Readers' Poll: Your Favorite 1990s One-Hit Wonders - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

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

Play video

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. 

Play video

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.

Play video

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. 

Play video

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. 

Play video

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."

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.