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Readers’ Poll: Your Favorite 1990s One-Hit Wonders

Selections include ‘Sex and Candy,’ Bittersweet Symphony’ and ‘No Rain’

1990s one hit wonders

Ebet Roberts/Redferns; Peter Pakvis/Redferns; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

When people think back to the music of the 1990s, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins often come to mind. But if you were to turn on the radio back then, you'd be just as likely to hear "Sex and Candy" or "Closing Time" as you would "Jeremy" or "Come As You Are." It was a great time for one-hit wonders. Bands like New Radicals or Spacehog would arrive on the scene, score a huge hit, then land with a colossal thud when they tried to follow it up. The story is as old as the music industry – some bands just have one perfect moment. Here are your selections for the top 10 One-Hit Wonders of the 1990s. 

By Andy Greene

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10. House of Pain – ‘Jump Around’

Los Angeles hip-hop trio House of Pain made their mark in 1992 with the song "Jump Around." The track samples a horn from Bob and Earl's 1963 classic, "Harlem Shuffle." It became one of the definitive party anthems of the decade, but the group didn't even come close to releasing a successful follow-up. They split in 1996. Frontman Everlast had a big solo hit two years later with "What It's Like," off his acclaimed album Whitey Ford Sings The Blues. Around that time, DJ Lethal joined Limp Bizkit – House of Pain reformed in 2010 for live shows, but DJ Lethal couldn't make the shows because Limp Bizkit was back on tour. He recently parted ways with Fred Durst and company, though, so he should have time to spin "Jump Around" at future House of Pain gigs.  

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9. Harvey Danger – ‘Flagpole Sitta’

Even some devoted Nineties fans might not recognize the song "Flagpole Sitta" just from its title. But just sing the lines, "I'm not sick, but I'm not well . . ." to anybody born between 1978 and 1991,  and they should recognize it immediately. The 1998 song by Seattle indie-rock band Harvey Danger was used in American Pie and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and was even covered by Weird Al Yankovic in one of his polka medlies. The group split just two years later, reformed in 2005 and split again two years ago, for good. There's a cautionary tale for bands in Harvey Danger's demise: If you think you have a hit on your hands, make the title something people will remember. If Marcy Playground had titled "Sex and Candy" something besides "Sex and Candy," they might not be around right now. The Verve Pipe knew what they were doing with "The Freshmen." Flagpole Sitta? It sounds like some novelty song from the height of the flagpole-sitting craze in 1924. 

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8. Chumbawamba – ‘Tubthumping’

Poor Chumbawamba. Up until this past July, they must have thought nobody cared about them. The British anarchist rock group hadn't received much press since "Tubthumping" fell off the charts 12 years ago. Nothing they did seemed to gain any traction, so calling it quits seemed like the best move. "That’s it then, it’s the end," read a message on their website. "With neither a whimper, a bang or a reunion." Suddenly, "Chumbawamba" was trending on Twitter, and seemingly every other person on Facebook was cracking jokes about "Tubthumping." Some said they'd get up again, while others were confident their knockdown would be permanent. Most expressed shock they still existed at all. The whole thing lasted for days. It's the horrible paradox of a forgotten band, or most any forgotten entity in entertainment: Nobody cares about you until you're dead. The good news is that all bands can reunite. "We do, of course, reserve the right to re-emerge as Chumbawamba doing something else entirely (certainly not touring and putting out albums every two or three years)," they wrote in their statement. "But frankly, that’s not very likely. Thirty years of being snotty, eclectic, funny, contrary and just plain weird. What a privilege, and what a good time we've had."

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7. Deee-Lite – ‘Groove Is in the Heart’

The 1970s disco scene was littered with one-hit wonders, and the same is true for many of the dance groups of the 1990s. When you create that one perfect number that gets everybody on the dancefloor and keeps them there, it can be hard to craft a follow-up. Your signature song just trumps everything. Chubby Checker couldn't get past "The Twist," Little Eva couldn't get past  "The Locomotion" and Los Del Rio couldn't get pass "The Macarena." Deee-Lite (the three e's isn't a typo) really, really couldn't get past "Groove Is in the Heart." The song had everything: A killer hook, a Herbie Hancock sample, a rap by Q-Tip and even some bass work by Bootsy Collins. It shot to Number One all over the world. Dee-Lite broke up six years later, never having crafted anything that could remotely compare to "Groove Is in the Heart." They had about 17 great ideas, and they used them all up on their debut single. 

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6. Blind Melon – ‘No Rain’

Is there any singular image that conjures up the 1990s quite like the "bee girl" from the video for Blind Melon's "No Rain?" Sure, there's Boris Yeltsin on the tank and OJ Simpson trying on the glove, or the cast of Friends on the couch at the Central Perk – but we'd argue that Blind Melon created a moment that trumps all of those. She was the living embodiment of lonely, disaffected people everywhere, and in the end she found a community all her own. It's a great little short film, and one of the single catchiest songs of the decade. We'll never know where Blind Melon could have gone had their lead singer Shannon Hoon stayed off drugs. Sadly, he died of an overdose in October of 1995. They reunited in 2006 with a new singer, but without Shannon they've had trouble booking gigs. 

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5. The Verve – ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’

Here's a good lesson for all young bands out there: If you're going to borrow part of a song, don't take it from the Rolling Stones. They're a little litigious. They have good lawyers. They will destroy you. The Verve learned this the hard way when used a symphonic version of  the Stones' 1965 hit, "The Last Time," on their 1998 hit, "Bitter Sweet Symphony." The band originally negotiated with ABKCO Records to split the proceeds down the middle, but when the label heard the finished song, they sued for everything. They felt the group took too much of the melody. The Verve lost, and the song credits flipped to Jagger/Richards, even though Ashcroft wrote all the lyrics and he used the sample in a pretty novel way. All the tension didn't exactly help band relations, and they split in 1999. A 2007 reunion was shortlived. 

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4. Marcy Playground – “Sex and Candy”

It's been 13 years since Marcy Playground released "Sex and Candy," and America still has some questions: What is Disco Lemonade? What kind of candy does this woman smell like? Why are you hanging around downtown by yourself near a woman who emits such smells? Might this be a woman of the night who has sprayed herself with some sort of candy-like perfume to mask the scents of her most recent job? What makes you think it's a dream? We'll probably never know the answers to these questions, but that doesn't mean Marcy Playground aren't still cashing in on their lone hit. They spent the summer on the road with a 1990s super-bill, along with Sugar Ray, Everclear, Lit and the Gin Blossoms. We haven't looked at any setlists, but it's probably a safe bet that Marcy Playground found some space for "Sex and Candy" in their set.

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3. Spacehog – ‘In the Meantime’

This is another one of those songs people often forget until you sing them a little bit of it. "In The Meantime" was the debut single by British rock band Spacehog in 1996. Their second LP, The Chinese Album, failed to produce a hit, but things weren't entirely bleak for the group. That same year, frontman Royston Langdon began dating Liv Tyler. They eventually got married and had a son, though they split in 2008. That summer, Spacehog reformed after a six-year break and began playing clubs. A new album has been in the works for quite some time. In the meantime (sorry), you can catch them on the Rocks Off Cruise in New York City on August 25th. 

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2. Semisonic – ‘Closing Time’

Type the title "Closing Time" into YouTube and the first term that pops up is "Closing Time Matchbox 20." It's rough when most people think your biggest hit was sung by a larger, more successful entity. America dealt with this when everyone thought Neil Young sang "Horse With No Name," and back in the early days of Napster countless "Stuck in the Middle With You" MP3s were labeled "Bob Dylan" and not Stealers Wheel. That's the cruel fate for most one-hit wonder groups – your song will always be much more famous than your band. While America did have several other hits, Minneapolis rock group Semisonic did not. They never officially broke up, but their last album was in 2001 and they rarely play shows. The band did manage to create one object of real lasting value beyond "Closing Time," though. In 2004, drummer Jacob Slichter published the book So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. It's a fascinating look at the band's rise and fall, and truly a must-read for anyone who wants to get into the record business. 

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1. The New Radicals – ‘You Get What You Give’

Most musicians dream of accomplishing what Gregg Alexander pulled off in 1998. "You Get What You Give," the debut single from his new band the New Radicals, became a smash all over the world. Everybody from small children to teenagers to actual old people absolutely loved it. People that hadn't liked a new song since "My Sharona" went out to buy the CD single. They had a truly unique sound and a very cool vibe. "You Get What You Give" was followed up with the single "Someday We'll Know" in May of 1999, but very shortly afterwards Alexander dissolved the band. That was it. Two singles. They went from their initial formation to their huge breakthrough to a break-up in less than two years. Like the Sex Pistols, the La's and Lauryn Hill, their legacy is a single great album. The New Radicals didn't break up for any complex reasons; Alexander just really didn't like fame or success. I accomplished all of my goals with this record," he said in a statement. "The fatigue of traveling and getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring 'hanging and schmoozing' with radio and retail people, is definitely not for me."

In This Article: Blind Melon, Semisonic, The Verve

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