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The Last of the One Hit Wonders?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 10

One Hit Wonders from 2000 to 2010

Is digital downloading taking away our top hit lists?

The Billboard Hot 100 is considered the American music standard when it comes to the popularity of music singles.   Rankings are based on radio play and sales, and weekly, and yearly compilation lists are released.    As music becomes more digital, Billboard is struggling to keep up. Tracking digital sales from paid download sites neglects to follow private sales by artists from their own web-based stores.  With such profound changes in how we listen to music, I have to wonder if the age of the One Hit Wonders has passed us by.

Music hits

What is a One Hit Wonder? Well now, artists come, and artists go.  Sometimes the best you can hope for is one really good hit, maybe something in Billboard’s top 40 list.  Commonly called “one hit wonders”, these artists owe their 15 minutes of fame to a single hit.  Some continue performing, never making it back into the spotlight, while others release popular albums, without ever hitting it big with another single.  Some OHWs in the top 40 are crossover singles, with the artists’ main audience in a different genre, while others just happened to hit the right sound at the right time.

A surprising number of artists have earned that distinction; more than 225 from 2000 to 2010.  Even more surprising is how many of those hit the number one spot, but never again topped the charts.

When you narrow down the selection to just those artists that peaked at number one on Billboard’s US charts, and had no other hits make it into the top 40, you get a mix of the seemingly lucky with those of true talent, the latter being assumed by the artist’s success in other countries or other markets.  While compiling this list I was surprised by how many of these songs I knew, or had at least heard once.  Surprising, because I’m a child of the 80’s and there are few disco hits mixed into my favorite playlist on my mp3 player.

Listed chronologically, here are the number one hits from Billboard for the decade 2000-2010:

Crazy Town

Formed in 1995, Crazy Town is an American rap metal band that performed from 1995 to 2003. After a break up and a brief hiatus, Crazy Town returned in 2007 and continues to perform today.   They have released two albums and six singles.   On March24, 2000, Crazy Town hit number one with their single ”Butterfly”.  While "Butterfly" was number one on Austrian, German, and Swiss charts as well, no other single of theirs broke the top 10 on any charts worldwide.

Crazy Town continues to perform in live venues, and their last three singles have been released only digitally, on YouTube and their MySpace page, myspace.com/cxt.

Butterfly

Terror Squad

Terror Squad is a hip hop collective established in 1998.  Five singles were released from their two albums, and of those five, only one, “Lean Back” made it into the top 40, peaking at number one in August of 2004.  “Lean back” also hit the top position on the R&B and Rap charts.

Terror Squad’s turbulent history and multiple member changes suggest that the group’s last album released in 2004, is, in fact, their last album.  Fat Joe has continued on in a successful solo career receiving several nominations for various music awards, winning two: the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Award in 2005, and Billboard’s Latin Music Award in 2006.

Lean Back

D4L

D4L, an American rap group formed in 2004 and calling it quits in 2006.  A popularizer (is that a word?) of snap music, the two singles released from their single album were reasonably popular on the Rap and R&B charts, with “Laffy Taffy” hitting number one on Billboard on January 14, 2006.

Although the group was short-lived, two of the groups founding members, Fabo and Shawty Lo, continued on as solo acts in rap and R&B genres.

Laffy Taffy

James Blunt

Going strong since 2003, James Blunt is an English performer who has had numerous hits in the UK and Europe.  His three albums reached the top ten or better position in multiple countries, and his US hit single, “You’re Beautiful”, which hit Number in March of 2006, also hit the top of the charts in multiple European countries. 

Nominated for five Grammys in 2007, Blunt is only a technical OHW, as his albums and other singles continue to be popular all over Europe.  You can follow his tax troubles with the UK, and download his most recent live album from his website, jamesblunt.com.

You're Beautiful

Daniel Powter

Canadian recording artist Daniel Powter has been performing since 2000.  Eleven singles released from four albums have had variable success in Europe, but only one, “Bad Day”, even made it onto the US charts, and it peaked at number one in April of 2006.

Powter continues to perform, touring with similar acts and creating original works.  His most recent single released mid 2012 broke the top 200 on the UK charts, but failed to register everywhere else.  Listen to it on his website, danielpowter.com.

Bad Day

Six artists with very different backgrounds and very different music styles have the bittersweet commonality of achieving only one glorious moment of success.  As technology continues to take prominence in everyday life, I have to wonder if the age of One Hit Wonders is over.  Solo and group artists can achieve amazing success on their own internet sites without ever involving producers or even the radio.  You can buy singles and albums directly from the artist, not a central location; internet radio allows you to program your favorite artists and create your own “stations”.  Without an easy way of tracking sales and popularity, will Billboard still have a top 40 list ten years from now?

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Comments

Apr 19, 2013 12:55am
curiosity44
JestMe, I think that with the Internet, artists have a lot more control over the music they want to share with the public.Also, with Social Media, artists do not need record companies to promote them like they did in the past. I believe that Billboard will still have a list. They are just going to have to change their criteria a little.
Apr 19, 2013 6:56am
JestMe
It will be interesting to watch how things change. I wonder how bands will self promote when they have mainly self-publishing venues.
Apr 19, 2013 4:22am
jengojengo
You gotta love one hit wonders. I had forgotten all about "Butterfly"- what a flash back!
Apr 19, 2013 6:57am
JestMe
They are fun, and it's funny how many you remember without really realizing that you ever knew them.
Apr 19, 2013 8:50am
Alex-Gopson
I'm looking at you, Flock of Seagulls. I Ran (So Far Away)
Apr 20, 2013 6:55am
JestMe
"I ran" was popular in 1982, but only reached as high as number three on any US chart. On Billboard's "Hot 100" list it only made it to number 9.
Apr 19, 2013 6:46pm
KimChaos
As I read each one I went, "Oh, yeah. I remember that." Thanks!
Apr 20, 2013 6:56am
JestMe
I'm glad you had fun. :) Thanks for reading!
Apr 25, 2013 10:44am
usedtoitall
I like your article but I don't consider James Blunt as a one hit wonders.
Apr 26, 2013 6:32am
JestMe
As I said, he's had quite a bit of success with his work and only qualifies as a "technical" One Hit Wonder because he's a lot more popular in Europe and the Billboard charts are about the US.
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