There’s a scene toward the end of the movie ‘That Thing You Do’ when the rock band at the center of the film called The Wonders breaks up after releasing their big breakout song. Following the demise of the once popular group their manager Mr. White, played by Tom Hanks, regretfully states, “The one hit Wonders; a very common tale.”
One hit wonders happen all the time in music and K-pop is no exception. A group will come out with a song that resonates with the listening public but for whatever reason, they just can’t duplicate the magic formula that got them to that level. Maybe it’s in-fighting, a troubled company, or maybe it was just plain luck that got them there in the first place but here’s a list of some of the one hit wonders from back in the day. Most of these groups did have multiple albums and other popular songs but really, they were known for their one (or two in some cases) big hit.
Two Two, “One and One Half”, 1994
We start this list with a true oldie but goodie. Two Two rocketed to fame with their very first album ‘Two Two 1th’ in 1994 and hit the big time with the single “One and One Half”. The song was a simple but very catchy pop song with a little reggae thrown in which was popular at the time. What was even catchier was their performance which featured one of the most iconic moves in K-pop. The performance was bare bones and consisted of lead singer Kim Ji Hoon singing with Hwang Hye Young dancing beside him but it was that move when they motioned like they were splitting their body down the middle that is a part of K-pop dance lore. The available videos for the song are a little hazy (remember, this is 1994 we’re talking about; I mean, I remember it well but for some of you, it was like the Stone Age) so I also included a more recent version with Huh Gak and partner Lee Si Young from the show ‘Immortal Song 2’.
Genie, “What’s This” 1995
I don’t get to feature a lot of rock here on WBW but one of my all-time favorite K-pop songs just happens to fall in that genre. “What’s This” is a fast paced rock song that still holds up to this day and, in my opinion, is better than most of the rock coming out of Korea and the US today. I honestly don’t know much about the band but they did release two albums with this song featured on both. I haven’t heard anything about this group since so it makes them a legit one hit wonder.
ZaZa, “In the Bus”, 1996
Released in 1996, but popular in 1997, ZaZa’s debut single “In the Bus” was a dance, pop track that was hugely popular when it was released. This is another group that I don’t know too much about other than that I don’t any other songs by this group which makes them a one-hit wonder in my book. This song also happens to be another norebang classic (seriously, I should do a list of songs that I know are a fan favorites in the ole song room) and I guarantee you the room starts jumping when this song starts playing.
UP, “Beach” & “Pyo Pyo”, 1997
If I’m good at anything, it’s breaking my own rules and of course this group wasn’t really a one hit wonder but a two hit wonder. UP released their first album ‘1024’ in 1996 but it didn’t really go anywhere. Then in 1997, the group rejiggered itself with members Lee Hae Jung, Lee Jung Hee, Park Sang Hoo, and Lee Kyun (who happens to be H.O.T. member Kangta’s cousin) and released their 2nd album ‘Second Birth’. It was a fitting name as the album featured two very popular songs “Beach” and “Pyo Pyo” and put the group on the map. The concept of the group was in a word, fun. The songs were fun pop tracks and the members wore these weird but quirky clothes and even used things like those rubber hammers that make the squeaking noises in their performances. UP also released some more albums but these were their two big hits that made the most noise and makes them a two hit wonder.
Bijou, “Love Love” & “I Love You More Than Anyone Else”, 1998, 1999
As long as I’m talking about two hit wonders, I might as well include another group. Bijou debuted in 1998 and they were a coed group with members Joo Min providing the silky rapping and Dabi the melodic vocals. Their debut album ‘Bijou is Ballad’ featured the single “Love Love” and it was an interesting sound. It was part hip hop, part ballad, part pop, and featured this French interlude thing that I still don’t get. Their follow up single “I Love You More Than Anyone Else” was on their second album ‘Love Is’ which was released in the spring of 1999. The song was much more mellow pop but followed the blue print of smooth raps buttressed with sweet sounding singing. The group did release a few more albums with some member changes but it was really these two songs that are remembered by fans.
Kiss, “Because I’m a Woman”, 2001
You’d be hard pressed to find any K-pop fan that hasn’t at least heard some version of this song. “Because I’m a Woman” has to go down as one of the most poetic songs in K-pop and maybe the biggest one hit wonders ever. Comprising members Jini, Mini, and Umji, the trio released the song to much fanfare after big name actors Goo Hye Jin and Shin Hyun Jun appeared in the music videos (this was the era of the epic music vid) and the song easily became a number 1 hit. A follow up album was released but was forgettable at best and rumor has it there was internal problems with the members that eventually led to the break-up of the group. It was unfortunate because they did have a great sound but as with all one hit wonders, they just couldn’t make it last.
So there you have it, just a few of the one hit wonders in K-pop history. I’m sure I left off a bunch so feel free to include some that you remember from way back when.