Too soon? Maybe not as soon as you think. Not only has it been nearly three years since the end of the ’00s, but we’ve entered practically a whole new era in popular music—one in which The Neptunes and Timbaland have been replaced by Dr. Luke and David Guetta as the sound of the moment, where Lil Wayne is now maybe just the third-most popular rapper on “Bedrock,” and in which LMFAO have succeeded the Black Eyed Peas as the #1 pop gonzo party act (and now both groups are on hiatus).
Meanwhile, those acts who scored just one hit and never quite made it to the next decade feel a million miles away now. Remember when you couldn’t go an hour without hearing Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” on the radio or in some TV show? Or when Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain” was the funniest thing you ever saw on the internet? Or when Paris Hilton attempted a music career…and her one hit actually wasn’t that bad? If you do, we’re betting those memories are already fairly gauzy and nostalgic, and might bring a smile to your face without you even understanding why.
Anyway, we’ve come up with a list of our 50 favourite such one-hit wonders. Perhaps we’ll hear from them again someday, but more likely, they’ll continue to remind us of bygone days of moving our feet and partying like a rock star.
#10 Alice Deejay, “Better Off Alone”
What It Was: A pop-trance classic with maybe the catchiest synth riff in the history of catchy synth riffs. There weren’t a ton of lyrics—the main cry of “Do you think you’rebeeeettter off aloooone?” was just about the crux of it—but that undeniable synth riff provided just about all the juice the song would need, and it became a worldwide crossover hit.
What Happened Next: Alice Deejay—who, by the way, wasn’t the name of the woman singing on the song, but rather the moniker for the Dutch dance collective, consisting of a couple producers, DJ Jurgen and lead singer Judith Anna Pronk—only existed for another year or two, scoring a couple further hits overseas (“Back in My Life,” “Will I Ever“) but never again making waves in the States.
Where Are They Now?: Pronk gave up on music to become a fashion consultant and makeup artist, and participated in the Dutch fashion reality competition Model in 1 Dag, and DJ Jurgen has a regular radio show on Fresh FM.
#9 Chamillionaire, “Ridin'” (2006)
What It Was: A socially-conscious track about the perils of racial profiling, with a massive hook that introduced the phrase “riding dirty” to the pop lexicon.
What Happened Next: “Ridin'” got a memorable tribute in Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy,” a spoof so popular its Youtube views surpassed the original’s. Chamillionaire himself has remained active in the rap game, releasing a second album (without any profanity!) and a long-running series of mix tapes, but his fundamental anonymity—Michael Jordan famously did not recognise him after the rapper bought his jersey at a charity auction—has kept him from repeating the success of “Ridin’.”
Where Are They Now?: His third LP, Venom, has been delayed since 2009, and after being dropped by Universal last year, Chamillonaire is legally forbidden from releasing any songs produced during the album’s sessions. He is currently at work on his new album Poison, which will be released independently.
#8 J-Kwon, “Tipsy” (2004)
What It Was: A “Grindin‘” for the masses, a song with a similarly hard-hitting beat to the Clipse’s street anthem but with a significantly less hard-hitting lyric about partying and underage drinking, capped with the unforgettable singalong chorus “Errrrbody in the club gettin’ tips’!!” If not for Usher’s “Yeah!!,” it would’ve been the Summer Jam of 2004, and still peaked at No. 2 on the charts.
What Happened Next: Despite the massiveness of the song’s hook, there wasn’t a ton on “Tipsy” to recommend J-Kwon himself as a rapper, and with the whole St. Louis moment in rap nearing its end by ’04, there wasn’t a ton of interest in hearing what else ‘Kwon had to say. J-Kwon did have one further Top 40 cameo as a guest rapper on Bow Wow’s “Fresh Azimis,” but when your biggest successes come in supporting roles on second-tier Bow Wow singles, your best days are probably behind you.
Where Are They Now?: J-Kwon has continued to release albums, and made a noble attempt to re-capture the one-hit magic with “Tipsy ’09,” but has basically fallen off the face of the earth as a public figure. (His last tweet was an “R.I.P. Whitney Houston” tribute back in February.) Hope the party was worth it, J.
#7 Fountains of Wayne, “Stacy’s mum” (2003)
What It Was: A surprise hit from a bunch of longtime power-pop veterans, boosted by Rachel Hunter’s foxy turn as a modern Mrs. Robinson in the song’s music video.
What Happened Next: Though they’ve never had another single on the level of “Stacy’s mum,” FoW’s brand of bright, catchy pop has proved perfect for playing in the background of soda commercials and Hollywood comedies, and the band continues produce albums and tour consistently.
Where Are They Now?: 2011′s Sky Full of Holes was Fountains of Wayne’s highest-charting album of their career, and they just backed up Harry Shearer on “Celebrity Booze Endorser” from the Simpsons actor’s satirical album Can’t Take A Hint.
#6 Terror Squad, “Lean Back” (2004)
What It Was: A dance craze for the lazy man, in which Fat Joe, Remy Ma and the rest of their Bronx-based rap supergroup created a sensation by pulling up their pants, crossing their arms, and tilting slightly to the side. (An all-time great beat from producer-of-the-moment Scott Storch helped.) The song hit #1, and before long, Diddy and Bruce Willis were leaning back at the VMAs.
What Happened Next: Follow-up single “Take Me Home” failed to achieve similar success, and the collective never released another album together. Joe and Remy went on to further solo success, as did the DJ of the group, DJ Khaled, and regular producers Cool & Dre, who found pop success helming the Game’s “Hate It or Love It” and Christina Milian’s “Say I.”
Where Are They Now?: Fat Joe lost a whole lot of weight and still drops a radio single every couple of months, DJ Khaled had a top five album with Kiss the Ring and one of the biggest R&B hits this summer with “Take It to the Head,” and Remy Ma is still serving an eight-year prison sentence for assault and weapon-possession charges, up for parole in September 2014.
#5 Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy” (2006)
What It Was: One of the oddest megahits of the ’00s, based musically by DJ Danger Mouse around an old Spaghetti Western theme composition and featuring Cee Lo Green, then known just as a soul eccentric and a former member of Goodie Mob, waxing poetic about the nature of sanity and what it truly means to lose one’s mind. The song was simply too good to ignore, and became a #2 hit, eventually getting named by Rolling Stone as the song of the decade.
What Happened Next: The duo had several more fun singles with even more fun videos, but never crossed over again like they did with “Crazy.” Cee Lo improbably went on to have a hit on his own on that level with “F**k You,” though with just the one, he’s threatening to become one of pop music’s only-ever three-time OHWs, with Goodie Mob, Gnarls and solo. Danger Mouse continued to have success of his own, forming another superduo (Broken Bells) with The Shins’ James Mercer, and helping turn the Black Keys into rock stars on their breakout album Brothers.
Where Are They Now?: Danger Mouse is still quite in demand as a producer, most recently doing Norah Jones’ latest LP Little Broken Hearts and starting work on the upcoming U2 album, and of course you can catch Cee Lo a couple nights a week as a coach on NBC’s hit music competition show The Voice.
#4 The Darkness, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”(2003)
What It Was: A glam-rock masterpiece that had windows cracking all over America as listeners tried to emulate lead singer Justin Hawkin’s sky-high falsetto.
What Happened Next: Follow-up LP One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back was met with general indifference, and eventually the stresses of being a glitter-and-spandex band in the age of jeans and T-shirts got to the Darkness: They disintegrated in the middle of the ’00s.
Where Are They Now?: The Darkness reunited in 2011 after spending years on separate projects, and things seem to be headed in a positive direction for the band. Their third album, Hot Cakes, sold well in their native UK and they’ve been tapped to open for fellow glam enthusiast Lady Gaga on her upcoming Born This Way Ball tour.
#3 Estelle, “American Boy” (2008)
What It Was: A travel ad in musical form, featuring a relatively unknown R&B songstress and her observations on Yankee men, which includes the bespoke, cheeky Kanye West.
What Happened Next: The song was everywhere in 2008, winning a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and successfully promoting the merits of travelling anywhere, even if it means hopping the subway to the Brooklyn.
Where Are They Now?: She’s arguably met a lot of American boys since her breakout track emerged on the scene, as Estelle continues to record, releasing her third studio album, All of Me, earlier this year. The LP contains a heavier dance feel thanks to collaborations with David Guetta and Kardinal Official, with a crossover pop smash yet to be heard. With an endorsement from John Legend and Kanye West on speed dialt she’s got the industry cred on her side, but we’ll have to wait and see if she’s capable of producing another Transatlantic sensation that will captivate more than one continent.
#2 Rich Boy, “Throw Some D’s” (2007)
What It Was: The most exultant song ever written about putting rims on a Cadillac, featuring a fantastically exhilerating rising string hook (lifted from Switch’s late-’70s soul hit “I Call Your Name“) and a bellowing chorus chant of “THROW SOME D’S ON THAT BITCH!,” which briefly became a legitimate hip-hop catchphrase. The song hit the top 10 and seemed to signal Rich Boy as one of the next great rappers on the same.
What Happened Next: Rich Boy’s follow-up singles were not quite as well-received (though “Boy Looka Here” was quite good), and though his album sold decently, he’s still yet to release an official second LP, instead coming out with an endless series of mixtapes that failed to generate much buzz. The song did help make a name out of producer Polow Da Don, arguably the real star of the song anyway, who went on to have further success with smashes for the likes of Fergie (“Glamorous“), Keri Hilson (“Turnin’ Me On“) and Usher (“Love in This Club“).
Where Are They Now?: Rich Boy continues to be one of the biggest “What the hell happened?” stories in hip-hop, with sophomore album Resurrected in Diamondssupposedly in the works but with no clear release imminent. Meanwhile, Polow isn’t cranking out the hits quite like he was in the late-’00s, but he’s getting work, producing tracks on the latest albums from Lloyd and Chris Brown.
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