Everyone is familiar with the term “one-hit wonder” in the music business. Artists like Chumbawumba (Tubthumping), Baja Men (Who Let the Dogs Out?), Vanilla Ice (Ice Ice Baby), and Psy (Gangnam Style) live on in cultural references for their respective decades but they’ve been otherwise sidelined. But what is the real difference between a one-hit wonder and a “successful” artist?
There are More One-Hit Wonders Than You Think
According to analytics, only a little over a third of 2,627 artists appearing on the Top 100 charts make it back to the list after the year their music debuts. Artists that made it back to that rarified stratosphere of Top 100 hitmakers in five or more years (approximately 7% or 187 artists) made up 34% of the Top 100 chart entries.
This can explain why you tend to hear the same songs over and over again on the radio, when you know darn well there are thousands of choices. But making the Top 100 doesn’t guarantee success. Although nearly half of Top 10 hitmakers came back for another ride on the Top 100 charts , only about 20% of those debuting in spots 91-100 ever make a return visit.
Not Top 100, But Not Out of the Game
Despite not being on the Top 100, many artists with a one-hit wonder go on to have successful music careers.
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most well-known to have done so, but there are a handful of others. This includes Sir-Mix-a-Lot (Baby Got Back), who’s been working quietly, yet steadily, in the music industry since his break-out hit.
And since nearly 10% of the Billboard Top 100 songs in the last 30 years have been one-hit wonders, it begs the question of what record labels are doing wrong that so many artists lose their momentum after a stunning debut.
Success — Especially the Artistic Kind — is Individual
While many people look at one-hit wonders with derision, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Having a Top 100 hit is no mean feat, and many of those who crest the charts go on to continue making music. Some of those “wonders” still have strong fan bases. They still continue to create popular music, even if it doesn’t reach the Top 100 charts. Other artists end up with one-hit wonder status even if they’ve had more than one Top 100 hit.
So, it’s best to reserve judgement for the music and its appeal, rather than the number of hits. After all, where art is concerned, quality is preferable to quantity.