Singer/songwriter Nena and her band became a new-wave sensation in 1983 with “99 Luftballons,” but where is she now?
BY ERIC KOHANIK
The music world is brimming with “one-hit wonders,” performers who deliver a big hit and then seem to go nowhere. Here are some of the top one-hit wonders, and where they are now:
Baha Men / “Who Let the Dogs Out”
It has been featured in several movie soundtracks and is often used to arouse sports fans in stadiums and arenas. “Who Let the Dogs Out” was the first hit for a Bahamian group called the Baha Men. Released in 2000, it caught on quickly and ended up winning the prize for Best Dance Recording at the 2001 Grammy Awards. As for the Baha Men, they have recorded other songs for movies, but they still ride the wave of this hit.
Vanilla Ice / “Ice Ice Baby”
The 1990 release of “Ice Ice Baby” turned rapper Vanilla Ice into a hip-hop phenomenon. Things cooled off, though, with none of his subsequent efforts coming close to this. Hailed for bringing hip-hop to a mainstream audience, “Ice Ice Baby” continues to be his signature single.
Nena / “99 Luftballons”
Singer/songwriter Nena and her band became a new-wave sensation in 1983 with “99 Luftballons,” which enchanted Germany before finding worldwide popularity. Although an English-language rendition, “99 Red Balloons,” surfaced afterward, many preferred the original. After the band broke up, Nena embarked on a solo career and still performs today. But “99 Luftballons”/”99 Red Balloons” remains her only hit on the English-language music scene.
Los Del Río / “Macarena”
Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruiz Perdigones formed a duo called Los del Río in 1962, performing in flamenco lounges across Spain. It wasn’t until 1993 that they came up with “Macarena.” Initially released in Spain, it eventually went international. “The Macarena” also became a catchy dance that continues to pop up at weddings, sports events and other public gatherings.
Soft Cell / “Tainted Love”
British singer Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball became a synth-pop duo called Soft Cell in 1977. After several go-nowhere singles, they found a song written by Ed Cobb that had been recorded in 1965 by American singer Gloria Jones. Using a different arrangement, a slower rhythm and synthesizers, the Soft Cell version of “Tainted Love” was released in 1981, becoming a hit in Britain and the U.S. Soft Cell disbanded in 1984, but the duo’s rendition is still popular.
Dexys Midnight Runners / “Come on, Eileen”
This British pop band chalked up several hits in the U.K. during the 1980s. It was a different story in the U.S., where the band’s 1982 single, “Come on, Eileen,” was its only success. The group broke up in 1987, but lead vocalist Kevin Rowland managed to reinvent the band with new performers and a new name: Dexys. Its one-hit-wonder status in the U.S. remains intact.
Carl Douglas / “Kung Fu Fighting”
When Jamaican-born singer/songwriter Carl Douglas came up with “Kung Fu Fighting” in 1974, he created an iconic disco fixture that topped the charts in Britain and the U.S. Although Douglas did come up with other Top 40 singles in Britain, he is still only known in the U.S. for this one.
Billy Ray Cyrus / “Achy Breaky Heart”
Although he has released 14 albums and 44 singles, Billy Ray Cyrus is still primarily known for his 1992 hit, “Achy Breaky Heart.” Well, that and maybe the fact that he is also the father of Miley Cyrus.
Lou Bega / “Mambo No. 5”
German-born Lou Bega began as a rapper and hip-hop artist. Influenced by Latin music while in Miami, Bega returned to Germany to come up with his first single in 1999. “Mambo No. 5” skyrocketed, sending his debut album, A Little Bit of Mambo, into the Top 10 as well. Bega has delivered four albums since then. None have been popular in the U.S.
Lipps Inc. / “Funkytown”
When it made its debut in 1980, “Funkytown” dominated music charts in the U.S. and many other countries. The Minneapolis group behind the hit, Lipps Inc., included vocalist Cynthia Johnson, who sang it, and Steven Greenberg, who wrote it. Although Lipps Inc. disbanded in 1985, Johnson has continued as an artist as well as a member of a gospel group called Sounds of Blackness.
Patrick Hernandez / “Born to Be Alive”
After it was released in 1978, French singer/songwriter Patrick Hernandez’s “Born to Be Alive” became a staple on disco playlists. Hernandez tried to capitalize on it with a couple of follow-ups that instead crushed his career. As for this song, it continues to resurface at weddings, as well as on soundtracks for movies, TV series and commercials.
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