Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines, “Lost in You” (#5, 1999)
Yup, this ridiculous thing again. I’ve already written about how insane this entire project was, and you should read that article for more information if you haven’t already (there’s also a link to an absurd fake Behind the Music that aired only once in 1999 that you absolutely have to see if you’re any kind of music geek).
I briefly mentioned that “Lost in You” was Garth’s only Top 40 entry. While it was his only single that was ever targeted to the general pop market, Garth was so huge that he should have had many Top 40 hits just out of sheer force of will. After all, other country artists got Top 40 hits without any crossover and he’s the second best selling recording artist in American history!
And yet, the Hot 100 still had to deal with that physical single rule I mentioned earlier, and plenty of Garth’s biggest and best hits were only serviced to country radio. Also by the 90s, pop stations were really resistant to adding country music to their playlist and only played the stuff if it was poppy enough (Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Lonestar, et. al).
For all his hugeness, Garth really stuck to country music, and never got a Mutt Lange to sandblast all the genre quirks out of his songs. He wasn’t alone either. Reba McIntire has released 93(!!!) singles in her long career, and you know how many of those made the Top 40? Just three, and all came after the methodology changed and she could make the chart based on country airplay alone.
Basically, “Lost in You” was seen as an excuse for Top 40 station to finally play a song by one of the biggest stars in music, with the added bonus that they could also talk about the absurd Chris Gaines gimmick. In the Life of Chris Gaines would have done much better if it was just marketed as a pop album by Garth Brooks (although a lot of the stuff on it isn’t very good), but instead it was perhaps one of the biggest boondoggles in the history of pop music. “Lost in You” made #5, but it was forgotten within six months and really only exists as the collective fever dream of pop obsessed 90s kids.
In short, the reason why a man who has sold more records than Elvis Presley is a one hit wonder is because the public was confused and amused by him crooning in a soul patch and bought a CD single with hilarious liner notes as a lark. Hey, at least he didn’t end his career with this.
Taylor Hicks, “Do I Make You Proud” (#1, 2006)
Remember Taylor Hicks? Kinda, right?
Hicks won season 5 of American Idol and went straight to number one with his coronation single “Do I Make You Proud”. It was his only Hot 100 hit. There have been a few American Idol winners whose recording career didn’t provide the success that was expected of them, however Hicks is the only one among them to be a bonafide one hit wonder. I suspect one of the few reasons this song is even remembered as all is because of a “Weird Al” Yankovic parody the next year.
Season five’s breakout star wound up being Chris Daughtry, who came in fifth. With his rock group Daughtry, he became the third best-selling Idol alumni, trailing only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. As for Hicks? He was dropped from Arista after one album. His second record, released independently, sold only 52,000 copies
Karaoke covers of Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” (The Hit Masters, #19; The Rock Heroes, #29), 2008
In 2008, Kid Rock released “All Summer Long,” his biggest hit in years and a worldwide smash, reaching #1 in six countries. Despite being one of the biggest singles of the summer in the United States, the song only managed #23 on the Hot 100. The reason for this was because Kid was keeping his music off iTunes, and in the pre-streaming days of 2008, iTunes sales basically ruled the Hot 100.
Surprisingly, two karaoke covers branded under the artist names “The Rock Heroes” and “The Hit Masters” had respectable chart showing while Kid’s version was getting on the chart through airplay alone. Either people really wanted a version of the song and any version would do, or they were fooled into buying these anonymous covers through their own ignorance.
The Hit Masters’ version, which has completely disappeared off the face of the Earth in the ensuing years, actually charted several positions higher than the original version, reaching the Top 20. Eventually, Kid Rock and his label released the song to iTunes, but by the time he did the damage was done to the song’s chart progress and it potentially robbed him of his first Hot 100 #1 single.
Soko, “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow” (#9, 2014)
This song only made the Top 10 last year, but I doubt few people remember it, and it’s unlikely the artist will ever have another hit in this country. French indie singer Soko scored her fluke hit due to it being the soundtrack to a viral video.
The year before, Billboard included YouTube plays into its chart methodology for the first time, the immediate effect of which was the #1 debut of Baauer’s largely instrumental “Harlem Shake” because of the memetic video sensation that the song was attached to. Because “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow” was tagged as the soundtrack to the viral video “First Kiss”, every play of the video counted as a play of the song.
“First Kiss” wound up having a short shelf life, even by viral video standards, and once the video faded out of social media circulation, so did the song: “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow” dropped out of the Hot 100 completely following its #9 debut, making it the highest charting drop-out in chart history and the only song to ever do so from the Top 10.
Now that we’ve (finally) reached the end of the article, what you think is the most surprising one hit wonder in Hot 100 history? A novelty song you didn’t expect to be a hit? A classic artist whose only hit is a song that isn’t nearly as remembered as something that didn’t chart at all? Let us know in the comments!