Following last week’s nostalgic look at films from the 90’s that are worth revisiting, this week we are turning the spotlight onto music.
The 1990’s continued the trend set by the great innovators of the 70’s and 80’s, with a great evolution and branching out of genres and styles. Predominately underground genres – such as hip-hop, house, techno, drum & bass, trance and Europop – all made their way into the mainstream resulting in a vibrant, eclectic music industry. The iconic movements of the previous decades also continued to evolve bringing fusion genres into being; notably grunge, nu-metal, ska punk and neo-soul.
With the continued growth of MTV and advancing technologies, such as the compact disk, the way music was consumed was dramatically changed. It also became easier and cheaper to record, bringing around a true golden age of independent music, with the indie scene spawning the Britpop movement.
Music became big business and the power of record labels, managers and producers grew. Many groups were manufactured, with a huge support team around them designed to maximise profit – not just through record sales, but through a whole new level of merchandising and promotion. The modern concept of celebrity was born from this, with pop stars prominent and powerful figures in modern culture, dictating fashion and social trends. This resulted in music being used more prominently in advertising of the time. With the right product and the right stylish advert, any accompanied song could become a chart topper. Likewise, any iconic song or musician attached to a product could massively boost sales.
While one hit wonders had existed long before the 90’s, never before could as much money be made from a single chart topper. With a global market now readily available, artists from one nation could become a sensation in another with a single track. As every single and album charts became flooded with music from across the world competing to be noticed by the new consumer society, the 90’s became the mother lode of iconic one hit wonders.
So turn the volume up to 11 as we delve into That’s Not Current’s Top 25 One Hit Wonders from The 90’s…
25 – Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice / 1990)
It would be categorically immoral not to include the white rappers iconic hit in a list of greatest one hit wonders from the 90’s. Released in July 1990, it was a worldwide smash, achieving number one spot in both the US and UK. In 1990, Vanilla Ice released a cover of Wild Cherry’s 70’s smash-hit “Play That Funky Music” with Ice Ice Baby as the B-side. Despite charting, it was the B-side that garnered more radio plays and was re-released as a standalone single. So technically this isn’t really a one hit wonder, and he has also released six studio albums to date. But mention his name to anyone on the planet and their mind would immediately spring to this song; an icon of the dawn of the 90’s.
24 – What’s Up? (4 Non Blondes / 1993)
An all female San Francisco rock-band, 4 Non Blondes one and only chart hit came in the form of this power-ballad and topped charts around the world as well as a no. 2 spot in the UK Top 40. Taken from their only studio album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More, the band split the following year with lead singer Linda Perry going on to form a successful career as a song writer, with credits including Christina Aguilera’s “Your Beautiful”.
23 – Your Woman (White Town / 1997)
White town was the alias of UK based Jyoti Prakash Mishra who’s only chart success came in the form of this electro-infused track that hit the top spot in the UK charts in January 1997. It was a worldwide success, charting in the top 10 in over 30 countries. In 2010, Wiley sampled the track in his “Never Be Your Woman” featuring Emeli Sandè.
22 – Would I Lie to You (Charles & Eddie / 1992)
This R&B ballad from American duo Charles & Eddie is still a treat almost a quarter of a century on. It found a home at the top of charts across the planet and went on to win an Iver Novello award. Yet despite the massive success of this track, the duo could never replicate it.
21 – Everyone’s Free (To Where Sunscreen) (Baz Luhrmann / 1999)
Who would ever have thought that Australian film director Baz Luhrmann would find himself at no.1 on the UK charts with a spoken word song? Written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, it was spread globally as a viral email. In compiling a compilation album of his films songs, Luhrmann decided to add a track of him reciting Schmich’s essay, and the rest they say is history. A fascinatingly unique track, it is a perfect example of a one hit wonder, with a lovely, heart warming message.
20 – Swamp Thing (The Grid / 1994)
Released in May 1994, the only charting single from electronic dance group The Grid found itself in the top five of countless charts. The brainchild of former Soft Cell member David Bell, “Swamp Thing” was an instrumental track composed entirely of drums, synthesizers and the iconic banjo. It’s a classic example of the 90’s dance movement.
19 – Here Comes the Hotstepper (Ini Kamoze / 1994)
Jamaican dancehall artist Ini Kamoze stormed to the top the US Billboard Hot 100 with his only single release making him a perfect example of a one hit wonder. It peaked at no. 4 in the UK but managed to achieve the number one spot in numerous European countries as well as New Zealand. It’s an iconic song that anyone who lived through the 90’s will instantly recognise.
18 – Dub Be Good to Me (Beats International / 1990)
One of the very first UK no.1’s of the 90’s spending four weeks in top spot from the 3rd March, “Dub Be Good to Me” was a global success. Fresh from leaving The Housemartins, 90’s iconic DJ Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) formed this group in Brighton in 1989. It was conceived as a confederation of musicians and styles with their debut album Let Them Eat Bingo being critically acclaimed. Yet with only the solitary single coming in the form of this UK no.1 single, they qualify for this list. Besides, I will take any excuse to enjoy this sublime track.
17 – Informer (Snow / 1992)
Darrin Kenneth O’Brien (aka Snow) is a Canadian Reggae star that topped the UK, US and multiple global charts with his debut single. While it’s often (harshly in my opinion) cited as one of the worst no.1 singles of the decade, it truly was a behemoth of a track selling more than six million copies worldwide. With Snow unable to replicate this success at all, despite recording six albums, this song is more than worthy of being hailed a one hit wonder.
16 – Feel It (The Tamperer featuring Maya / 1998)
OK, I’m cheating here slightly as Italian dance group The Tamperer’s coalition with Maya Days did result in two charting singles in quick succession in 1998 before they vanished into the abyss. However, one of those singles was a global chart sensation, hitting the no.1 spot in numerous charts around the world. Sampling The Jackson’s classic “Can You Feel It,” it features one of the most bizarre lines in music history: “what is she gonna look like with a chimney on her?” “If you Buy This Record (Your Life Will Be Better)” followed five weeks later, only hitting the top 10 in the UK chart.
15 – How Bizarre (OMC / 1995)
Otara Millionaires Club – OMC for short – are group from New Zealand comprising of brothers Phil and Pauly Fuemana, that unleashed this sing-a-long favourite on the world achieving their only chart success. Peaking in the top 5 in the UK, it took the top spot in America as well as Australia and New Zealand. Their accompanying album performed well overseas, but outside New Zealand they had no other single chart success. Tragically, Pauly died in 2010 sending their iconic single back into the charts in New Zealand.
14 – Jump (Kriss Kross/ 1992)
Early 90’s hip-hop duo Kriss Kross exploded onto the scene with this debut single taking charts around the world by storm. Their debut album also found the top spot in the US charts with a few more singles charting. Yet, they never followed up the global success of “Jump” leading to them to be regarded as one hit wonders in many corners of the world, particularly the UK.
13 – Save Tonight (Eagled Eye Cherry / 1997)
Following in the footsteps of his step-sister Neneh, Swede Eagle-Eyed Cherry debut single found itself in the upper echelons of charts worldwide. While he had some relative success in some parts with later singles, he never matched is initially success, leading him to become largely synopsis with this track and considered a one hit wonder.
12 – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Deep Blue Something / 1995)
Despite still being active as a band and releasing albums, Deep Blue Something have only had one charting single globally making them a one hit wonder. Sharing its name with the classic Audrey Hepburn film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” originally appeared on their debut album, but was re-recorded for their second studio album and that is where they found success.
11 – Steal My Sunshine (Len / 1999)
Another band that only managed the single chart success despite releasing numerous albums, achieved with this indie-pop anthem. It became a sleeper hit for the Canadian group from radio-play before its official release in July ’99 and stormed to the top of charts worldwide making it one of the most iconic one hit wonders of all time. It was also on the official soundtrack for Go (the film that top TNC’s 25 90’s Films Worth Revisiting).
10 – Turn Around (Phats and Small / 1999)
Despite failing to hit the no.1 spot in any chart, it famously spent eight weeks at no.2 spot in the UK with the top spot being a new entry each and every week. By the connotation, one hit wonders are immediately recognisable songs that appeal to a wide audience, and this feel good belter is always one of the first I think of when I hear “one hit wonder”. Before its official single release, it became a “song of the summer” in 1998, being a firm favourite in the clubbing haven of Ibiza. Pointless bit of trivia is that Ben Ofoedu who provides the vocals on this track is now engaged to former TV chat show host Vanessa Felts.
9 – Drinking in LA (Bran Van 3000 / 1997)
Canadian alternative rock collective Bran Van 3000 never hit the top spot anywhere, but it became a sleeper hit after it was used in a Rolling Rock advert in the UK. Peaking at no.3, it remained in the top 40 for 22 weeks and was the 6th biggest selling single of the year in the UK. While BV3 have had some success in their native Canada since, this remains their one and only track to make a mark globally.
8 – Dizzy (Vic Reeves & The Wonderstuff / 1991)
Originally a no.1 on both sides of the Atlantic for bubblegum pop star Tommy Roe in 1969, comedian Vic Reeves teamed up with UK based The Wonderstuff to record a cover that hit the top spot in the UK. Since then, it has cemented itself as a cult classic, presenting a more rough-round-the-edges, adrenaline-fuelled, rock version to the original. It’s such an iconic one hit wonder that this version of “Dizzy” has now become synopsis with this track over the more successful original.
7 – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm (Crash Test Dummies / 1993)
Despite being a very established folk rock band in their home country of Canada, the Crash Test Dummies have only managed to penetrate overseas charts on a solitary occasion despite releasing eight albums. And it came in the form of the wonderfully crafted “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”, telling a haunting tale of child isolation. The unique vocal delivery of lead singer Brad Roberts makes this a timeless classic, securing a top 10 spot in charts across the world.
6 – Inside (Stiltskin / 1994)
No one hit wonder list could call itself credible without a mention to Scottish rock band Stiltskin. “Inside” was specifically written for an iconic Levi Jean’s advert and upon its circulation in the UK, the track exploded launching the unknown band into the mainstream and to the top of the charts. The classic rock track received further royalties through its use in other TV platforms, most notable Sky Sports during the late 90’s and early 00’s.
5 – Spaceman (Babylon Zoo / 1996)
The 7th song used by the American denim brand Levi in an advertising campaign, “Spaceman” became the fastest selling single since The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” released 32 years previously, shifting a total of 420,000 copies in week one in the UK alone as it rocketed to the top of the charts. It spent four weeks there, topping a further 21 charts worldwide. The band never even got close to eclipsing this success, with front man Jas Mann leaving in the following years to pursue a career in movies, becoming a respected producer, winning a BAFTA for documentary The Imposter. With plenty rumours abound that, as writer of the song, Mann made around £6 million from this solidarity single, proving the financial power a one hit wonder can have.
4 – You Get What You Give (New Radicals / 1998)
American alternative rock band the New Radicals were an explosive one hit wonder that have left a truly iconic song that has been used in hundreds of TV shows, films and adverts since its release. The only single released from their only album, this song is the ultimate trash talk on pop-culture and society, dissing everyone and everything from health insurance to Marlilyn Manson . Front man Gregg Alexander wrote and produced this song, and despite not topping charts it became a iconic worldwide hit symbolic of the 90’s.
3 – Scatman (Ski-Ba-Baop-Ba-Dop-Bop) (Scatman John / 1995)
American John Paul Larkin pioneered a fusion of scat singing and dance music that he unleashed with the marvellous “Scatman”. While he had moderate success laterally, this song was so defining in his career he has been regarded as a one hit wonder. The song charted across the world selling in excess of six million copies and became another iconic song of the vibrant, genre-mashing 90s. The sheer speed and style of his vocal delivery still amazes more than two decades on.
2 – Brimful of Asha (Cornershop featuring Fatboy Slim / 1997)
This is always the song I immediately think of when the term one hit wonder is coined. Originally released by midlands based Cornershop in 1997, it failed to chart. However, Fatboy Slim remixed the track and it was re-released a year later debuting at the top of the UK chart on it’s way to selling over two million copies worldwide. Written by lead singer Tjinder Singh, the song is tribute to Asha Bhosle who is an much lauded playback singer from Bollywood cinema. The insanely catchy tune was the only chart success for a band that is still going 25 years after originally forming in 1991. The fusion of hindi music, Britpop and alternative rock with Fatboy Slim’s peppering of electronic dance has resulted in this fantastic tune regularly recognised as one of the greatest remixes of all time. Not only that, the video was superb!
1 – Jump Around (House of Pain / 1992)
Three now very much established hip hop artists (Everlast, DJ Lethal and Danny Boy) came together in the early 90’s and brought a colossus of a track into existence. Produced by Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, “Jump Around” is a classic anthem, instantly recognised the world over and still hitting a chord when played in 2016. Sampling Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle”, the track exploded across the globe, charting in the top 10 in countless locations. It has been used repeatedly in adverts, films, TV shows and at sporting events as a crowd pleaser. Despite releasing three albums before splitting up in 1996, each going on to forge their own individual applauded careers, this was the one and only chart success that came their way. But what a way to do it! While it is in amazing company with the other 24 fantastic songs on this list, it quite easily stands alone as my most iconic one hit wonder of the 90’s!
There are a few obvious ones I have missed out, but purposely avoided the gimmick songs (looking at you Rednex!) Weighing it all up, I’m happy with my list and order. What would you add in? What would be your number one?