One-hit-wonders don’t just pertain to the 1990s and early 2000s. These flash in the pan musical hits have been happening since about the 1950s. The term itself, however, wasn’t used in print, referring to music, until 1977. One-hit-wonders hold a certain place in our hearts; they’re catchy, completely overplayed to the point where they could be used as torture in some countries, and then they quietly fade away..unless you’re like me and continue to listen to them without a hint of hipster irony. I genuinely do enjoy those songs. The other great and lasting thing about these Wonders is no matter how much you loved or hated the song, you still know all the lyrics.
The 1990s, as with other decades before, experienced a variety of musical genres. There was a little something for everyone. There were also “anthems” to the 90s generations. It didn’t matter what level of schooling you were in, there was a song that just DEFINED that grade level, season, or graduation. The graduation song being particularly important from the year 1995 to about 2001. Green Day and R. Kelly, and to some extent Eve 6, all had songs that were used in countless graduation ceremonies and quoted endlessly by your peers. Those artists luckily escaped Wonderdom–depending on how you look at Eve 6–but others were left where graduation songs go to die: in the yearbook or better still, in the yearbook in the trash; EVEN BETTER STILL: they get stuck being a theme song to a television show for 10 years. Spring break is also a good example of an “anthem”. Growing up near Florida, every spring break I would go to Panama City Beach with a friend and we would walk “The Strip”, hearing the same damn song that was popular that year blasting out of every car (see: 2004, Yeah by Usher feat. Lil John and Ludacris).
MTV played a big factor as well in the Wonder world. Even though the channel made its debut in the 1980s, the 1990s seemed like a renaissance for the television network. Music videos and MTV News played constantly with a new band or artist almost daily. The inception of TRL also gave way to seeing new artists and how they were ranked by late Get Xers and Generation Y (Millennials). This gave way to another MTV icon: The Real World. I’ve previously discussed this show, but I didn’t mention the music that accompanied the series. If you go back and listen to the “soundtrack” as it were for this show, you’ll hear not only the hits of the time but a few one-hit-wonders as well.
My mother, Monica, was a teacher during the 90s, starting in 94, so I was naturally exposed to these 90s hits/ genres by her older students. Instead of having posters of Brittany Spears and N’Sync on my walls as a young girl, I was more focused on The Pixies, (regrettably) Nirvana, early Green Day, etc. Although, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, I definitely had some Teen Bop posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa mixed into the wall decorations (C’mon, did any else see Wild America? Be still, my little pre-pubescent heart!!!! And let us not forget Devon Sawa’s performance in SLC Punk!). Being around this mixture of older students and having an older sister, I got an early education in 90s music: The radio, MTV, and the older kids were my only way of learning about what was happening in the music scene. The ability to go see concerts, or as they’re called today “shows”, was not really an option; the only venue in my hometown was a side-of-the-highway bar/motel that only booked country music acts or jam bands. On nights where there wasn’t a band playing, your choice of music is limited to whatever was on Bobby John’s current mixtape or the burnt CDs he had in the truck. This place still stands and still continues with its horrible booking choices, but the “jukebox” has changed from tapes and CDs to an iPod with a fraying aux cord.
The simplicity of One-Hit-Wonders is that you don’t have to get attached to them. They’re as disposable as a Kleenex. I say this, and yet, some Wonders we hold onto thinking they might make it past a one time thing, like a Kleenex you reuse because it isn’t that nasty yet. At one time, I’m sure everyone thought Milli and Vanilli were going to be huge stars. The list for all the Wonders of the 90s is a sight to behold. Scrolling through I began to feel nostalgic for all those car rides home with my mom’s students, those middle school dances I secretly enjoyed, that one party I held at my house, singing at the top of my lungs with my best friend, and countless other memories all came flooding back to me. The 90s were not my coming of age decade, but the music that was a part of that time has certainly stuck with me. Much like our parents and theirs before them, the music you grow up listening to sticks with you better than music that comes out later in your life.
Pop Culture does wonders for these one-time beauties. The nation becomes obsessed or downright loathes these tunes but the fact remains that we stand as one. When music videos reigned supreme, Pop Culture saw to it that we wouldn’t forget them. They were water cooler chat, the fashion trends they spawned were the delight to some and the horror to others, and the use of them in the films of that time period remind us that, though they faded in popularity, they are stuck in cinematic history forever.
What’re some of your favourite one-hit-wonders? Did your graduating class have a nauseating tune that you still hate to this day? What’s the one song you hate but still know all the lyrics? Lemme know in the comments below!!
Stay tuned for Chapter 5.