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The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs

on September 21, 2016, 12:00am
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100. Europe – “The Final Countdown” (1986)

It’s not surprising that the song “The Final Countdown” was conceived around the track’s keyboard intro. Thirty years later, that’s the part that remains iconic. The TV show Arrested Development even went on to reintroduce it to a new generation by making magician Gob use it as his entrance music for his magic tricks, err, illusions. But at the time, it was a launchpad to the top of the charts for Swedish rock group Europe. The song went number one in 25 countries, and the album of the same name went on to sell three million copies. Sure, no one really knows any of their other songs (though they technically had another “hit” with “Carrie”), but the band is still active today, playing casinos around the world. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Rock the Night”

99. EMF – “Unbelievable” (1990)

Oh! You might not remember the record Schubert Dip; hell, you might not even remember the band EMF at all. But the second that rough-hewn sample of comedian Andrew Dice Clay plays and the crowd roars immediately after, you’ll remember “Unbelievable”. The alternative dance band from Cinderford, Gloucestershire, jammed a whole bunch of lyrics into their verses, some of which fit better than others, but when you’ve got a certified grade-A hook delivered straight from Jock Jam heaven, you can pack as many forgettable verses as you like alongside. The song has been featured in countless soundtracks, but more fittingly is played in sporting arenas across the globe. The group had a handful of more middling singles in the UK, but failed to crossover again and have since split and reunited a couple of times. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Children”

98. Michael Sembello – “Maniac” (1983)

Singer-songwriter Michael Sembello’s pedigree already included working as a guitarist for Stevie Wonder at the young age of 17, but that doesn’t mean that a nudge and a little luck aren’t still needed to score a number-one hit. His synthpop song “Maniac” ascended the charts due to its inclusion in the popular 1983 romantic drama Flashdance, an opportunity Sembello stumbled upon when his wife accidentally included it on a tape that she sent to executives at Paramount looking for music for the soundtrack. The song has since become inseparable from main character Alex Owens vigorously training and practicing dance moves in her warehouse. “Maniac” rose to the number-one slot on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1983 and remains one of the highest-grossing songs ever written for a film. Today, Sembello still creates music and has released six studio albums. –Sonia Vavra

Two-Hit Wonder? “Gravity”

97. The Surfaris – “Wipe Out” (1963)

Surf rock had such a big moment that it seemed like everybody had beachfront property. While The Beach Boys may go down as the ultimate band of the surf movement, The Surfaris’ “Wipeout” stakes a claim as one of the most iconic singles. That comes in some part due to its instrumental nature (well, other than that dude laughing and saying the title at the song’s open), setting it up perfectly for use in dozens of surfing and beach scenes in film and TV. It’s simple, but the shimmying rhythm and upbeat riff are earworms through and through. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “Point Panic”

96. White Town – “Your Woman” (1997)

It’s a shame that Jyoti Prakash Mishra and his one-man band White Town arrived several years ahead of the blogosphere, where he might have found a more receptive audience for his slightly off-kilter pop experimentation. Then again, the great thing about White Town’s 1997 mega hit “Your Woman” is how far ahead of its time it sounds. With a trumpet sample lifted from Al Bowlly’s “My Woman” and a lyric sheet that emphasizes fluid gender identity, “My Woman” would’ve been just as big a hit (probably bigger) if it had dropped in 2016. Mishra’s troubled relationship with EMI and insistence on doing his own thing left him an afterthought by the early 2000s, though his 2010 single “Cut Out My Heart” shows that he’s still got some bangers left in the tank. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Cut Out My Heart”

95. Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music” (1976)

Wild Cherry aren’t much of a household name, but they recorded one of the most well-known funk songs to date, which makes them as common as the household fruit they mock. “Play That Funky Music” was written by Rob Parissi, the band’s lead singer, and quickly shot to the top of the Hot Soul Singles chart when he and the rest of the band dropped it in 1976. As if it wouldn’t with a bass line that ripe. Those slapped lines and straightforward accents make the most stiff person dance. By the time the woodblock comes in during the bridge and the eponymous line gets called out in the chorus, it’s got everyone wiggling along. To date, it’s sold almost 3 million records in the United States alone. Over 40 years later, the song still holds up, too, raising the question: Could a funk rock revival be the change we need? I won’t say yes, but I certainly won’t say no either. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “I Feel Sanctified”

94. Len – “Steal My Sunshine” (1999)

Toronto’s Len might have only had one hit, but what a hit it was. “Steal My Sunshine” rose to the heights of No. 9 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1999, back when doing so had rarely ever mattered more. The ska-flecked pop hit was inescapable, and though the band would never reach those heights again (and is currently on the ninth year of an indefinite hiatus), “Steal My Sunshine” endures as both a catchy, unusually infectious reminder of that brief and weird time when ska began to fuse with whatever Smash Mouth was doing at the time and as a pretty great Parks and Recreation punchline. Also, the arm of Len is long; former member Brendan Canning would go on to form Broken Social Scene after his run with the band. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Two-Hit Wonder? “Cryptik Souls Crew”

93. Ronald & Ruby – “Lollipop” (1958)

Rewind back to the ’50s and grab a seat at your local diner. No matter what time of day you go in, chances are you’re bobbing along to the sugary 1958 single “Lollipop”. Pop duo Ronald & Ruby wrote the song supposedly without much hard work. After all, its effortlessness is what works in its favor. It’s been half a century and it still crosses generational gaps. Less than two minutes in length, “Lollipop” is an easy one to toss into movie scores and commercials alike, getting the point across without its simplistic charm fading. Unfortunately, Ronald & Ruby avoided major press because they were an interracial duo and knew that fact might jeopardize their career. Thank goodness they slid this song across the counter with enough force to still treat nostalgic masses today, though, or else we wouldn’t know what we were missing out on. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Lovebirds”

92. Billie Myers – “Kiss the Rain” (1997)

Coventry-born singer-songwriter Billie Myers worked as a nurse and an insurance agent while she crafted her first album of material, her passion for the art in the face of difficulty readily apparent. It seems more than coincidence that “Kiss the Rain” and Dawson’s Creek (a show it appeared on) arrived at the same time, the lovelorn outsider an essential trope of the late ‘90s. Myers’ lush growl and the clanging guitar were the perfect soundtrack to so many late nights with foreheads pressed against the windowpane, raindrops dripping down in the moonlight. You may only find Billie Myers’ name at the top of the charts once, but “Kiss the Rain” producer Desmond Child worked on smash songs ranging from “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” to “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. Myers, meanwhile, went on to release two more records without much pop success, doing some great work as a vocal advocate for gay rights and same-sex marriage, as well as for mental health awareness. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “You Send Me Flying”

91. Grover Washington Jr. – “Just the Two of Us” (1981)

If we were searching for the number-one contributor to overpopulation, this song would be a strong contender. The granddaddy of babymakers, R&B king Bill Withers and jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. created a perfectly executed hit that was way beyond its years. Washington unfortunately passed away in 1999, but his work lives on, one winelight night at a time. –Frances Welch

Two-Hit Wonder? “Mister Magic”

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