Have you ever heard a commercial or musical cover of a song from back in the 90s and thought to yourself, “I loved that song! What ever happened to that guy?” Well you haven’t heard much, if anything, from these artists again because they fall into the exclusive club phenomenon known as one hit wonders. These folks produced songs that were unexpected successes and catapulted them to super stardom then poof, they disappeared never to be heard from again. At least not in the mainstream. Some artists were brand new to the music scene while others could be considered veterans and fortunately hit the jackpot after toiling away for years.
But what exactly makes these artists so successful? What is the anatomy of a one hit wonder? Technically speaking, these are artists whose hit songs peaked in the top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. But perhaps it’s something more subjective than that. Based on artists who fall into this category, their success appears to be a combination of perfect timing, a different and intriguing sound when compared to their contemporaries and other mainstream artists and the songs get you moving (many of these hits were club anthems), thinking and relating. Above all else they’re fun. In some cases, the artists aren’t taking themselves too seriously and they’re doing what they enjoy. Perhaps this approach to making music is the magic sauce that brings together the ingredients required for widespread appeal. They’re not expecting anything in return so they don’t limit themselves.
Some of these one hit wonders were never heard from again in the US or faded into obscurity altogether but there are others who have gone on to enjoy wild success in the European market. Of this group it’s possible they faded from the American spotlight despite trying to recreate their former success. They were unable to do so because the magic of their hit just couldn’t be repeated, it was perfect for that point in time and nothing will compare to it. That’s not to say that the songs faded into obscurity. Some of these hits can still be heard today, whether in the club, a commercial, a movie soundtrack or even covered by another artist. Many of these songs have proven that they themselves have staying power.
12. Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart (Then)
Back in 1990 Deee-Lite, made up of Supa DJ Dmitry aka DJ Dmitry, Lady Miss Kier and Towa Tei, burst onto the music scene with “Groove is in the Heart” from their debut album World Clique. It rocked our airways and was accompanied by a psychedelic music video that showcased funky fashion and even funkier dance moves. The song topped the American charts at #4 and stayed on top of the charts for 23 weeks.
Towa Tei left the group prior to the release of their 3rd studio album, Dewdrops in the Garden and was replaced by DJ Ani.
Despite the success of their first album, subsequent albums failed to reach the same heights which is likely due in part to limited support and promotion from their record label Elektra. The band officially broke up in 1995 due in part to creative differences between its members.
Following the split, the members all embarked on solo careers. Lady Miss Kier, Deee-Lite’s vocalist, moved to London to begin a solo song writing career and became a DJ. They’ve previously stated that chances of a reunion are unlikely. Sorry Deee-Lite fans! However, there’s a bit of a silver lining. As of 2012, Lady Miss Kier was performing Deee-Lite tributes.
In addition to music, since arriving on the music scene Lady Miss Kier has been considered a style icon. As recently as 2016 she was considered the inspiration behind Jeremy Scott’s fall 2016 line that debuted at NYFW. She’s taken part in multiple speaking engagements throughout the years with the most recent being at New York University’s “NYU Panel Nelson Sullivan: Vlogging in the 80s” which took place in 2013. That same year she also provided voice over work for The Jazz Foundation of America’s animated promotional video for their “A Great Night in Harlem” event.
11. Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy (Then)
Right Said Fred was started by two brothers (Fred and Richard Fairbrass) in 1989. Rob Manzoli joined in 1990 as the guitarist and co-writer. The group achieved success quickly with the release of “I’m Too Sexy” in 1991. The song was #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 that year for three weeks and earned the group an Ivor Novello Award. Evidence of the song’s success is apparent in the fact that over the years it’s been sampled in various TV shows and movies. With its catchy lyrics and Richard’s deep voice, it’s no wonder it was loved by so many. There were two additional singles released from their debut album, Up, “Don’t Talk Just Kiss” and “Deeply Dippy”, that were very successful. They reached #8 and #9 respectively on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club chart but “I’m Too Sexy” remains their most widely recognized single in the US. This success led to Up reaching multi-platinum status in the US.
Right Said Fred Now
While they’ve released six follow-up albums since Up over the years, they’ve all been big hits in Europe and the UK versus the US. In addition to new albums, they’ve toured at length in Europe and performed at the 2006 FIFA world cup opening ceremony. Ultimately, Rob Manzoli left the group in 1997 followed by the brother taking a break from the industry.
Songs like “I’m Your Mate” and “I’m A Celebrity” have made their way back onto US airways but haven’t reached chart topping heights like “I’m Too Sexy”. Their most recent single, “Raise Your Hands”, was released in 2013 and made it onto the US Club and Dance Chart Top 10 list. It’s their 6th hit song to do so. Since then, they’ve made various appearances on TV shows such as Celebrity Big Brother UK. To this day the brothers continue to write music and perform around the world.
10. Haddaway – What Is Love (Then)
You may remember this hit from the movie A Night at the Roxbury, particularly the scene where Chris Kattan’s character Doug Butabi smashes a car door window while head bopping to the song. It may have been a movie (based on Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live sketches) but it was indicative to just how catchy the song was, it made you want to get up and dance. Nestor Alexander Haddaway aka Haddaway released this song in 1993 and it was a massive success in the US and Europe. It peaked at #11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and earned Gold status. Other singles from his debut album topped the charts earning the album itself Platinum status in Germany and Gold status in the UK and France. His second album, The Drive, was moderately successful with 3 hit singles that were popular in Europe but subsequent follow-up albums failed to produce any additional chart topping hits in either Europe or the US.
More recently, Haddaway released a new single called “Up and Up” in 2012 which, based on its upbeat tempo and catchy chorus, managed to become a top 20 hit in the US. As a single, “What is Love” has proven that it has staying power, it’s been remixed and covered many time over the years by various artists: Eminem and Lil Wayne sampled it in 2010 for the song “No Love” and Canadian singer Kiesza remixed it beautifully with piano accompaniment in 2014, among many others.
In conjunction with other artists from the 90s, such as Dr Alban and Captain Jack, Haddaway is taking part in a documentary film called Never-Ending Dream. The film will revisit key moments during the height of the 90s Eurodance craze and will discuss the resurgence of Eurodance music. Filming starts this summer and the film is scheduled for release sometime next year. It’s the first documentary of its kind and will provide lots of juicy insider insight and information.
9. Charles and Eddie – Would I Lie To You? (Then)
This dynamic duo consisted of Charles Pettigrew and Eddie Chacon. Their hit single “Would I Lie to You” was fun and sweet and the video that accompanied it came off as innocent and not at all like how things have become in the current music era. If you were a young girl in the 90s, hands up if you loved the promise the words of the song held. It was a refreshing take on the same old love story. And don’t get me started on Eddie’s hair, gorgeous.
“Would I Lie to You” was their debut single from their first album Duophonic and it met with international success. The single peaked at #13 on Billboard’s Top 100 in 1992. Their follow-up album, released three years later, failed to produce any chart toppers and the duo decided to disband and focus on their solo careers.
Charles and Eddie Now
Now 50 years old and living in LA with his wife Sissy Sainte-Marie, Eddie is grateful for, as he puts it, his 15 mins of fame but doesn’t want to be defined by it or live with the expectation that he needs to accomplish the same levels of fame as he did in the 90s. Along with his wife they formed the duo The Polyamorous Affair in 2009. Their music has been featured on hit TV shows such as Ugly Betty, Dexter and NCIS: Los Angeles.
More recently Eddie has switched his focus and has embarked on a career as a photographer and is known for his esthetic.
Charles unfortunately passed away in 2001 as a result of cancer, he was 37.
8. Chumbawamba – Tubthumping (Then)
Chumbawamba was formed in 1982 in the UK and was initially made up of Allan “Boff” Whalley, Danbert Nobacon, and Lou Watts. However, over the years, members have varied which has lent to the group’s versatility and their ability to entertain and excite their fans during concerts.
In 1997 they released their most widely recognized hit in the US, “Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down)”. It peaked at #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It’s interesting to note that it placed 12th out of 20 on Rolling Stone’s list of Most Annoying Songs, but on the flip side, it was voted the 2nd best song on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop annual critics’ poll. These rankings are indicative of just how popular the song was. It has been featured as the opening theme song of the video game World Cup ’98, used in various TV ads and in one movie (Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves).
In 2009 Boff Walley produced a script for theatre called Riot Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection which featured many former group members and in 2013 produced Big Society! again, with former members featured. Chumbawamba called it a day in 2012 with their final show taking place in December. Former members and vocalists Dunstan Bruce and Harry Hamer along with guitarist Stephen Griffin formed the band “Regular Fries” and then went on to form a new band called “Interrobang?!” In 2015, Dunstan Bruce launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his documentary called I Get Knocked Down (The Untold Story of Chumbawamba). Various former members were interviewed and featured recounting their experiences while in the group.
7. Len – Steal My Sunshine (Then)
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Len was made up of a brother-sister duo (Marc and Sharon Costanzo). Together they produced the hit “Steal My Sunshine” which is from their third album, You Can’t Stop the Bumrush released in 1999. They received a Juno Award (Canada’s version of a Grammy) nomination for Best Single in 2000. They went on to win awards for “Best Video”, “Best Pop Video”, and “Favourite Canadian Video” during the 1999 MuchMusic Video Awards. Although follow-up singles failed to reach the same hit status as “Steal My Sunshine”, Len continued to release music together until 2005.
After a failed follow-up single, “Feelin’ Alright”, Len was released from their label. Coincidentally Marc now works at EMI publishing and is a producer there. His sister Sharon now lives in the UK.
After some time away from the spotlight, Marc released “It’s My Neighbourhood” in 2012 which is a visual tribute to his hometown of Toronto. He’s not expecting the new album, It’s Easy if You Try, to reach the same highs of You Can’t Stop the Bumrush but he has enjoyed getting back into the studio and having fun with the process. There’s absolutely no pressure on his end.
6. Tatyana Ali – Daydreamin’ (Then)
Best known as Ashley Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Tatyana started her career in acting at the age of 6. It wasn’t until 1999 that she turned her attention to focus on her musical talents (she’d performed occasionally while on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and released “Daydreamin” from her debut album Kiss the Sky. Like many songs back in the 90s it was about young love and connected with many young people at the time. Its catchy sample from Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” made it perfect for easy listening or for singing out loud in your car. The single peaked at #6 and stayed on the US chart for 17 weeks in total. Her follow-up singles “Boy You Knock Me Out” and “Everytime” were also chart toppers. She went on to perform on the single “Who Am I” from Will Smith’s 1999 album Willenium.
Tatyana Ali Now
Tatyana has continued to pursue her acting career and in 2005 appeared in the film Glory Road. From 2007 – 2013 she had a reoccurring role on the popular soap opera The Young and the Restless as Roxanne. Since then, she’s gone on to be featured in shows such as Love That Girl! and Second Generation Wayans.
She’s also continued to focus on her musical career and has been featured on tracks by artists such as Anthony Hamilton and will.i.am.
Tatyana is currently engaged to Dr. Vaughn Rasberry and their first child is due later this year.
5. Des’ree – You Gotta Be (Then)
“You Gotta Be” was the first single from Desirée Annette Weeks aka Des’ree’s second album I Ain’t Movin’. The single was released in 1994 and peaked at #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and remained on the chart for a total of 44 weeks. The song has gone on to be used as a theme song in commercials and movies. Des’ree’s subsequent success after the release of the single resulted in a tour with Seal in 1995. Originally from the UK, Des’ree found continued success there and in Europe with follow-up albums, however they were unable to reach the heights of I Ain’t Movin’. Interesting side note, she actually won a poll for “Worst Pop Lyricist Ever” for her 1998 Single “Life”. Ouch! She ultimately put her music career on hold in 1999 to pursue an art degree.
2003 saw the release of a new album, Dream Soldier, but due to its commercial failure, Des’ree was eventually dropped from her record label. This might have contributed to the fact that she hasn’t released any new music since 2003. However, in 2011 she collaborated with Julie Langton-Smith to sing a lullaby on a sleep therapy CD (Sleep Talk Lullaby).
Most notably, she sued Queen Bey and her record label in 2007 for covering her 1996 single “I’m Kissing You” without her permission. The single appeared on Beyoncé’s 2007 album B’Day. After several months in the court system, Beyoncé’s album was reissued with “I’m Kissing You” removed. The case was ultimately dismissed with prejudice in late 2007, bringing an end to the lawsuit.
4. K.P. & Envyi – Swing My Way (Then)
Originating in Atlanta, GA, this rap duo (made up of K.P. (Kia Philips) and Envyi (Susan Hedgepeth)) collaborated in 1998 to produce the hit single “Swing My Way”. It peaked at #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and remained in the top 40 for an additional six weeks. Their collaboration was short lived and only resulted in this one hit. It’s important to note that they were actually separate artists, they weren’t an official group. As individual artists they were part of their own projects prior to producing “Swing my Way” and they’ve since been featured on singles of many other rap artists.
K.P. & Envyi Now
In 2005 K.P. was featured on “Close Range” but Sick Beav and in 2003 Envyi was featured on “Do It, Don’t Stop” and “Come Runnin” on Lil Zane’s The Big Zane Theory album. In the same year they reunited for the song “Put Cha Hands Up” which was featured on Jermaine Dupri’s album Young, Fly & Flashy, Vol. 1.
It seems a new decade brought about a need for change because Envyi is now known as Sioux Lane and released an album titled Tell Me Why in 2009 and competed on BET’s gospel reality show Sunday Best.
In 2011 the ladies once again came together to perform their hit song at the A-Town Legends Concert in Atlanta, GA.
3. DJ Kool – Let Me Clear My Throat (Then)
You may be most familiar with the version that was recorded live at the Bahama Bay Club in Philadelphia and includes audience participation relying heavily on call and response. Released in 1996, this hip hop song, was and still is a major club anthem. The song samples “The 900 Number” from DJ Mark The 45 King. Lyrically speaking, it’s a simple song but what made it a crowd pleaser at the time was the excitement and hype DJ Kool brought to the table, it was very different from other hip hop music during that time. The album, by the same name, was DJ Kool’s second and final album.
DJ Kool Now
Since the 90s, DJ Kool has been featured on different albums such as “Coming to the Stage” and “We Won’t” on Will Smith’s 2005 album Lost and Found and Mya’s 2006 single “Ayo!” from her album Liberation, released in 2008. Most recently, in 2009, he performed at an NBA halftime show. In the mid-2000s he, along with Fatman Scoop remixed the very popular Rob Base classic “It Takes Two.” The result is an exciting mix reminiscent of the hype songs of the 90s. It’s clear that DJ Kool loves what he does and continues to do so whether or not the results are chart toppers.
2. Skee-Lo – I Wish (Then)
You might remember Antoine Roundtree aka Skee-Lo’s hit single, “I Wish”. It was in heavy rotation during the summer of 1997 and peaked at #13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and took Europe by storm. It went on to be nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 1996 Grammy Awards but eventually lost out to Coolio’s “Gansta’s Paradise” which was also a big hit in 1995. Later releases from his I Wish album can be heard in various movies such as Money Train, Big Bully and Inspector Gadget. The album reached Gold status in the US.
Since its debut, “I Wish” has been used in a number of commercials. Most recently one for the Toyota RAV4 Super Bowl ad where the RAV4 Genie grants a family’s wish to have the car. It was also hilariously covered by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake during their History of Rap 5 compilation on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Speaking of covers, it’s been remixed and covered by Kevin Hart and Ice Cube for their movie Ride Along, Far East Movement for the film Ping Pong Playa and many others. Skee-Lo may be classified a one hit wonder but his song has proven that it actually has staying power almost 20 years after its release.
Skee-Lo released his third studio album in 2012 called Fresh Ideas under his own label, SkeeLo Musik. His second album, I Can’t Stop, was released in 2002. While both albums have been well received, neither has reached the heights of “I Wish” in the US.
At any rate, he got the girl in the end. He’s happily married with 2 kids.
1. Ini Kamoze – Here Comes The Hot Stepper (Then)
Check out these lyrics: “Here comes the hot stepper/I’m the lyrical gangster/Pick up the crew in-a de area/still love you like that”. You can’t beat lyrics like that. This, in combination with a cool reggae beat, catapulted Cecil Campbell aka Ini Kamoze to international stardom. “Here Comes the Hot Stepper” reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and stayed there for two weeks. The single would later achieve Platinum status in the US, selling 900,000 copies. It’s interesting to note that this hit was on Kamoze’s fifth reggae and dancehall album. His first album was released in 1984, he toured with such reggae greats as Yellowman and Half Pint, but it wasn’t until 1994 that his music reached mainstream audiences. He signed a record deal with Elektra Records in 1994 but “Here Comes the Hot Stepper” was to be his only chart topping hit.
Ini Kamoze Now
“Here Comes the Hot Stepper” is another hit that has proven that is has staying power. It can still be heard in commercials and movies (most recently Everest and Neighbors) to this day.
At the age of 58, Kamoze shows no signs of slowing down and is still performing and putting out records. Tramplin’ Down Babylon was released earlier this year and Bus the Earth will be released shortly. “Trample”, the first single from Tramplin’ Down Babylon, sounds promising with an easy vibe reminiscent of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”. He also has an official YouTube channel featuring lyric videos for fans of his music who want to sing along.