One-Hit Wonder Syndrome

It’s a perfect day to talk about an interesting phenomenon – why one-hit Wonders are a thing. A one-hit wonder, is when an unknown band creates a song that goes wildly popular overnight and become instantly famous. They then go on to make other songs because their fans demand it, but those songs don’t catch on and the band slowly fades into obscurity. That band is only known for their one and only hit.

Here are some famous one-hit wonders:

  • “My Sharona” by The Knack
  • “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell
  • “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  • “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba

It’s been pointed out that several of these bands did later go on to have other songs hit the charts and rank in the top twenty, but in comparison to the one song that made them famous, the other songs never achieved the same popularity.

One-Hit Wonders in the Business World

The one-hit wonder phenomenon isn’t unique to just the music industry, a similar thing happens in the business world as well. We see it when someone who has never run a business has a great new idea for a service or product and it takes off. Suddenly they are famous for their awesome thing and everyone is talking about it.

What often happens next is that they get an offer they can’t refuse to sell the company for an ungodly amount of money and they return to square one – coming up with an idea for a new business. But this time, the world is watching.

Suddenly, there is a huge amount of pressure to come up with not only something good, but something that could take off again like what happened before. At this point, one of two things can happen, either they fold under the pressure and can’t come up with anything, or they hold this unfounded belief that creating a groundbreaking idea is fairly easy because they’ve done it already. The latter often will then create something uninspired or useless and fail spectacularly. With the world watching, it’s that much more devastating.

But why?

When someone unexpectedly finds success, but hasn’t yet racked up several failures under their belt, they never experience the hardships that give people perspective. The hard work they did must be all that is required to achieve wild success. Everyone else who fails must not be working at the same level. Sometimes, they even start believing that they have a special talent that granted them this success. Other people just aren’t as special as they are and that’s what makes them fail.

What they don’t realize is that wild success, especially in a business venture, requires more than just hard work. A series of uncontrollable factors must line up at the same time, such as what is popular in the market at the moment, what needs exist among buyers, and what has recently caught everyone’s interest. Should the timing be wrong and these factors not present to make a product look even more desirable, then no amount of hard work can make the product go viral. Yes, it can be successful, but not wildly so.

One-Hit Wonders in the Writing World

Yes, this is a real thing, although it presents itself differently. There are a rare few authors who find wild success with their first novel. The novel itself is something they’ve worked on for possibly years and years before going through the process to find the perfect agent and publisher who were willing to take a risk. As with businesses, the same uncontrollable factors are at play here as well. There has to be a significant group of people hungry for this type of book all the same time. Sometimes this is because a wildly popular movie has turned a new group of readers to the genre. Sometimes the global social climate makes certain titles much more appealing.

With authors, everyone who loved their first book are far more willing to pick up the second, which means there is already a certain level of success already baked in when they release that second book. But, there is also a lot that can go wrong. They had all the time in the world to finish their first book and no expectations. This can make writing easier and creativity come faster.

When writing a second book, often that same author will have deadlines and also the fear of trying to live up to the expectations of their fans. They have to produce something better, faster, and under pressure. While some writers can rise to the challenge, many end up creating a product that isn’t as good.

The moral of this story

The lesson here is that failure is a vital part of learning to appreciate success and being able to replicate it going forward. For those who had a lucky break their first time at the bat and perhaps hit a home run, that doesn’t make them the best player on the team.

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s the best teacher of experience you could ever have.


Hi everyone! Jodi here. I’ve been enjoying writing these little Friday tidbits for the past while and sharing my thoughts on life, the universe, and everything. But, like all good things, it’s time for a change. At the end of October, these Friday notes will shift exclusively to my newsletter and this blog will be dedicated to weekly book and movie reviews and the occasional important announcement.

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