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Top 10 Cheesiest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s

The cheesiest one-hit wonders of the 1980s defined an entire era of music—and we love them for it.

Who says cheesy has to be bad? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 cheesiest one-hit wonders of the 1980s.

For this list, we’ve chosen acts that were strongly identified with one extremely cheesy and successful song during the 1980s. We’re not limiting things to acts that literally only had one hit single throughout their entire careers, but we’re picking acts that are most known today for a chosen song. Also, no singing actors.

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#10 – Baltimora: “Tarzan Boy” (1985)

If you’ve been to an 80s retro-night or tried Cool Mint Listerine, you’ve heard this song. With its message about living free and Tarzan’s familiar refrain as its chorus, it’s catchier than a cold—that’s why it was a smash for the Italian-Irish band. However, Baltimora couldn’t manage another hit, and so they disbanded—too bad, too: there are so many fictional characters to sing about.

#9 – Taco: “Puttin’ On the Ritz” (1983)

We were all ready to mock the band name Taco; then we found out it’s actually one dude and that’s his name. “Puttin’ on the Ritz” is a Fred Astaire cover, and Taco put his stamp on it—if by “stamp” you mean utterly-80s synth-pop vibe. Is it us, or is this song creepy? Regardless, it was a hit, and Taco followed it up with… Another, less successful, cover.

#8 – Thomas Dolby: “She Blinded Me with Science” (1982)

It’s about a mad scientist who falls in love with his lab assistant; plus, it’s got a stuffy British guy, tons of catchy hooks, and lots of synthesizer—well, it was the 80s. Dolby’s fellow Brits might recognize a few of his other songs; but across the pond this was his only track to crack the top 40. You can’t argue that this song’s cheesy. Why? Because science.

#7 – Cutting Crew: “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” (1986)

Only an 80s synthpop power-ballad has this much passion. Speaking of passion, apparently the French use the phrase “a little death” as a metaphor for *ahem* climaxing, and that’s what this song’s about—go figure. But oddly, this number-one didn’t cause nearly as much controversy as other tunes on our list. However, unfortunately for Cutting Crew, after this song they suffered a little death of their own—and not in the good way.

#6 – Devo: “Whip It” (1980)

Any song with a whip-crack sound is—by definition—cheesy. Even so, Devo’s New Wave smash caused a stir due to its ambiguous lyrics: while the band claims it’s about overcoming adversity, some people think it’s about, well, whipping it. Or S&M. Or sucking on a whipped-cream can. Either way, with their one smash, Devo proved songs don’t need to make sense to crack charts.

#5 – Weather Girls: “It’s Raining Men” (1982)

Finally, a song where women objectify men—too bad it was written by two dudes, one of whom was Paul Schaffer. Anyway… Settling any questions about the Weather Girls’ rep as a novelty act, the weather-related puns and sound-effects are brought to life in a gloriously low-budget video. Cheesy or not, these ladies churned out a number-one that became an anthem in strip clubs, gay bars and everywhere in between.

#4 – Lipps, Inc.: “Funkytown” (1980)

This disco holdover is considered one of the genre’s last hits, and we can’t think of a song with a more blatant 70s-slash-80s vibe. Written about New York, “Funkytown” spent four-weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1980. Six-years later, it hit charts again when remade by Pseudo Echo to sound even more 80s. Question: Are “Funkytown” and “Electric Avenue” near each other?

#3 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood: “Relax” (1983)

Nothing sells records faster than scandal. When Frankie strutted onto the scene, the BBC was happy to oblige by banning the song—almost for the duration of its chart-stay—because of homoerotic and sadomasochistic imagery in the video, and blatantly sexual lyrics in the song. However, all that did was sell tons of “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirts, and secure the band’s place as a one-hit wonder.

#2 – Bobby McFerrin: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (1988)

If you remember the late-80s, you know this song prompted a catchphrase, became an inescapable phenomenon and won tons o’ Grammys. That’s ‘cause people were blown away by its upbeat message, and the fact that the song uses no instruments: that’s right, that’s only McFerrin’s voice—and whistling—on the track. In fact, this was the first a cappella song to hit number one, so McFerrin’s optimistic philosophy must work.

#1 – Toni Basil: “Mickey” (1981)

Instead of being sung by a pep squad, this novelty smash was brought to us by Toni Basil, who seemingly came outta nowhere to play the cheerleading motif for all it’s worth. But Basil was already a dancer-slash-choreographer-slash-actor with an impressive resume that included a part in “Easy Rider.” So don’t feel too bad: she also created one of the most ear-wormy songs ever, and became the quintessential one-hit wonder.

Do you agree with our list? What song is your favorite one-hit wonder of the 1980s? Be sure to subscribe to for more entertaining top 10s.

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