Over decades of music, a plethora of genres and millions of artists, one thing continues to plague the music industry: one-hit wonders. The music industry is a lot like the jungle; it’s survival of the fittest, and if you reach the top of the charts, you better hope you stay there.
Of course, not all chart-toppers go on to make it big. We have found some of the most famous one-hit wonders that have gone on to produce more (and good!) music with less popularity. Check out our list of one-hit wonders and the hidden gems that followed.
1. Carly Rae Jepsen
You liked: “Call Me Maybe”
Try: “Cut to the Feeling” and “Run Away With Me”
Honestly, who doesn’t remember jamming out to this song in their middle school bedroom, the walls plastered with posters of Hannah Montana and the bed covered in Webkinz? This song defined the early 2010s when it was released in Canada in September 2011 and then in the U.S. in March, 2012 and reached number one worldwide. Jepsen herself received a boost in her career from placing third on “Canadian Idol,” the Canadian sister of “American Idol.” The song is catchy, has a good rhythm and a classic music video of a girl chasing after a guy, which never gets old. Ironically enough, after the success of this song, Jepsen went on to star on Broadway in “Cinderella” as the titular character. The more you know.
Jepsen herself, though, released another album in 2016, and while it has gained some traction, it has never recreated the success of “Call Me Maybe.” One of the songs she has produced that we recommend giving a listen to is “I Really Like You,” which has a great music video with Tom Hanks lip syncing (it’s all kinds of weird and wonderful).
Other notable solos include “Cut to the Feeling,” “Run Away With Me” and “Boy Problems,” which also features a fantastic music video inspired by early-2000s movies.
Jepsen also performs the theme song “Everywhere You Look” for “Fuller House,” and yes, she has done a duet with Bob Saget (maybe her career didn’t peak until that moment after all?) Jepsen is more than her one single hit and is here to prove she is more than just off-brand T-Swift (and not just because she’s brunette).
2. Baha Men
You liked: “Who Let the Dogs Out”
Try: “Night & Day”
The staple of all elementary school talent show acts and the anthem of every sweaty childhood birthday party, “Who Let The Dogs Out” truly defined the year 2000 when it was released, even winning the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. But the men behind the music, Baha Men, have been relatively solid since their peak. Unbeknownst to many, this group of middle-aged men is still kicking, and their music is kind of … good.
Most recently, they released their 12th studio album, “Ride with Me,” in 2015. It’s a unique mixture of reggae and the pop appeal of Andy Grammer that will appease your ears. If you’re looking for more old school sounds, the album’s lead track “Night & Day” has a good party beat, though it does sound a bit like Sean Kingston times seven. The 40-year-old men with teenage girls in the music video kind of ruined it for me. Great songs, strange — or, unique — music videos.
You liked: “Take On Me”
Try: “Crying in the Rain”
In case you didn’t notice, the 80s are so in right now, and this song is more relevant than ever. Now to be clear, this group is technically not a one-hit wonder because they had two number-one hits. However, as decades passed, only one song truly sticks in our minds, and it is “Take on Me.” The perfect shift between melodic belting and high-pitched head voice makes this song a popular scream-in-your-car song for road trips with friends.
But beyond their success, this Norwegian band has also had some music with unique vibes to it. We recommend “Crying In The Rain,” which features strong harmonies and is as close to the male version of The Dixie Chicks you can get. Also, we can’t leave out the often-forgotten second number one hit single “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” which balances melodrama and catchy beats perfectly. All in all, this band is the emblem of the 1980s and their music beyond “Take on Me” shouldn’t be overlooked.
You liked: “Pompeii”
First things first, we need to give Bastille some credit. Their number one single “Pompeii” flew to number one when it was released in 2013, but their other music never truly faded in popularity — the indie music scene ate up Bastille’s “Bad Blood” album in its entirety, in fact. (Disclaimer: this is NOT related to Taylor Swift’s single of the same name). But they never really replicated the phenomenon that was “Pompeii” with lead singer Dan Smith’s sultry voice and the song’s catchy “ay ay oh ay oh” vocalized beat in the background.
Some of his other music that you need to listen to includes “Bad Blood,” which is a song that almost mirrors the tone of “Pompeii” without feeling like a carbon copy. Some other great songs are “Flaws,” which is a slow, vindictive ballad about love sans the cheesy romance, and a newer single “Good Grief,” which is more upbeat and has a folk soul to it.
5. Lipps Inc.
You liked: “Funkytown”
Try: “Rock It,” and “All Night Dancing”
If you are a human on the earth, odds are you’ve heard the iconic beat to “Funkytown.” Heck, it’s even in “Shrek 2”. Released in 1980 to critical acclaim, the single went double platinum and topped charts in 28 countries. But that song served as a peak for the band, which disbanded just five years later. Even so, they did not disappear without some stellar music beyond the classic “Funkytown.” Though none were as popular, both to 1980s listeners and animated movie soundtrack compilers, there are some songs that I would categorize as a certified BOPS.
First, “Rock It,” released in 1979, has the best of what a funky song needs: strong violin progressions, a deep voice chanting the title every now and then and a really high-pitched voice singing the lyrics. It’s strange and unique, yet seems like a distant brother to “Funkytown” in the best way. Also worth a listen is “All Night Dancing,” which has similar music style but is literally designed to make you stay up all night dancing, as the title suggests. And I assure you, every song by Lipps Inc. will make you do just that.
You liked: “Let Her Go”
Try: ‘‘Life’s for the Living,” “Things that Stop Your Dreaming” and “All the Little Lights”
It’s the angsty song we needed but didn’t deserve. Released just six years ago, this song has not necessarily become a highlight in our collective nostalgic reminiscence, but the second that those gleaming chords play, everyone remembers. The song came out in 2012, and though it never reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, it was a song that played on the radio hourly. Singer-songwriter Michael David Rosenberg himself has such a unique voice that rivals similar music styles like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, which is what makes him a treasure chest in a way. His voice is full of singles to be discovered.
Among these are a few mellow beats, like ‘‘Life’s for the Living,” “Things that Stop Your Dreaming” and “All the Little Lights,” which have a reflective tone to them while not seeming sappy. He has others, like “Anywhere” and “27,” which are more upbeat and playful. All his music is golden by my standard and perfect for car rides or when you need to calm down for a bit.
You liked: “Video Killed the Radio Star”
Try: “Clean, Clean” and “Living in the Plastic Age”
Our last victim to the one-hit wonder plague on this list is Buggles, who released “Video Killed the Radio Star” in 1979. Years later, it’s still a classic song in dance-centered video games like Dance Dance Revolution and Just Dance. The song is catchy and unique, which made it top the charts in 16 countries.
Check out “Clean, Clean” and “Living in the Plastic Age,” if you like this top single, because the band maintains a dramatic way of making songs both catchy and able to tell a story all in three minutes. Oh, and they also are so new wave it hurts.
Whether you’re in the mood for some 80s tracks or late 2000s girl pop, there is more to an artist than his or her chart-toppers, and if you ever get the chance to give these tracks a listen, you just might find yourself sounding way more alternative and indie than your friends.
“Oh, you like Carly Rae Jepsen? Name five of her songs.” Well, now you can.