5 One-Hit Wonders Who Deserve Your Respect

There is no bigger double-edged sword when it comes to a music career than being labeled a one-hit wonder. Sure, it's embarrassing to have that kind of label attached to your name, placing you squarely in the same league with such luminaries as Young MC and Vanilla Ice. But it's better than being a no-hit wonder, right? Of course, the answer to that question is a resounding ... "sometimes." See, in a lot of instances, the bands you know as one-hit wonders are actually much more than that. So much so that having that one gigantic hit probably did more harm to their reputations than good, because it completely overshadowed all of the other great things they accomplished. Like who? Glad you asked! Here are five one-hit wonders who deserve your respect ...

#5. a-ha


You Know Them As ...

... the band with that half pencil-drawn/half live-action music video that people still fawn over to this day as one of the most innovative of all time. The video in question is for the song "Take on Me," which you probably pretend to hate. You're just lying to yourself, though, because it's pretty damn wonderful. The sooner you accept that, the sooner we can be friends again. In the meantime, here's the video, in case you don't remember it:

But after that one iconic video, the band known as a-ha was basically never seen from again in the United States. They're the very definition of a one-hit wonder, right? Not really.

They Are Also ...

... one of the 50 highest grossing musical acts in the world. At least they were in 2010. No, seriously, you can read all about it here, provided you don't mind running an entire article through Google Translate. Why the lack of English language sources to back up the claim? Because, to put it bluntly, the U.S. doesn't give two shits about a-ha anymore. But, much like soccer, the rest of the world thinks they're quite entertaining. Over the course of a career that started in 1982 and has been going strong ever since, a-ha has sold more than 36 million albums and 15 million singles worldwide. Love for a-ha is especially strong in their native Norway, where the band has racked up an impressive 10 Spellemannprisens. I know, you're all like, "Come on, Adam, that's a lot of Spellemannprisens for just one band, you must be lying."

Who even has room for 10 of these?

Oh, what's that? Your real response was "What in the motherfuck is a Spellemannprisen?" I guess that's an understandable reaction, too. Basically, a Spellemannprisen is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy, and a-ha has won a bunch of them. In fact, at the 2011 Spellemannprisen awards show, the band was given an honorary award with the words "Our Heroes -- Once upon a time, now -- Still and forever" inscribed on it. Heroes! Bruce Springsteen would literally have to rescue a small child from a roaring house fire before anyone started handing him "hero" awards. All in all, they've had a pretty impressive run for a band that damn near everyone in the United States lost all memory of sometime around 1986.

#4. Dexys Midnight Runners


You Know Them As ...

... three words: "Come on Eileen." It's one of those songs that people either love or hate. There's not much middle ground. I don't think it's particularly awful, but I have friends who could probably be talked into starting a bar fight with the person bold enough to play "Come on Eileen" on the jukebox. If you've never heard the song, here's hoping the cave you live in has enough Internet connectivity to watch this video:

No matter what side of the "Come on Eileen" fence you fall on, there's one thing we can all agree on. No band that dresses like their main musical influence is that banjo-playing kid from Deliverance is worthy of anything resembling respect, right?

They Are Also ...

... not nearly as awful as you think. I know, that's not the greatest argument of all time, but hear me out. See, it's not like Dexys Midnight Runners always wore those ridiculous get-ups. What they did do is make the ill-fated decision to change their "look" to reflect the musical direction of each of their albums. So, they weren't really the band of British hillbillies that most people take them for; they just happened to record an album with a bunch of fiddles on it and decided that the only logical next step was to dress up like they hailed from the furthest reaches of the Appalachians. In fact, on their first album (that's right, they had more than one), they just kind of looked like every other British band of the late '70s. In other words, they looked like the Clash.

Granted, as far as music goes, they definitely were not the Clash. But give the above video a listen if you haven't already. You might be shocked to find that, in their day, Dexys Midnight Runners were a pretty good band. They just dressed like a bunch of idiots occasionally and happened to have released one of the most simultaneously loved and hated songs of all time. And guess what, they're still together! Well, by "still" I mean "reunited after 26 years." And they don't look nearly as ridiculous this time around. Slightly ridiculous, yes. But at least they aren't dressed like former WWE wrestler Hillbilly Jim anymore. That has to count for something toward your opinion of them, right?


#3. Devo


You Know Them As ...

... those weirdos in the red plastic hats who made that "Whip It" song in the '80s and then promptly vanished. I can't imagine how you would have lived your life in complete ignorance of this song, but just in case, here's the video:

Do people hate Devo? I guess I'm not 100 percent sure. I trust the comments section will let me know. For my part, I figure people look at them more as some sort of quirky oddity that made a blip on the 1980s radar (the kind with just a black and green display, no doubt) and went on to smaller and lesser things after that.

They Are Also ...

... massively influential. To be completely honest, when I was researching this article and saw Devo on a list of the Top 100 One-Hit Wonders, I was kind of perplexed. Sure, they only had one big hit, but do they really deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Rockwell and Gerardo?

That's Rico Suave to you.

But, you know, they did just kind of have that one hit, so I guess the title fits. But seriously, these guys are revered among alt-rock and industrial music types. Kurt Cobain cited them as one of his favorite bands and even included a cover of a Devo song called "Turnaround" on the Incesticide album. If you're into any band that favors odd time signatures or the occasional synthesizer, they probably listened to a lot of Devo. And it's not like they just listened to "Whip It" on repeat for days on end. We're talking about a band that has nine albums to their name. That isn't a number that a band that only had one decent song going for it would put up. Hell, they were influencing big name artists before "Whip It" was even released. Take Neil Young, for example. The title of his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps came about after Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh suggested it. Young would later cast them in his film Human Highway, a movie so wonderfully terrible that the poster featured a quote that said "It's so bad, it's going to be huge." It wasn't. But still, they were in it! Neil Young even let them do the soundtrack for the film.


Which makes for a nice segue into this tidbit. Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh is also responsible for like every movie soundtrack ever. Seriously, check out the list. But please, try to ignore the fact that his most recent work is Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. He was also involved in the good shit, like Pee-wee's Playhouse, Rushmore and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. If you've seen that last movie, then you already know that the soundtrack was literally the only thing it had going for it.

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Adam Tod Brown

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