Is 1997 the definitive year of the one-hit wonder?
One-hit wonders are getting harder and harder to come by these days. In fact, with the rise of social media, their very existence is at stake.
Today, hits come and go but follower counts remain, giving artists a platform to build upon their success. An opportunity that some older artists would have given a limb for back in the day. So, let's look back at that bygone era, the golden age of the one-hit wonder.
The year 1997 stands out as the peak of the one-hit wonder's powers. Bertie, Blair and Bill were all in office at the time. Titanic was released in cinemas and Spielberg was in Wexford filming 'Saving Private Ryan'. Oh, and Entertainment.ie was born!
Accompanying all of these moments throughout the year was some excellent music. Britpop was in full swing with Blur and Oasis running riot. Radiohead, The Backstreet Boys, The Prodigy, Robbie Williams and The Spice Girls were all churning out bangers. While they all managed to forge and maintain careers in the limelight, there were also a lot of artists who, for one reason or another, couldn't do the same.
So let's take a trip down memory lane and relive some of these artist's fifteen minutes of fame.
1 Cornershop - Brimful of Asha
"Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow". That infamous line can be recounted by nearly everyone who grew up in the 90's and the song it came from has remained resilient throughout the last quarter of a century.
Cornershop's hit was heavily inspired by Indian culture, leading back to lead singer Tjinder Singh's upbringing as the son of an immigrant who moved to the UK. Packed with references to Bollywood and famous actors in the industry, 'Brimful of Asha' has a lot more to it than just its most famous line.
Cornershop are still going strong today and remain an important cog in 90's Britpop, despite not reaching the heights of their '97 hit again.
2 Chumbawamba - Tubthumping
You're never gonna keep this one down. It's certainly one of, if not the defining song of the 90's.
Chumbawamba were already grizzled veterans of the music industry when the single off of their eight studio album went global. Formed in 1982, the band mixed anarcho-punk, rock and pop together and political messaging takes up a large mantle in their lyrics. In particular, their opposition to homophobia, fascism and support of feminism gained them popularity throughout their career.
The lyrics to the song actually has an Irish inspiration, although, if stereotypes are anything to go by, probably not in the best way.
Boff Whalley, the band's guitarist said: "Our next-door neighbour, who was Irish, would come home drunk every weekend from the pub and try and get into his house, fall over and shout for his wife – it was a weekly ritual."
'Tubthumping' reached number 1 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the U.S. as well going top ten in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the U.K.
It may be Marmite to some, but it's very hard not to chant along to its chorus after a whiskey drink (or a vodka drink, or a lager drink..)
3 Hanson - MMMBop
The fair-haired brothers were a staple of late-nineties music channels. Personally, the band always stood for that fact that no matter how small a child you are, it's still possible to live out your dream playing drums on MTV.
'MMMBop' released as the lead single from their multi-platinum-selling debut album 'Middle of Nowhere'. It presided on the top of the singles charts in 27 different countries in April 1997, holding on for three weeks at number one in Ireland.
Now, in some circles, it may be contentious to count the trio's single as a one-hit wonder. They've had eight UK top twenty singles, including 'MMMBop'. But it's the transcending nature of the song above all else that will define the band as a trio. Also, I dare you to tell me the name of any of their other songs without Googling it.
Despite still performing together today, there's something so pure about them as kids in the nineties just bopping away in their living room. Maybe the wonder of youth is the real one-hit wonder. Or maybe I'm trying really hard to squeeze this into the already fairly dubious definition of what a one-hit wonder is. We'll never know.
4 Aqua - Barbie Girl
Probably the most controversial hit from '97 is from a Danish pop group called Aqua. It is, of course, 'Barbie Girl'. Love it or hate it, there's no doubting how much of a huge dent this song made in pop culture at the time, that's still resonating in the hallowed halls of Irish nightclubs to this day (or whenever they were last open, at least).
Looking back on it now, it's easier to see the intelligence behind the tune. Yes it's as sugary as a glazed doughnut, but it also has a poke at the misogynistic character tropes that barbie dolls used to radiate. Also, it's a massive bop.
'Barbie Girl' was Aqua's only real mainstream success, peaking at number seven in Billboard's Top 100 and topping Irish charts for four weeks in a row (before getting replaced by Dustin the Turkey and Joe Dolan). However, they have had some success with other songs like 'Doctor Jones'. There's definitely a place in the world for bands like Aqua. Or, at least there was in the late 90's.
5 Natalie Imbruglia - Torn
As you look out your window on a cold January's day, sometimes there's no better song to mime along to than 'Torn'. Natalie Imbruglia's version was actually written for another band called Ednaswap but Imbruglia made it her own and it remains no less a heartbreak anthem.
The song propelled the former 'Neighbours' star into the music limelight instantly as it peaked at number two in the UK charts for three weeks. It is also the most played song from the 90's in the UK, according to Forbes, a simply incredible feat.
Despite not hitting the heights of 'Torn' ever again, Imbruglia has had a solid career after the success. She also remembers the song fondly and hasn't let it interfere with the rest of her music career.
"I decided to never hate it because I knew I would be singing it for ever,” said the 46-year-old Australian in an interview last year. "I’m incredibly proud to be part of something that has touched so many people. Because of that, I’ve been able to have a career."
6 Eagle Eye Cherry - Save Tonight
"People point at me and say 'Save Tonight?' like it's my name," said the singer of this tune in a interview with GQ. "Which I guess it kind of is." His real name, in fact, is Eagle Eye Cherry. Born in Sweden, the musician released his first ever single that just so happened to be a global success and a song that is still remembered today for its catchy chorus.
There's something very charming about it's uncomplicated chord structure, repeated chorus and un-varnished recording. It reminds us of a simpler time, which is, in essence, pure 90's nostalgia.
"When I wrote the riff in the chorus, I was racking my brain, thinking I had stolen it," Cherry said of the tune. "I thought that someone must have used this because it was too good."
Cherry went back into anonymity after his brief spell of fame in the late nineties, moving back to Stockholm from New York City and seems to enjoy his time out of the spotlight, even taking a break from making music for almost a decade in 2003. He's back making music now, however, and released a couple of new singles last year. Maybe there's another hit on the way?
7 Meredith Brooks - Bitch
This one you may not recognise until the chorus kicks in, but when it does it will all come back to you.
"I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I do not feel ashamed." What a chorus line. Meredith Brooks came out the blocks with an absolute banger of a song to kick off her solo career. The punky, Alanis-sounding anthem peaked at number two in the Billboard Top 100 for four weeks running.
Discussing the famous lyrics, Brooks said, "I'm not 'an angry young girl' - or whatever the phrase of the moment is - but I'm human. It's not to excuse ranting and raving, but I don't think there's anything wrong with having 'a mood'. I don't think we all need to keep the mask on all the time."
Despite the song's success, Brooks never really took off in the mainstream and her other singles didn't come close to the initial success of 'Bitch'. But, she'll always have that one. It's not a bad song to have as your one and only hit and it's still pretty iconic 25 years later.
All I'm saying is that TikTok is calling out for a dance routine to 'Bitch'. Maybe it's time for a comeback?