The Rundown: ’90s One-Hit Wonders

No one expected Lou Bega to become a fixture on the charts when “Mambo No. 5” became a surprise runaway hit. Same goes for the old dudes that brought us “Macarena,” the group behind “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and Chumbawamba, who delivered the quintessential One-Hit Wonder track of the ’90s “Tubthumping.”

Some just benefit from arriving at the right moment or being completely original. Candlebox’s “Far Behind” showed up in the midst of the early ’90s grunge boom and was catchy and forceful enough to be a hit, but the band wasn’t strong enough to survive the tidal wave of talented acts that emerged at that time. Others, like some of the electro-pop-dance-junk that managed to get stuck in our ears over the years – “What is Love?” and “How Bizarre” for instance – were just too catchy to be denied and the fact they got played 487 times an hour made them impossible to ignore.

But some songs feel like the start of something lasting and productive, only to have the artist fall off the face of the Earth. Here are 10 such tracks from the ’90s.

Torn – Natalie Imbruglia

This song was massive. The video was awesome. Imbruglia, her debut album and the song were all nominated for Grammy’s. After a successful acting career in her native Australia, she seemed poised for lasting success as a singer. And then she more or less vanished, leaving us with an instant pop smash and little else to remember her by.

Save Tonight – Eagle-Eye Cherry

Catchy name? Check. Catchy tune? Check. Somewhat famous sibling? Check. Everything looked like it was lining up nicely for Eagle-Eye Cherry, brother of “Buffalo Stance” singer Neneh Cherry, when this song dropped. It became a legitimate hit and you expected the singer-songerwriter to at least have a couple more minor hits along the way. Nope. None. Zero. This was it.

Counting Blue Cars – Dishwalla

There were a lot of “alternative rock” bands getting airplay throughout the mid-to-late ’90s, but when Dishwalla burst on the scene wanting to know all your thoughts on god (because they would really like to meet her), they felt like a band that could stick around and crank out a couple albums that were solid; maybe do the Collective Soul thing. Remember Collective Soul? It wasn’t meant to be. They’ll forever be the band that said god was a girl.

Closing Time – Semisonic

Want an easy avenue to a smash hit? Write a track that is perfect for bars to play at the end of the night! If I was still running a bar, I would still be playing this when it was time for everybody to go the hell home. All these years later, “Closing Time” might now be best known for not being performed by Third Eye Blind thanks to Justin Timberlake in Friends With Benefits.

I Know – Dionne Farris

Originally the vocalist in Arrested Development (remember them?), Farris went solo and dropped this airplay monster on the world. Catchy and forceful, the song was a quick hit and Farris felt like the kind of female artist who could have a solid, lasting career. Didn’t happen. She disappeared (not literally) and “I Know” is all that she left behind.

Nobody Knows – The Tony Rich Project

Smooth, heartfelt, piano-based R&B? “Nobody Knows” was a mixtape staple right out of the gate, a romantic slow it down track. He seemed like a good bet to be a lesser version of Brian McKnight for years to come, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Despite winning a Grammy, Rich faded out as quickly as he arrived.

One of Us – Joan Osborne

“What if god was one of us?” This song was everywhere when it came out and you got the feeling that Osborne was going to be one of the breakout female voices of her time, a less melodic, slightly edgier Sarah McLaughlin perhaps? Turns out she was actually destined to go back to being a stranger on the bus, trying to make her way home instead.

You Get What You Give – The New Radicals

Everyone liked this song when it came out and understandably so – it was catchy, fun and energetic, but there was never a follow-up that registered. The New Radicals arrived like a band that could make pretty straightforward pop for a couple years, but instead, they made one really great tune and very little else.

Stay – Lisa Loeb

I still love this song. I still love Lisa Loeb in her librarian glasses and pre-nerdy-chic look. Of all the songs/artists on this list, Loeb might be the on I’m most surprised didn’t do more. An intelligent female singer-songwriter, after the success of “Stay,” you had to figure there would be a few more hits, but there weren’t. This was the one and only.

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohen

This was such a universally loved song when it came out and Cohen was such a solid singer-songwriter that it was hard not to picture him putting together a string of Adult Contemporary piano-heavy albums that did well. Instead, all we really got was this karaoke classic that may or may not get belted out in my car every time it comes on the radio.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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