simpson wrote about his breakup resulting in the single "What's Left of Me". It reached the top 10 but he never had another hit and has all but abandoned music in favor of hosting game shows.
Breathe Carolina managed a crossover hit with "Blackout" in 2011. Nothing else they've ever done has touched any chart.
John Farnham is one of Australia's most popular pop artists, and in fact has the highest-selling album in Australian history. But worldwide, he only seems to be known for "You're the Voice". He's technically a No Hit Wonder in the US, as "You're the Voice" didn't even crack the top 40 there.
Most of the time, movie composers do not get hits, but it happened to A. R. Rahman when his hit song from Slumdog Millionaire "Jai Ho" was remixed by The Pussycat Dolls into the song "Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)." Rahman's original version, however, was not a hit.
Nepotism remains a way to get a hit in the music business. This is what happened to Metro Station, the band featuring Miley Cyrus's half brother Trace Cyrus. (Additionally, Trace is the stepson of Billy Ray Cyrus and frontman Mason Musso is the brother of Mitchel Musso, but it was obviously the Miley connection that brought them to fame.) They had a hit with 2008's "Shake It", but their followup single "Seventeen Forever" only peaked at #42 before they disbanded.
Natalie Gauci won the 2007 season of "Australian Idol." Her debut single "Here I Am" hit #2 on the charts, but nothing else ever charted for her.
Jermaine Stewart - "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off". He had a few other hits in the UK and on the R&B charts, the biggest being 1987's "Say It Again", but the former was his only major success in America.
Hot Chelle Rae actually had two hits on the Hot 100: "Tonight Tonight" and "I Like It Like That", featuring New Boyz, but only the former seems to be remembered by anyone. They, like Metro Station above, have nepotism in their genes: two members are sons of country songwriter Keith Follesé; one is a son of country and Christian singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet (and by extension, brother of Glee cast member Chord Overstreet); and the fourth, a son of Christian guitarist Phil Keaggy, left in 2013.
Canada's Carly Rae Jepsen has actually had three Hot 100 hits (not counting "Good Time", her collaboration with Owl City), but "Call Me Maybe" is the only one to crack the top 40 (and was an enormous megahit as well) and, even if "Good Time" is counted, the only one that anybody remembers.
Owl City had only one solo hit as well with 2009's "Fireflies." He is usually considered a one hit wonder as well, despite "Good Time"'s success.
Outasight had a hit in 2011/2012 with "Tonight Is the Night". Nothing else from him ever really caught on.
Taylor Hicks, season 5 winner of American Idol, had a #1 hit with his coronation single "Do I Make You Proud", which was never even put on an album. He recorded two albums, and had a couple minor AC hits, but has not been actively recording since 2009.
I expect you all know the song "Bad Day". You probably even know all the lyrics. But do you know the name of the guy who sings it? It's Daniel Powter, by the way. He was even named "One-Hit Wonder of the Decade" by Billboard! He had one other top 10 hit in Canada ("Love You Lately", which actually charted higher than "Bad Day"), but other than that, nothing.
James Blunt is very popular in his native U.K. Across the pond, his only major success came from the 2005 ballad "You're Beautiful."
Bama was a session group from Alabama composed of Ken Bell, Terry Skinner, and J. L. Wallace. Although their lone hit, "Touch Me When We're Dancing", was not a huge success (it only got to #86 in 1979), it was later huge in separate versions by Carpenters (1981) and Alabama (1986). Bell, Skinner, and Wallace wrote Air Supply's 1982 hit "Even the Nights Are Better", and later went on to become somewhat successful songwriters in Country Music.
New Radicals released one album and managed one hit single, "You Get What You Give," before they promptly broke up. Band leader Gregg Alexander (and Face of the Band) announced he was content with his one hit and went on to produce an album for Hanson.
Another version is that Gregg Alexander was getting frustrated by the fact that no one would play any other singles chosen by the band, and broke it up to avoid becoming a one hit wonder. Which then solidified the band's reputation as a one hit wonder for delicious irony.
Their second single, "Someday We'll Know", had minor success, but they're usually considered a "one hit" instead of "two hit".
That's probably because the version of "Someday We'll Know" sung by Mandy Moore and Jonathan Foreman, made for the A Walk to Remember soundtrack is more well-known.
Many people mistakenly believe the 1960s band The Turtles were a one-hit wonder, with "Happy Together", but in fact they charted in the top 10 five times during their career.
Same thing with Survivor. "Eye of the Tiger" is the one everyone remembers, but the band actually hit the US top 10 a total of five times in their career.
Nena's "99 Luftballons", also known in English as "99 Red Balloons". In Germany, mind you, she's still rather successful, but that was the only time she ever broke into international success.
The remake of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" as an English-German duet with Kim Wilde was a hit in various European countries, reaching the Number 1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and Number 2 in Belgium, in 2003.
"I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow. Surprisingly, it was never a top 40 hit in the U.S;
"The One and Only" by Chesney Hawkes, although he's made several attempts at a comeback since.
In the UK, he did have one other top 40 hit shortly after "The One and Only," entitled "I'm A Man, Not A Boy." It peaked at #27.
Joan Osborne, "One of Us" (not "What If God Was One Of Us"). It was a massive hit in 1996, but follow up "St. Teresa" went nowhere, despite cracking the New Zealand and UK top 40.
The infamous "Who Let the Dogs Out" by Baha Men. "You All Dat" and "Move It Like This" were moderate hits in some countries, but neither song ever reached the height of their first hit.
Despite a long, critically acclaimed but otherwise commercially unsuccessful career, Power Pop group Fountains of Wayne have to yet to match the success of their 2003 #21 hit single, "Stacy's Mom" (which provides the trope of the same name).
They did have two minor alternative hits before "Stacy's Mom". However, not only was that their only song to chart on the pop charts. It's their last song to chart on any chart.
Nine Days never managed to match the success of "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)", due to Executive Meddling causing them to leave their label.
The Calling had a massive pop-rock smash in 2001 called "Wherever You Will Go." While "Adrienne" and "Our Lives" were also able to chart, neither song lived up to the success of "Wherever." Frontman Alex Band was lucky enough to have a second hit, as he appeared on the version of Santana's "Why Don't You And I" played by most radio stations.
Tommy Tutone are remembered for one of the catchiest songs of the '80s: "867-5309/Jenny." Since it was viewed as a novelty song, the public didn't accept them as a hot new band. Interestingly enough, in 1980, their song "Angel Say No" hit #38, which technically disqualifies them as one-hit wonders, but in terms of pop culture does not.
Vertical Horizon may have had a sizable hit with "You're A God," but today, they're remembered almost solely for the chart-topping hit "Everything You Want."
A very unique example: Fastball have had only one top 40 hit: 1999's "Out of My Head." However, they are far, far better remembered for their 1998 hit "The Way," which was never released as a single but was a significantly bigger radio hit than "Out Of My Head" would be. Today, Fastball are remembered almost exclusively for their first hit, and isn't uncommon to see "The Way" in a one-hit wonder retrospective.
Despite her success as an actress, Mandy Moore only had a single top 40 hit with "I Wanna Be With You". (Her first single "Candy" peaked at #41; ironically, it's probably more remembered than "I Wanna Be With You.")
When Michael Jackson died, the footage of his rehearsal for his farewell concert was turned into a documentary. That documentary featured a young Australian woman named Orianthi, who was to be his guitarist. The surge of popularity led have her a hit called "According to You", but her following singles failed because the novelty had worn off.
Dutch group Ten Sharp had a big European hit in 1992 with "You." Unfortunately, the group never took off and further success was limited to the Netherlands.
Duncan Sheik is best known for his massive 1997 hit "Barely Breathing." While he never had another big hit, he had two remixes become dance floor hits, and has become a prolific Broadway songwriter.
OMC had a major worldwide hit in 1995 with "How Bizarre". Aside from a handful of other top 40 hits in their native New Zealand, they never touched the charts again, and fell apart after an argument over royalties.
The Power Ballad "Kayleigh" by Marillion is their only entry on the singles charts in America (even though it still didn't make the top 40). They have had other hits in Europe, but "Kayliegh" is still their best known song. It's a bit of a departure from their usual style, so it comes under the Black Sheep Hit category.
Procol Harum began their career in 1967 with the smash-hit single "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Even today it's almost the only one of their songs that gets airplay, though to be fair they did have two or three other hits (including an orchestrated rendition of "Conquistador"). But despite ten subsequent albums, it's annoying that only that one song tends to get remembered nowadays.
"In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans holds the dubious honor of having been number one on both the US and UK charts, with neither of those charts ever seeing another song by them. The song itself is also often mocked, but that's neither here nor there.
"Naturally Stoned" by The Avant-Garde is a notable example in that one-half of the duo, one Chuck Woolery, struck it big in the completely unrelated field of Game Show Host (Wheel of Fortune, Scrabble, Love Connection, Lingo). Incidentally, he dabbled in country music during his earliest years of hosting Wheel.
"Incense and Peppermints" By Strawberry Alarm Clock, a B-side (not even sung by a member of the band), that went all the way to #1. Nothing else by the band ever made even a dent, and they aren't even known for their live shows. The band managed another Top 40 hit soon after, "Tomorrow", but it is now largely forgotten. Came outta nowhere, hit the top and utterly vanished.
Arthur Brown with "Fire", which charted at #1 in the U.K and #2 in America, most likely due to Brown donning a flaming helmet during live shows and for the song's famous intro ("I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!"). Despite some attempts, he never achieved the same chart success, though he still remained a popular underground act during the late 60s and early 70s.
R & B
Sisqo of "Thong Song" fame is an interesting example. He was in the fairly-successful R&B group Dru Hill for years before going solo, had 2 successful singles before and after "Thong Song," (with "Incomplete" reaching #1 before it even had a video), and yet 99% of listeners only know him for "That thong-th-thong thong-thong."
What's even more interesting is that Sisqo was basically strong-armed by his producers to do "Incomplete" - he thought it was too much of a reminder of his Dru Hill days and was thus needed to be persuaded to do it.
Singer Lol Mason was a member of two bands who were one-hit wonders in two countries. In 1978, his band City Boy had its lone U.S. hit with "5-7-0-5" (the band's one-hit wonder status was averted in their native U.K. when "What a Night" snuck in at #39 later that year). Four years later, Mason was in the Maisonettes, whose lone hit, "Heartache Avenue", peaked at #7 for that band's lone appearance in the UK Top 40 (however, the band didn't make the Top 40 across the pond).
Leon Haywood with "I Want to Do Something Freaky to You." The song was already a big hit upon release, but became even more well known when Dr. Dre sampled the song for his "Nuthin' But a G Thang."
Eamon with "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)". The song being quite famous for its many expletives. It even earned a listing in the Guinness World Records for most expletives in a number one song. The only country it didn't top the charts in was the U.S., where it stalled at #16. His follow up "I Love Them Ho's (Ho-Wop)" did hit the top 40 in a few countries, but wasn't that big of a hit anywhere.
Frankee, with her Answer Song "F.U.R.B. (Fuck U Right Back)", suffered the same fate: it became #1 in Australia and other places, and then she disappeared without a trace. Unlike Eamon, Frankee didn't chart again, period.
Freddie North's only chart hit was "She's All I Got" in 1971. The song has the dubious honor of being Covered Up twice — Johnny Paycheck had a successful country version the same year, and Tracy Byrd covered him up in 1997.
Jimmy Cozier's only top 40 hit was an unrelated song also titled "She's All I Got" in 2001.
Bill Cosby, of all people, had a #4 pop and #18 R&B hit in 1967 with "Little Old Man", a partial re-working of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)". The song remains his only Top 40 pop hit, although he hit the R&B charts a couple more times.
Miquel Brown - "So Many Men (So Little Time)"
In the 1960s, many soul singers might have had several hits on the R&B Chart with only one hit that crossed over. Ironically, two of the most frequently cited examples, Percy Sledge ("When A Man Loves A Woman") and Eddie Floyd ("Knock On Wood"), have had a good amount of top 40 hits, but are today remembered for one song each.
Tony Rich, with "Nobody Knows" in 1996. "Like a Woman" fell just short at #41, and "Leavin'" scraped the bottom of the charts. Country Music fans know "Nobody Knows" more through Kevin Sharp's cover.
Willow Smith (Will Smith's daughter), whose only major US hit was "Whip My Hair" in 2010. However, she had more success in Ireland and Australia with its followup, "21st Century Girl", before her chart success waned.
Smith's son, Jaden Smith, was also a one-hit wonder in 2011, as a duet partner on Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never".
Carl Thomas, with his #1 R&B hit "I Wish." It also went top 20 on the Hot 100. While he had a second top 10 hit and two more top 20s on R&B, he never returned to the pop top 40.
J-Shin had a hit with "One Night Stand" and completely vanished afterwards. The female vocalist was LaTocha Scott of Xscape, who are not one hit wonders. Scott is one as a solo singer, however.
Profyle was an R&B group who had a hit with "Liar." After that, nothing.
Guy was one of the top bands of the New Jack Swing movement, scoring a ton of top 10 hits and one #1 on the R&B charts. It also famously introduced Teddy Riley, known for his work in Blackstreet and is also a prolific record producer. However, they had only one top 40 hit on the Hot 100, "Dancin'" To make matters worse, the hit was in 1999, years after the New Jack Swing movement died, and the hit sounded nothing like their old songs.
Aaron Hall also had only one big hit. "I Miss You" hit #14 on the Hot 100 in 1994. He did have a second top 40 hit four years later with "All The Places (I Will Kiss You)," but that only made it to #26.
Speaking of Blackstreet, they have had quite a few top 20 hits, but their only #1 hit, "No Diggity," seems to be the only thing they're remembered for today.
Cee Lo Green is a one hit wonder on the US Top 40 three times over with each of his major projects: His original group, Goodie Mob made #39 in 1995 with "Cell Therapy" (three more of their songs charted on the Hot 100 but failed to make the Top 40). Then in 2006, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" made #2 (another song scraped the bottom of the Hot 100 later on, but they had more success on the Alternative chart). Finally in 2010/2011, he himself managed a solo #2 hit with "Fuck You." In 2005, he was a featured artist on a Trick Daddy's top 20 hit "Sugar (Gimme Some)", but since it wasn't his hit, it isn't really an example that can disqualify "Fuck You"'s one-hit wonder status.
Ambersunshower - "Running Song"
Miguel had a #17 hit in 2012/2013 with "Adorn". Another track scraped the bottom of the top 40 earlier on (not to mention his hits on the R&B charts and his collaboration with Mariah Carey), but it's still his only solo mainstream success.
Stealers Wheel ("Stuck In The Middle With You") broke up after their one hit, freeing lead singer Gerry Rafferty to become a moderately successful solo act in the middle to late 1970s ("Baker Street", "Right Down The Line", "City to City" and others).
Stealers Wheel actually did have another Top 40 hit, "Star," but it was from the same album as the first hit.
"Baker Street" is sometimes considered an example on its own, but Gerry Rafferty certainly didn't intend it that way, and the song's distinctive sax break was improvised by session saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft, for his part, has said that there are better works to remember him for, especially as he recorded the entire sax part in the wrong key.
Thin Lizzy are legends in Ireland, but elsewhere are only really known for "The Boys Are Back in Town" (although their song "Yellow Pearl" was the Top of the Pops theme from 1981-86).
"Yellow Pearl" was actually a Phil Lynott solo song. Thin Lizzy have several other popular hits in the UK and elsewhere including "Jailbreak" and their rocked-up reading of folk song "Whiskey In The Jar". In fact, for a while in the 70s it looked like they were destined to be known as One Hit Wonders for the latter - it was their first major UK hit, but the parent album bombed, as did their next LP. It was a few years before they finally broke through properly.
Henry Lee Summer had a small slew of minor hits (none higher than top 30), but is only remembered for "Wish I Had A Girl" — even in the Mid West (US), right here in his home town. Owch.
Don't forget, "Hey Baby" actually charted a bit higher than "Wish I Had A Girl."
Many artists well-known for being in successful groups and bands were one-hit wonders solo, like Roger Daltrey of the Who, John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful, and Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers (even though the latter had several country hits).
"What's Up?" (mistakenly believed to be titled "What's Going On?") by 4 Non Blondes.
Stories hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart with their cover of Hot Chocolate's "Brother Louie." A follow-up, "Mammy Blue," only managed to chart in the mid-40s. The group split soon after. End of Stories.
Canadian singer Ian Thomas had one U.S. hit in 1973 with "Painted Ladies". His brother Dave was also a One-Hit Wonder; he and Rick Moranis (with Rush vocalist Geddy Lee) hit in 1982 with "Take Off" in their Bob & Doug McKenzie personae.
"Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" by New England.
Scandal had two shots to avoid this fate. They made it to #7 with "The Warrior" in 1984. However, their next two singles, "Hands Tied" and "Beat Of a Heart", both peaked at #41.
Tom Cochrane hasn't touched the charts outside Canada since "Life Is A Highway" in the early 1990's. He's a bit more popular at home, though.
B.W. Stevenson, "My Maria". What's more, the Brooks & Dunn version is far more well-known (although Stevenson died two years before Brooks & Dunn was even founded). Stevenson also recorded a similar-sounding song called "Shambayla," but so did another, better-known act known as Three Dog Night. And it was Three Dog Night that first released the song and took it into the top 10; Stevenson never had a shot with that record.
There is no denying that Journey is not a one-hit wonder. However, many people who were born long after Journey peaked in popularity will only recognize "Don't Stop Believin'" due to how heavily the song has been used throughout modern pop culture. It currently stands as the best-selling digital song recorded in the 20th century, and there is no other song from that century even close to it in sales. In fact, it is without a doubt one of the 1980s' ten most famous songs, and is as well-known to Generation Z as "I Gotta Feeling" and "Call Me Maybe" are.
The Mainstream Rock charts has its fair share of one-hit wonders; however, most artists are able to score multiple top 40 hits.
First, there are "pure" one-hit wonders; or artists who hit the top 40 only once: Examples include Lo-Pro ("Sunday"), No Address ("When I'm Gone [Sadie]"), Custom ("Hey Mister"), Diffuser ("Karma"), and Ashes Divide ("The Stone"). Usually, these songs crossed over to modern rock, but some, like Pete ("Sweet Daze"), Headstrong ("Adriana"), Another Animal ("Broken Again"), Shaman's Harvest ("Dragonfly"), and Seasons After ("Cry Little Sister"), did not.
Some artists have had more than one top 40 hit on Mainstream Rock, but hit the top 10 only once. Usually, said top 10 hit is their only top 40 entry on Modern Rock. Examples include Army of Anyone ("Goodbye"), Audiovent ("The Energy"), Course of Nature ("Caught in the Sun"), Dark New Day ("Brother"), Future Leaders of the World ("Let Me Out"), My Darkest Days ("Porn Star Dancing"), Operator ("Soulcrusher"), Revis ("Caught in the Rain"), and Stereomud ("Pain"). Some artists, like Smile Empty Soul ("Bottom of a Bottle"), Socialburn ("Down"), and Trust Company ("Downfall"), had their minor hits cross over to alternative as well, while others, like U.P.O. ("Godless"), had no crossover hits at all.
In some cases, the artist's only top 20 hit doesn't make the top 10. Examples in the typical mold include American Bang ("Wild & Young"), Blindside ("Pitiful"), Dead by Sunrise ("Crawl Back In"), Dust for Life ("Step Into the Light"), H.I.M. ("Wings of a Butterfly"), Injected ("Faithless"), Skindred ("Nobody"), Thornley ("So Far So Good"), and The Veer Union ("Seasons"). Examples who didn't cross over to alternative include Burn Halo ("Dirty Little Girl"), Damageplan ("Save Me"), Eighteen Visions ("Victim"), Ra ("Do You Call My Name"), Soil ("Redefine"), and Submersed ("Hollow").
Alien Ant Farm had a major hit in 2001 with a cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." Despite "Movies" charting in a few markets and "Glow" going top 5 in New Zealand while doing nothing everywhere else, they are remembered pretty much only for their cover.
Default are very popular in Canada, but the only song of theirs to have any impact outside their native country was "Wasting My Time." They've had some rock airplay for other hits, but nothing by them has been able to go anywhere near where "Wasting My Time" was.
Drowning Pool had had five top ten hits on the Mainstream Rock charts and ten other top 40 hits there. Despite an impressive backlog of hits on that format, to the greater public, the only song they are remembered for is their very first single, "Bodies."
Although Warren Zevon has a strong cult following, his only top 40 hit was 1978's "Werewolves of London."
He did have a few minor hits besides "Werewolves," and two of his albums went gold - but that's the one non-fans remember him for.
Even in the UK, he's known for that one song, even though it (and he) never charted there.
Tonic had a major hit in late 1997 with "If You Could Only See." While they had a few more rock radio smashes, they vanished from pop.
Rock band Trapt's first hit, "Headstrong," became a surprise crossover hit in 2003. The band has had plenty of rock hits in the 2000s, but never entered the pop top 40 since. However, even the biggest rock fanatics seem to only remember them for that song.
Saving Abel is a similar case: When "Addicted" was peaking in rock radio play, few people could have guessed how big of a pop hit it would go on to be during an era where dance-pop and rap ruled the airwaves. The band's next single, "18 Days" was ignored by most pop DJs, and wouldn't be able to break the Hot 100, let alone the top 40. Today, few people who don't listen to rock radio will be able to recognize any other song of theirs.
Rock and Roll
"Sea of Love," by Phil Philips. One of the most recognizable songs of the late 1950s, Phil Philips received little in the way of royalties from it and never had another hit song.
It was also a hit by Led Zeppelin side project the Honeydrippers. While they had another hit chart in the bottom half of the top 40, "Rockin' at Midnight," it wasn't that much of a hit.
Huey "Piano Smith" is remebered pretty much exclusively for "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu".
Reel Big Fish hit the charts with "Sell Out", but got Screwed by the Network when it came to releasing a follow-up single. This was later lampshaded by the band in the song "One Hit Wonderful".
Madness are often considered a one hit wonder in the USA, with "Our House" as their best known hit. In their native UK however, they were absolutely massive: with the lone exception of UB40, they were the most successful singles act of the 80's and their first 20 singles all managed the Top 20.
"It Must Be Love" was also a top 40 hit in the US, but it was a cover version. "Our House" was Madness's only hit that the band wrote.
UK group Hotshots had their only hit in 1973 with a ska version of "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron". The original version by The Royal Guardsmen had also been their only big hit a few years earlier. The sequel song "Return of the Red Baron" scraped the top 40 a few months later.
While in the US the Guardsmen are remembered pretty much only for "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron," both "Return of the Red Baron" and the non-Snoopy related "Baby Let's Wait" were top 40 hits there. The song "Snoopy's Christmas," however, is also fondly remembered.
Rupert Holmes has written several albums, two Broadway musicals, a Title Theme Tune (for Remember WENN), and is best known for his one radio hit "Escape (the Piña Colada Song)".
Another two-hit wonder, as "Him" hit #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is probably the more-played song of the two on commercial radio, since "Escape" was largely considered a "novelty" song.
Today, though, "Escape" is definitely more played than "Him."
Jennifer Rush has had a few hits in Europe, but her only Top 40 hit in her native USA was "Flames of Paradise", a duet with Elton John. Her best known song ("The Power of Love") is probably better known in America for the cover versions by Laura Branigan and Céline Dion.
Cymarron hit #17 in 1971 with "Rings". Two members of the group later had one-hit wonder success in 1991-92 in the Country Music group The Remingtons (see "Country" above).
Ace had a #3 hit with "How Long" in 1974. The only other charting single they had was the following year's "Rock & Roll Runaway," and that only reached #71 on Billboard.
The Georgia Satellites, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself". They had a few more hits on the Mainstream Rock chart. Notable for being one of the few Southern rock songs in 1986, a total antithesis to the Bon Jovi generation.
"Spaceman" - Babylon Zoo's first single. It was chosen to accompany a Levi's jeans advert shortly after it was released, which arguably promoted the single more than the jeans: it went to the top of the charts in 23 countries, and their album release, The Boy with the X-Ray Eyes, charted all round the world on the strength of it. By the time their next album was finished, three years later, EMI were no longer prepared to spend significant sums promoting it, and the Zoo's frontman was not prepared to make up the difference on the promo circuit. In the end, the album didn't chart and the band sank without trace.
It didn't help that the Levi's advert only contained the remixed first 30 seconds of the song, which led to some electronica and dance music fans unknowingly buying a space rock song. If anyone on the street remembers the song, it's generally that part they'll remember.
It should also be noted that Babylon Zoo did have two other top 40 hits besides "Spaceman," the top 20 "Animal Army" and the top 40 "Boy with the X-Ray Eyes". However, neither song charted outside the UK, while Spaceman was a top 5 hit in over 15 countries, most of which it also hit #1.
"Zoot Suit Riot" by The Cherry Poppin' Daddies released in 1998. It's their best known song, having peaked at #32 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 Mainstream, and hit the top 20 of the Modern Rock and Adult Top 40 charts. It just barely missed the top 40 of the Hot 100, however.
This song is an interesting example because first and foremost, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies were a ska band. They did occasionally wander into swing and hot jazz on their albums here and there, but "Zoot Suit Riot" is probably among their most swing influenced songs. It originally appeared as a new song on Zoot Suit Riot, a compilation of all the swing-oriented songs that had appeared on their other albums. When the song became a hit, so did the album, and now they're identified as apart of the Swing Revival fad forevermore.
The Squirrel Nut Zippers were a similar case. Their musical style was more diverse than just "swing revival", but their one hit, the top 20 rock hit "Hell," ended up associating them with the genre.
Italian Nu-Jazz duo Gabin had a hit in 2002 with their single "Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap". They still exist and a couple of their songs were used in films such as the Fantastic Four one, but none of their other songs gained the same acclaim and recognition.
Rockwell's 1984 song "Somebody's Watching Me" is only remembered because the chorus is sung by his friends Michael and Jermaine Jackson.
And because it is a Halloween staple. Rockwell had another top 40 hit, "Obscene Phone Caller," which did not reach the heights of "Somebody's Watching Me."
"Catch Me (I'm Falling)" was a #8 hit song for Pretty Poison. Although "Nighttime" made it to #36, it is pretty much forgotten today.
Soft Cell's cover of "Tainted Love" was the only song they were really known for in the US. In the UK, however, they are much more popular.
Although they released a good few singles, try getting anyone to name a Buggles song other than "Video Killed the Radio Star". (Frontman Trevor Horn however is most certainly not a one-hit wonder, although is much better known as a producer than anything else.)
I'm sure a Brit could do that as they had two other top 40 hits there.
"Video Killed the Radio Star" barely qualifies as a hit, peaking at #40 on the Hot 100. It's probably better known for its video being the first ever played on MTV (almost two years after the song charted) than for being a hit song.
Trans-X's "Living on Video" was the duo's only memorable international hit. They had a few minor hits such as "Message on the Radio" and "3D Dance", which have since fallen into obscurity.
Silvertear - "So Deep"; a one-shot wonder co-produced by Cristophe and Erik of Ian Van Dahl, and remixed by them under the name Perfect Sphere. Famous for being That One Song in Dance Dance Revolution Max/Max2/Extreme AC and Max2 US.
Rollergirl - "Love You More" (cover of Sunscreem). Also a Black Sheep Hit, as it was a different style from her other songs, which were generally Nu-Italo rather than trance.
Tomski's "14 Hours to Save The Earth" and "Love Will Come"(featuring Jan Johnston). Did a few remixes, but these were his only two original songs.
"Sandstorm" by Darude. Nothing else he's done comes close.
Except for "Feel The Beat".
Ditto for "Stomp To My Beat" by fellow Finn JS-16, although he also co-produced "Sandstorm" and "Feel The Beat".
"Kernkraft 400" by Zombie Nation.
The song was more of an international hit, while still played in every sporting event in America, it barely charted on the Hot 100
Binary Finary's "1998" is their only notable song. They had a number of b-sides on the remix EP's and the single "Niterider" in 2002, but due to disputes between members, they were mostly silent until 2006, when they released a download-only compilation of previously-unreleased tunes, The Lost Tracks. The remaining members have collaborated with various other trance musicians in recent years.
"Shattered" by Dejin, an indie musician from Snohomish County, WA, who was also a one-album wonder with As You Dream.
For a brief time during the summer of 2000, Sonique (a.k.a. Sonia Clarke) dominated the U.K., U.S. and Canadian charts with the reissue of her 1998 trance track "It Feels So Good", which was played on practically every Top 40 station in the world (and reaching the Top 5 in many countries). Despite releasing several more tracks after this (and suffering from breast cancer and mismanagement from her record label, who continually delayed the lead single from her follow-up album), nothing she's released in the years afterward has come close to replicating that success.
Clarke's prior group, S'Express, was also a one-hit wonder with "Theme From S'Express".
Dirty Vegas - "Days Go By" was a massive hit for this British trio, becoming a hit in the US despite not being that big anywhere else.
DJ Sammy, Yanou, and Do - "Heaven," a trance remake of the Bryan Adams chart-topper, became a worldwide hit in 2002. A remake of "The Boys of Summer" didn't do very well, and he faded back into obscurity afterwards.
D.H.T. - The only hit this Belgian dance trio has had outside their native country was a cover of Roxette's "Listen To Your Heart." It even cracked the U.S. market, despite the trance movement having died quite a while ago there.
Maria Falconetti was a stage actress with only two very minor film roles before starring in The Passion of Joan of Arc. The film, and her performance, are ranked among the best in history, but her experience working on the film was so terrible that she returned to the stage and never took another film role again.
Most of the main cast of the Nickelodeon show Hey Dude had never acted anywhere prior to the show, and never did again after it ended. Only three of the main actors (one of them being Ben Stiller's wife Christine Taylor) went on to have acting careers beyond the ranch.
This is in fact true of most Nick shows of the 1990s—with rare exceptions (namely Melissa Joan Hart, Kenan Thompson and Blake Sennett) the vast majority of the channel's child actors dropped off the map after serving their time on Nick.
While the cast of the original Saved by the Bell had careers long after the series ended (with varying successes), the majority of the actors from the "The New Class" were, for the most part, never heard from again. Even the ones who still acted afterwards didn't really do anything memorable (with the exceptions of Bianca Lawson ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Sarah Lancaster ("Chuck")). Isaac Lidskey, who played Screech-clone Weasel, probably didn't mind too much considering he graduated from Harvard law school at 19 and eventually worked with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at 28 despite becoming legally blind.
Carrie Henn, who played Newt in Aliens, has never had another acting role.
Entertainment Weekly's 2011 Reunion Issue elaborates (it features the Aliens cast). Henn was bullied after her movie role, and thus never again wanted to act. She's now a schoolteacher.
As voice actors go, Thurl Ravenscroft has done a fair number of roles (including the song "You're a mean one, mister Grinch"), but he will always and only be known for bellowing "They're gr-r-r-reat!" on cereal commercials.
Jeremy Inman is also known mostly for only one role; in his case, it is Android 16. Same with Phil Parsons and Nappa.
Cary Guffey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind's Cheerful Child. He was three years old when he was cast for the film, and astounded everyone involved with his natural ability — he often required only one or two takes for a scene. He had a few other acting roles afterwards, the last of which was in 1985. He has since become a financial consultant.
Louis Chirillo is pretty much only well-known for Dukey from Johnny Test.
Thom Huge, who voiced Jon Arbuckle in the Garfield TV specials (except Here Comes Garfield) and Garfield and Friends, did a couple other voices on the latter show but has no other credits.
Jeremy Black, who played the infant Hitler clones in The Boys from Brazil, has its only film credit with that movie - IMDB lists a TV appearance, but he really focused on theater.
Mary Badham's debut role was Scout Finch in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. She appeared in a few other roles before retiring from acting at 14. She went on to become an art restorer and a college testing coordinator, though she had a small role in an independent film in 2005.
Also, the actresses who played the naked girl in the bathtub and the old hag she turns into never did anything else before or after.
Nancy Kye's only major role is Annie from Halloween (1978). She did do other on-camera work (including other John Carpenter films), but nothing nearly as popular.
Nia Vardalos. She came out of nowhere in 2002 with My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which is still the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all-time) and fell as fast as she rose with a number of flops (My Big Fat Greek Life, Connie and Carla, My Life in Ruins, Larry Crowne).
Several non-professional actors have been cast in a film that remains either their only role, or their only role of note:
Harold Russell won an Oscar in his film debut for The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946. It would be 34 years before he had another film credit (his two remaining credits were very minor roles in since-forgotten movies).
Two Oscars. The Academy's Board of Governors wanted to recognize Russell's performance in the film, but thought that as a non-professional in his first role he would never win a competitive award. So they gave him an honorary Oscar for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." Then he won Best Supporting Actor. It's the only time two Oscars have ever been awarded for the same performance.
Not too many acting roles for a guy with two hooks for hands.
Dr. Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian gynecologist, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his only major film role, The Killing Fields. Along with the aforementioned Harold Russell, he is one of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award.
Wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko was cast in the 1950 noir Night and the City because the director, Jules Dassin, wanted to teach a wrestler to act rather than teach an actor to wrestle. He had actually seen Zbyszko when he was young and wanted someone like him, without knowing Zbyszko was still alive. It turned out Zbyszko even lamented the transformation of wrestling into showmanship the same way his character in the movie, Gregorius, did.
For similar reasons, light-heavyweight boxing champion Antonio Tarver was cast as Mason "The Line" Dixon in Rocky Balboa, which remains his only professional acting role to date - Sylvester Stallone thought it would be easier to teach a boxer to act rather than train an actor to box convincingly.
Michael Wallis, a well known historian who has written 17 books on the Western United States only has one acting role: the voice of the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in Cars, its sequel and other spinoff media. He was selected for this role because of his knowledge of the film's setting, particularly Route 66, which is the subject of Route 66: The Mother Road, the best selling book in his bibliography.
Pixar seems to like selecting writers for major roles in their films. Sarah Vowell, a well known pop culture writer, essayist and frequent contributor to This American Life was given the role of Violet in The Incredibles. The casting director of the film selected her after hearing this story she told on This American Life. She never actually auditioned for the part, as she is not a professional actress and The Incredibles remains her only film role.
Zekeria Ebrahimi and Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada,the Afghan child actors who played young Amir and young Hassan respectively in The Kite Runner had never acted before and never acted again. In fact, acting in the movie caused major problems after shooting finished, because many questioned sending them back to Kabul, where their families feared attacks because of the homosexual themes in the movie. They were relocated to the United Arab Emirates.
Jaye Davidson (technically a two hit wonder). Played Dil in The Crying Game, a role for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His only other famous role was Stargate, which he took only because he was offered 1 million dollars.
Dustin Lance Black was an obscure indie screenwriter who struck gold when he won an Oscar for Milk. Since then, he's mostly written critically-panned films such as the unreleased What's Wrong With Virginia? (which he also directed) and J. Edgar.
Rochelle Davis who played Sarah in The Crow, she decided to retire from acting shortly afterwards because she was a close friend of Brandon Lee who died during filming, she now works as a massage therapist, she would later act again in a minor role in an independent film "Hell House" 16 years later.
Jake Lloyd was a child actor who had small roles in ER and The Pretender before George Lucas picked him to portray young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The negative reaction of his performance caused him to only appear in one more film (a 2001 film called Madison) before retiring from acting.
Quick name another Live Action role that Mark Hammil has been in besides Star Wars.
Although he has acted in other films and tv shows, Scott Fuller from From Dusk Till Dawn is Ernest Liu's only major role to date.
Nikki Blonsky whose most famous role was Hairspray. It doesn't help that her other roles tried to play up her weight which is a very hard thing to build a career around and generally also requires talent ala Melissa Mccarthy
According to various speeches he's made, Jack Gleeson plans to quit acting as soon as his Star-Making Role as Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones wraps up, due to his dislike of celebrity culture.
Quinton Aaron, best known for playing Michael Oher in The Blind Side has acted in other movies, but nothing of note.
Anime and Manga
Sailor Moon remains Naoko Takeuchi's only successful manga series. While some of her other work has gained followings, most of that is limited to the Sailor Moon fandom, and she has yet to have any other title match the success of Sailor Moon. The closest any series came to it was The Cherry Project... and that only lasted three volumes...
Yasumi Yoshizawa debuted as a professional manga cartoonist with Dokonjou Gaeru in 1970. To date that's his only successful series, spawning two anime series and a ton of merchandising in Japan. Since ending it he created dozens of other mangas but none of them are well-known.
Joseph Heller is best-known for Catch-22, but wrote many novels that nobody read (including Catch-22's sequel, Closing Time). Some years later, someone put it to Joseph Heller that despite his lengthy bibliography, he'd never written anything else as good as Catch-22. Heller's response: "Who has?"
Only one of Mary Shelley's novels is well-known today: Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus. Although she was taken very seriously in her day, nowadays it's either Frankenstein or being the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley (even though it was her efforts after his death that kept him from being considered a One-Hit Wonder)...
Aldous Huxley wrote several novels, dramas and poems, but famous for Brave New World.
Since his death, it's been speculated that he wrote a number of novels (somewhere in the lower double digits, depending on who you ask) that were never published. One can only hope they eventually see the light of day and remove his One Hit Wonder status.
G.V. Desani and All About H. Hatter.
Dow Mossman and The Stones of Summer.
Menander wrote dozens of Ancient Greek comedies, but the only one that survives in its entirety is Dyskolos ("The Grouch").
Matthew Lewis was actually a prolific novelist and dramatist with several titles to his name, but then as now he is mostly associated with The Monk, his first novel written at the age of nineteen. It even gave him the nickname "Monk" Lewis.
99.99% of people couldn't name a book by Bram Stoker other than Dracula even if their life depended on it.
How about Herman Melville? Can you name any book he wrote that isn't Moby-Dick? Didn't think so.
Billy Budd. It's assigned reading in high schools.
One could add Bartleby the Scrivener. Technically a short story, but not exactly obscure.
Let's look at Carlo Lorenzini a.k.a. Carlo Collodi. Sure, he was really a soldier, but what do you remember about him besides Pinocchio?
A strange case: Gerald Mayo was very infamous, for many reasons, in the early 1970s. You should see the number of news articles printed about him at the time; it was huge. Nowadays, he is only known for something he was not famous for in the 1970s: suing Satan.
Jim Gaffigan still feels obligated to do his "Hot Pockets" bit for fans despite it being one of his earliest bits.
Jimmy Glass, the English football player responsible for keeping Carlisle United F.C. in the Football League by scoring a goal in the last seconds of the final match of the 1998-99 season against Plymouth Argyle F.C. Made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was Carlisle's goalkeeper, and thus would ordinarily have been at the opposite end of the pitch, and at the time he was on loan from Swindon Town F.C. Carlisle were unable to negotiate a long-term contract for Glass, and he returned to Swindon and retired at the end of the following season. His subsequent biography was titled One-Hit Wonder.
For people who don't understand football, he was basically playing in one of the lowest professional divisions in England, had an unremarkable career as a player, and after having his contract expire, retired to become an office worker.
Roger Maris, forever known as the man who hit 61* , isn't even in the Hall of Fame because other than his MVP years of 1960 and '61 (the year which he hit 61* ), he was an above-average but hardly spectacular baseball player.
Washington Redskins rookie running back Timmy Smith was only in the starting lineup for Super Bowl XXII due to injuries to the Redskins' other running backs. Smith made the most of that opportunity, rushing for a Super Bowl record 204 yards with two touchdowns in the Skins' 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos. Smith's career lasted only 15 more games before he was out of the NFL in 1990.
Similarly, David Tyree of the New York Giants. A bottom of the depth chart receiver who managed to catch a ball from Eli Manning by pinning it to helmet and never did anything else of note.
Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood is a unique example, being known for one failure rather than an accomplishment. Norwood is famous for a missed 47-yard field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXV, and pretty much nothing else.
Bucky Dent was a solid defensive shortstop and a decent situational hitter. However, all he will ever be known for, especially in Boston, is the home run he hit for the Yankees in 1978 that knocked the Red Sox out of playoff contention that year.
Likewise, Carlton Fisk may be a Hall of Fame Red Sox player, but his entire career has been defined by his home run off the foul pole in the 1975 World Series.
This seems to be the fate of any player who comes up big in a high-profile situation. Other players defined by World Series moments include Bill Wambsganss (a solid defensive second baseman best known for turning an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series—still the only triple play of any kind in World Series history), Don Larsen (a journeyman pitcher who pitched a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series—was the only no-hitter of any kind in postseason history for 54 years), and Cookie Lavagetto (pinch-hit two-run walkoff double in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series, which also broke up what would have been the first no-hitter in World Series history, as the two baserunners he drove in reached via walks—the ninth and tenth allowed by starter Bill Bevens. Also, neither Bevens nor Lavagetto played in the major leagues after 1947.)
Jack Morris's 10-inning shutout for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series completely overshadowed the rest of his excellent career; this one game was so epic that hardly anyone remembers that Morris was also the ace of the following year's champion, the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh yeah, and he was also the ace of the Detroit Tigers earlier in his career.
The ultimate baseball one-moment wonder might be Francisco Cabrera of the 1992 Atlanta Braves. The Braves were one out away from being eliminated in the NLCS when they sent Cabrera, the last position player left on the bench, up to bat. Cabrera could barely even be considered a part-time player; he only had ten at-bats during the regular season, and only one prior at-bat in the playoffs. He stroked a two-run single to put the Braves in the World Series, then immediately faded back to obscurity. He was out of the majors the following year.
Armando Galarraga catapulted into the headlines after umpire Jim Joyce's blown call cost him a perfect game (retire 27 batters in order without allowing any of them to reach base) in July, 2010. Since then he's had nothing but hard luck - cut by 3 teams, kicked around the minors, and barely had the proverbial "cup of coffee" in the bigs since.
Also Jason Donald is known for that one "hit"
Luis Gonzalez had a respectable career as a member of the Diamondbacks, but ask if they know who he is and they'll probably say he's the guy whose walk-off single ended the 2001 World Series.
Jacques Villeneuve took the Formula One World Championship in only his second year in the sport in 1997, then proceeded never to win another race. He has found success in other forms of racing, though.
Many cricket fans consider the late Sir Donald Bradman's Test cricket batting average of 99.94 (across 80 innings) to be the greatest statistical achievement in any sport, but in cricket statistics it's customary to consider Test averages only from players who have played more than 20 innings. Cricket's highest Test batting average technically belongs to a one-hit wonder, West Indian wicketkeeper Andy Ganteaume, who was called up for a single Test against England in 1948 and scored 112 runs in his one and only innings at the crease.
Salvatore "Totò" Schillaci was the star of the 1990 World Cup, scoring six goals (the top scorer) and bringing Italy to third place — amazingly, he only ever scored one other goal for Italy, and apart from Italia 90 the rest of his career was unremarkable.
The same could be said about Fabio Grosso, the man who almost single-handedly brought Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup. He scored all the important goals, including the one in the semifinal and the decisive penalty kick in the final match, but never did anything else of note in his home country.
Oleg Salenko, who played for the Russian national team in the 1994 World Cup. During the 1994 World Cup, he scored 5 goals in a game against Cameroon (the most goals anyone has scored in a single World Cup match) and 6 goals overall, the joint top scorer of the tournament (and the only time where a top scorer played for a team that was knocked out in the group stages). The 6 goals turned out to be the only goals of his national team career.
Joe Johnson was a previously unremarkable and little-known snooker player who suddenly hit form in the 1986 World Championship, taking the title having never previously advanced beyond the first round. It was his only ranking event win; despite making the final again the following year, he slipped down the rankings quite swiftly thereafter.
On February 11, 1990, 42-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, who was an undefeated champion at the time. (For some perspective, this was the first time Tyson had even been knocked down.) He retired just a few months later, after losing the heavyweight title to Evander Holyfield.
MMA Example. Matt Serra had a decent MMA career, even winning The Ultimate Fighter but he is only known for knocking out Georges St Pierre
Drew Fickett has over 60 pro fights, but he's best known for choking out Josh Koschek
In Australian Rules Football, the St Kilda Saints and Western Bulldogs have each won only one premiership (in 1966 and 1954, respectively). The same goes for Port Adelaide Power (2004), but they are generally not considered to be this since they only joined in 1997, and their SANFL incarnation is the most successful club in that league.
Among players, the most famous one-hit wonder would be Ted Hopkins, who was brought on after half time for Carlton in the 1970 Grand Final, and proceeded to rip Collingwood to shreds as Carlton came back from a 44-point deficit to win. Afterward, Hopkins realised he could never do anything to top his achievements in that game, and retired.
Several professional golfers who have risen from obscurity and win (or even just nearly win) a major championship have had difficulty sustaining that success in smaller-level tournaments afterward. Among the notable champions on this list are Steve Jones (1996 U.S. Open), Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA Championship) and Hilary Lunke (2003 U.S. Women's Open, her only top ten in an LPGA tournament).
In tennis, players who win just one Grand Slam title in their careers are labeled (fairly or unfairly) as "one-Slam wonders". The biggest one of them is probably Gaston Gaudio, who won the 2004 French Open — recovering from a 2-set deficit, no less — but failed to reach the quarterfinals of any other Slam he entered.
Roy Essandoh, a previously anonymous lower-league soccer player, is mostly known for scoring a winning goal for Wycombe Wanderers against Leicester City in 2001, after he answered a teletext ad by then-manager Lawrie Sanchez for a non-cup-tied striker. That goal propelled Wycombe to a FA Cup semifinal, after which Roy slipped back into obscurity.
Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw a perfect game at the start of the 2012 then proceeded to suck for the rest of the season. He became the only player to throw a perfect game and be released (although claimed by another team) at the end of the next season. If he's mentioned for anything else, it'll be how he was traded for Johan Santana.
Dallas Braden, pitcher for the Oakland A's is only known for two things: yelling at Alex Rodriguez during a game, and getting a perfect game two weeks later.
Jonathan Cheechoo may have been a solid NHL player, but his 56 goal Richard Trophy winning season couldn't be matched, and he's bounced around from the NHL and minors
Gene Roddenberry's only real "hit" was Star Trek. His other shows either were short-lived ("The Lieutenant", which lasted a single season) or never got past the pilot stage ("Genesis II"/"Planet Earth", "Questor Tapes", and "Assignment: Earth", which was both a Star Trek episode and a back-door pilot for a spin-off series). Some of Gene's ideas and story notes were eventually adapted by others with mixed results ("Earth: Final Conflict", and "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda").
Alexey Pajitnov would have to be the biggest example. He is is known for creating Tetris, one of the most popular games of all time, and absolutely nothing else.
He worked for Microsoft's games division for a while in the late 90's and early 2000's, creating critically acclaimed puzzle games like Pandora's Box and Hexic that met with commercial indifference, even when his semi-famous name was played up in advertising.
He eventually gave in and tried to create a direct followup to Tetris, called Welltris, which is basically the same game but with the player now viewing the action from above. It was not well received.
Despite a long, successful history as a pinball manufacturer, Gottlieb's only hit Video Game was 1982's Q*bert, despite many attempts at breaking into the market.
Stern Electronics (Berzerk, 1980). Technically they did distribute a few other hits, but all of those were Konami games manufactured under license.
Realtime Worlds' first game was Crackdown. Their second game was the infamous MMO flop All Points Bulletin, which quickly drove the studio to bankruptcy.
Day 1 Studios scored a big hit with their debut game, Mechassault, which benefited hugely from being a launch game for Xbox Live back in 2002. All three of their subsequent games (Mechassault 2, Fracture, and F.E.A.R. 3) flopped badly at retail. Following the particularly sharp financial failure of F.E.A.R. 3, the studio shut down in 2011.
None of Croteam's games have even come close to the popularity of Serious Sam, not even Sam's sequels.
The Wonders in That Thing You Do!, for whom the one hit is the title song. The irony of the band's name is pointed out by their own manager after the band fails to produce a second hit.
The protagonist of About a Boy is a 36-year-old bachelor who lives off the royalties of a hit Christmas song composed by his father.
The book of the same name from which the film was adapted goes to great lengths to show just how absurd a situation this put the protagonist and his father in: the protagonist gets angry and depressed every time he hears the song being sung by buskers, and his father, absolutely desperate to be taken seriously as a musician, once writes an entire musical in the course of one day.
The main character of Semi Pro is a former one-hit wonder who used the money from his song "Love Me Sexy" to buy an ABA team.
Live Action TV
Drive Shaft, Charlie's band in LOST, who hit it big with "You All Everybody". In one deleted scene, Shannon remarks about having "their one song" stuck in one's head.
The Zit Remedy/The Zits-Joey, Snake and Wheels' band on Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High-was a one hit wonder not only in the fact that "Everybody Wants Something" was their only hit, but it was their only song - a fact that still gets them mercilessly teased even as adults.
Marcus Little of The Suite Life on Deck turns up at Seven Seas High, having faded into obscurity after his career as Lil' Little peaked with his sole hit "Retainer Baby".
"Superstar Machine" by "Li'l Davey Cross" in Mr. Show. It charts at number one, becomes club music, gets parodied by Weird Al-lookalike and ends up as "on-hold" music on the phone.
The 1999 comedy-drama Hunting Venus centred on a fictional New Romantic band from the early 1980's, The Venus Hunters, who are getting together for a reunion gig despite the fact they only ever had one hit. Lead singer Martin Clunes finds a problem... they've forgotten the words and how to play the music. Nobody can find a copy of the single. And their charismatic guitarist Neil Morrisey has had a sex-change operation...
The song "King of Rock 'n' Roll" by bookish new wave act Prefab Sprout was about a 50's rocker who is forced to sing his one stupid novelty hit over and over to crowds who only want to hear that one song. In a sad bit of irony, "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" became Prefab Sprout's biggest hit in the UK (they had six other Top 40 singles, but none of them troubled the Top 20), because people only cared about the goofy chorus and nothing more.
In Dead Island, one of the player characters is Sam B, a rapper famous for his one hit, "Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?". This makes him extremely bitter since not only did he write that song as a joke after a long time of rapping with little success, but this is the only one of his songs anyone wants to hear.
Phineas and the Ferbtones in Phineas and Ferb, for "Gitchee Gitchee Goo". Intentionally, because who would want to do that every day?
"Follow-up single?! Who do you think we are, some two-bit hacks who will keep writing you songs simply because you pay us obscene amounts of cash?! Phineas and the Ferb-Tones are strictly a one-hit wonder. Good day to you, sir!"
Also, their mother Linda apparently was a one-hit wonder in the 80's with "I'm Lindana and I Wanna Have Fun." Her explanation of this trope was used by the boys as a how-to checklist.
Foxxy Love of Drawn Together was formerly a one hit wonder with her band The Foxxy 5, with the song "La La Labia".
Media about One-hit wonders:
Todd in the Shadows has a side series called "One Hit Wonderland", where he gives retrospectives on artists known for only one hit: their careers before and after the hit, the context of their hit, and whether or not they deserved better in his opinion.