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The 80s probably had the most one-hit wonders in music history. It also had the most iconic novelty acts and singles. In honor of the big and crazy 80s, I made a top 10 list of the decade's best one-hit wonders. Time for the giant hair and neon colors.
10. "99 Luftballons" by Nena
Some listeners may not understand what Nena is saying, but they want to rock out to the catchy melody. The keyboard solo doesn't hurt either. German singer Nena Kerner started off as the lead vocals for an unsuccessful band called the Stripes. In 1982, she started her own band aptly named Nena and was based in Berlin. American listeners discovered "99 Luftballons" in 1984, and it was a major hit. Unfortunately, the following year for Nena consisted of dismal record sales and an eventual break up. Nena, herself, continued her career as a solo artist, and maintained some popularity, but only in Germany.
9. "Voices Carry" by 'Til Tuesday
They may have been remembered for just this one song, but 'Til Tuesday did receive a cult following, especially lead singer Aimee Mann. "Voices Carry" reached the top of the charts in 1985. Despite some decent reviews, the new wave rock band didn't have much luck selling their last two albums. After the break up in 1989, Aimee Mann gained underground success in the 90s as a solo artist, and even became a favorite of Elvis Costello. Fun Fact: 'Til Tuesday was discovered by Epic Records at a battle of the bands contest, which they won.
8. "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats
Personally, I think breaking out a "safety" dance move should make a come back. The Canadian new wave group, Men Without Hats, was formed in 1980 by brothers Ivan and Stefan Doroschuk. In 1983, their hit single "The Safety Dance" reached to number three on the billboard charts. The only time the band came close to that same success, however, was with "Pop Goes the World." After that, they didn't gain any more momentum, which caused their careers to dwindle down. "The Safety Dance" may be a novelty hit, but it will always make somebody want to dance and "look at their hands."
7. "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles
Canadian rocker Alannah Myles was mainly a popular singer in her home country. She didn't gain the attention of America or the world until "Black Velvet" was released and hit number one on the charts. Alannah released her sophomore album in the US that was well liked in Canada, but not so much anywhere else.
6. "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo
The song is silly, the band is silly, but then again, a lot of things in the 80s were silly. Wall of Voodoo has had an interesting career. They formed in Los Angeles during the 70s and started out as a soundtrack company. Their music, lyrics, and even vocals were heavily influenced by western films. That influence is apparent in their biggest hit "Mexican Radio," which came out in 1982.
5. "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell
Soft Cell formed in England during the 70s. In 1981, they covered "Tainted Love," originally by Gloria Jones, and made it a new wave hit. Their other singles were never quite as popular as "Tainted Love" in the US. They did, however, continue having fame in their home country of England. The band split up to pursue solo careers, and then reunited in 2001 and briefly again in 2018.
4. "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie
"Just a Friend" was a rap song that was juvenile, and yet charming. Biz Markie (aka Marcel Hall) was in a world of his own. The guy wasn't a gangster, but rather more innocent and fun. He started off in the early 80s as a beat boxer before going big in 1988 with that popular hit. His first album, which featured "Just a Friend," went gold. Unfortunately, his following albums never achieved enough sales. Being hit with a lawsuit for copyright infringement didn't help matters either.
3. "Funky Town" by Lipps Inc
Lipps, Inc (meant to be pronounced as lip sync) was started by singer/songwriter Steven Greenberg in Minneapolis with vocals by Cynthia Johnson. In 1980, the group released what was their second single, "Funky Town," which reached number one on the charts and stayed there for weeks. Sadly, their other singles were flops, and that led to the group calling it quits. On the bright side, Lipps, Inc's success started the music scene in Minneapolis, a scene that was barely there before.
2. "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls
Hallelujah, it's The Weather Girls! The duo consisted of gospel singers Martha Wash and Izora Armstead. In 1982, the girls released "It's Raining Men," and the forecast called for sunny skies and big success (which was the name of their first album). Unfortunately, their follow up singles couldn't live up to the first, and the duo became labeled as a novelty act.
1. "Take on Me" by A-Ha
Once you've seen the iconic music video, you'll never forget it. Once you hear the feel good song, you won't be able to get it out of your head. A-Ha was a Norwegian synth pop group. Their debut hit "Take On Me" went through three revisions before hitting number two on the British charts in 1983. That partly hand-drawn music video is what brought them fame in the US. A-Ha remained successful mainly in Europe, but in America they are only remembered for that one hit. "Take On Me" has been covered by many artists including The Jonas Brothers, Weezer, and Pentatonix.
I hope you've enjoyed listening to these 1980s flukes. Did I miss your favorite one-hit wonder?