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One-hit wonder

A one-hit wonder is a Top 40 phenomenon, the combination of artist and song that scores big in the music industry with one smash hit, but is unable to repeat the achievement with another hit. The term can refer to the artist, the song, or both together.

Many one-hit wonders have made their (brief) mark on musical history, ranging from the earliest days of radio to the present. A number of one-hit wonders are also seen as novelty songs, often recorded for humor or to cash in on the latest pop culture fad. Some, however, are long-time cult acts who have one mainstream hit. The Grateful Dead ("Touch of Gray") and Rancid ("Ruby Soho") are examples.

Usually the singer and the song have their moment in the spotlight and disappear, but occasionally, as with Bobbie Gentry and "Ode to Billie Joe" the song has enough impact to carry over into a career. "Spirit in the Sky" has been a one-hit wonder twice (in the 1960s and 1980s) and its author, Norman Greenbaum, was also a one-hit wonder twice in the 1960s under two names.

The phenomenon of one-hit wonders was celebrated in Tom Hanks's film That Thing You Do, which featured a band first called the Oneders (pronounced "wonders") and later The Wonders that broke up shortly after their one and only hit single.

Nick Lowe told the story of the one-hit wonder in "They Called It Rock":

They made another record, it never was a hit,
Someone in the newspaper said it was sh*t.
The drummer is a bookie, the singer is a whore,
The bass player's selling clothes he never would have wore.
They called it rock.

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