Having a chart-topping song is the dream of countless musicians. Music’s biggest stars often accomplish this feat repeatedly. Other recording artists, however, manage to score only one big hit, never able to duplicate their success again.
There’s no official definition of the term “one-hit wonder” in the music world, but it usually refers to a recording artist who has had one No. 1 hit (or one song that charted near the top for a substantial stretch of time), with the artist’s other efforts failing to reach similar heights. Music industry trade publication Billboard applies the term to anyone whose second single falls short of the Top 25.
In order to determine the biggest one-hit wonders of all time, 24/7 Tempo has identified artists whose No. 1 songs stayed the longest on the weekly Top 40 charts, based on the Billboard Hot 100.
Sometimes, one-hit wonder artists are great successes in fields other than popular music. Radio and TV personality Rick Dees, whose “Weekly Top 40” claims to be the longest continuously running hit music countdown in the world, topped the charts himself (as Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots) with “Disco Duck” in 1976. Mark Wahlberg first found fame as the lead member of hip-hop group Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch, who scored a hit with “Good Vibrations.” Wahlberg would go on to act in numerous critically acclaimed blockbuster movies. These are the greatest movies starring musicians.
However, legendary musical artists like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Garth Brooks, and the Grateful Dead are all technically one-hit wonders, too, in that none had more than one song among the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart throughout their careers. Those artists’ sole top 40 hits underperformed on the chart, however, compared to those listed here. Not having more than one top hit, obviously, doesn’t imply a lack of talent or a thriving music career.
This can be seen with the many one-hit wonders who are still producing new music, years after their big hit. These are the one-hit wonders that are still making music.
Similarly, 24/7 Tempo’s list of biggest one-hit wonders includes other names you may recognize, such as jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin, Latino rockers Los Lobos, and Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor.
To determine the biggest one-hit wonders, 24/7 Tempo identified the songs with the longest stays on the weekly Top 40 charts, based on the Billboard Hot 100, from 1980 to 2012. Only songs that reached No. 1 were considered. Additionally, artists must have charted on the Top 40 no more than twice, either as individual artists or by featuring on another artist’s song, and must have sold fewer than 5 millions albums throughout their careers, not including singles. Songs that were originally recorded for a film or television show were not considered. The American Top 40 consists of the top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and was obtained from Billboard. Data on certified album sales came from the Recording Industry Association of America.