As with the winds of change, great powers rise and fall, and even the greatest songs come and go. Yet with one-hit wonders, they somehow just can’t seem to go fast enough – especially with crazy ditties like Psy’s Gangnam Style or golden oldies like A-ha’s Take On Me. The 2000s have also blessed us with a plethora of them, but not all one-hits are equal; some bring back memories of a bittersweet past, and some are still in our favourite playlists today.
So here we have a listicle of tunes that attained one-hit wonder status in our present era, a few musical earworms that we’d gladly listen today (save an groan or two). Let’s revisit the artists that swept the modern world off its feet with that one song, but never seemed to make us move again with their other melodies.
Time to let nostalgia take over.
1. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
We start off this list with a classic from the 90s, brought back to cultural relevance in the twenty-first century by pop singers and bands like Cassadee Pope and One Direction. Natalie Imbruglia’s pop cover is starkly different from the original rock song sung by LA band Ednaswap. It also made us realise one thing: who cares if the lyrics make no sense? As long as it’s a smash hit.
2. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
The ultimate me vs the world song was written by the Goo Goo Dolls. Iris told us what it feels like to be human; who can forget the line “you bleed just to know you’re alive” when it cut every single tortured and misunderstood soul out there the deepest? A humbling sad song for the displaced, but even now we’re still confounded at the absence of the song title in its lyrics, and wondering what exactly lead singer John Rzeznik was looking at through his vintage telescopes in broad daylight in the music video. We want answers.
3. A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
Thanks to Terry Crews’ bit in White Chicks, this song propelled singer Vanessa Carlton to mainstream fame. Just hearing those starting piano notes will start an impromptu karaoke session, because everyone knows the lyrics to this song – and you can bet they’ll be humming along to that iconic piano riff too.
4. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne
In 2003, kids all around the world were introduced to Stacy’s Mom, one of the earliest iterations of the MILF in our MTV era. This song was every horny teenage boy’s response to hot moms out there. And while this annoyed a whole generation of Stacy’s, you can’t deny that this catchy tune was a banger – as was its equally arousing (and highly controversial) music video.
5. The Reason – Hoobastank
Ah, the glorious 2000s, when life was a much simpler time, and when every love song seemed to speak to us on a personal level – including this Hoobastank classic. Well, technically, it was their only classic, because the rest of their songs kinda stank. But that didn’t stop us from staring out of the car window when this song came on the radio, pretending like we were in a music video (let’s be honest, we all still do that sometimes).
6. Collide – Howie Day
Back in the day, he was the guy who had an acoustic guitar in hand strumming to this number, and everyone was du-du-du-ing along. Now, with two arrests and a few less-than-exciting comeback albums in his record, Howie Day has really showed us that “even the best fall down sometime” – and sadly, sometimes they stay down too.
7. Bad Day – Daniel Powter
This was the go-to song whenever we needed some cheering up. And for a while it helped, until one day it eventually became the cause of our sorrows. Soon we started turning off the radio when this song came on, and as Daniel Powter faded off the speakers, so did his music career. Since then, the singer-songwriter has produced a slew of albums, but none of them are as close to being as successful as this 2005 hit.
8. First Day of My Life – Bright Eyes
You can’t disagree that lead singer Conor Oberst’s raspy voice is the epitome of what indie singers sound like these days. Coupled with a fragile persona, this mellow tune was at one point everyone’s favourite song – but only on the down low, because we’re all secretly sensitive. Chin up, honey, the world ain’t that bad.
9. Almost Lover – A Fine Frenzy
Amidst the countless upbeat pop-rock songs in the 2000s, we wanted a singer whose soft lulling voice could heal any broken heart out there, and A Fine Frenzy was the answer. While her success as a singer didn’t last into the next decade, we’re grateful that she didn’t fizzle out in the entertainment industry. Now known as Alison Sudol, the singer-songwriter is also an actress, starring in big roles such as Kaya in Transparent and, most notably, Queenie in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
10. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
This song is easily one of the most recognisable songs on the list, as is the singer’s stage name. Gotye’s weird music video is probably one of the most covered and parodied songs in the golden age of YouTube – even its “parodies” had parodies. And before you make that joke about how Gotye is now “somebody that you used to know,” don’t do it – it’s been done a thousand times in the comments section and everywhere else. It’s not funny now, just like how this song isn’t relevant anymore.
11. Cough Syrup – Young the Giant
Young the Giant weren’t the only ones who turned prescription medicine into a catchy tune (see: Mary Poppin’s A Spoonful of Sugar), but they did show us that not all songs about existentialist crises need to sound depressingly dreary. This song also gave us an important lyric: “life’s too short to even care at all woah-oh-oh” – so don’t let a sore throat bring you down.
12. Cups – Anna Kendrick
Remember when it was cool to clap your hands while banging cups on the table? What on earth were we thinking? Thanks to Anna Kendrick’s performance on Pitch Perfect, this song gave a new purpose to cups out there other than being used as cutlery or as metaphors for philosophical musings. Five years later, YouTubers are still making sure this annoying fad lives on, and we’re up for a third instalment of the movie that created this viral mess. Aca-awesome.