I was inspired by a friend on Blip ( where I play many one-hit wonders ) to write this post. I wish the answer was simple but it isn’t. Because a one-hit wonder means different things to different sectors.
To the music recording industry it generally refers to any artist or group that has one song that has reached any chart, any place, at any time. But then, it’s in their best interest to open that door as wide as possible to promote sales.
To compilers of One-Hit Wonders like ‘ VH1’s Top 100 One-Hit Wonders ‘ it usually means any artist or group that has made one song into Billboard’s Hot 100 top 50. Which is why they list “It’s Raining Men” by Weather Girls ( 1982 ) when it only made it to number 46. But then they have a vested interest in opening that door wider than it should be as well…advertisers.
To collectors of One-Hit Wonders ( such as myself – at one time ), and most industry experts, the door is very tight. Regulating a ‘ true ‘ one-hit wonder to an artist with only one song in the Top 20 on Billboard Hot 100. With certain concessions allowing for some songs in the top 30.
A song like “It’s Raining Men” by Weather Girls is not a true one-hit wonder. In fact no song that only makes it to number 46 could really be considered a one-hit wonder…maybe a one-hit boy are we glad we charted.
The word ‘ wonder ‘ itself conveys a meaning equal to ‘ exceptional ‘…and number 46 cannot be considered exceptional…at most it’s slightly better than mediocre, no where near exceptional.
The word ‘ hit ‘ conveys a meaning of extreme popularity. Not moderate popularity.
So no matter what VH1 or the music recording industry tries to pass off, to any serious collector…
when you combine ‘ one ‘ ‘ hit ‘ ‘wonder ‘ you’re talking about a single song that was exceptional and extremely popular. And that means a Top 20 hit.
Anything else is just snake oil.