There have been countless one-hit wonders over the years, but the 80s seem to be the decade of the most notorious smash hits with singers and bands that literally went radio silent after their initial success. The decade was full of diverse musical talent and creative song-writing, with the greatest one-hit wonders of the 80s still considered anthems today in their own right.
- “Lambada” by Kaoma
The iconic song “Lambada” was a popular tune everywhere from the roller skating rink to backyard parties. Released in the summer of 1989, it wrapped up the decade on an upbeat tropical note (Remezcla). The group Kaomo recorded the song in Portuguese and it became a big hit worldwide. It was such a huge cultural influence that two movies were filmed based on the song. Remakes and remastering of the track have happened since, giving this hit song lasting power that propelled the Latinx music scene.
- “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
This popular positivity-themed song was released in 1988 by Bobby McFerrin (SongFacts). It hit No. 1 on the U.S. Hot 100—an unusual feat for a jazz tune. The song is completely a cappella with no instruments being used in the recording. Instead, it was produced using overlapping tracks of various vocals made solely by McFerrin. Over the years, it’s been rerecorded by megastars like Bob Marley, helping this reassuring song live on through the years.
- “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.
It’s hard to even read the name “Funkytown” without the tune immediately popping into your head. The song, released in 1980, is actually about New York City (SongFacts). Not only was this song a hit in the 1980s, but it made a comeback to the Hot 100 in 2007 when Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the track.
- “867-5309” by Tommy Tutone
Most kids of the 80s have this number memorized better than their own childhood home phone number. Officially called “Jenny,” the track, was released in 1981 and climbed to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (Forbes). In the song, lead singer Tommy Heath is crooning about the phone number scrolled on a bathroom wall and the girl on the other end of the line. Today, Heath still covers the song and loves making new versions of the hit.
- “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners
The beat to “Come on Eileen” is unmistakable and super catchy. The song was released in 1982 and became a number one hit in the band’s native UK and in the U.S. as well (SongFacts). Lead singer Kevin Rowland based the song’s plot on a real-life romantic relationship with a teenage crush. The production of the song bucked the technological trends of the 80s and instead used instruments like a banjo and accordion for a homey sound.
- “Mickey” by Toni Basil
You didn’t have to be a cheerleader in the 80s to remember the iconic chant that starts with, “Hey Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind”. The upbeat sensation released in 1982 catapulted to popularity and seems to be played nearly everywhere to this day (The Guardian). So much so that singer Toni Basil filed suit in 2017 to receive the royalties she felt she deserved. Interestingly, the hit is actually a cover of another tune—“Kitty” which was recorded by Racey in the 70s. The track’s title moniker was simply changed to a male name, Mickey, for Basil to cover the song.
- “Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
“Safety Dance” was released in 1982 by Men Without Hats (Financial Times), and instantly recognized still today from the first line of “We can dance if we want to…” The song was a response to bouncers booting lead singer Ivan Doroschuk from clubs for his energetic dancing. The music video featured an Old-World theme that was an interesting contrast to the song’s synthetic techy beat. The upbeat classic remains popular to this day and has been featured everywhere from the show Glee to ads for airlines.
- “She Blinded Me with Science” – Thomas Dolby
“She Blinded Me with Science” is a cheeky song about a mad scientist and his adoration for his lab assistant. The song’s writer Thomas Dolby actually penned the song in order to create a music video (SongFacts). His vision was a silent film-themed video with erratic characters at a home for deranged scientists. The song was Dolby’s only hit in the U.S. but it’s still popular and has been sampled by rapper Mobb Deep and as a theme for an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Cementing Your 80s Music Memories
Do you have home video footage of you and your friends rocking out to the 80s biggest hits? Or, maybe you have photos in an acid-washed jean jacket over your favorite band’s t-shirt. Don’t lose those precious memories to the natural deterioration of film and photos that happens over time. iMemories can digitize them and secure them for the future, so you can look back on your leg warmer-wearing days for years to come.