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The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs

on September 21, 2016, 12:00am

80. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy” (1982)


Pop in the ’80s was no joke, and this holds true with Bow Wow Wow’s rendition of “I Want Candy”. The song was originally written in the ’60s, but was later re-popularized by the English new wave/pop band in 1982. The success of this remake is largely due to its memorable music video, featuring lead singer Annabella Lwin’s energy and trippy FX, which premiered and played in heavy rotation during the rise of MTV. The band has broken up and reformed several times with different members over the years, and Lwin now performs as “Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” –Sonia Vavra

Two-Hit Wonder? “Do You Wanna Hold Me”
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79. Bobby Day – “Rockin’ Robin” (1958)

If there was a ’50s hit that deserved to stay on the charts for weeks on end, it was “Rockin’ Robin”. Bobby Day recorded the song back in 1958. As his only hit single, it spent a criminal one week at the top of the charts before being bumped down a few places. To this day, it remains one of the key songs of that decade and perhaps one of the best uses of whistling. The song’s alternate downbeat emphasis, cheery hand claps, and childish lyrics made it one fit for play just about anywhere, not to mention the loose jazz drumming. Even now, Day’s emphasis on the blues guitar line brings a smile to anyone who hears it. Then again, maybe that’s because they got caught singing the words “tweedle-lee-leedle-lee-lee” like the sun only sets for birds. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Over and Over”
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78. Anita Ward – “Ring My Bell” (1979)

Legend has it that the infectious “Ring My Bell” was initially intended for 11-year-old Stacy Lattislaw, eventual auteur of such teen tunes as “Attack of the Name Game” (yes, a rap version of the rhyming name song). But hand the tune over from the youth to then-23-year-old Anita Ward, and the song transitioned from a song about calling someone up on the phone to something far sexier. The Memphis-born disco vocalist got a degree in psychology and started teaching before she ever took to the booth, but the slinky, groovy “Ring My Bell” is an absolute star turn, an earworm of idyllic, chiming proportions. Ward put out a second album, then hit a rough spell that included label disputes and a severe car accident, returning only 10 years later for a final LP in 1989, long after the disco moment had faded. Her voice still sounded great on a brief 2011 return, but the formula hasn’t aged quite as well. That said, “Ring My Bell” absolutely hit its moment and feels like a teleportation chamber to the late ‘70s. –Lior Phillips

Two-Hit Wonder? “Don’t Drop My Love”
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77. Robert Knight – “Everlasting Love” (1967)

There’s no science behind what will or won’t be a hit. Producers Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden originally brought Robert Knight “Everlasting Love” to use as a B-side. Now, it stands as one of only two songs in history (the other, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”) to be a Top 40 hit in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. You can credit the success of this version to its Motown-approximating sound, unique string-like organs, and Knight intentionally delivering his lines slower than the melody, but its enduring appeal might be simpler than all that. People mess up. They hurt each other, even those closest to them. “Everlasting Love” throws itself on the mercy of a hurt lover and asks for a second chance. When will a song like that ever stop being relevant? –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “Love on a Mountaintop”
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76. Lipps Inc. – “Funkytown” (1980)

Come on, Madonna. “Funkytown” was the only song to reach the number one spot in 28 countries until Madonna’s “Hung Up” came along 25 years later and hit number one in nearly twice that number of countries. Disco act Lipps Inc. came out of nowhere with the hit, but it stayed for a month on the Top 40 chart, likely due to how infectious it is as a dance song and how many reasons people wanted to escape the politics of the time back in 1980. The song originally comes as an eight-minute extended version, as all disco tracks must, that saw scissors snip it in half for the radio. Lipps Inc. have that to thank for their fame. Without it, one of the best songs to sport improv dance moves to wouldn’t have been the iconic track it is today. –Nina Corcoran

Two-Hit Wonder? “Designer Music”
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75. Big Country – “In a Big Country” (1983)

Talk about peaking too soon. Big Country’s only song to crack the Top 40 in the US was track one on their debut album. It’s also a rare case where a song title references the recording artist’s name. So, there’s that. But the truth about Scottish band Big Country is that their debut album, The Crossing, is a underrated album from front-to-back, and they weren’t able to match that early creative achievement again. They would offer up flop after flop in the US, despite a decent showing in the UK. The band still performs today, though without original singer Stuart Adamson, who became increasingly troubled in the years following their initial success, struggling with alcoholism and eventually hanging himself in a hotel room. –Philip Cosores

Two-Hit Wonder? “Inwards”
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74. The Flys – “Got You Where I Want You” (1998)

If you recall The Flys’ 1998 post-grunge single “Got You (Where I Want You)”, you either a.) saw Disturbing Behavior and maybe owned its underrated soundtrack (which, admittedly, cruelly left off Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”) or b.) loved the Katie Holmes and James Marsden-featuring music video where everyone dives off a cliff at the end. Then again, you might have just listened to a lot of rock radio in the late ’90s and found this diamond in the very, very ugly rough. Either way, this slice of dreamy alternative was enough to give the Hollywood rockers a nationwide hit, something they were never really able to accomplish in the years after. Fun fact: Members Adam and Josh Paskowitz are related to the infamous (and, sadly, now departed) Jewish surfer Doc Paskowitz, so that’s pretty rad. –Michael Roffman

Two-Hit Wonder? “She’s So Huge”
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73. Barrett Strong – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959)

Here’s a good trivia stumper: Who scored Motown’s first hit single? If the fella beside you comes up with Barrett Strong, leave your pub’s trivia night immediately – you’re being hustled. However, the second the song’s unmistakable, chugging piano lead or Strong’s insincere proclamation that “the best things in life are free” pipes out of the jukebox, everyone in the joint knows “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Whether we grew up on Strong’s version or covers from artists as iconic as The Beatles and as quirky as The Flying Lizards, “Money” is hardwired into our internal iPods. Ironically, Strong, whose strongest claim to fame is as a Motown songwriter (the man wrote “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”), didn’t compose his own hit. Regardless, nearly 60 years later, “Money” continues to talk, and it’s still what we want. –Matt Melis

Two-Hit Wonder? “You Got What It Takes”
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72. Toadies – “Possum Kingdom” (1994)

The Toadies are a prime example of the benefits of timing. Who’d have thought that a little group out of Fort Worth, Texas, singing from the perspective of a dead cult member inviting you to join him in death at Possum Kingdom Lake would wind up with a hit? But then the combination of Vaden Todd Lewis’ dark lyrics (“Behind the boathouse/ I’ll show you my dark secret”), Darrel Herbert’s whammied guitar riff, and a massive hook fit right in with the just-crested grunge moment. The song was apparently conceived as a sequel to “I Burn”, in which cult members set themselves ablaze to reach nirvana. You’ll never have more fun repeating “Do you wanna die?” at the top of your lungs. –Adam Kivel

Two-Hit Wonder? “Tyler”
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71. The Youngbloods – “Get Together” (1967)

The first time I heard The Youngbloods’ “Get Together” was in a more sarcastic context, with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic screaming the chorus at the top of his lungs at the beginning of “Territorial Pissings”. But the song itself is a pleasantly earnest plea for peace amidst the tumult of Vietnam and the 1960s. No other song better embodies the hope and altruism that were so central to the budding hippie movement, and it continues to stand as one of the brighter beacons from that era. –Collin Brennan

Two-Hit Wonder? “Darkness, Darkness”
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