Does the One-Hit Wonder Still Exist?

2015 was a year strangely devoid of one-hit wonders, does the entire concept still exist?
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While the name Mims means very little in 2015, eight years ago he did what so many had done before – make a song that threads the lines between catchy and annoying, the kind of song you hate to love. It made his voice inescapable. Radio, ringtones, television, no matter where you went Mims was telling you why he was hot, he had a hit that traveled to the top of Billboard and roared across the nation, but it would be his only one. Two studio albums, three mixtapes and five singles later, he has yet to reclaim a sliver of the success that once showered him, truly awarding him the title of a one-hit-wonder.

It’s a title that comes up yearly, whenever someone relatively new pops up with something that changes the tides in the mainstream. The labels come running if they aren’t already knocking on your door, the big co-signs and remixes are next, appearances and interviews at the biggest publications, and then you slowly fade away. Some can only hope that reality television comes running and gives their career a second life by selling their privacy in exchange for an embarrassing script that will hopefully return them to the ever changing glare of the public eye. Make a hit, try to make another, or risk disappearing into the background for the rest of forever.

This has always been the cycle, from '50s rock n' roll to 21st century hip-hop. Mims, YC, Shop Boyz, Cali Swag District, name any artist that cracked the code to money and fame with a song that is both unbearable and awesome, they are here today and gone a year or two later. One-hit-wonders are kind of like wasps bees, after they sting you they die, after they hit, their career is at risk of a very slow death.

At least that’s how it used to be. This year, we came to the realization that the idea of a one-hit-wonder is undergoing an interesting metamorphosis. When you think about Trinidad Jame$, most would consider him a one-hit-wonder, a career built on a quickly decaying foundation. “All Gold Everything” was everywhere, Def Jam cut him a massive check, T.I. and Jeezy joined him on the remix. He had a big, inescapable year. He was causing debates, discussions and even got Maino’s blood boiling that one time in New York. While he was a hot topic for a while, the inability to match the magnitude of his hit meant the label dropped him before releasing his album and he has yet to have another song break through radio. Yet, Trinidad has not truly entered the void with the legions of other one-time hitmakers. While he isn’t receiving the same visibility on major platforms like he once did, he is extremely active. Music is still coming out and reaching fans through multiple channels, the internet gave him a second chance at a lesser but still very real career that wasn’t possible for Mims, the group that sung about laffy taffies and the girl that had soda with her chicken noodle soup.

Most people would place OG Maco in the “one-hit-wonder” box. There is no denying that “U Guessed It” was one of the biggest rap records of 2014. It took the internet completely by storm, you couldn’t go to a blog that wasn’t covering this nearly unknown artist from Atlanta. He was on the road performing it everywhere, 2 Chainz jumped on the remix, shot a music video that’s been viewed over 41 million times, but the song only charted number 90 on Billboard. It was a breakout single but it really didn’t transition into a record that was big on radio’s national scale. Before the internet, radio was the only way a song could be considered a hit. What is truly interesting is how he didn’t follow the template that help acquired the massive attention. Instead of going right, OG Maco went left, way left, he went on a spree of releases and nothing sonically mirrored “U Guessed It.” Through the internet, he’s been able to discover the audience that accepts and embraces the music that hasn’t crossed over, maybe it never will, maybe it was never supposed to.

Do we have one-hit wonders still? Or more like sensations that are able to make a big splash, create some waves, and find those that are willing to swim in their waters.

2015 we saw the rise of some sensations. Chedda Da Connect had a momentary run with “Flicka Da Wrist,” I still blame its success on the fact that most people thought he was Future. But like OG Maco, even though it was big during the summertime, it didn’t do well enough on Billboard to be considered a big hit. He had the internet, Vine and Twitter, all platforms that played a huge part in his success, but he has been deftly quiet since the weather started to cool down.

Slim Jesus is another 2015 sensation whose breakout record didn’t even break anywhere. He gained attention for a lifestyle he portrayed, and not the music. This is a case where the person was bigger than the music he made.

Post Malone is a great example, he wrote about braids and basketball players and ended up into the ears of millions. While the song peaked at number 22 on Billboard, one look at his SoundCloud will prove that isn’t the only song that was deemed popular by the populace. The seven songs he has posted since his rise are well into the millions of streams, “Too Young” is the highest at 11 million plays. The songs might not be heard every hour on the hour but people are loving everything that he does, not just "White Iverson."  

Now, unlike before, exposure can be obtained without a label, without radio, and now that MTV and B.E.T are soulless corporations that play old movies and reality shows, they are far from the platforms artist crave attention from. The internet is this giant playground where art is literally everywhere, if you can tap into an audience you really can outlive the destined doom of one-hit-wonders.

While the internet is one big platform, it is divided into sections where music is played loudly but still might escape ears. Not in the underground sense, even something as major as Major Lazer’s “Lean On” somehow escaped my attention despite accumulating over 900 million views on YouTube. I’m on the internet every day, yet, somehow the video never crossed my path.

The same can be said for Wiz Khalifa's “See You Again.” Despite its 1 billion plays on YouTube, I’m almost certain there exist a plethora of people that have never heard it. Unlike “Black & Yellow,” this isn’t a massive club record and I honestly don’t recall it getting much burn on local Atlanta radio, but I also limit my radio playing to the barest of minimums. It just shows that the biggest records of the year can be easily avoided, unlike Mims in 2007.

The public eye has changed, it no longer focuses on one subject, it’s a bit lazy, constantly rotating and looking all around, like Mad Eye Moody from Harry Potter. Even brief fixations aren’t able to impact the industry the way one-hit-wonders did in the past. Progressively, we have moved beyond that concept. What is considered a hit on the internet might not even make it to the radio or beyond the blogs that championed the record. Even Kreayshawn, a one-hit-wonder that failed to do anything beyond “Gucci Gucci,” has found a new passion and path in DJing. Without a second hit she has gigs, still able to sell merch and making a decent living for herself. 

Before you had to conquer the world for your song to be considered a hit, for you to have a lasting place in the game, the kind of domination Pinky & The Brain have wet dreams about. In 2015, that simply isn’t the case anymore. It’s still possible to rise to the top of Billboard with a song that is fun and as shallow as a kiddy pool but when you aren’t able to keep the fire going the industry's doors don't shut, not completely. Social media is connecting everyone in a way that goes beyond ringtones and music video networks. Even the most temporary artists can still survive the harsh realities of the industry after being discarded like a piece of gum that has lost it’s flavor. It’s about finding a small area and leaving an impactful stamp. Every one-hit-wonder is now allowed a second chance, every internet sensation can rise again, it’s like having a cheat code in a videogame where you have unlimited life. The only thing that can stop you is yourself (or a drug problem or spending all your money on your drug problem and being unable to pay for internet). 

So pay your bills rappers, nothing is more embarrassing than uploading your latest banger on SoundCloud in a Barnes & Nobles parking lot, and even then you'll have a chance at another hit.

By Yoh, aka Yohbe Bryant, aka @Yoh31

Photo CreditDanny Clinch

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