Some bands and musicians churn out hit after hit, but others…not so much. We’re talking about those performers who release one amazing song, then seemingly disappear into the ether, never to be heard from again. And perhaps nowhere was this phenomenon more fascinating than in the ’90s. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the biggest one-hit wonders that shaped the end of the 20th century.
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What self-respecting ’90s teen *didn’t* know this moody pop song? Natalie Imbruglia’s hit has been streamed more than 230 million times on Spotify to date.
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“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1995)
This romantic pop song was released into the world by Deep Blue Something in 1995—and then we never heard from the band again. But we definitely heard this song again…and again…and again….
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“Mambo No. 5” (1999)
“Mambo No. 5,” by Lou Bega, is one of the most iconic songs
in all of history of the ’90s. It became a worldwide hit after it was released, topping almost every chart in Europe and making it onto the playlist of every bar mitzvah I’ve ever attended.
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“Steal My Sunshine” (1999)
Canadian band Len released this song without expecting much to come of it, but “Steal My Sunshine” was a total sleeper hit. It was so successful that the band had to push up its album release date!
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“Barbie Girl” (1997)
What is it about this song that makes it so infuriatingly catchy? I swear I know every line to this upbeat peek into your favorite Mattel doll’s charmed life.
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“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” (1990)
An excellent pump-up song and a dance hit tied into one, “Gonna Make You Sweat” is still a banger, and should be respected as such.
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“Possum Kingdom” (1994)
Apart from its deeply concerning lyrics, including “Don’t be afraid/I didn’t mean to scare you/So help me, Jesus,” this post-grunge song was made even weirder by its title, an ode to a lake in North Texas.
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“Black Velvet” (1990)
The King of Rock ‘n Roll lives on in this power ballad that honors Elvis Presley’s life, death and “slow Southern style.”
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“One Headlight” (1997)
If you’ve ever felt pressured to live up to your parents’ expectations, imagine being Jakob Dylan, the son of superstar folk singer Bob Dylan. He led The Wallflowers until they broke up in 2005, and together they made “One Headlight” a huge hit.
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“We Like To Party” (1999)
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“More Than Words” (1990)
A slow, simple acoustic ballad from the hard rock band Extreme, “More Than Words” was an unusually mellow hit for the typically raucous band.
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“Return of the Mack” (1996)
Allow us to re-introduce you to Mack Morrison, who Entertainment Weekly described as a “funked-up Seal” in this bounce-back breakup song that’s a must at any decade party.
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Complete with record scratches, this funk track from Stereo MC’s pairs a simple beat with groovy vocals for the quintessential ’90s vibe.
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“Sex and Candy” (1997)
It really didn’t matter that no could figure out what the lyrics to “Sex and Candy” meant, the Marcy Playground hit was huuuge on American and Canadian charts anyway. And then, years after its release, it was featured on the Mr. and Mrs. Smith soundtrack.
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“Jump Around” (1992)
Jump! Jump! Jump! This song by House of Pain is a g’damn classic.
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“What Is Love” (1993)
Yes, this jam by Haddaway was a big hit in the U.S., but please know that it was even BIGGER across Europe and charted at number one in at least 13 countries. Wow.
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“Closing Time” (1996)
When you think about it, it’s probably not a great omen that everyone’s graduation song was a one-hit wonder, but alas. Semisonic didn’t give us any other popular music after “Closing Time,” so that’s just the way it is!
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“No Rain” (1992)
“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain….” You know you know the rest, and it’s all thanks to a lil band confusingly called Blind Melon. Sure, why not!
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“Baby Got Back” (1992)
Can you imagine a world in which your throwback playlists included “Baby Got Back” plus another Sir Mix-a-Lot bop? Sigh, my Walkman couldn’t handle it!
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“What’s Up” (1992)
While this alt-rock song by 4 Non Blondes never actually made it to the top of the charts in the U.S., it did reach number one in Ireland and Germany, so feel free to take that little fact to your next ’90s trivia night.
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“Whoomp (There It Is)” (1993)
Wow, it’s party classics like this one by Tag Team that remind you the ’90s were A TIME to be alive.
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Ugh, this song is ICONIC. Even though it’s basically the only thing that Meredith Brook’s music career has ever given us, it’s truly more than enough.
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“Groove Is in the Heart” (1990)
Fact: I still know every word to this song by Deee-Lite, which (bonus fact!) was on the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack.
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Even though the band Chumbawamba titled its biggest hit “Tubthumping,” you probably know it as the “I get knocked down, but I get up again” song—why they didn’t title it something like that, who knows!
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“There She Goes” (1990)
The La’s’ song “There She Goes” ended up being a bit controversial after it gained popularity—some critics claimed it was actually about heroin rather than romance thanks to lyrics like, “There she goes again / Racing through my brain / Pulsing through my vein.” However, members of the band have denied that it’s about drugs, so I guess you’ll just have to decide what you want to believe in.
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“Ice Ice Baby” (1990)
Really, what is there to say about this song other than it’s a GEM of the ’90s and it still gets the people going? Thank you for this, Vanilla Ice.
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“I’m Too Sexy” (1992)
“I shake my little tush on the catwalk.” —Right Said Fred and every single person who’s ever heard this song at a bar or club or restaurant or their living room
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“The Sign” (1992)
Ace of Base had such a hit on its hands in 1992 that the band was even nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance.
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If this song isn’t still on your girly Spotify playlist, then IDK what you’re doing with your life. This bop from the Cardigans stands the test of time, don’t @ me!!
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