A one-hit wonder is an artist or group who is only remembered for one song. In some cases, one-hit wonders may technically have had more than one song make it on the music charts, but only one big song by the artist or group is ever remembered. When it comes to one-hit wonders in the United States, I think the only decade that can rival, or even beat, the 1980s is the 1960s. In America, the early 1980s was definitely a breeding ground for one-hit wonders.
Probably one of the biggest one-hit wonders of the 1980s would be Toni Basil and her number one hit, “Mickey,” from 1982. The song itself was extremely catchy, and it had a very memorable video. Unfortunately, Toni Basil’s follow-up single, “Shoppin’ From A to Z” only managed to reach number 77 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After her success with “Mickey,” Toni went on to choreograph music videos by other artists.
Taco was another one-hit wonder with the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” I remember being a young child when this song was popular and hearing it on the radio. To a little kid like me, the song was very bouncy and catchy. Even though I’m an adult now, I have to admit that I still do like this song quite a bit.
Lipps Inc. also had a great thing going with “Funkytown,” a number one hit for the duo in 1980. It also has the distinction of being one of the last disco songs to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. While this song begged the listener to get up and dance, their next single, “Rock It,” only managed to reach number 64 on the charts. However, as a testament to how good of a one-hit wonder Lipps Inc. was, the song “Funkytown” was covered about six years later by Pseudo Echo.
Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire,” from the film of the same name, was a number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. The song itself has become rather iconic, and there have been references to the song in film and television over the years, especially in comedy pieces where someone is running. Unfortunately for Vangelis, he would end up acquiring the “one-hit wonder” label with this song.
In 1983, Dexy’s Midnight Runners hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Come on Eileen.” This song is a fun and bouncy number, and it’s a track that just gets stuck in your head after you hear it. I wish I knew more of the band’s material, to determine whether or not “Come on Eileen” was just a fluke, or if the rest of their music was like this.
Michael Sembello became a name after his song, “Maniac,” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. The song appeared in the film Flashdance, and it is as big of a song from that film as Irene Cara’s “Flashdance… What a Feeling.” After this song became a hit, Sembello recorded and released an album called Bossa Nova Hotel. Unfortunately, nothing from that album became a hit.
From “Mickey” to “Maniac,” there’s no denying that these songs helped create the idea that these artists and groups are one-hit wonders. Some of these acts probably deserved to be more than one-hit wonders, but, unfortunately, their other material was never able to appeal to the public, for whatever reason.