30 Most Successful One-Hit Wonders of All Time
One catchy song can launch musicians’ careers and create a lasting cultural impact. But sometimes a musical act just can’t replicate the success of that lone, chart-topping ditty. Though no one tries to be "just another one-hit wonder," one popular tune it all it takes to cement a musician’s legacy.
In addition to sales figures and Billboard positions, we’ve looked at streams, downloads, views, and media appearances to determine which songs are the most successful one-hit wonders of all time. Read on to find out if your favorite ‘90s jam or a yesteryear ballad snags the top spot.
‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell, 1982
"Tainted Love" debuted at #90 on charts in the US, and then fell. But it couldn’t get away—at least, not for long. After 19 weeks, it came back to crack the Top 40, eventually peaking at #8.
‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-a-Lot, 1992
Though "Baby Got Back" debuted at #75, it went on to clinch Billboard’s top spot after 12 weeks. The song held on for an impressive five weeks and, almost ten years later, is placed #30 on Billboard’s Decade-End Hot 100.
‘Ice Ice Baby’ by Vanilla Ice, 1990
Believe it or not, "Ice Ice Baby" clinching the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 marks the first time a hip-hop single did so. It also climbed to #1 in six other countries, including the UK and Australia.
‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor, 1982
After Queen denied Sylvester Stallone’s request to use "Another One Bites the Dust" in Rocky III (1982), the film’s star and director landed on "Eye of the Tiger." Now, this one-hit wonder can’t be separated from film’s favorite boxer.
‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred, 1991
Right Said Fred’s hit topped the charts in six countries, including Australia and the US. It went Platinum in both of those markets, too. VH1 went on to dub it one of the "100 Greatest Songs of the ‘90s" and awarded it #2 on its "40 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ‘90s" list.
‘What’s Up?’ by 4 Non Blondes, 1993
We pray—oh my god, do we pray—every single listicle that "What’s Up?" will make the cut. Just like its karaoke potential, the song’s success is undeniable. The 4 Non Blondes’ second single snagged the top spot in 11 countries as well as #2 in Australia and the UK.
‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba, 1997
Try saying "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba five times fast. Or try being a disc jockey in the UK announcing the Top 10 songs—for 11 consecutive weeks. That’s right, anarchist punk band Chumbawamba had a massively successful pop song on its hands.
‘Mambo No. 5’ by Lou Bega, 1999
"Mambo No. 5" was originally composed as a mambo and jazz dance song by Cuban musician Damaso Perez Prado. He recorded it in 1949 and it became successful. Though arguably not as successful as the 1999 Lou Bega cover.
‘Take On Me’ by A-ha, 1985
Originally conceived in 1984, "Take On Me" went through several variations and was released three times before it finally charted in the UK in 1985. And though it took A-ha several tries to get the song right, the music video was an instant success.
‘Bad Day’ by Daniel Powter, 2005
Though "Bad Day" snagged many impressive spots on various international music charts, its most impressive run may have been on Billboard’s Adult Top 40. It remained #1 on that listing for 19 weeks, finally giving Phil Collins a run for his money.
‘La Bamba’ by Los Lobos, 1987
Many bands have recorded "La Bamba," but the Los Lobos version is the most successful rendition. It reached #1 in 10 countries, including both the US and the UK, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US.
‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum, 1969
Norman Greenbaum’s psychedelic rock anthem didn’t reach "the place that’s the best," but it did peak at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100. And it didn’t budge for 15 weeks. In five other countries, including the UK and Australia, it did snag the #1 spot.
‘99 Luftballoons’ by Nena, 1984
Inspired by the red balloons that rained down at a Rolling Stones concert, this next hit made it to #1 in 12 countries. While American and Australian audiences preferred the German version, the UK, Canada, and Ireland opted for the English version. Despite the divide, Nena had a hit with both.
‘Harlem Shake’ by Baauer, 2013
Brooklyn-based music producer Baauer released his debut single "Harlem Shake" in May of 2012. But it didn’t really catch on until February of 2013 when a dance video set to the song turned it into an Internet crowd-pleaser.
‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ by Baha Men, 2000
Is "Who Let the Dogs Out?" the feminist anthem we need? According to the song’s writer, Anslem Douglas, yes. The song intends to criticize men who cat-call women. But when the Baha Men initially covered the song back in 2000, the most apparent thing about it was that it was extremely catchy.
‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia, 1997
In 2017, ‘90s kids lit Twitter ablaze upon learning that Natalie Imbruglia’s decade-defining debut single "Torn" was a cover song. With this revelation, we were all out of faith, too. But not when it comes to this Grammy-nominated song’s success.
‘Lately’ by Divine, 1998
Divine, an American R&B girl group, released only one album in 1998 before disbanding in 2000. But singers Kia Thornton, Nikki Bratcher, and Tonia Tash made a mark in that short time thanks to their hit single "Lately."
‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexys Midnight Runners, 1982
Though "Come On Eileen" marked the band’s second #1 song in the UK, it was their first #1 hit in the US and half a dozen other countries. To the UK, this song means everything.
‘Rico Suave’ by Gerardo, 1990
When it debuted, "Rico Suave" hit #2 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart in the US. Since then, it has placed on VH1’s "100 Greatest Songs of the 90s" and grabbed spot #37 on Blender’s "50 Worst Songs Ever."
‘Gangnam Style’ by PSY, 2012
If there’s any one-hit wonder that truly changed the game, it’s PSY’s "Gangnam Style." Soon after its release, the music video was garnering 5 million views a day on YouTube. And this led to a huge moment for music and viral phenomena: It became the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views.
‘Pass the Dutchie’ by Musical Youth, 1982
This reggae-style song from UK-based Musical Youth hit #1 in the UK and five additional countries. In the US, "Pass the Dutchie" only peaked at #10, but the single still went on to sell over 5 million copies worldwide.
‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil, 1982
Perhaps better known as "Hey, Mickey," this song was initially not so fine. When it was released in the UK in 1981, it didn’t chart. The 1982 reissue saw it climb to #2 in the UK and eventually #1 in Australia, Canada, and the US.
‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua, 1997
Although Metro lists Aqua as the most successful Danish band ever with a combined total of 33 million albums and singles sold, the band is best known for the song "Barbie Girl." And, despite a stint writing music for Sliding Doors (1998), that’s probably all most people know them for these days.
‘Macarena’ by Los Del Rio, 1996
One of our chart-topping picks actually had a surprisingly slow start. Flamenco duo Antonio Romero Monge & Rafael Ruiz Perdigones had a #1 hit with "Macarena" in Spain when the song was first released, but it didn’t make waves elsewhere.
‘My Sharona’ by The Knack, 1979
In addition to holding onto the Hot 100 #1 spot for six weeks, "My Sharona" nabbed #1 on Billboard’s Year-End chart. The Knack’s hit has also been called an "emblem of the new wave era" by The New York Times.
‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies, 1969
"Sugar, Sugar" was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, but it was recorded by The Archies, a "virtual band" composed of the Archie Comics characters. That’s right—a cartoon band had the best-selling single in the US in 1969. The song also held the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for four weeks, and remained on the chart for an impressive 22 weeks.
‘Whoomp! (There It Is)’ by Tag Team, 1993
"Whoomp! (There It Is)," peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Though the song never hit #1 on the pop charts, it did spend 24 weeks in the top ten. This feat made it the longest-running top ten song of all time until 1997.
‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)’ by Scott McKenzie, 1967
According to NPR, this Psychedelic pop song was written to "smooth things over" with local authorities in Monterey, California. Why? A bunch of hippies were about to descend on the town for the Monterey International Pop Music Festival.
‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ by Gotye featuring Kimbra, 2012
Yes, this is just some song that you used to know. But it’s also one of the best-selling digital singles of all time. With 13 million copies sold worldwide, it went 11x Platinum in Australia and 8x Platinum in the US.
‘Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)’ by Silentó, 2015
Silentó’s debut single spent six non-consecutive weeks near the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 and secured the top spot on charts in Australia and the UK. A viral YouTube video catapulted the song, and its dance, to unparalleled success.