Can We Please Retire The Phrase “One-Hit Wonders” From Our Lexicon? (OK, Probably Not, But Let’s At Least Use It Better)


Yes, the VH1-clip-showization of music-discussion culture is pretty much a given at this point, thanks to, well, the Internet, and its tendency for shared laughter to hold more ballast than shared enjoyment within. (Shh.) And it follows that calling certain artists “one-hit wonders” is a common way to act as a laugh track for pop music, since it allows people to point and giggle at the parts of their past that they miss, but don’t want to admit doing so for whatever reason (sadness/shame at getting older, the deep-seated knowledge that Stock/Aitken/Waterman’s best songs are much more pleasurable than 90% of “authentic”/”mature” music). But you’d expect a retailer to at least be a little careful when pigeonholing some of its artists as such if only to wring maximum profit out of their back catalogs—and yet iTunes’ latest stab at collecting so-called “one-hit wonders” that it’s deep-discounted to 69 cents isn’t just lazily compiled, it seems to exist on Planet I’ve Never Been Inside A Rite Aid Playing The Follow-Up Singles To These Admittedly Very Big Songs. Five such examples, below.

Midnight Oil, “Beds Are Burning”
Hot 100 peak: #17 (also: #6 on Modern Rock)
Follow-up single: “Blue Sky Mine”
Hot 100 peak: #47 (also: #1 on Modern Rock)
Midnight Oil’s politically charged track about its homeland was one of the early alt-rock era’s signature songs. But as a listener to the now-departed WLIR/WDRE, I heard the more uptempo “Blue Sky Mine” a lot more than the stompy, growled-out “Beds.” And I probably wasn’t the only modern-rock-radio listener who did, given the two songs’ relative chart peaks!

Warrant, “Cherry Pie”
Hot 100 peak: #10
Follow-up single: “I Saw Red”
Hot 100 peak: #10
“Cherry Pie” is a strip-club anthem to this day. But “I Saw Red,” Warrant’s ballad about a cheatin’ heart, had a lot of Dial MTV heat right before the bottom dropped out of the whole hair-metal thing—and it matched its predecessor’s chart peak. (And let’s not forget that “Heaven,” from Warrant’s debut Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, peaked at #2.)

Thompson Twins, “Hold Me Now”
Hot 100 peak: #3
Follow-up single: “Doctor Doctor”
Hot 100 peak: #11
I mean, “Doctor Doctor” is also just a better song. That breakdown on the bridge? C’mon!

UB40, “Red Red Wine”
Hot 100 peak: #1 (October 1988 re-release)
Follow-up single: “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)”
Hot 100 peak: #7
I have heard both these songs while on runs for face scrub and conditioner. This year.

Rick Astley, “Never Gonna Give You Up”
Hot 100 peak: #1
Follow-up single: “Together Forever”
Hot 100 peak: #1
Yes, that’s right, we live in a world with a one-hit wonder…. whose big single was followed up by another number one hit. Wow, what a loser! Who remembers Rick Astley anyway? Then again, this is a compilation where two “one-hit wonders” are by the same band. Poor Bananarama.

Also, why does everyone forget about “I Heard A Rumour”? It peaked at #4 here!