Saturday, July 16, 2011

One Hit Wonders

This is a partial repost off of yahoos music blog by Paul Grein. An interesting look at the one hit wonders of the last couple of decades. Be sure to check the rest of the article.

Chart Watch Extra: One Hit Wonders

Posted Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:18pm PDT by Paul Grein in Chart Watch
Most of the record-setting achievements spotlighted in Joel Whitburn's newly-published reference book Top Pop Singles 1955-2010 are positive: artists with the most chart hits, singles that spent the most weeks at #1, and the like. But there's one list in the book that no artist would want to appear on: the "one-hit wonders" of the rock era. These are artists who had one top 10 hit and then never returned to (or even bubbled under) the Hot 100. And who's the biggest one-hit wonder of all? Daniel Powter, whose 2006 smash "Bad Day" topped the chart for five weeks. Powter is the only artist in the rock era to spend as many as five weeks at #1 with his first and only chart hit.
Rather than go all the way back to 1955, let's zero in on the more recent past. And let's raise the bar a little and focus on artists who had top five hits. Here are the 22 artists who cracked the top five on the Hot 100 from 1985 through 2010 and have yet to return to (or even "bubble under") the chart. Some of these artists clearly had talent. Even now, it's hard to figure out what was missing.
Joan Osborne's career got off to a strong start in early 1996. Her breakthrough hit, "One Of Us," logged two weeks at #4. The smash, in which she confronted profound theological questions in simple, everyday language, was nominated for Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. (Osborne was also nominated for Album of the Year for Relish and Best New Artist.) For all that success, Osborne has yet to land another Hot 100 hit.
Oleta Adams' "Get Here," a hit 1991 cover version of a 1988Brenda Russell song, is also a first-rate record. Yet Adams, too, has yet to return to the chart. It's a reminder that talent isn't always enough to have a long career in pop music. Luck and chance also play big roles.
The Cardigans' 1997 smash "Lovefool" is such a delightful piece of pop fluff  that you're left wondering why they never had another hit. The same is true ofJennifer Paige's lilting 1998 hit "Crush" and several of the other songs on this list.
In other cases, it's easier to understand why the acts didn't go on.Nicki French's 1995 hit "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" was a dance remake of an already familiar pop song, so she didn't earn much credit for her hit's success. A red-hot George Michael co-wrote and sang on Deon Estus' "Heaven Help Me," which made it look like Estus was piggy-backing on Michael's success. It didn't enhance Estus' credibility.
Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" and the Proclaimers'"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," while both very engaging, both had a novelty element, which made them harder to follow up. Where do you go from there?
Here, then, are the 22 artists who cracked the top five on the Hot 100 from 1985 through 2010 and have yet to return to (or even "bubble under") the chart. They are ranked by how successful their sole hits were. I looked first at peak position, then weeks at that peak position, and then weeks on the Hot 100.
1. Daniel Powter, "Bad Day." This bittersweet ballad logged five weeks at #1 in April and May 2006. Powter, who wrote the song, was 35 at the time. Powter was born in Vancouver, British Columbia.
2. USA for Africa, "We Are The World." It's a little unfair to call this ensemble a one-hit wonder, since this was its one and only release, but the record is here in the interest of completeness. This smash logged four weeks at #1 in April and May 1985 and won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie co-wrote the song, which raised millions to alleviate starvation in Africa.
3. Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry Be Happy." McFerrin was 38 when this philosophical pep talk spent two weeks at #1 in September and October 1988. The song, which he wrote, was featured in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. The left-field hit won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. Robin Williams appears in the video.

Hat Tip: As noted, I based this column on a list of one-hit wonders in Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-2010. In a legend accompanying his list, Joel offers some fine print: "Artists must be the lead artist and not a featured artist (to qualify). Duos that share equal billing do not count if one member has other chart hits." Joel's book is endlessly useful. Here's a link to Joel's site

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