Although being called a “one hit wonder” can sound like a bad thing, just having one hit song can often bring an artist or band plenty of money and international fame. Whether they are rappers or rock and rollers, making it in the music business is certainly tough. Things are a lot different today than they were in the 90s. Just think, back then there was no iTunes or Spotify, and there were also a lot less ways to illegally download music off of the Internet.
Some of these artists gave up on making music, but most of them have kept at it in some way or another. Many of the musicians on this list didn’t stop making music after their hit single. They kept at it, but it’s difficult enough to have one hit song, let alone having multiple songs top the charts. Being a one hit wonder is a badge of honor; at least these people did what 99% of bands and musicians failed to do, have a hit song that is widely recognizable.
10 Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart”
Billy Ray Cyrus first broke through with his hit single “Achy Breaky Heart” in 1992. That song reached #1 on the US Country chart and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as being certified Platinum. Everyone now knows Billy for being the father of pop star Miley Cyrus. Even though he is looked at as a one hit wonder, Billy Ray Cyrus has released 13 studio albums over the years. He starred in Miley’s TV series Hannah Montana for several years and even won a Teen Choice Award for it. Cyrus also competed on Dancing with the Stars and starred in the made for TV movie Sharknado 2: The Second One.
9 4 Non Blondes – “What’s Up?”
4 Non Blondes were a mostly-female rock band who formed in San Francisco in 1989. The group disbanded after vocalist and guitar player Linda Perry left in 1994. The year before that, 4 Non Blondes had a hit with their single “What’s Up?” which reached #1 in seven countries. The song came off their only album Bigger, Better, Faster, More! which also reached #1 in six countries. The band reunited in 2014, but Linda Perry is the only one who has done much since their original run. She has helped write hit songs for popular artists such as Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, and James Blunt. Linda married Sara Gilbert from television’s Roseanne and The Talk in 2014.
8 Cracker – “Low”
The band Cracker formed in the early 90s and had a hit single with the song “Low” off of their sophomore effort Kerosene Hat. Unlike many 90s alternative bands, Cracker has never broken up, and has continued touring and releasing new material for 25 years. You may recognize the name David Lowery, who is the band’s singer/guitarist, and plays the same role for the band Camper Van Beethoven. You might recognize Lowery’s name because in 2015 he filed a class action lawsuit against Spotify for failing to pay musicians fairly. Cracker and Camper often tour together, and are definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.
7 House of Pain – “Jump Around”
House of Pain was a hip hop group who had a hit single “Jump Around” in 1992 which came off of their self-titled debut album on Tommy Boy and Warner Bros. records. The group released two more albums in the 90s with modest success before calling it quits. Everlast went on to have a decent solo career, and could also be on this list by himself for his 1998 single “What It’s Like”. House of Pain member DJ Lethal would join up with Limp Bizkit while Danny Boy started up an art company. The members of this group also became a part of the super group La Coka Nostra.
6 Lisa Loeb – “Stay”
Lisa Loeb had success with her debut single “Stay (I Missed You)” in 1994. The song appeared on the Reality Bites Soundtrack and reached #1 in the United States and Canada. Lisa gave a tape of the song to her friend and neighbour Ethan Hawke, who then passed it on to the movie’s director Ben Stiller and the rest was history. Loeb would become the first artist to reach #1 in the US without even having a record contract at the time. She has stayed active, and now releases children’s song books and albums. Loeb also had a cameo in the 2015 film Hot Tub Time Machine 2.
5 Spacehog – “In The Meantime”
If you listened to alternative rock in the 90’s, you might remember Spacehog’s hit single “In the Meantime”. The song went to #1 on the US Mainstream and #2 on the US Modern Rock charts, and came from their debut studio album Resident Alien. Spacehog formed in 1994 and broke up in 2002 before reforming in 2008. If you missed it the first time, this is a really good rock tune worth checking out (along with the lesser known song “Mungo City”). Spacehog vocalist and bass player Royston Langdon A.K.A. Ray Sprinkles was actually married to actress Liv Tyler from 2003 to 2008 and has a son with her.
4 Semisonic – “Closing Time”
Semisonic was a three piece rock band that released three albums and had one hit single with “Closing Time” in 1998. The song came from their second studio album Feeling Strangely Fine and reached #1 on the US Alternative chart. Lead vocalist, guitar player, and songwriter Dan Wilson certainly knew what he was doing and would continue his success long after Semisonic went on hiatus in 2001. Wilson has gone on to win two Grammy Awards as a songwriter and producer, including Album of the Year for “Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks and Song of the Year for “Someone Like You" by Adele. Wilson has also written hits for Taylor Swift, Nas, Pink, and Weezer.
3 The Wallflowers – “One Headlight”
Rather than trying to make it on his own, Bob Dylan’s son Jakob Dylan decided to form the band The Wallflowers to make a name for himself. They released their self-titled studio album on Virgin Records in 1992, but didn’t find success until their sophomore effort Bringing Down the Horse in 1996. That album contained their hit single “One Headlight” which reached #1 on the US Mainstream, Modern Rock, and Adult charts, as well as in Canada. The Wallflowers released a total of six studio albums, and Dylan eventually released two on his own. The band did open for Bob Dylan in 1997, but to this day the father and son duo have not recorded any songs together.
2 Gerardo – “Rico Suave”
One of the biggest one-named one hit wonders was Gerardo with his single “Rico Suave” which came off of his debut studio album Mo’Ritmo in 1991. Gerardo continued to release five more albums, although none of them charted in the United States. The Ecuadorian American singer took a position with Interscope Records as an A&R executive. Gerardo has been responsible for introducing the music world to the likes of Enrique Iglesias and Bubba Sparxxx. In 2013 he appeared on the reality TV series Celebrity Wife Swap, trading spouses with fellow one hit wonder Sisqo (“Thong Song”). Gerardo Mejia discussed his career as a Christian youth pastor with Katie Couric in 2013.
1 Vanilla Ice – “Ice Ice Baby”
Rapper Vanilla Ice had one of the first hit singles of the 1990s with the popular tune “Ice Ice Baby” which reached #1 in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The single came off of his debut studio album To the Extreme, which also reached #1 in the United States where it was certified 7x Platinum. None of Vanilla Ice’s next five albums would have any success on the charts, and luckily for him he had a failed suicide attempt which changed his life for the better. He hosted the TV series The Vanilla Ice Project on the DIY Network and has also appeared in the movies Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The New Guy, That’s My Boy, and The Ridiculous 6.