Happy National One-Hit Wonder Day!
September 25th is the day to celebrate musical acts who hit it big — briefly — before dying out and fading away into obscurity and VH1 specials.
Which is, y'know, actually sad.
So, instead of the umpteenth listicle that talks about “Macarena,” “I’m Too Sexy” and, incorrectly, “Ice Ice Baby” (Vanilla Ice had two hits, kids), we’re going another route: Uncovering the best non-hit songs by supposed one-hit wonders. In other words, we're giving these artists their due.
First, some ground rules: If the act had more than one popular U.S. single (aforementioned Vanilla Ice, a-ha) or a long career that didn’t depend on Top 40 designation (Lou Reed, Black Sabbath), then they don’t count. We also, with one exception, tried to veer away from acts that had a good career overseas.
Below, five acts that deserve a second listen.
“Anyway” by Dynamite Hack (2000)
Who: An Austin, Texas-based band that scored a top 15 modern rock hit, an opening slot on a Weezer tour and national TV exposure for their acoustic, Beatles-esque cover of “Boyz-N-The-Hood.”
Why this song: Your only sort-of-hit was a cover? Ouch (see also: Alien Ant Farm). Anyway, “Anyway” is a two-minute grungy/punk singalong that should have owned the new century. But, as the lyrics go, “I just don’t care enough about you/so fuck you anyway.”
“(Everything Is) Debatable” by Hellogoodbye (2013)
Who: While tagged as pop punk, the dance-y nature of “Here (In Your Arms)” portended the direction rock music would take in the mid-aughts, as heavy production and digitized vocals became the norm. Then these guys basically said, “Nah.”
Why this song: Long album delays, an ever-rotating cast of band members and a purposeful change in sound (to something more organic) meant this California group was never going to be a consistent chart presence. But dig the disco grooves of this catchy 2013 single. And don’t fret — the band was fairly recently opening for Paramore and seems to be working on new stuff.
“Posse on Broadway” by Sir Mix-A-Lot (1988)
Who: The Seattle rapper likes big butts, yes. Established. But he also had a pretty great debut album, a few years before "Baby Got Back," called Swass that covered Black Sabbath, looped in square dancing and was eventually sampled by the Pussycat Dolls.
Why this song: "'Cause the 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb." As mission statements go, you could do worse than Mix-A-Lot’s first single, an ode to late night street cruising in a black Benz limo. Also, "I’m the man they love to hate/I’m the J.R. Ewing of Seattle" is the most '80s lyric ever.
“Mungo City” by Spacehog (1998)
Who: English transplants to New York soundtrack the tail end of alt-rock era with their glorious glam rock anthem “In the Meantime.” Lead singer Royston Langdon later married Liv Tyler for a time.
Why this song: The slinky first single from the band’s second record, The Chinese Album, could be mistaken for a lost 80s Bowie track.
“How to Get Your Band on Television” by Chumbawumba (1986)
Who: “I get knocked down! But I get up again!” As this repetitive drinking chant went mainstream in the 90s, the band (outside of the U.K.) seemed to appear and disappear instantly.
Why this song: Before their single U.S. hit, Chumbawumba had released seven albums of anti-fascist punk and sample-heavy pop that tended to skewer self-important rock stars (like "Television," their rather catchy attack on Paul McCartney, Bob Geldof, Freddie Mercury, et. al. for their — in Chumbawumba’s mind — hypocritical participation in Live Aid). After their one U.S. hit, they encouraged fans to steal their albums—make your own joke about how they couldn't even give the new songs away.
Sir Mix-A-Lot photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Dick Clark Productions