Tired of these lists? Don’t worry: this one will be over quickly.
Because these are the best singers whose careers didn’t last very long.
Whether because of the breakup of a band, or the failure to recreate magic, or the tragedy of death, these are talented people who became essentially one-hit (or one-album) wonders. Their musical success was small and short-lived; yet they burned bright enough to leave a legacy. At least in my mind.
We’ll do this chronologically, starting with the most recent. Because that way, we’re going back to the good old days, and reliving the past glories. Seems appropriate.
Although looking up all of the dates for these songs is making me feel like an episode of I Love the 90’s on VH1. Jeeze. Should have just called this “My high school and college years.” Well, anyway, here they are — not all from the 90’s!
Los Lonely Boys (2003)
Loved this song. Couldn’t understand why these guys didn’t have a crapton more hits. Great voice, good music, and they’re actually a trio of brothers, so if they hadn’t killed each other within the first six months of performing together, then they’re like the BeeGees, and they can go until they die. But at least this is a great song.
All right, this is a stupid song. I admit it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t catchy as hell, or that his singing isn’t good — because it actually is. He’s got an interesting voice and this one is quite well done. Plus, who doesn’t like Jay and Silent Bob?
Monster Magnet (1998)
This is still one of my favorite songs from the 90’s. I own the album, and the rest of it isn’t as good, so I never looked for more of their stuff — but damn, I love that guitar riff and the singing. The goofy lyrics are just a plus. (Wikipedia calls this band “stoner rock.” Which explains a lot.)
This is one of the reasons why drugs piss me off: Brad Nowell. So talented. And he never had the chance to grow into it, and keep making music like this — and fewer songs like “Wrong Way” and “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” which are not as good.
Plus, there is nothing sadder than this video, his former bandmates catapulted to stardom two months after their frontman’s death trying to act like they’re not broken. And they put his dog in the video, too. Jesus wept.
Jeff Buckley (1994)
This is a singer I wasn’t aware of at the time of his life and death; but the song is heartache in musical form.
Izzy Kamakawiwoʻole (1993)
I will never remember this man’s full name. But I will never forget this song.
4 Non-Blondes (1993)
Everybody makes fun of this band. Everybody made fun of them when the song came out, too. But I loved this song then, and I love it now — and Linda Perry is one badass singer.
Crash Test Dummies (1993)
This is another one we all made fun of. But I always liked. This guy’s voice is just amazing. Though somehow, I have a memory of mocking this song, and still liking it, with my high school friends; are we sure that’s the right date for its release? Huh. False memory, I guess. Mmm hmmmmmm.
Blind Melon (1992)
Yet another drug-related death, another remarkable singer lost. I remember first catching this guy on the Guns and Roses song where he sings backup to Axl Rose, and sings even higher than Rose could. And then this song came out, and it was just so freaking awesome. Aaaaand then he died. Dammit.
The Verve Pipe (1992)
To be honest, I still don’t understand why anyone would write a song trying to justify sexual assault, or humanize the rapist’s experience. But I love the way this song sounds, and I love Brian Vander Ark’s voice.
I don’t understand why people don’t love this song. Though I admit it isn’t just the singing that put it on this countdown; it’s also that funky, funky beat. Though she does sing well — and Bootsy Collins, I mean, come on. It’s Bootsy Collins!
Sinead O’Connor (1990)
What a voice. And this song is magnificent — though the English teacher in me hates Prince for using “2 U” instead of the actual goddamn words. Oh — and she was always right about the Pope, and screw Frank Sinatra for bringing all of his weight down on her. Like that’s a fair fight.
Alannah Myles (1990)
I always felt like this video hit the “Ain’t I sexy?” a little too hard. I mean, come on — chaps? Seriously? But the song is cool and her voice is fantastic. And okay, she is pretty sexy. But that’s not why I picked it! It’s not!
Skid Row (1989)
I love this song. I loved it when it came out, I loved it when we all found out just what a tool Sebastian Bach is, I loved it when all of the band’s other music sucked, I loved it when they failed to make good music ever again, I love it now. I love this song. And I had one of the strangest dreams of my life about Sebastian Bach — who was, in the dream, in love with me and heartbroken that I did not share his feelings. And maybe that’s why I love this song so much. Though really, he does have a good voice, and it’s never sounded better than on this.
Ben E. King (1961)
No better way to end this than with one of the greatest songs in the history of rock, which has never been performed better than the original. This is kind of a cheat for the one-hit-wonder thing, since King sang with The Drifters who had many hits; but this was his only solo hit, and it is a masterpiece.