An artist with only one hit song. Examples include Nena, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Ini Kamoze, Ram Jam, Zager And Evans, Katrina And The Waves, A-Ha, and Chumbawamba. While fans of a one hit wonder will try to tell you otherwise, pointing towards the group's unheard of second album, or some crappy-ass B-side that they think is good, but you must realize the truth: They are simply one hit wonders.


It's also a song by Everclear off the album So Much For The Afterglow.

Pop music has led us to believe that unless an artist has albums with multiple hits (i.e., singles), that they are not actually successful.

Popular music gains its place on our radio dial by three means:

  1. Record companies send singles from albums that they think are probably the catchiest. For each time that a radio station plays this song, the record label will pay them a fee.
  2. As the populace hears this song, they run out and buy the album. As purchases occur, figures are aquired by both the record company and groups such as the Billboard Music association. Based on the figures generated, the song is played even more.
  3. As the song finds favor with the audience, they call in to request that it be played more, thus generating more advertising.

Thus, an artist whose music is different or original enough to actually be creative is almost guaranteed to disappear immediately upon hitting the charts, whereas repetitive, crowd pleasing pop is quite likely to gain a long life and be judged as successful.

N.B. For the purposes of this write-up, I will use the term "one hit wonder" to refer interchangeably to both the artist/band and the song.


I am currently watching a VH1 programme dedicated to one hit wonders and it has set me thinking: What is it about one hit wonders that sets them apart from other hits? Before I answer that question, perhaps it would be helpful to identify the various types of one hit wonder (feel free to /msg me with any further suggestions).

Types of One Hit Wonder*

  • The Notorious Novelty Record - conclusive proof that some people never learn. A novelty record often seems funny at first, but quickly becomes tiresome. The true novelty record seems to be a British affliction (e.g. Bob the Builder, Mr Blobby, Teletubbies), but some of the greatest US one hit wonders do have a certain novelty value (Kung Fu Fighting springs to mind).

  • The One-off Wide Appreciation of a Genuinely Talented Band or Artist - perhaps I am falling into the same trap as the people Orange Julius derides in his write-up, but I honestly believe such one hit wonders exist. These are bands who have large fanbases and successful albums, but are only known by the average MTV viewer for one song. Examples include Blind Melon (No Rain) and Free (All Right Now).

  • The Flash-in-the-Pan Fluke Hit - unlike the novelty record, this is a hit because people appreciate the music, rather than the novelty value of the tune. However, the band never manages to repeat the success with anything approaching the quality of that track. Chumbawamba is a good example, as are some of the other acts Orange Julius mentions.

  • The Deliberate One-Hit Wonder - this is where, for whatever reason, the band or artist only seriously tries for one hit. This could be an actor taking a brief detour from his acting work (e.g. Patrick Swayze) or a distinctly un-commercial band who deliberately write a more mainstream song for commercial success (e.g. Mr Big).

* bear in mind that some one hit wonders fall into more than one category

Well those are the categories, now I can return to the original question. It seems that there are several reasons why people love one hit wonders.

With the novelty record, it is the challenge of buying the single while people still like it. For about two weeks (or sadly much longer in the case of Macarena) everyone will laugh and cheer when you put it on at parties and do their silly little dance. That is the power of the novelty record.

The other three categories are popular for a different reason. These categories are made up of tracks that have got to the top on their own merit. There is no momentum from previous hits; no massive PR machine behind the group. It is all about the music, and that is such a rare occurrence in the MTV Age.

Funny that "one-hit wonder" should have not one, but *two* (perhaps even three) "pot culture" meanings. Assuming the cannabis is of lower quality, it is foolish for somebody to begin acting crazy after one mere hit. On the other hand, exceptionally high-quality dank often requires only one good hit to satisfy its smoker. For this reason, some refer to high-quality pot as having "one-hit wonder" quality, because it only takes a hit to be fully satisfied. Another occasionally-used term is "one-hit shit," probably because it rhymes. The sad thing is, despite all of the great feelings one experiences immediately after taking a good toke, THC only begins to strongly affect the body and mind after about 5 minutes...so it's easy to go overboard, and smoke far more than you want to, which is a waste of weed, and a potentially negative experience to boot (depending on how much you like to be completely disoriented and aware of the blood pulsating in your carotid arteries). So next time you're smoking delicious nuggets of high quality pot, try waiting 5-10 minutes after your first hit and you can effectively gauge its quality. If you're not satisfied, keep on going. Pot that costs $300-400 per ounce should never take more than three hits before introducing the smoker to temporary nirvana. One or two is a much better deal.

Also, there is no true quantitative definition of a "hit." With the use of a decent water pipe, an experienced smoker can reduce a fully packed bowl to cinder in one breath. This experienced master can be appropriately labeled a "one hit wonder," although this isn't a very popular usage of the term, and the master won't be very popular at parties, unless it's their weed. The first mentioned usage (pertaining to quality), although somewhat corny, really is employed by people other than myself, most often marijuana seed banks attempting to hock their hopefully potent, hybridized strains.

Also a colorful term from the late 90's pothead culture - a one-hit wonder is a person who displays all the symptoms of being really, really stoned after smoking only once (i.e., taking one hit). This is generally indicative of either inexperience or just plain foolishness.

See: lightweight, amateur.

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