Special Report

Biggest One-Hit Wonders in Music History

Evan Agostini / Staff / Getty Images

Chart-topping singles can often seem simple enough to the average listener, but the truth is that crafting a blockbuster relies on a confluence of factors. Behind the scenes, the use of certain instruments, production techniques, or arrangements can spell the difference between a smash hit and pure album filler. No less important is the dynamic between performing artists and the shifting nature of the pop landscape. Timing is everything, as the saying goes, and it’s as applicable to the music industry as it is to the music itself. 

Given all these factors and more, it’s no surprise that so many artists and bands have captured lightning in a bottle once and then failed to do it again. They’re generally known as “one-hit wonders” though the term can be a bit misleading. After all, many acts who found a place in the Top 40 rankings on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts on only one or two occasions still enjoyed relatively healthy careers or legacies. 

Take the new wave group Berlin, for instance, who topped the chart just once with the song “Take My Breath Away” from the “Top Gun” soundtrack. However, they were still a popular band throughout the 1980s, placing another song (“No More Words”) in the Top 40 and a total of seven in the Hot 100 – and a number of their songs receive regular radio play or streams to this day. (Of course, there are also many famous musicians who have never topped the Hot 100.)

Then we have the acts who scored it big one time on the charts only to more or less disappear from the public consciousness thereafter. One of the foremost examples is Los Del Rio, the Latin pop group that took the late 1990s by storm with their smash hit “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix).” Part novelty song and part dance craze, the track took on a life of its own while the group that performed it quickly became something of an afterthought. So it goes in show business. 

Click here to see the biggest one-hit wonders in music history

To determine the biggest one-hit wonders in music history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data for the Top 40 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts. Songs that reached No. 1 were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 40 points, a week at No. 2 worth 39 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 40 worth one point. To be considered, artists must have had no more than two Top 40 hits, either as individual artists or as featured artists, and must have sold no more than five million albums in the United States throughout their careers. Chart data is current through Feb. 11, 2023. (Here are some examples of the most popular songs that peaked at No. 2.)

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

40. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
> Artist: Bobby McFerrin
> Time on Top 40: 13 weeks
> Entered charts: Aug. 13, 1988
> Left charts: Nov. 5, 1988

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

39. When I’m With You
> Artist: Sheriff
> Time on Top 40: 13 weeks
> Entered charts: Dec. 17, 1988
> Left charts: March 11, 1989

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

38. Take My Breath Away
> Artist: Berlin
> Time on Top 40: 13 weeks
> Entered charts: July 19, 1986
> Left charts: Oct. 11, 1986

37. Rock Me Amadeus
> Artist: Falco
> Time on Top 40: 13 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 22, 1986
> Left charts: May 17, 1986

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Source: Rachel Murray / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

36. Harlem Shake
> Artist: Baauer
> Time on Top 40: 13 weeks
> Entered charts: March 2, 2013
> Left charts: May 25, 2013

35. I’ve Been Thinking About You
> Artist: Londonbeat
> Time on Top 40: 14 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 16, 1991
> Left charts: May 18, 1991

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

34. La Bamba
> Artist: Los Lobos
> Time on Top 40: 14 weeks
> Entered charts: July 18, 1987
> Left charts: Oct. 17, 1987

33. St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)
> Artist: John Parr
> Time on Top 40: 14 weeks
> Entered charts: July 20, 1985
> Left charts: Oct. 19, 1985

Source: Fin Costello / Redferns via Getty Images

32. Come On Eileen
> Artist: Dexys Midnight Runners
> Time on Top 40: 14 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 26, 1983
> Left charts: May 28, 1983

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

31. At This Moment
> Artist: Billy Vera & The Beaters
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Dec. 6, 1986
> Left charts: March 14, 1987

30. Black Velvet
> Artist: Alannah Myles
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 3, 1990
> Left charts: May 12, 1990

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Source: Courtesy of Will To Power via Facebook

29. Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley
> Artist: Will To Power
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Oct. 15, 1988
> Left charts: Jan. 21, 1989

Source: Evan Agostini / Getty Images

28. Good Vibrations
> Artist: Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch feat. Loleatta Holloway
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Aug. 10, 1991
> Left charts: Nov. 30, 1991

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

27. Take On Me
> Artist: a-ha
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Aug. 24, 1985
> Left charts: Nov. 30, 1985

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

26. Chariots of Fire – Titles
> Artist: Vangelis
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 20, 1982
> Left charts: May 29, 1982

25. Ice Ice Baby
> Artist: Vanilla Ice
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: Sept. 22, 1990
> Left charts: Dec. 29, 1990

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

24. Funkytown
> Artist: Lipps, Inc.
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: April 19, 1980
> Left charts: July 26, 1980

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images

23. Nothing Compares 2 U
> Artist: Sinead O’Connor
> Time on Top 40: 15 weeks
> Entered charts: March 24, 1990
> Left charts: June 30, 1990

Source: David Redfern / Redferns via Getty Images

22. Shake You Down
> Artist: Gregory Abbott
> Time on Top 40: 16 weeks
> Entered charts: Nov. 8, 1986
> Left charts: Feb. 21, 1987

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21. One More Try
> Artist: Timmy T.
> Time on Top 40: 16 weeks
> Entered charts: Jan. 19, 1991
> Left charts: May 4, 1991

Source: Courtesy of EMF via Facebook

20. Unbelievable
> Artist: EMF
> Time on Top 40: 16 weeks
> Entered charts: May 11, 1991
> Left charts: Aug. 24, 1991

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

19. Maniac
> Artist: Michael Sembello
> Time on Top 40: 16 weeks
> Entered charts: July 2, 1983
> Left charts: Oct. 15, 1983

Source: Courtesy of Extreme via Facebook

18. More Than Words
> Artist: Extreme
> Time on Top 40: 17 weeks
> Entered charts: April 13, 1991
> Left charts: Aug. 3, 1991

Source: Alexander Hassenstein / Bongarts via Getty Images

17. I’m Too Sexy
> Artist: Right Said Fred
> Time on Top 40: 17 weeks
> Entered charts: Jan. 18, 1992
> Left charts: May 9, 1992

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Source: Scott Gries / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

16. This Is Why I’m Hot
> Artist: Mims
> Time on Top 40: 18 weeks
> Entered charts: March 3, 2007
> Left charts: June 30, 2007

Source: Angela Weiss / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

15. Mickey
> Artist: Toni Basil
> Time on Top 40: 18 weeks
> Entered charts: Oct. 9, 1982
> Left charts: Feb. 5, 1983

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Source: Vince Bucci / Getty Images

14. Butterfly
> Artist: Crazy Town
> Time on Top 40: 18 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 3, 2001
> Left charts: June 2, 2001

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty Images

13. Laffy Tаffy
> Artist: D4L
> Time on Top 40: 20 weeks
> Entered charts: Oct. 29, 2005
> Left charts: March 11, 2006

Source: Mike Cameron / Getty Images

12. Here Comes The Hotstepper
> Artist: Ini Kamoze
> Time on Top 40: 23 weeks
> Entered charts: Oct. 15, 1994
> Left charts: March 18, 1995

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Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

11. Baby Got Back
> Artist: Sir Mix-A-Lot
> Time on Top 40: 24 weeks
> Entered charts: May 2, 1992
> Left charts: Oct. 10, 1992

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

10. Fireflies
> Artist: Owl City
> Time on Top 40: 25 weeks
> Entered charts: Oct. 10, 2009
> Left charts: March 27, 2010

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Source: Raymond Boyd / Contributor / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

9. Lately
> Artist: Divine
> Time on Top 40: 25 weeks
> Entered charts: Sept. 12, 1998
> Left charts: Feb. 27, 1999

Source: Vince Bucci / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

8. Bad Day
> Artist: Daniel Powter
> Time on Top 40: 27 weeks
> Entered charts: March 11, 2006
> Left charts: Sept. 9, 2006

Source: Scott Gries / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

7. Lean Back
> Artist: Terror Squad
> Time on Top 40: 27 weeks
> Entered charts: July 3, 2004
> Left charts: Jan. 15, 2005

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Source: Courtesy of OMI via Facebook

6. Cheerleader
> Artist: OMI
> Time on Top 40: 27 weeks
> Entered charts: May 30, 2015
> Left charts: Nov. 28, 2015

5. You’re Beautiful
> Artist: James Blunt
> Time on Top 40: 29 weeks
> Entered charts: Dec. 24, 2005
> Left charts: July 8, 2006

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4. Rude
> Artist: MAGIC!
> Time on Top 40: 33 weeks
> Entered charts: May 24, 2014
> Left charts: Jan. 24, 2015

Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

3. Everything You Want
> Artist: Vertical Horizon
> Time on Top 40: 34 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 19, 2000
> Left charts: Oct. 7, 2000

Source: Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

2. Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)
> Artist: Los Del Rio
> Time on Top 40: 37 weeks
> Entered charts: May 18, 1996
> Left charts: Jan. 25, 1997

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Source: Jason Merritt / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

1. Somebody That I Used To Know
> Artist: Gotye feat. Kimbra
> Time on Top 40: 44 weeks
> Entered charts: Feb. 11, 2012
> Left charts: March 2, 2013

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