The Top 10 One-Hit Wonders of the ’00s
#10 “Bad Day” – Daniel Powter (2005)
Released in 2005, this song became as unavoidable as peeking at a wreck on the highway or consenting to a colonoscopy in middle age. There’s something magical about it, and maybe not in a good way, but maybe in a way that brings your toy clown to life to attack you in your room at night while dressed in your pajamas. “Bad Day” appears or tops most of its decade’s One-Hit Wonder lists, and as much as we struggled not to, it was frighteningly impossible for us to leave off our list. You know, like magic.
#9 “Wherever You Will Go” – The Calling (2001)
This is a gruff and soulful song, a sound popular in the 2000s, sung by a chap who looks like he’d better belong in a boy band. But this is no pop confection. Heavy and emotional with an anthemic chorus, The Calling may not have stuck around for long, but this tune surely left its mark. The entries on this list may be one-hit wonders, but most are surprisingly significant – important fixtures in our cultural songbook – more so than the ’90s offerings we counted down earlier this year. “Wherever You Will Go” leads as our first example.
#8 “You’re Beautiful” – James Blunt (2005)
But you say you are in the market for pop confection? “You’re Beautiful” has not just a candy store’s worth, but a Wonka-sized factory. Filled with both joy and sadness, the song was written after James Blunt locked glances with an ex-girlfriend who was riding in the subway with another guy. If this was a premise of a movie, Blunt might have gotten her back in the end. But within the shorter confines of a ballad, all that he’s left with are lingering memories. This is the kind of song that can make the girls swoon. Boys too, it seems, since Blunt performed it for Elton John at his wedding.
#7 “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley (2006)
As colorful himself as his name, Cee-Lo Green struck gold teaming up with Danger Mouse on 2006’s “St. Elsewhere” with its delectable hit “Crazy.” As time itself has been measured by the birth of a certain scraggily-haired Lord and Savior, this song made such an impact upon its release that centuries from now music history may bear upon it a similar mark of distinction. (Though the simple moniker “BC” might create some out of context confusion.) With a driving bass borrowed from a Spaghetti Western, “Crazy” celebrates the theory that despair and lunacy can be things to be enjoyed. Whatever the reason, music lovers have celebrated this funky groove at all levels of sanity.
#6 “Chasing Cars” – Snow Patrol (2006)
If you’re going to die with your soulmate at your side in a sexually-charged hospital, this, it seems, is the song by which to do it. Our most controversial entry, many will protest that Snow Patrol has other hits, and this melancholic melody does not deserve a one-hit wonder classification. However, in the U.S., “Chasing Cars” was the Irish import’s only chart topper and as Winston Churchill once said, “If it hasn’t happened in America, old chum, it hasn’t happened. Now where the devil is my shepherd’s pie!” But follow-up or not, what Snow Patrol did was take the standard musical theme of holding a true love so close to your heart that nothing else in the world matters and turned it into something fresh, haunting, and inescapable. An unforgettable song for everyone on the planet, even those planning to live on for years and years to come.
#5 “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” – Nine Days (2000)
Our list’s most classic example of a one-hit wonder. A band whose name you don’t remember with an non-parenthetical title you wouldn’t have guessed. But the song itself is a hoot, one you couldn’t jump up and down higher too even if you were riding a pogo stick. We could satirically correlate the name Nine Days with the brevity of their staying power, but this also is a song to be celebrated. One of which its artist should only be proud. Because the minute we hear singer John Hampson declare what kind of story will follow, we’ll always be all ears…and hopping feet.
#4 “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” – Jet (2003)
It begins with some tambourine, slick bass line, then a singer’s cough, but its intentions couldn’t be any clearer. This is unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. A driving drum beat and free-wheeling guitar join the fray, then its screaming vocals and 2003’s music listeners asked themselves, “Has this band been around my whole life? The sound is so classic, it seems like is has.” Jet has been criticized for stealing the sounds of other rockers who came before them (Iggy Pop in this case), but “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” is a triumph all their own. Capitalizing on the fact that something spilling out of a speaker sounds its best when it simply rocks.
#3 “American Boy” – Estelle featuring Kanye West (2008)
Unless you’re on stage accepting an award, standing next to Kanye West is a pretty good place to be. British singer Estelle found that out when “American Boy” hit the charts, though it is her own sweet grooves and vocals that steal the show. The UK artist was challenged to come up with a song about an American boy, and with plenty of material to draw from her past, this funky pop gem with a disco flair was born. Kanye’s rap atop the dance beat is just icing on the cake. Foreign relations never sounded so sweet.
#2 “Flavor of the Weak” – American Hi-Fi (2001)
While Estelle has great praise to give to American boys, the young lady at the center of this American Hi-Fi hit isn’t so lucky. Her boyfriend may be the man of her dreams, but she doesn’t seem to share the same place in his heart. He sounds like a douche, actually, choosing to give his attention to anything but her. What sounds great is this song, a high octane declaration of love delivered by an unseen third party, who might just be the guy this girl really deserves. Fitting right in with the best of Blink 182 and Sum 41, “Flavor of the Weak” takes the subject of disaffected young love and turns it into a catchy, irresistible anthem.
#1 “I Try” – Macy Gray (2000)
One-hit wonder is certainly not a title that a musical act aspires to attain. It is often used snidely or provocatively at the hands of music writers, radio DJs, or institutions like MTV (before they determined that teen pregnancy and cyberbullying were much more interesting concepts than music). Macy Gray’s “I Try” is a musical masterpiece. An emotional love song that hits all the shades of that emotion – sadness, vulnerability, explosive joy – all within its short runtime. Gray’s gravelly, vibrant voice surprised music listeners as something new in 2000 and now 15 years later, when this song starts to play, our voices are still quick to accompany hers. That she had no U.S. follow up is not the point. Like many of the Wonders on this list, our world is better that they existed, and here “I Try” is the very top of that list.