Essential One-Hit Wonders of the 1990s

When it comes to the top tracks from the 1990s, some were novelties; some were unabashed sing-alongs. Alas, beyond these singles, the one-hit wonders of ’90s rock generally faded into obscurity. Let us remember the good times by “Counting Blue Cars” until “Closing Time.”

Chumbawamba - "Tubthumping"

Portrait of Chumbawamba

Martyn Goodacre / Getty Images

They got knocked down, but they never really got back up again, despite what they proclaimed in the barroom anthem “Tubthumping.” Chumbawamba had sloughed through more than a decade of obscurity until critical mass hit with this 1997 song. Not bad for a bunch of anarchists who encouraged fans to steal their albums from stores.

Belly - "Feed the Tree"

Album art for Belly - "Feed the Tree"


Tanya Donelly is college rock’s go-to gal. From forming Throwing Muses with Kristin Hersh to doing time with Kim Deal's The Breeders, the cherubic-voiced auteur has solidified her place in rock history. Additionally, she fronted Belly, which put out the lyrically confounding yet aurally pleasing “Feed the Tree” in 1993. The obtuse language about a brace-faced squirrel running its bike into foliage didn’t hinder the song’s success: It hit number one on the Modern Rock charts. In the past few years, Donelly served as a doula for home births, embarked on a short tour in 2014 with Throwing Muses and recorded her "Swan Song" series.

Blind Melon - "No Rain"

Album art for Blind Melon - "No Rain"

Life stopped being plain for hippie-esque singer Shannon Hoon and his breezy pals when the mellow jam "No Rain" hit the airwaves. Not only did Hoon become an unlikely sex symbol, but the music video’s precocious Bee Girl became an icon for ’90s alienation. Unfortunately, Hoon succumbed to a cocaine overdose in 1995, leaving his bandmates to later scurry for a new lead singer. Travis Warren took up the mantle in the aughts, but results were negligible.

Crash Test Dummies - "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"

Portrait of the Crash Test Dummies

With an almost-comical bass-baritone, Crash Test Dummies’ Brad Roberts weaved tales of outcast youth in this inexplicable hit. Though, for all its folly about boys with prematurely white hair and girls with birthmarks inundating their bodies, the song made listeners go “Mmm” about rearing children in strict churches. Roberts recorded in 2012 an album of mantras (which really should have been called Om Om Om Om).

Del Amitri - "Roll to Me"

Album art for Del Amitri - "Roll to Me"

Catchy as all get out, this bubbly number by Great Scots' Del Amitri enjoyed bigger success in the United States than in their native land. But the finger-popping “Roll to Me” was the exception in their oeuvre—Del Amitri continue to tour the U.K. due to popular demand, but their star in the U.S. diminished by 1996.

Dishwalla - "Counting Blue Cars"

Album art for Dishwalla - "Counting Blue Cars"

Many artists in the 1990s were pondering the “g” word (see Joan Osborne), including J.R. Richards. The smooth frontman sang of wanting to meet “her,” challenging the trope that the big fella in the sky had to be a fella at all. The appeal of the universal lyrics and radio-friendly guitar riffs led to a massive crossover triumph—"Counting Blue Cars" made huge waves on the rock and pop charts in 1996. These days, Dishwalla carry on with a new lead singer, and Richards is dedicating himself to charitable efforts for the impoverished around the world.

Harvey Danger - "Flagpole Sitta"

Album art for Harvey Danger - "Flagpole Sitta"

“I’m not sick, but I’m not well, and it’s a sin to live this well,” crooned Sean Nelson back in 1997 on the sarcastic gem “Flagpole Sitta.” Calling out great features of the 1990s, including Rage Against the Machine and zines, this quirky rambler defied logic and ran rampant across the charts. Even Nelson was shocked by its success, as he confessed to Rolling Stone. Harvey Danger called it a day in 2009, closing up shop with the farewell download "The Show Must Not Go On."

Geggy Tah - "Whoever You Are"

Album art for Geggy Tah - "Whoever You Are"
Warner Bros.

Quintessential nice guys Geggy Tah put smiles on plenty of faces with this ode to polite drivers. Mixing campfire acoustics, scatting and tongue-in-cheek hip-hop, “Whoever You Are” was one of those tunes that could have only been written in the ’90s. But multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin fared pretty well into the following decades: He formed electro-rock group the Bird and the Bee and earned a Grammy nomination for producing Lily Allen’s 2009 album, It’s Not Me, It’s You.

Joan Osborne - "One of Us"

Album art for Joan Osborne - "One of Us"

Blue Gorilla

It was pretty ballsy to suggest that God was just a slob like one of us,” but Joan Osborne's spiritual musing turned out to be quite lucrative. The pop-rock anti-sermon, written by the Hooters’ Eric Bazilian, rose to the Billboard Top 10 in 1996 and collected Grammy nominations like disciples. Since her heyday, Osborne has been consistently releasing smoky blues and country albums— the most recent being 2014's Trigger Hippy, a band collaboration with former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman.

Marcy Playground - "Sex and Candy"

Album art for Marcy Playground - "Sex and Candy"

Combining two hedonistic pleasures—sex and candy—equalled massive success for Marcy Playground. With John Wozniak's fumbling baritone and bluesy guitar licks, it was the musical equivalent of bed head—effortless and messy, yet quite appealing. "Sex and Candy" spent 15 weeks atop the Billboard Modern Rock charts in 1997-1998, but Marcy Playground's career went flaccid afterward.

New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"

Album art for New Radicals - "Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too"

For a group that put out only one album (1998’s Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too), they certainly left an impact on the music world. Some claim that "You Get What You Give" popularized the term "frenemy." And singer/songwriter Gregg Alexander went on to pen the uber-cool Santana and Michelle Branch duet, “The Game of Love.” He also garnered an Oscar nomination in 2015 for his ballad "Lost Stars" from Begin Again. As for the celebs at which “YGWYG” threw shade (Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, Beck, and Hanson)? The latter forgave Alexander—the brotherly trio collaborated with the New Radical for 2004’s Underneath.

Primitive Radio Gods - "Standing..."

Album art for Primitive Radio Gods - "Standing..."

From The Cable Guy soundtrack to international stardom, this one-man band created by Chris O'Connor broke big in 1996. "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand" wowed with its absurd lyrics and sampling inspired by rap ruffians N.W.A. and Public Enemy. O'Connor practically disappeared from the public eye shortly after the song peaked at number one on the Modern Rock charts. The Gods' last album, Out Alive, was released independently in 2010.

Republica - "Ready To Go"

Album art for Republica - "Ready To Go"

Fashionable, fabulous Republica was fronted by the effervescent Saffron, the kind of musician that men wanted to be with and women wanted to be. The group came up big in the States around the same time as similar-sounding Garbage, lending the fist-pumping techno-rocker “Ready To Go” to notable ’90s films such as Scream. Republica toured as recently as 2014, and Saffron was still rocking that phenomenal two-toned bob.

Semisonic - "Closing Time"

Album art for Semisonic - "Closing Time"

It pains this writer to call Semisonic a one-hit wonder band, as their 1998 album, Feeling Strangely Fine (MCA), is a power-pop masterstroke. But it was the bubbly tome about last call at a bar that earned the trio their kudos. “Closing Time” staggered to number one on the Modern Rock charts and to number 8 on the overall Billboard Top 40. Singer/songwriter Dan Wilson went on to collaborate with huge names such as Adele, Taylor Swift, and P!nk. He released another solo album in 2014.

Seven Mary Three - "Cumbersome"

Album art for Seven Mary Three - "Cumbersome"

Jason Ross had the voice of Goliath, "but I wear the David mask," he proclaimed in this biblical track. It was the 10th most-popular rock song of 1995, putting 7M3 alongside emerging acts like Bush. A snarlingly excellent example of post-grunge, "Cumbersome" described how tedious one's life can get after a breakup. With Seven Mary Three's own fizzling out in 2012, Ross turned to guest-lecturing at universities on music topics.

Spacehog - "In the Meantime"

Album art for Spacehog - "In the Meantime"

Spacehog strutted like they were beamed down from Ziggy Stardust's vessel on a steady diet of glam and power-pop. Royston Langdon was every bit the rock star, marrying Liv Tyler and wearing metallic outfits that would put Elton John to shame. The groovy "In the Meantime" crash-landed high on the charts in 1996, but Spacehog's time in the alt universe heavens didn't last long. However, they did hit the road with Soul Asylum, Everclear, and Eve 6 in 2014 and were kind enough to speak with us about that adventure.