So you can also think of this as a list of one-hit wonders who actually weren't, not just me stretching, grasping for material. It's actually been in the works for quite some time, if only in my mind. I start to mentally compile it every time my iPod shuffle selects a certain beloved track, and I press repeat over and over, which brings us to the first two-hit wonder...
Biggest Hit: "Something About You" (No. 7, 1985)
Best Hit: "Lessons in Love" (No. 12, 1987)
Once again, UK pop fans knew best, sending "Lessons in Love" to No. 3 and making it the British band's biggest hit on its native shores. As enduring as "Something About You" might be, Level 42's "Lessons" resonate more today. Its musical syllabus was even resurrected by T.C.S. for a 2007 dance hit, credited to T.C.S. Vs. Level 42. I'm still totally schooled -- and enthralled, more so than I ever was as an official student -- every time my iPod goes there and class begins.
Biggest Hit: "I've Been Thinking About You" (No. 1, 1990)
Best Hit: "A Better Love" (No. 18, 1990)
The British R&B-pop outfit's turn-of-the-decade breakthrough was the pop song equivalent of Amy Adams, a perfectly ordinary thing that became a global sensation, topping charts in multiple countries. At least the band injected its follow-up with a bit more flava and edge.
Biggest Hit: "Electric Blue" (No. 7, 1987)
Best Hit: "Crazy" (No. 14, 1987)
Given a choice between sunshine and pain in song, I've always been and always will be a shameless, hopeless masochist.
Was (Not Was)
Biggest Hit: "Walk the Dinosaur" (No. 7, 1988)
Best Hit: "Spy in the House of Love" (No. 16, 1989)
Maybe the silly dance that went along with "Dinosaur" made me biased against it (I generally hate song-and-dance combos), but despite the somewhat cartoonish aura that (to my eyes and ears) surrounded super-producer-to-be Don Was's band, its first hit was straight-up '80s R&B-pop that lacked even the faintest whiff of novelty foolishness.
Biggest Hit: "Funny Face" (No. 5, 1972)
Best Hit: "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." (No. 11, 1972)
When I used to listen to my mother's 8-track recording of Fargo's The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A. album as a kid, I had no idea that the title track, Fargo's first chart single, wasn't the massive crossover hit. Despite its undeserved lower ranking on the pop chart (both were No. 1 country hits, the first and second of Fargo's six), it remains her signature song, the one for which she's best known today.
Soul II Soul
Biggest Hit: "Back to Life" (No. 4, 1989)
Best Hit: "Keep on Monvin'" (No. 11, 1989)
Yes, "Back to Life" remains a classic, but it was the smooth lilt of Soul II Soul's first hit that had me declaring it the future sound of pop at the time. For a few short years, on a few hits -- Lisa Stansfield's "Around the World," the remix of Madonna's "Keep It Together" and fellow two-hit wonder Tara Kemp's "Hold You Tight" and "Piece of My Heart" -- it was.
Will to Power
Biggest Hit: "Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medly") (No. 1, 1988)
Best Hit: "I'm Not in Love" (No. 7, 1990)
As brilliant as their pre-mashups mashup of '70s hits by Peter Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd was, I prefer the freestyle duo's second hit because I prefer its source material, a 1975 No. 2 by two-hit wonder 10cc.
Biggest Hit: "Voices Carry" (No. 8, 1985)
Best Hit: "What About Love" (No. 26, 1986)
I know, I know, "Voice Carry" is an '80s standard, but it was the second and final Top 40 single by Aimee Mann's former band, so haunting and haunted, that haunts me to this day. It's so timeless it still sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.
Biggest hit: "Lean on Me" (No. 1, 1987)
Best hit: "Why You Treat Me So Bad" (No. 39, 1987)
For it's No. 1 hit, Club Nouveau plundered pop's past, and with its next hit, the group directed its future. Sampled on numerous hits over the decades (including Ashanti's "Only U," Puffy Daddy and R. Kelly's "Satisfy You" and Jennifer Lopez and Nas's "I'm Gonna Be Alright"), it also inspired the musical direction of Love. Angel. Music. Baby., the debut solo album by Gwen Stefani, who had a musical epiphany about how she wanted it to sound while listening to Club Nouveau's second and final Top 40 single.
Biggest Hit: "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" (No. 5, 1984)
Best Hit: "All of You" (No. 19, 1984)
Have you ever actually paid attention to the lyrics of Iglesias's duet with Willie Nelson? What a load of sexist crap. His duet with Diana Ross, in comparison, is classy and elegant, steamy and sexy, a far more enticing musical representation of endless love than that 1981 Ross-Lionel Richie duet that inexplicably spent nine weeks at No. 1.