30 One-Hit Wonders That Will Immediately Be Stuck In Your Head

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/REX/Shutterstock.
If there's one thing we love, it's a solid one-hit wonder — extra points if it's an earworm. One-hit wonder is often a derisive term in music criticism, but we think it doesn't need to be. After all, some musicians toil away in obscurity for their entire careers, and would rather have one huge hit than nothing at all. And we know that the artists featured were all delighted to have so many people enjoy their work, even if the fame didn't last.
In compiling this list, we learned some interesting facts about one-hit wonders. First, celebrities who weren't originally musicians (like Paris Hilton), tended to have only one hit song in their pop star dabbling. We haven't heard much from Lindsay Lohan or Jesse McCartney since their songs blew up.
Second, we think of the 90s as being the peak era for one-hit wonders. And while that is definitely true, we decided to avoid some of the more obvious and overplayed ones from those years. We can only listen to "Flagpole Sitta" so many times. And in doing the research for this slideshow, we realized that 2004 was an impossibly great year for one-hit wonders.
What made 2004 such a fertile time for these hit jams? Having lived through those years, we're going to say that it was a combination of a few things: the internet becoming more of a presence, the desire for indie bands to cross over into the mainstream, and inspiration provided by the cultural conversations at the time.
And in the end, one-hit wonders contributed to the zeitgeist that they're a part of. Rather than mock them for being, well, one-off hits, we remember all the good times we had with these jams. Click through to see some of the best one-hit wonders of all time, and let us know your favorites.
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"Gucci, Gucci" — Kreayshawn, 2011

Think back to the summer of 2011. This song was everywhere for a solid two months, and everyone was convinced that pint-sized rapper Kreayshawn was going to be the Next Big Thing in the post-bloghaus world. That chorus about "basic bitch wear that shit so I don't even bother" is forever stuck in our heads.

Unfortunately, her debut album Somethin' 'Bout Kreay flopped, and she was never to be heard from again.
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"Smile" — Vitamin C, 1999

Vitamin C was another pop star that was supposed to be huge. She burst onto the scene with citrus yellow hair, trendy yellow eyeshadow, and the song "Smile," with such deep lyrics like "Life, it ain't easy/It's so tough." The song also features inexplicable raggae vocals by Lady Saw. The aesthetics of the late 90s were something else.
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"Take On Me" — a-ha, 1985

From the moment the drums kick in, you know you're in for a wild ride. But this song isn't just unbelievably catchy, it's a journey, featuring climactic falsetto notes so high that no one can sing them, but everyone tries. "Take On Me" is the party song; you can play it at any event and people will scramble onto the dance floor and screech the song out with all of their hearts.

The charcoal drawing-live action mashup music video helped propel the song to success. Even today, it's still considered one of the best music videos ever made. Although a-ha couldn't follow the success of the song and video, they still gifted us a pop song of absolute brilliance.
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"Nothing Compares 2 U" — Sinéad O'Conner, 1990

Sinéad O'Conner wasn't quite a one-hit wonder with her cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U," but it is absolutely her biggest hit and the one that she's most known for. She turned Prince's jazzy original song into a pained, heartbreaking hymn about a dissolved relationship, while staring piercingly into the camera for the music video.
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"Torn" — Natalie Imbruglia, 1997

One of the buzziest pop songs of the 90s, and it's just as good as we remember it. It's too bad that Natalie Imbruglia could never replicate the success of this smash hit, but we hope she's taking comfort in its newest resurgence among millennials. The reason that "Torn" is coming back? It's a cover, and people couldn't handle it when they learned the truth.
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"Young Folks" — Peter Bjorn & John, 2006

It's the jam that appeared in every single commercial in the mid aughts. This relaxing midtempo pop ditty is the sound of Etsy, if Etsy was a song.
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"Such Great Heights" — The Postal Service, 2003

On their own, the Postal Service, comprised of Death Cab for Cutie's singer and lyricist Ben Gibbard and the electronic musician Dntel, were popular in early 00s indie circles. But when they came together, magic was made in the form of "Such Great Heights." Millennials will instantly recognize this song as the song of their first love (or heartbreak).

The Postal Service never released another record, but this one-off collaboration was far more successful and beloved than either of their independent projects.
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"Crazy" — Gnarls Barkley, 2006

A song this huge could only happen once for a group, and for Gnarls Barkley, they struck on that potent combination of a jammable beat with crooning that everyone could sing along to. In 2006, you couldn't escape home movies of people dancing to this song, or hearing it blasting out of cars.
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"Somebody That I Used To Know" — Goyte and Kimbra, 2011

Another song that couldn't be escaped. This was the go-to song for indie movie trailers, but both Goyte and Kimba never had another hit again.
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"You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" — Dead or Alive, 1984

Everything about this song is just the absolute most. Catchy chorus? Check. Complicated drum samples? Oh yes. And lyrics that you will never be able to get out of your head: "You spin me right round baby/Right round/Like a record, baby/Right round, round, round."
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"My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" — Khia, 2002

At a time when mainstream hip-hop was being criticized for being misogynist (forgetting that rock music was/is just as unfriendly to women), Khia burst out onto the scene with "My Neck, My Back," a song so dirty it was banned from radio stations. Of course, the fact that a woman sang about her sexual desires in a very uh, concrete way, made it all the more controversial. These days, it sounds downright quaint, but we'll still bop to this song at a party.
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"Let Me Love You" — Mario, 2004

Mario's soft, soothing voice was the perfect accompaniment to this R&B jam that we heard in every romantic comedy. We legit still have a soft spot for this song.
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"Are You Gonna Be My Girl" — Jet, 2004

If you were trying to forget about this song, we're sorry we reminded you. This song was very divisive in 2004, and over time, well, we can objectively say that it hasn't aged well. Jet even inspired Pitchfork to give their album Shine On a 0.0 score with a very memorable review.
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"Take Me Out" — Franz Ferdinand, 2004

"Take Me Out," an infectious, bombastic indie rock song from Irish band Franz Ferdinand, was inescapable when it released. The band had other minor hits, but never lived up to the popularity of this jam. Which is okay! When you record a song this perfect, it's hard to capture that kind of lightning in a jar again.
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"Float On" — Modest Mouse, 2004

By 2004, Modest Mouse had released several beloved indie records, but never had mainstream success. When "Float On" was unleashed, it was a huge hit, but their core fans felt alienated seeing them become popularized. This was, after all, a time when indie music was rife with pretension. As a result, Modest Mouse never had another success like "Float On" again.
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"Good Time" — Owl City feat. Carly Rae Jepsen, 2011

Let us be clear: nothing about Carly Rae Jepsen is a one-hit wonder. But Owl City, who had Jepsen guest on this song, faded away after this song blew up. It was everywhere: car commercials, movie trailers, and even made its Kidz Bop appearance.
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"I Believe In A Thing Called Love" — The Darkness, 2003

Glam metal revival band The Darkness gave us this one hit, then promptly bit the dust. Their gimmick as an 80s throwback hair band was only fresh enough to last them one song. We don't miss seeing them on Total Request: Live.
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"Blue Monday" — Orgy, 1998

Orgy hit it big with their cover of New Order's "Blue Monday," one of the few covers that is arguably just as good as the original. For me, seeing singer Jay Gordon in patent leather and silver lipstick ignited a sexual awakening I never knew existed.
19 of 31
"Pieces of Me" — Ashlee Simpson, 2004

No shade here, this is still a great pop song that aged surprisingly well. Unfortunately, a technical snafu on Saturday Night Live, which sparked lip-synching rumors, promptly tanked Simpson's career. She blamed the incident on her band playing the wrong song, then on her acid-reflux disease.
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"Stars Are Blind" — Paris Hilton, 2006

Paris Hilton was the mid-aughts party girl, but she decided to capitalize on her inherent fame by releasing "Stars Are Blind." It was polarizing at the time, but has since become beloved for its nostalgic value.
21 of 31
"What If" — Kate Winslet, 2001

We're not sure why Winslet chose to pursue a musical career, but let's just say that we are so thrilled that she decided to keep acting. "What If" was the song played on every Hallmark holiday movie and it is really...something.
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"Bitch" — Meredith Brooks, 1997

One of the 90s most memorable pop songs, the popularity of "Bitch" went a long way in reclaiming the word for women. Brooks was even nominated for a Grammy for this song.
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"Bittersweet Symphony" — The Verve, 1997

As a huge, huge fan of the Verve, it pains me to put them on this list, but I know it's the truth. The Verve had already put out two fantastic records before "Bittersweet Symphony," from their third album Urban Hymns, was released, but this one caught worldwide fire. This song has it all: a violin part that sticks in your head, nihilistic late 90s lyrics, and a video with a person walking down the street. Seriously, that was a music video trope back then.

Fun fact: the Verve didn't make any money off the song, despite its massive success. The song samples a part from an orchestral arrangement of "The Last Time" by the Rolling Stones. The Stones' record label successfully sued and won 100% of the songs' royalties. Ouch.

All that said, listen to their first album A Storm in Heaven. It's incredible!
24 of 31
"I Try" — Macy Gray, 2000

The song that your mom played on repeat in her car. Macy Gray's throaty voice was refreshing in a world of autotuned pop stars, but sadly she wasn't able to replicate the success of this song.
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"Mad World" — Gary Jules and Michael Andrews, 2001

This song from the Donnie Darko soundtrack is a cover of the song of the same name by Tears for Fears. It takes the song's original synthesizers and swaps them out for pianos, giving it a haunting, faraway feel that still resonates today. An example of a cover song done right.
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"Take Me Away" — Fefe Dobson, 2003

Okay, yes, this was the song that we listened to while we were grounded to our rooms, but thankfully Fefe Dobson understand our pain.
27 of 31
"Rumors" — Lindsay Lohan, 2004

Another entry in the non-musician celebrity pop song canon, this one was Lohan's biggest hit. It's an angry, rebellious jam, and we still love it to this day.
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"So Yesterday" — Hillary Duff, 2003

We're not sure why so many actresses decided to pursue musical careers, but that was definitely a Thing in the early aughts. Hillary Duff's entry to the genre, "So Yesterday," remains her most beloved piece of work.
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"Beautiful Soul" — Jesse McCartney, 2004

This song takes us back. The comeback jam from Jesse McCartney, a former member of boy band Dream Street, was a a huge hit, but didn't give McCartney any staying power.
30 of 31
"Gangam Style" — PSY, 2012

The South Korean rapper created the ultimate one-hit wonder. Helped along by an absurd dance and YouTube, it became a worldwide sensation and was the first video to reach over 1 and 2 billion views.
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