The 10 Most Interesting One-Hit Wonders in Pop Music History
The music industry is a tough business. Some artists struggle for years to achieve success, while others experience it overnight. Ideally, a performer can turn all that hard work into a sustained career, but there’s an infamous category of musical curiosities: the one-hit wonder.
One-hit wonders resonate with music fans just once. They can’t make lightning strike a second time, but their only hit is unforgettable. Here are the ten most interesting one-hit wonders in pop music history. They may not be the biggest smashes from one-hit wonders, but they made an impact on pop culture in their own way. Enjoy!
For the purposes of this list, I’m defining a one-hit wonder as an artist who only hit the top 40 once. These folks may have had other singles make the Hot 100, but they didn’t crack the top 40 again.
10. Taco, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (1983)
One of the oddest musical moments of the ‘80s came when a Dutch singer who went only by his first name of Taco had a top five hit on the Hot 100 with his version of Irving Berlin’s 1929 classic “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Taco crooned the standard in a style reminiscent of the twee, tinny male vocalists of the day, but he backed those vocals with modern instrumentation. The result was a song that sounded like nothing else on the radio at that time. He burned up the charts in 1983 with his take on the classic, but he never managed to dent the charts again in America.
What was the appeal of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” that it would become such a big hit more than five decades after Berlin wrote it? Was it the unique melding of old-fashioned vocal style with trendy sounds? Was it a testimony to the universal appeal of Berlin’s songs? Or was it because the guy’s name is Taco, and everybody loves tacos? No matter the reason, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” was a blast from the past that became a smash in an unusual decade.
9. Biz Markie, “Just a Friend” (1989)
Some hits are so catchy that they stick in your head no matter how hard you try to resist. Biz Markie’s one smash single is one of them. Admit it – you sing along too when you hear “Just a Friend.”
The song is pretty straightforward: Markie is warning guys to avoid dating girls who “have a friend.” He relates his own experience with a college co-ed whose “friend” was more than the rapper bargained for. The melody – a sample of Freddie Scott’s glorious 1968 single “You Got What I Need” – is the perfect earworm. Even though Biz Markie’s singing skills leave plenty to be desired, it’s hard to resist joining in.