Best Alternative Rock One-Hit Wonders of the 1990s


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Best alternative rock one-hit wonders of the 1990s – Author Cat Badra

The 1990s were a fantastic decade for alternative music. Sure, alternative rock’s roots took form well before the decade, but in the ’90s, the genre really blossomed and became mainstream. As I see it, the decade of hair metal was the 1980s, and the decade of grunge, alternative and hip-hop was the 1990s. So, what were the best alternative rock one-hit wonders of the 1990s?

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with having one-hit wonder. For everyone who says, “You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder band,” think of those bands that never got heard at all. They would love nothing more than to be a one-hit wonder band.

Some ’90s bands had plenty of hits, like Pearl Jam or Nirvana. Others had one huge hit but didn’t really have any other tracks skyrocket up the charts.

What’s a one-hit wonder?

A one-hit wonder is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a group or musician that has only one hit record, according to Oxford Languages. By record, they really mean song. There are plenty of bands that have multiple hits on one record and stop there, but a true one-hit wonder band has one huge hit and that’s it.

What are the best alternative rock one-hit wonders of the 1990s?

10. Nine Days, “Story of a Girl”

There was a period in alternative music in the late 1990s that brought a heavy pop influence. Bands that were jangle-pop or simple alternative pop-rock fell into this category. Nine Days was one of them. With whiney vocals and poppy hooks. “Story of a Girl” was a smash hit.

9. Stroke 9, “Little Black Backpack”

Now, some might not consider Stroke 9’s “Little Black Backpack” a one-hit wonder, because it wasn’t as widespread as the other songs on this list. But, depending on where you lived and which alternative station you listened to in the 1990s, this song was either everywhere or charting just a bit. It’s a super catchy alternative song that really leans hard on pop.

8. Dishwalla, “Counting Blue Cars”

Dishwalla released “Counting Blue Cars” in 1995, so right on the edge of when alternative music was morphing into a variety of subgenres. “Counting Blue Cars” reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, which is huge. In 1996, it was also the most-played song of the year on the radio in the United States. Wow.

7. Eagle Eye Cherry, “Save Tonight”

Eagle Eye Cherry scored a Grammy away for their 1997 song “Save Tonight.” More specifically, it was the music video for the track that earned them a Grammy. They also got multiple Grammy nominations that year. While the band has plenty of solid song, “Save Tonight” is the one, by far, that went the furthest.

6. Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sittah”

Harvey Danger’s famed “Flagpole Sittah” came off their 1997 debut album, “Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?” It’s a great album choc full of pop-rock goodness. “Flagpole Sittah” went viral before the term was a thing, and it’s still a popular, classic song on alternative radio.

5. Tonic, “If You Could Only See”

Tonic pulled at a lot of heartstrings with “If You Could Only See.” They begged the listener to understand their level of love for a special girl, saying that if they could “just see the way she loves me, then maybe you would understand.” It was all laced in a jangly-pop anthem that ruled the radio airwaves.

4. Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy”

Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” was massive in the 1990s. It’s still a “gold” on modern rock radio, so you hear it a lot if you tune into modern radio. As soon as the vocals chime in with “Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk?” this song just explodes. It’s a timeless one.

3. Marcy Playground, “Sex and Candy”

I remember when Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” was all over rock radio. It seemed almost taboo or super edgy to have a song with that title in regular rotation. Either way, this song simply rocks. It has a huge groove and murky guitars that really blast out of the speakers.

2. Semisonic, “Closing Time”

“Closing Time” is the anthem that’s played at the end of the night at pretty much ever bar across America. At least, it was in the 1990s. It’s still a popular song to play when the clock strikes 2 a.m.

Semisonic charted big time with “Closing Time,” and it really put them on the map. They also had some success with singles like “Singing in My Sleep” and “Chemistry,” but “Closing Time” is the only one that got steady airplay. It’s a classic.

1. Fastball, “The Way”

Fastball was the opening act on the very first concert I ever attended, without my parents taking me, at least. The bill was Fastball, Sugar Ray and Goo Goo Dolls. Don’t judge. It was a great show. Fastball was a fantastic band. They wrote the song “The Way” about an elderly couple who went missing. They came up with an imaginative story about how the couple just disappeared and traveled and had lots of fun. The reality of the story wasn’t that, but it made for a really creative song. This was also a super melodic alt-rock song that sticks in your head. Fastball also charted with “Out of My Head,” but it was “The Way” that put them on the map.

Cat Badra
Posted by Cat Badra | Alternative, Features, Music