Indie One-Hit Wonders

Though the term is tossed around a lot, there’s really no such thing as a “one-hit wonder.” If the criteria were simply having one Top 40 Billboard hit, then blink-182, Gorillaz, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix would all be considered one-hit wonders. Even artists that produce only one successful single can have a profound musical impact beyond that song. And there must be at least one power-pop enthusiast out there who knows every Fountains of Wayne song—or at least one besides “Stacy’s Mom”—by heart. Still, we all know what the term “one-hit wonder” generally implies. It’s an artist that produces one massively popular song that completely overshadows all other aspects of their career, whether it lasts for one album or several decades.

This playlist consists of one-hit wonders in the post-millennial indie-pop realm. The majority of these groups adhere to the strict definition of the term, having produced at least one single that landed in the Billboard Top 40 charts. But researching this playlist yielded some surprises about artists that I incorrectly assumed only had one recognizable song. Foster the People has actually had a bunch of hit singles, though only “Pumped Up Kicks” has reached No. 1. Noah and the Whale has had several songs chart in the UK, but “5 Years Time” is the only song that resonated elsewhere. Of Monsters and Men has had other successful singles, but “Little Talks” is the only one that has breached the Billboard Top 40. And The Ting Tings were going to be included on this list, until Wikipedia informed me that the band actually had a handful of other singles that charted in the US besides “That’s Not My Name.”

Aside from Fountains of Wayne, the most obvious one-hit wonder on this playlist is Gotye. “Somebody That I Used To Know” was a huge No. 1 hit in at least 10 countries, and is likely stuck in your head now that you’ve read its name. But does anyone even remember “Eyes Wide Open,” Gotye’s single released before “Somebody That I Used To Know,” and his only other song to chart in the US?

The truth is that someone out there definitely knows that song, and also considers a few other Gotye songs “personal hits” to them the same way, say, Louis XIV’s “Finding Out True Love Is Blind” is to me—it may never have been a literal chart hit, but it was a smash single in my heart. That’s the tricky thing about calling artists one-hit wonders: They never truly are. In the world of indie-pop, however, that distinction isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Not having hit songs gives you more cred, anyways.