A one-hit wonder is any entity that achieves mainstream popularity and success for a very short period of time, often for only one piece of work, and becomes known among the general public solely for that momentary success. The term is most commonly used in regard to music performers with only one top-40 hit single that overshadows their other work. Sometimes, artists dubbed "one-hit wonders" in a particular country have had great success in others.
In The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders, music journalist Wayne Jancik defines a one-hit wonder as "an act that has won a position on [the] national, pop, Top 40 record chart just once."
This formal definition can[when?] include acts with greater success outside their lone pop hit and who are not typically considered one-hit wonders, while at the same time excluding acts who have multiple hits which have been overshadowed by one signature song, or those performers who never actually hit the top 40, but, had exactly one song achieve mainstream popularity in some other fashion (that is, a "turntable hit" or a song that was ineligible for the top-40 charts). One-hit wonders are usually exclusive to a specific market, either a country or a genre; a performer may be a one-hit wonder in one such arena but have multiple hits (or no hits) in another.
In 2002, the American cable network VH1 aired a countdown of the VH1's 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders, hosted by William Shatner. It listed musicians with only one American hit, regardless of international success.
The top ten consisted of:
A 2006 television poll, conducted by Channel 4 in the UK, asked viewers to select their favourite one-hit wonder from a shortlist of 60. Respondents could also vote by e-mail to select a song that was not on the original list, if they so wished. The top 10 were:
In 2006, the Australian series 20 to 1 aired the episode 20 to 1: One Hit Wonders, a list of songs that had been the only one by that artist to have success in Australia.
|20||"Tainted Love"||Soft Cell|
|19||"Mambo No.5"||Lou Bega|
|17||"Achy Breaky Heart"||Billy Ray Cyrus|
|15||"I'll Be Gone"||Spectrum|
|13||"Counting the Beat"||The Swingers|
|12||"Slice of Heaven"||Dave Dobbyn & Herbs|
|11||"Rockin' Robin"||Bobby Day|
|10||"Pass the Dutchie"||Musical Youth|
|9||"Don't Worry, Be Happy"||Bobby McFerrin|
|7||"Spirit in the Sky"||Norman Greenbaum|
|6||"Come on Eileen"||Dexys Midnight Runners|
|4||"Turning Japanese"||The Vapors|
|3||"Video Killed the Radio Star"||The Buggles|
|2||"Born to Be Alive"||Patrick Hernandez|
|1||"My Sharona"||The Knack|
In September 2006, New Zealand's terrestrial music channel, C4, aired an episode dedicated to "One Hit Wonders" on the weekly theme-based chart show, UChoose40, where the chart was ranked entirely by viewer's votes from the website.
The top ten ranking are as follows:
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Deutsche Grammophon and Vox Records have both released albums of classical one-hit wonders. Many of the works on the CDs are from composers who have two or more works that are popular in classical music circles, but have a single work that has become popular outside these circles. The two CDs differ, but the works common to both are:
Other examples of classical one-hit wonders are Vittorio Monti's Csárdás, Enrico Toselli's Serenata 'Rimpianto' Op.6 No.1, popularly known as "Toselli's Serenade", and Jean Paul Egide Martini's Plaisir d'Amour.
Several musical artists have had one track with outsize notability yet have also achieved widespread success a second time, perhaps evolving their sound for a long while. Some of these groups and single performers maintain cult followings or otherwise gain cultural influence despite failing to achieve a constant chart presence (Janis Ian is a key example); others may only ever chart as "one-album wonders," with both of their two hit singles (the breakthrough debut and the follow-up) from the same album (KT Tunstall, Young M.C., and Quiet Riot are key examples of this). As in the commentary above, the definition of 'hit' and 'success' is, of course, still partially subjective.
As an example of how nebulous the 'two hit wonder' concept can be, the aforementioned Sisqó has maintained popularity for many years in large part given that, outside of being a single artist, he has "seen plenty of heavy-breathing chart action... as the lead singer of Dru Hill". Dutch hard rock outfit Golden Earring, with their aforementioned 1982 hit even being incorporated into the official The Twilight Zone pinball game, has such an appeal in their homeland, outside of their Anglo-American hits, that they are the most well-known band ever to come from the Netherlands.
The term one-hit wonder is occasionally applied to other media.
In the sports world, there are several athletes known to casual sports fans for one event in their careers. Examples include Paul Henderson, a Canadian ice hockey player who scored the deciding goal in the 1972 Summit Series; Mike Jones,an American footballer who tackled Kevin Dyson at the one-yard line on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV; David Tyree, a wide receiver who became famous for a helmet-assisted catch during the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII; Timmy Smith and Mark Rypien, both Washington Redskins stars that ended up out of football shortly after winning Super Bowls XXII and XXVI respectively; Armando Galarraga, a pitcher who is primarily known for one near-perfect game he played in June 2010. NASCAR driver Derrike Cope, who won the 1990 Daytona 500 in a surprise victory after Dale Earnhardt blew a tire on the last lap; Buster Douglas, who was the first boxer to ever knock Mike Tyson out; and Jimmy Glass, a goalkeeper, who is remembered for scoring a goal in the last seconds of the final day of 1998-99 English Third Division that kept his club in The Football League. His subsequently released biography was titled One-Hit Wonder.
Some athletes have become remembered for a single mistake in their careers as opposed to a triumphant moment. Notable examples of such athletes include Buffalo Bills placekicker Scott Norwood, who is infamous for a missed 47-yard field goal that cost his team the Super Bowl; Bill Buckner, who at the 1986 World Series made a fielding error in which a baseball rolled through his legs; Steve Smith, who scored an own goal near the end of the third period in game 7 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Quarter Finals causing the Edmonton Oilers to lose to the Calgary Flames; and Jim Marshall, who, as part of the Minnesota Vikings, ran 66 yards (mistakenly into his own end zone) and scored a safety for the San Francisco 49ers.
In tennis, the term "one-slam wonder" can be referred towards players who have either won only one Grand Slam singles title during his or her career, or players who have currently only won one Grand Slam singles title but have the potential to win even more in their careers.Andy Roddick is said to have enjoyed a successful tennis career, despite winning only one Grand Slam singles title - the 2003 US Open - in his entire career. Other players who won only one Grand Slam singles title in their entire career include Carlos Moyá, Petr Korda, Gastón Gaudio, Thomas Johansson, Albert Costa, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Anastasia Myskina, Yannick Noah, Gabriela Sabatini, Jana Novotná, Andrés Gómez, Conchita Martinez and Michael Chang.
The term "cup of coffee" is used to describe a baseball or ice hockey player who has only a short stint (i.e., long enough to drink a cup of coffee and not do much else) in Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League respectively and then spend the rest of their careers in the minor leagues.