September 25 is National One-Hit Wonder Day. It’s a commemoration that happens every year, though when you think about it they probably just should have done it once. But this is an especially good year to observe the day: Aqua’s one hit “Barbie Girl” just got a second life (does that make them ineligible for the title?) thanks to the smash hit Barbie movie.
Everyone knows that a one-hit wonder is an artist who had one big hit song and then was never heard from again. Except it’s not quite as simple as that. To qualify, do you have to never place another song on any Billboard chart at any number ever? Or is it just no other song in the top twenty-five? The top ten? What about artists like Fiona Apple or Akron’s own Devo, who are best known by many for one specific song but have a well-regarded and influential body of work otherwise?
Mostly, I think, listmakers decide to commit to whichever baroque guidelines and exclusionary rules will permit them to include their favorite songs on their roster of one-hit wonders. To qualify for this particular list, your song needs to be available through one of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s various music outlets – sorry, Eddy Grant and Toni Basil – and you need to not be Vanilla Ice.
1. Funk Hit Wonders
Many often think of one-hit wonders as a 1980s and 90s thing – Kajagoogoo, Timbuk 3, Gerardo, the “How Bizarre” guy. But they’ve been around for as long as we’ve had popular music; ask your grandparents about “Teen Angel” or “Lollipop,” about the Singing Nun or Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. The 1970s were a particularly fecund (and funky) time for the phenomenon, spawning one-and-done hits as big as the lapels and as ephemeral as Betamax.