Hit Parade

One and Done Edition

Why A-ha and Dexys Midnight Runners are one-hit wonders—but Vanilla Ice and Men Without Hats aren’t.


Episode Notes

“Spirit in the Sky.” “Tainted Love.” “Come On Eileen.” “Bust a Move.” “Ice Ice Baby.” “Macarena.” The artist behind one of these chart smashes is not a one-hit wonder. Can you guess which one?

“One-hit wonder” is a popular term in our culture—and not just in music: sportscasters, Wall Street analysts and news anchors all use it. But what does “one-hit wonder” actually mean on the pop charts? Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy has thought a lot about this—and he has rules to determine who’s really a one-hit wonder. They might surprise you: Dexys Midnight Runners? They’re a one-hit wonder. Men Without Hats? Nope, not fair. Lou Reed? Yes. Marky Mark? No. In this episode, Chris breaks it all down, explaining why “Take On Me” is a pop classic but A-ha are still only one-hitters in America.

Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch.

Listen to the music we discussed in this episode:


About the Show

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.

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  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.