The One Hit Wonders Nostalgia Playlist

Screenshot: RCA Records

Just because a song is old doesn’t mean it will trigger nostalgia. If you keep Beyoncé in regular rotation, listening to “Crazy in Love” probably won’t take you back to 2003 every time. But I’ve found a kind of music that’s way more likely to trigger nostalgia: The one hit wonder.

“Mambo Number 5”, “Two Princes”, “Genius of Love”, “Party All the Time”, “Just the Two of Us” (either version). They burst onto the scene, they faded away, their sound is tied to a moment in time.

Today’s featured playlist is actually a lot of playlists. For me it was Filtr’s 159-song playlist on Apple Music, which stretches back to 1966, but mostly focuses on the '80s to '00s. For over 400,000 people, it’s Spotify’s 100-song playlist, which leans harder on the '00s and even the '10s:

Or zoom in to a decade; there are user playlists of one-hitters from the '70s, the '80s and '90s, the 2000s, the 2010s (if you’ll let Maroon 5 and John Legend slide), and any combo thereof. Spotify also hosts a few decade-specific “albums” of hits; the '90s compilation opens strong with “I Love You Always Forever”.

Search “one hit wonders” and pick whatever compilation you like. These collections are wild, you’ll never agree with all their choices, but you’ll already be in love.

Play this music selfishly. Skip any song you don’t immediately recognise (at least once the chorus hits). Hell, skip any song that doesn’t immediately evoke the smell of a bowling alley or the back seat of a car or the last dance at the bat mitzvah. Soak it in. You’re just a teenage dirtbag, baby.


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