Everybody loves a one-hit wonder.
These songs are sung in cars, showers, and bars, typically at the top of one’s lungs. More important, they struck a chord with people at one time or another.
Tuesday marked National One Hit Wonder Day. In honor of the day, here are four of the best in this category—plus a lesson on how not to be a one-hit wonder in the PR world. What worked for them might work against you.
“Purple People Eater,” by Sheb Wooley (1958)
You know, it’s just not a good idea to pigeonhole yourself this much. You can pitch stories about Cyclops, you can pitch stories about unicorns, you can pitch stories about the miracle of flight or skin discoloration—you can even pitch stories about cannibalism, if you must. But mash them all together, and you’re pitching to a very small audience.
“Dumb Head,” by Ginny Arnell (1963)
Avoid self-deprecation. I’m talking to all of you—you army of PR and marketing professionals, out there in the field working hard for the money. So many times, we talk ourselves down, tell ourselves no, we back off and be “nice.” You’ve got killer instincts—follow them. Your head is not dumb.
“I Never Promised You A Rose Garden,” by Lynn Anderson (1972)
“I beg your pardon,” croons Lynn Anderson from her papier-mache porch set, deep in the heart of Opry Country. “I never promised you a rose garden.”
Which brings us to our next lesson: Be real, and don't over-promise. We realize that when you're bidding on new work—when you really want to land that new client—a kind of blood lust comes over you. You go a little crazy, and before you know it you've promised placements in every magazine on Earth and a few select publications on the moon.
Don't promise them a rose garden. Just a very nice bouquet now and then.
“99 Luftballons,” by Nena (1983)
German! Such a beautiful language. All guttural and umlaut-y.
Truly, when this song hit the airwaves, we lifted our voices along with the radio, singing a beautiful song of red balloons floating on a horizon—along with “war machines” and “red alerts.”
(The English-language version of this hit is titled "99 Red Balloons.")
Huh? What? The song is actually an anti-war protest—and the lesson here is to make sure your message translates to your chosen audience. (Probably best to choose an audience that speaks the same language you do.)
Look, listen, and learn from these examples, because everybody does love a one-hit wonder—except the one-hit wonders. They’re probably locked in a cycle of self-loathing, imagining what could’ve been.
What are some of your favorite one-hit wonders, and what can we learn from them? Let us know in the comments.
Julai Whipple works at The Black Sheep Agency, a Houston-based creative agency specializing in non-traditional public relations, social media, and experiential marketing. Check out their blog, where a version of this story first appeared.