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Singular Sensations

And where are the tunes that resonate so odiously you can still taste the cigarette butt you almost swallowed from a nearly empty can of Budweiser, and later, yeah, you totally puked in the driveway.

"Seasons in the Sun," "Who Let the Dogs Out?": Squinty-eyed hangover music straight from hell's own jukebox.

By the brutal calculus employed by Billboard's research team, many inescapable songs do not qualify as one-hit wonders. Some of them just seem like No. 1's because of noxious overplay: "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (2000) made it only to No. 40. There are near-misses like After the Fire's "Der Kommissar" (No. 5) and "Spirit in the Sky," which hit No. 3 on Billboard in 1970 -- although Greenbaum likes to point out that the song went to No. 1 on Cashbox, another national chart, and has hit No. 1 three times in England. (It was later covered twice by other artists.)

Why is "We Are the World" on the list?

"Some people might question USA for Africa," admits Billboard's Fred Bronson, who's covered the chart beat for 16 years. That fearsome collective of talent, assembled to raise money to combat starvation in 1985, probably would never make another song. "But it's fair," he says. "Technically, it's a one-hit wonder. With charts it's never black and white; you've got to asterisk things and explain things."

For example, Los del Rio had their No. 1 with "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" in 1996. But they also got on the charts with another version of "Macarena" (No. 23) and "Macarena Christmas" (No. 57!) and so were disqualified.

But wait! There's more:

"Pass the dutchie on the left-hand side."

"It's raining men, hallelujah."

"You can ring my bell."

How do musicians follow a monster song that will end up in the first sentence of their obituaries?

Maybe they make more. Maybe they give up and make peace with their career apogee. In literature, Harper Lee never followed up "To Kill a Mockingbird." For an actor, a role can be so indelible that just you have to embrace it: And so it was that Leonard Nimoy eventually accepted his Inner Spock.


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