If a band or artist has one mainstream hit, but then falters to produce an equivocal single, they are often automatically labeled the death knell–the one-hit wonder. Just because an artist doesn’t necessarily obtain multiple chart-topping hits, it doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant and should be forgotten. In fact, all the artists on this list have released many other songs and albums that have done well on the charts, it’s just that their fans might not be aware of them–especially if the artists were more popular abroad, than in the U.S. (which is actually the case for most of these artists.)
10. Harvey Danger
The lyrics, “I’m not sick but I’m not well” from their only bona fide hit, “Flagpole Sitta” screeched through every radio and movie in the summer of 1998, and made this Seattle band super famous. After the success of that song and their debut record, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, Danger and company struggled to acquire further commercial success and went on hiatus. They released two more full-lengths, including Little By Little… which was downloaded over 100,000 times, within a two-month period in 2005. The band broke up for good in August of 2009 and played a handful of sold-out farewell shows. If those shows were any indication, Danger left behind a ton of devoted fans who knew the words to every single one of their songs.
9. The Verve
Much debate surrounded Britpop group the Verve’s biggest hit, “Bittersweet Symphony.” In 1997, the Verve infamously sampled Andrew Oldham Orchestra who had sampled the Stones’ “The Last Time” riff. It may have prevented these Brits from reaping any money off the song, but it did render one of the best-selling Brit records of the era, Urban Hymns. “Symphony” peaked at #12 on the U.S. charts and the album sold over 10 million copies worldwide, including 1 million in the U.S. Other songs from the album like, “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man” also found success on both sides of The Pond. The Verve disbanded soon after Urban Hymns but reunited in 2008 with their final album, Fourth. Fans worldwide, especially in the UK and Sweden, welcomed the band back with open arms and helped to make the single, “Love Is Noise” chart well.
Sing along: “Whip it / Whip it good.” Of course everyone remembers that hit song recorded by those dudes who wore red cones on their heads, but over 30 years later Akron, Ohio, band Devo toppled their one-hit wonder status that plagued them for years. In 2010, their legacy continued when they did a tour and played their seminal records Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Freedom of Choice in their entirety. Songs like, “Gut Feeling” and “Girl U Want” were featured in movies, thus, probably sound familiar to audiences. Also in 2010, the band released their first album in 20 years called, Something For Everybody that peaked at #30 on the Billboard chart.
7. A Flock of Seagulls
The most conspicuous thing about this British New Wave group was their angular-styled hair–not their music. But if you can look past the vanity factor, you’ll discover some of the best synth-pop from the decade of excess. Yes, their ubiquitous hit, “I Ran (So Far Away)” landed on a copious amount of ‘Best Of the 80’s’ compilations and garnered them mainstream success. Later, the woozy “Space Age Love Song” and “Wishing (I Had a Photograph of You)” from their futuristic sophomore record, Listen exceeded their one-hit moniker. Both, “Space Age” and “Wishing” landed on the Top 40 U.S. Billboard chart.
The band’s 1998 Grammy-nominated #1 single, “Closing Time” became an anthem to bars closing and to fun outings sadly ending. The song lasted beyond the 90’s and has been recently used in movies like Friends With Benefits. The Minneapolis band is best-known for “Closing Time” but the album it was released from, Feeling Strangely Fine, reached the top 50 on the Billboard charts. Another song from the record, “Singing in My Sleep” also fared well on the U.S. charts. Although, it seemed Semisonic found more success overseas. The song “Secret Smile” became a hit in the UK in 1999, and the song “Chemistry” from the titular album–the group’s third and final one–charted overseas but not in the U.S.
5. Simple Minds
Before Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” evolved into the theme song of a John Hughes generation, these great Scots had been recording pop songs long before Judd Nelson was raising his fist in a high school football field. Since their first release, 1979’s Life in a Day, the band has released 16 studio albums and sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. The group was better known in Europe than in the States, but that didn’t keep “Don’t You” from hitting #1 in 1985, “Alive and Kicking” peaking at #3 in 1986 and their album, Once Upon a Time charting #10 in the U.S.
“Take on Me” sold over 7 million copies when it was released in 1985, and was their only #1 hit in the U.S. Today, it’s their most omnipresent song from their best-selling album, Hunting High and Low. Another song called, “The Sun Always Shines on T.V” also from Hunting, was met with modest success in the States. They went on to release several more records throughout the years, equaling 80 million albums sold worldwide. With the exception of one album, their albums have hit #1 in their native country of Norway and have performed fairly well in the UK. In 2010, they announced they’d be dissolving the group for good, so they embarked on a tour consisting of over 40 countries, which was a massive success for them.
3. Pet Shop Boys
If we ask most people if they can name another Pet Shop Boys song, besides the #1 synthpop hit “West End Girls”, most won’t be able to do it–which is surprising considering the British duo has sold over 50 million records. Additionally, they are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful duo in UK music history. The group’s debut album, Please became their best-selling record in the U.S., going platinum in 1986. Other songs from the album like, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” and “Love Comes Quickly” charted well in the U.S., as did, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” from their sophomore record. Last year they released their 12th full-length, Electric, which peaked at #3 on the UK charts and #26 in the States.
2. Sinead O’Connor
This controversial Irish singer-songwriter found international acclaim in 1990, with the Prince-penned love-gone-wrong ballad “Nothing Compare 2 U” from her sophomore album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. It transformed O’Connor into a household name when it spent four weeks at #1 on the U.S. charts and sold over a million copies. The single, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” didn’t perform as well as “Nothing”, but it did make a dent in the U.S. chart. Before her blockbuster second record, O’Connor found mild success with her 1987 debut, The Lion and the Cobra. Songs like “Mandinka” and “I Want Your (Hands on Me)” propelled the record to sell over two million copies worldwide. She’s released seven records since 1990, and even though they haven’t sold as well as her predecessors, they still chart on the Billboard 200.
1. Arctic Monkeys
The band’s debut album, 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history, fueled by the worldwide smash, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”. The album is also listed as the second fastest-selling record for a debut indie rock in the U.S. Since their debut, the band has broken multiple records in the UK, with their four other albums all hitting #1 on the UK album charts. Even though the Monkeys are far more successful in their home country, they’ve slowly invaded the States. Last year’s AM album ranked the highest of all their albums on U.S. charts, peaking at #6; the song, “Do I Wanna Know?” became a minor hit as well, peaking at #70 on the U.S. chart. This summer, the band will headline major U.S. fests like Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, proving they have immense staying power.
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