Some artists seem to live in the top 40, some never visit it at all, and still others show up once and are never heard of again. Back in the ’90s, music became as disposable as fashion, resulting in a stream of acts that disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived. But even if the artists didn’t stick around, the songs are too good to forget. Here are ten of our favorite one-hit-wonder songs of the 90s.
10. Len – Steal My Sunshine
In 1999, Canadian alt-rockers Len scored a surprise hit with Steal My Sunshine, a summery pop confection that took the band to number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the top 40 in various other countries. Despite the song subsequently certifying platinum in the US, Australia, and Britain, Len never managed to come close to the same success again, becoming more noticeable by their absence from the charts than their presence.
9. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up?
In 1993, 4 Non Blondes came out of nowhere with What’s Up?, a song described by All Music as a “massive, neo-hippie anthem” that sent the band to number one in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, number 2 in Australia and the UK, and number 14 in the US. It’s been an ever-present radio fixture ever since. 4 Non-Blondes, on the other hand, disappeared shortly after with just one album to their name.
8. Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5
Back in 1999, German singer Lou Bega earned the first and last US top 40 of his career with Mambo No. 5. Released as the lead single from his debut album, A Little Bit of Mambo, the song took Bega to number one in dozens of countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand the UK, and the US. It was particularly popular in Frace, where it spent a record-breaking 20 weeks at number one. Despite the major success of the song, Bega has never managed to work his way back into the top 40 again.
7. House of Pain – Jump Around
Considering how massive House of Pain’s Jump Around was in the 1990s (and how big it’s stayed ever since), it’s boggling to think that this was the hip hop group’s one and only venture into the US top 40 (although in fairness, frontman Everlast did go on to enjoy success as a solo artist).
6. Aqua – Barbie Girl
It might have gone down as well as a lead balloon with Mattel, but before it became the subject of a major lawsuit, Danish group Aqua’s tongue in cheek parody about being a Barbie girl in a Barbie world was topping the charts in over 10 countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and peaking at number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Aqua never achieved anything like as much success again (although considering the song sold over 8 million copies worldwide, it’s maybe understandable).
5. Deee-Lite – Groove Is in the Heart
Deee-Lite released a few albums over their career, but only managed to hit the US top 40 once. On the plus side, the song – Groove Is in the Heart – was so infectiously catchy, it’s still remembered today as one of the quintessential dance hits of the decade.
4. Chumbawamba – Tubthumping
Back in the mid-1990s, songs didn’t get much bigger than Tubthumping. Released as a single from Chumbawamba’s eighth studio album, Tubthumper, it took the band into the mainstream for the first time, hitting number one in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, and New Zealand, number 2 in the UK, and number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was a song that was impossible to ignore… no matter how much some people wished they could. Chumbawamba, on the other hand, proved much easier to turn a blind eye to, disappearing from the charts shortly after.
3. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back
By today’s standards, Baby Got Back is as tame as hip hop gets, but back in 1991, it was considered so controversial, MTV even banned it for a while. Fortunately for Sir Mix-A-Lot, there’s nothing like a bit of controversy to ignite interest. Released as a single from his third album, Mack Daddy, Baby Got Back became the second best-selling song in the US in 1992, spending a stonking 5 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Sir Mix-A-Lot never made it back into the top 40, but 30 years later, Baby Got Back is still as popular as ever.
2. Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy
In 1991, Right Said Fred’s gloriously camp send-up of the fashion world took the Fairbrass brothers to the top of the charts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the United States, along with several other countries. Funny, catchy, and impossible not to sing along to, it made cheesy dance music the biggest thing on the radio. But despite being the first British band since the Beatles to top the US charts with a debut, they never broke into the US top 40 again.
1. Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
Robert Van Winkle wrote Ice Ice Baby at the age of 16. A few years and one name change later, Robert/ Vanilla Ice was storming the charts with what’s either the worst rap song in the history of music or the best novelty song ever made, depending on your perspective. Either way, it’s as catchy as a cold and the ’90s music scene just wouldn’t have been the same without it. We’ll even forgive him for stealing the entire bassline from Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure.