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“Remember that one-hit wonder, Devo?”
My friend had turned to me and asked that, and I remained incredulous at what I just heard. Devo, the classic 80s band, was one of my staples as a teenager. I loved their wacky pyramid hats, and also had a huge selection of their hits in my music library. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how anyone would assume they were a one-hit wonder.
I pressed him further, and asked what the deal was. He just never heard anything other than “Whip It.” I quickly pulled out my favorite tracks by them, and he was blown away. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of alleged “one-hit wonder bands” I enjoyed that I had to school people on.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of bands out there that are remembered by songs described as one-hitters who deserve a second listen, despite having plenty of other hits. The best examples of great bands that are often underestimated due to the wild popularity of a single song they produced is more frequent than you may think.
Best Known For: “Werewolves of London”
Warren Zevon had one mainstream smash hit that everyone recognizes him for. It was that zany song “Werewolves of London,” and it was suppose to be spooky-funny. In the country scene however, he’s known for having tons of other hit singles, and for having one of the most loyal fanbases in the genre.
His country hits include “Keep Me In Your Heart” and “Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money.” Really, though, his lyrics and awesome stage persona made him one of the greatest of his kind.
Best Known For: “Cars”
Gary Numan is in a very strange position. He only had a single #1 hit in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, his songs got to the Top 40 charts almost two dozen times. Like many other 80s musicians, Gary Numan still makes a decent amount of music—and boy, has he evolved.
Personally, I love the most underrated bands of the 80s, and the sound he had then, as well as some of his later work, is a prime example as to why that is. I’m a huge fan of “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” as well as “White Boys and Heroes.” Even so, just about anything he’s made is pretty awesome.
Best Known For: “Popular”
Nada Surf was one of the most bluesy, angsty, grunge groups to be describes as one-hit wonder bands back in the 90s. They were most well-known for “Popular,” a song that describes the weird rage that comes with the high school popularity game, as well as the seething hatred people feel towards the cool kids.
Believe it or not, they’re still pretty highly regarded among grunge fans, and not just because of their single hit, either. “Let Go,” “Blonde on Blonde,” and “Where Is My Mind” are all pretty good hits. They were also featured on the John Tucker Must Die album as well.
Best Known For: “Blue Monday”
Now, I may be a little biased here, since they are my all-time favorite band and actually were the inspiration for me to go goth, but Orgy is definitely an underrated band. Most mainstream people seem to think that they are a one-hit wonder, though. Allow me to set things straight…
In the goth and industrial scenes, Orgy is a pretty legendary band. They are known for their excellent fashion sense and for a huge list of hits. (Like, really, their first two albums were nothing but smash hits in these scenes.) If you want to see some more Orgy goodness, I strongly suggest “Fiction (Dreams in Digital),” “Stitches,” and “Fetisha.”
Carly Rae Jepsen
Best Known For: “Call Me Maybe”
Though I’m not usually a fan of pop music, I have to give credit where credit is due. Carly Rae Jepsen might have gone viral for her smash hit “Call Me Maybe,” but that’s far from the only decent song that this internet pop princess has made. Had she a more supportive record label, she easily could have become the next Britney Spears.
She has had so many good songs on her albums, it’s not even funny. I’m still kind of shocked that “Sour Candy,” “Gimme Love,” and “Turn Me Up” didn’t receive the attention they deserved.
Best Known For: “Africa”
Younger audiences might remember hearing this now-viral-again hit on Family Guy, but let’s be real here: Toto shouldn’t ever be considered a one-hit wonder! The entire band is made up of world class musicians, and while they’re mostly known for “Africa,” the song that will never die, they had plenty of other hits, too.
“Rosanna” is a particularly awesome song that comes to mind; but, really, they are a very successful band. Toto has collaborated on over 5,000 different albums through the band’s career. Not many groups can say that.
Best Known For: “Frontier Psychiatrist”
When it comes to turntablism, very few bands have as solid a reputation as The Avalanches. Their biggest hit was a surrealist piece called “Frontier Psychiatrist,” and if you’ve ever heard it, then you already remember hearing “that boy needs therapy” more times than you can count.
Though this band never cracked the Billboard tops, their trippy music videos have become an awesome nod to turntablist culture's striking difference to mainstream pop culture.
Surprisingly, many people would argue that “Frontier Psychiatrist” is one of their worst songs. If you really want to see how good their music can be, check out “Because I’m Me” or “Subway.”
Best Known For: “Thrift Shop”
“I wear your granddad’s clothes. I look incredible…”
Come on, you just read that in his voice. Most people recognize him as the guy who calls high priced designers on their shit, but let’s just be real, he’s actually a really good rapper who’s seriously under appreciated.
He has a seriously wry sense of humor that comes out in most of his work. “Stay at Home Dad” and “Fake ID” are great, and sadly, still remain overshadowed by his single iconic hit. That being said, he has a pretty loyal following, so he’s definitely successful in his own right.
Best Known For: “Sex and Candy”
This was one of those sexy, lounge-y, alternative hits of the 90s that happened to a band who just seemingly came and went without much explanation.
Back in the 90s, you couldn’t throw a rock without hearing “Sex and Candy” at least once. Saying it was a smash hit was an understatement. Then, the band just vanished—as alleged one-hit wonders are apt to do.
Believe it or not, Marcy Playground maintained a pretty good following throughout the 90s and later on though. Their non-mainstream alternative rock hits included “Poppies” and “Wave Motion Gun.”
Best Known For: “Barbie Girl”
Okay, hear me out. Aqua was the bubblegum pop of europop back in the day. It was also pretty cringe-inducing when you actually read the lyrics or see what the band looked like. However, it’d be a lie to say that their hit “Barbie Girl” wasn’t a hit.
In America, that’s all Aqua was known for—but in Europe? Totally different story. Their smash hit here was actually considered one of their worst songs. Give their other titles a spin, and you’ll see why this group certainly should not be considered among the one-hit wonder bands to ever come together and play.