While Elvis Presley is internationally famous he's really huge in Japan. It's really funny seeing Japanese Elvis Impersonators. Japanese Professional WrestlerShinya Hashimoto became a huge Elvis fan while he was wrestling in Memphis, even going so far as to style his hair the same way.
There are also a lot of middle-aged European men (especially British) who like Elvis so much that it is clear they want to be American. It's made especially odd by the way he never toured nor really promoted himself outside the US (with the exception of a few shows in Canada).
North Korea's Kim Jong-il was a huge Elvis fan. Supposedly, his bouffant hairstyle, sunglasses, and jumpsuits were modeled on Vegas-era Elvis.
The British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project was a big hit in North America and in mainland Europe, but largely forgotten in the UK.
When Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill in 1995, she had a tough time getting airplay in her home country of Canada, because she already had a past there as a Debbie Gibson-style teen-pop diva in the early '90s. In fact, Ottawa media outlets were flooded with complaints from disgusted citizens when she was given a key to the city.
Alcatrazz never really amounted to anything in the United States and became more noteworthy for being the band that managed to somehow falter after only four years with guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai as members at different points. In Japan, they're still quite popular and their songs are a common mainstay in both covers and karaoke.
Pop star Anastacia, who was born in Chicago, has sold about 20 million albums and is successful in almost every country on Earth... except her native United States, where she is almost practically unheard of.
She is somewhat known in the states. She probably got the most exposure there when she got big in the late 90's-early 00's and when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, but given her poor album sales in the States she wasn't heavily promoted there and this exposure was very minimal.
Wanna break the ice with a teenage girl from Mexico? Start talking about The Rasmus, a Finnish band. Yes, they have success in Europe, but it doesn't even compare to the number of albums and concert tickets sold in Mexico. This Finnish band is so big over there, they actually have a TV special in Mexico and have been consistently performing in Mexico to sold-out crowds since 2004.
As chronicled in the film Anvil: The Story of Anvil, the band Anvil maintained a following in Europe and Japan long after being forgotten in the U.S. and their native Canada.
Blue Oyster Cult has remained perennially popular in Japan largely thanks to their song about Godzilla, whereas in the US the group has largely faded into obscurity. The divide is illustrated by their 1999 tour, wherein they sold out sports arenas and stadiums in Japan, then came back to America to play casinos and state fairs. They probably get more cowbell at the fairs though.
British grunge band Bush were more popular in the US based on album sales (although their singles were more popular in their native country).
Cheap Trick, while relatively popular in the United States, were met with a frenzy comparable to Beatlemania in Japan.
Interestingly, they weren't especially popular in the US initially...until a live album from a Japanese concert became a big hit.
Cascada is more popular in the US, UK, and maybe Asia, than in their native Germany.
Deep Purple, during their "Mk1" era, toured primarily in North America, and had their records released there earlier than in the UK. This had the result that British audiences sometimes mistakenly thought that the group was American. They began to tour elsewhere more often after their American record company went out of business.
Tom Waits has a song titled "Big in Japan" reflecting this trope. Alphaville has one too, but it's not aboutthat kind of "big".
Tom Waits is also apparently popular in Norway, if Kaizers Orchestra is any indication.
Though they've grown more popular in their home-country since then (thanks to their joke song "Gay Bar"), Detroit rock band Electric Six was originally poorly-known in America but a huge hit in Britain.
Fun Lovin' Criminals are popular in the UK but hardly known in their native New York. The band members fell in love with the UK and relocated there. Frontman Huey is now even more famous there than during the band's 90s chart success, because he has a popular radio show on BBC Radio 6.
The Eurobeat genre has more popularity in Japan than in its native country of Italy. In fact, the Super Eurobeat series is only sold in Japan, or via importation.
The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956, with some West European countries participating. Today, these countries still participate, but regard the contest as a joke * and an expensive one for the winning country's state broadcaster, which then has to host the contest the following year - Ireland's RTÉ was nearly bankrupted after they won three contests in a row during the 1990s, and send largely unknown artists. The Nordic and East European countries, which joined the contest later, take it seriously, and send their top artists. (see: ABBA, who had their big break at Eurovision)
One of the more bizarre examples is the story of the album Pawn Hearts, recorded in 1971 by the UK progressive rock group Van Der Graaf Generator. While its often dark and avant-garde nature kept it obscure in the UK and US, it proved to be an unlikely hit in Italy, of all places, where it occupied the number one spot on the album charts for 12 weeks. Bandleader Peter Hammill has since remarked that its "operatic and dramatic" music "chimed with the scene in Italy at the time".
Genesis also enjoyed considerable success in continental Europe (particularly Italy and Belgium) before reaching any significant success in the UK or US.
Electro-synth band Datarock tours so often in Australia one can only assume they're more popular there than elsewhere.
Jimi Hendrix was largely unappreciated in America early in his career, and indeed didn't get his big break until, at the urging of some acquaintances, he moved to England and hit the London electric blues scene. When he finally managed to get a US tour (with two Brits as his backing band), it was as an opening act for The Monkees, whose fans didn't care for his style (no surprisesthere) and booed him offstage on at least one occasion.
Alternative rock musician Matthew Sweet is not well-remembered in the United States, and most people can only name the song of his ("Girlfriend") that appeared in Guitar Hero II. He's positively huge in Japan (possibly because he licensed two anime, Urusei Yatsura and Space Adventure Cobra, to make a Fan Vid for two of his own songs), and has even had a couple of his own one-shot Manga.
This is very common in the Death Metal genre. Bands like Arch Enemy, while somewhat popular in their native Europe, are just plain massive in Japan.
Japan seems equally fascinated with Power Metal, to the point where some bands' releases and touring are heavily concentrated there despite being European (Heavenly being one of the most striking examples — their music is released first there, has in some cases been translated into Japanese to suit their fanbase, and are on an East Asian record label despite being from France).
Metal in general is huge in Japan. It seems that while it's largely marginalized in North America and somewhat tolerated in in Europe (with some exceptions, like Finland, who recently had a metal singer win their national Idol contest), it's regarded as no more dangerous than any other style of music in Japan. It's no surprise that before they got even remotely popular in the west, In Flames and Children of Bodom had recorded live concerts in Tokyo with wildly enthusiastic crowds.
It's worth noting that this really only seems to be the case with more melodic styles of metal. While Melodic Death Metal and Power Metal are huge there, Black Metal and the more brutal styles of Death Metal remain even more underground in Japan than they are in the West.
Power Metal and Progressive Metal (especially progressive power metal) is practically mainstream in Brazil. Bands from Europe and Japan fly all the way to South America to give concerts in sold out theatre venues. This is why when Bonus Tracks aren't meant for Japan, they're almost always meant for the Brazilian or at least South American market.
Even though The Smiths were never very popular in the United States outside of their cult following, Morrissey as a solo artist gained a large following among American Latinos in the nineties. Moz even lived in Los Angeles for a time, and stated once during a tour, "I wish I was born Mexican." His Latino popularity has been attributed to his crooning vocals and penchant for melodrama that is also found in traditional ranchera music.
NY-based band Scissor Sisters has a small cult following in the United States, but frequently tops the charts in the UK, to the point that only three of their eleven singles have even been released as such stateside. Probably because the mainstream US audience still isn't ready for a gay male performer whose lyrics and persona are as unapologetically sexual as Jake Shears'.
They even had a pair of Irish murderess sisters named after them. The women in question killed their mother's Kenyan boyfriend, sliced up his body (but not with scissors) and hid the pieces. His head was never recovered. The band were horrified by the association (which is a reference to tribadism).
L.A.'s retro rockers Mother Tongue have been totally forgotten in the U.S., but have a solid and devoted fanbase in Germany. It's the only place outside L.A. where they still do shows.
Dire Straits had massive success in the Netherlands before they went on to conquer the world.
There was a time where the Netherlands were the benchmark for international success, due to their weird broadcast system (for music at least). If it succeeded there, there was a good chance the rest of Europe would follow.
Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack are still widely popular in Japan despite their fandom in English speaking countries fading down to people who remember them as classic. Bookstores in Japan seem to contain more Rat Pack biographies than actual Japanese books and you can't walk by a karaoke bar without hearing "My Way"
Speaking of the Philippines, the country has become notorious for becoming the final refuge of many otherwise-forgotten international English-language popstars whose heyday was in the '70's to '90's, specifically those whose forte are really sappy love songs, or what Filipinos (a majority of whom are diehard romantics) call Senti (as in, "Sentimental" music); most notably Danish band Michael Learns to Rock, Aussie-Brit duo Air Supply, American singer David Pomeranz, Boyz II Men, and many others...
Don't forget Dennis Lambert, who basically took time off from his real estate career to sing in the Philippines. They even made a documentary about it!
The popularity of The Pixies in the UK, South Africa and Europe eclipsed their recognition in their native USA.
There's a lot of the mid/late 90s Euro Dance bands, specially from Denmark and Sweden, which had massive markets in Asia and more or less moved there for their major income after the hype died in Europe
German duet pop band Modern Talking was popular amongst foreign-music-deprived Iranians in the 90s.
Japanese alternative rock bands like Boris, Boredoms and Shonen Knife are far more popular in the United States and Europe than they are in Japan. This most likely has to do with the fact that the Japanese music scene is overrun with visual kei metal bands, j-pop singers and lightweight pop/rock bands like Glay, whose music is much more easily palatable for the Oricon charts. In fact, the only two Japanese alternative rock bands to do good business in their home country are The Pillows (because they play "American style" alt rock) and the Mad Capsule Markets, both of which are still far more popular overseas than they are in Japan.
In the 80s, Nick Cave, disgruntled with the Australian music industry (and, despite a cult following, failing to gain commercial success), ended up in Germany, and appeared on postcards for Berlin.
Alt-country musician David Eugene Edwards hails from Colorado, yet his bands—16 Horsepower and Woven Hand—are far more popular in Netherlands. For a while, 16 Horsepower was the most popular band in the Netherlands.
The 1960s/'70s blues-rock band Steamhammer, from England, was much more popular in Germany than anywhere else, to the point that the only CD reissues of their albums were from German record companies for many years, and they got a Wikipedia article in German before one in any other language.
Americans love Rammstein more than the Germans do, where they're just another metal band.
Lampshaded in their most recent single, which contains the line "I can't get laid in Germany." The NSFW video is all about how they love sex and can basically get it anywhere in the world with beautiful women... just not in their native country.
Brazilian thrash metal band Sepultura tours ten American cities for each Brazilian one (note that Sepultura is fairly popular in its homeland and the rest of Latin America).
American musician (Sixto Diaz) Rodriguez's story might be the strongest occurence of this trope. He has released two unsuccessful albums in the early 70's before he quit music. Only in 1998, while working on a building site, he came to know that he was a big star in South Africa all along. Rodriguez's fame was amongst the older crowd who remembered him from the 70s. His popularity was revived in the late 1990s when his song Sugar Man was covered by a well known South African folk-rock band called Just Ginger (later changed to Just Jinger when the band moved to the USA).
Remember the Atlanta hip-hop group Arrested Development (not to be confused with the TV show of the same name)? Their most recent single in Europe was released in 2004. Their most recent American single? 1994.
American musician Scatman John wasn't particularly popular in his home country, but enjoyed huge success in several European countries and Japan (which was unusual for a foreign musician).
How much was he popular in Japan? Not only did they sell dolls of him and have him on phone cards, they also made a parody of him Ultraman with him wearing Scatman John's hat and mustache.
Industrial music. While it started in Britain, its now so much larger in Germany that the two are almost always associated.
Perhaps even funnier, because of bands like Hocico there was a movement of Latin American Industrial bands. This leads to some confusing mixture of cultures - a band from Chile is called "Die Braut" while singing in English. Because of the strange psuedo-nationalistic themes of Industrial you get videos like this. Germany needs movement - in Mexico City!
While not as famous as they used to be, Scorpions still retain a huge fan base in Greece possibly greater than the one in their home country Germany. This is why they do at least one concert every year in Greece.
They've made a name for themselves also in Brazil (where their power ballads were major hits in the 80s-to-early-90s), France (where the "Still Loving You" single was popular enough to cause a rise in births), Russia (because they were one of the first bands to play there while it still was part of the USSR, thus helping in a way with their political opening - "Wind of Change" is a memoir of the experience) and Japan (because well, the Japanese love hard rock and metal - their first live recording, Tokyo Tapes, is rather self-demonstrating).
Anglo-Kenyan singer-songwriter Roger Whittaker is quite popular in Germany, and remained popular there long after he was forgotten in the Anglosphere.
The success of any Mandarin pop singer born in Malaysia or Singapore in Taiwan is justified due to the huge demand of Mandarin music there.
Malaysian rap-rock group Pop Shuvit is big in Japan.
Janis Ian hasn't had a hit single in the U.S. since "At Seventeen" in 1975, but in Japan, she's one of the biggest-selling international artists of all time, with several major hit songs and albums there in the late '70s. Also in 1979, her collaboration with Giorgio Moroder "Fly Too High" topped charts in Australasia but flew totally under the radar Stateside.
American power pop band Click Five and Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan's unlikely huge fanbases in Asia is finally sealed when they were chosen to provide the official soundtrack to Animax Asia's first original series, LaMB.
In Asia, most of Click Five's later singles are played in high rotation on radio and TV stations, as well as topping the music charts there. In America? They haven't had a hit since "Just The Girl".
Australian punk band The Saints had to go to Britain to get any recognition. NME loved them. The same is sadly true for many great Aussie bands.
The British New Wave band Dead or Alive's fourth studio album, Nude, was their first not to so much appear on the UK Albums Chart, and peaked at 106th place on the Billboard 200. It was, however, a massive hit on the Japan charts and their next two albums, Fan the Flame (Part 1) and Nukleopatra, were only released in Japan. Nukleopatra was eventually released in America and Britain some years later, but Fan the Flame is, to this day, only available as a Japanese import.
The Delta Rhythm Boys were an American R&B vocal group that had mainstream success in the US in the 1930s and '40s, but began to fade in the '50s as popular taste in music changed. All of a sudden, though, they became huge in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe and drew large crowds. They recorded an album in Swedish and in 1956 relocated to Europe permanently. Their rendition of the Swedish song "Flickorna i Småland" was featured in Bent Hamer's 2003 film Kitchen Stories. A more detailed account of the Rhythm Boys' European success can be found here.
P!nk, who had 17 sold out shows in Melbourne, Australia, a city of four million people. It made her the most successful concert act in Australian history. It's not for nothing that she recorded her live album in Sydney, complete with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on the cover. The website Things Bogans Like even considers her an honorary Aussie bogan, though that's not really a compliment.note Bogans are, roughly speaking, a combination of American redneck/"white trash" and British chav stereotypes; the site's implication is that P!nk's Australian fanbase is composed chiefly of trashy young men and women.
This has escalated further in 2013, where she will be performing four concerts each in Perth and Adelaide, eight in Brisbane, twelve in Sydney, and eighteen in Melbourne. (For comparison, New York, a city with twenty times the population of Adelaide, gets three concerts.)
Josephine Baker was an African-American entertainer who enjoyed mild success in the vaudeville circuit during the 1920s. However, in France she became a cultural icon, renowned for her Banana Dance and many ballades. Of course, being a part of the French Resistance and winning the Croix de Guerre helped. Even today, in the nation of her birth, she's only ever appreciated within the black community, due in most part to becoming the first international black celebrity and sex-symbol.
The American instrumental surf-rock group The Ventures, while quite popular in the early 1960s, had their US popularity decline with the British Invasion and the rise of psychedelic rock. In Japan, however, they remained a massive success, releasing dozens of Japan-exclusive albums and becoming one of the top-selling acts of all time.
Thanks to Nirvana covering them, Scottish band The Vaselines were posthumously a cult success in the USA while being mostly forgotten in their homeland. A compilation was released on Sub Pop in the USA but for a long time none of their music was available in the UK.
Because of Japanese fondness for cuteness, pop music, and teenage girls, Western girl bands such as Shampoo can have success there while being regarded as a total joke by their less tolerant British compatriots. Daphne And Celeste tried this, recording a song called I Love Your Sushi, but it didn't seem to work.
One source for the "big in Japan" variant of this trope is said to be supermodel Naomi Campbell. When asked how her album Babywoman was doing, she said, "Well, it's very big in Japan." She politely declined to say how it was doing in America.
British band The Fixx were huge in the United States in the 80's, but virtually unknown in their home country.
A similar fate befell their countrymen The Outfield in the same decade. Ditto The Escape Club, who hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with Wild Wild West, but never charted once in the homeland.
Radiohead's first five single releases were all relative flops in the band's native UK and their debut album Pablo Honey was very poorly received by the British press, failing to sell particularly well. Then their song "Creep" became a massive radio hit in Israel, because (according to The Other Wiki) local influential radio host Yoav Kutner liked it a lot and played it repeatedly. It soon became a massive hit in America, while the band were still virtually unheard of in their own country.
Celtic Woman was a record-breaking smash hit in America. In Ireland... not so much. Seriously every city in the country has a specialist pub or ten where you'd find that stuff every second Tuesday.
David Gray was popular in Ireland long before he broke through at home in Britain. And by popular we mean White Ladder is the biggest selling album of all time in Ireland! He's even joked that the Irish have more or less adopted him.
Josh Ritter had a huge following in Ireland too several albums ahead of his brekthrough with "The Historical Conquest of".
Spanish band MägoDeOz, is extremely popular in Costa Rica. During the tour for the realease of their album Gaia 2 La Voz Dormida they had to open a second concert in the country a day earlier
Speak to just about any Australian, and they'll have reactions ranging from mild suprise, to outright incredulousness, that Rolf Harris is hugely popular in the UK.
He has lived and worked in the UK for years though, it's not like his success there has only been coincidental.
California-based rap label Official Bizness isn't really well known in the US, even in their hometown. However, they have a large following in Japan, and most of their mixtapes released there usually sell several thousand more copies than they do here.
Before becoming the comedy force that he is today, Ricky Gervais fronted the electropop band Seona Dancing in the early 80's. After they had supposedly dwindled into obscurity, one of their singles "More to Lose" took on a life of its own as a supposed teen anthem in the Philippines.
Former Prince's Associates Wendy and Lisa released three albums and a few singles from them between 1987-1990. All of them practically tanked on the US charts but got moderate success on the UK charts.
One of the more dramatic examples is Dean Reed. A would-be late 50s teen idol, his records bombed in the US but became hits in South America. He relocated there and got involved in socialist politics, which led him to start releasing material in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He became massively popular in the Eastern Bloc, as a singer and movie star, leading to the nickname "The Red Elvis". His popularity eventually waned, but his mysterious 1986 death (probably suicide, but that hasn't stopped fans from speculating that he was murdered by the CIA, KGB or the East German Stasi) sealed his status as a cult figure.
Emilie Autumn did a lot of touring in Europe and is quite popular there, owing to her old record label being German. However, in America, most people know her as Courtney Love's ex-violinist, if at all, and she didn't tour the US until late 2009. She's well aware of her displaced popularity and gave a shout out to the Hoff in a recent interview.
Brazilian song "Rap das Armas" earned some popularity in its own country, specially after usage in local blockbuster The Elite Squad. But somehow after being played in Portugal as well, some European DJs picked up the song, and remixes became hits in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Supporters of a Swedish team even sing it during games.
Ke$ha is extremely popular around Wigan, and the bordering area of Salford (basically, anywhere with a Welcome - you are now in Salford, Wigan MBC or "Welcome to Bolton" sign along the road).
And the relatively obscure town of Southport, known only for its funfair, seems to have garnered its own Kesha following - her records sell out in the local HMV.
Well, she has influenced female fashion and standards of behaviour, and become a cultural icon in those three towns / county boundaries - almost to Beatlemania proportions. Yes, shocking to some, but...
Meat Loaf is fairly popular in the United States, but he's even bigger in Europe (a fact he joked about in his appearance on VH-1: Storytellers). In the late 1980s he was working on rebuilding his popularity with low-key gigs in America, while he was playing in stadiums in Britain at the same time.
The Runaways enjoyed runaway success in Japan, to the point where they recorded their live album there. In America, they're known mainly for being Joan Jett's (or Lita Ford's) old band. Only recently has the biopic restored American pop-cultural awareness of them.
The band America, formed in the UK by British-American musicians, only charted once in the UK Top 75, with their debut single "A Horse With No Name." They are much more popular in the United States. Maybe the name had something to do with it?
My Chemical Romance was, early on, more popular in the UK and other parts of Europe. Why? Well, British people love dark humor, and because their first album had better distribution across the Atlantic than in their own home country.
"They were singin' the words in English, they didn't even SPEAK English! They were clappin' all the way to "Honey". 'Hey, Hey, Hey!'"
"They thought we were a soccer team!"
A rare subversion occurred to legendary twee pioneers Beat Happening. They attempted to become big in Japan with a tour, but the most they were considered was "avant-garde" (i.e., interesting to see, not popular). They were only slightly let down at the revelation, though.
1960s teen idol Johnny Tillotson has maintained a big following in Australia despite being long-forgotten in his native U.S.
Dutch trance artist/DJ Ferry Corsten was big in Japan in the early 2000's, and his second System F album, Together, was a Japanese exclusive.
American synthpop trio Information Society arguably has a far more loyal fan base in Brazil than in their home country.
French pianist Richard Clayderman is extremely popular in China; one of his concerts in China was watched by 800 million Chinese, which is about 80% of the whole population.
Mr. Big has always been (ahem) big in Japan, almost comically so. All but one of their eight live albums were recorded in Japan, their song "Shine" was used in the anime Hellsing, and their 2009 reunion was announced via press conference in Japan. Whereas other bands would usually play a few shows in Tokyo or Osaka, they've been known to play 20 dates across the country. In the US, meanwhile, they're a One-Hit Wonder, with their one hit, "To Be With You" (from all the way back in 1992), being seen as the last hurrah of Hair Metal. That being said, their guitarist at least is highly regarded in the guitar world for his technical skill.
Ricky Martin has said Brazil is the only place they ask him about his ex-band Menudo, a Boy Band that was huge in the mid '80s in that country.
Swedish singer Meja had a couple of minor hits in her home country in the mid-90's, but became a big success in Japan. In the late 90's she managed to get hits in Europe and the United States as well, with It’s All About the Money and the Ricky Martin-duet Private Emotion, before more or less disappearing again. Except for Japan, where she still tours and releases exclusive albums.
Several Swedish Eurodance artists were also big in Japan, eg Solid Base, Basic Element, and of course, Smile.dk. Also, the German group E-Rotic and its short-lived successor, Missing Heart (whose sole album was a Japan exclusive).
Vermont-based indie-pop band The Smittens are popular enough in Europe in general and the UK in particular that their albums are published by a London-based label and they recently (at this writing) returned from a two-month tour. Within the U.S. they're barely known outside the local Burlington scene.
British band The Hollies had a fair few hits at home, but went on to have a surprising number of number-one hits in utterly random countries such as Switzerland, Malaysia and Italy.
Dennis Lambert was the songwriter behind 60s-80s hits such as "One Tin Soldier", “Rhinestone Cowboy”, and “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got”. His one and only solo album, Bags and Things, flopped in the US in 1972. After business dried up for him in the music industry, Lambert moved to Florida to sell real estate, only then realizing that he was still huge in the Philippines, where he then went on tour.
British alternative rock band Muse were far more popular in France than in their homeland in the earlier days of their career, leading them to jokingly remark on the jarring effect of playing a Parisian arena one day and the back room of a London pub the next.
British alternative rock band Placebo, while fairly popular in the UK, are huge in France, in part because singer Brian Molko, who is of partial French ancestry and was brought up in Luxembourg, is a fluent Francophone who actively courted the French fan-base.
Bec Hollcraft, also known as Becca, is a pop-rock singer from Oregon. Although she's not so well-known in the States (outside of the Portland area, anyway), she was discovered by an agent for Sony Music's Japanese branch and became quite the celebrity in Japan. Most Americans who do know of her probably discovered her via Black Butler.
Only one of the American rock band We Are Scientists' songs has ever reached chart status in the USA (and it was on the Modern Rock chart). The band do almost all their touring in the UK, and their material is released in the UK many months before the USA.
This is true for many American indie rock bands, since most European singles charts are much more tolerant of the genre than the US' Billboard Hot 100. The Gossip and Orson are virtually unknown in their home country outside of fans of the alternative rock genre, but they're both famous throughout Europe.
Wang Chung. Modestly successful in their native Britain in the 1980s, they were huge in America — in fact, they were personally chosen by the makers of To Live and Die in L.A. for the film's soundtrack.
Manowar in particular is pretty close to reaching David Hasselhoff level of popularity in Germany, as their live DVD The Absolute Power can attest. The band is so popular all over Europe that they released a ballad, Father, which was dubbed in 14 different European languages, plus Japanese (all sung by Eric Adams himself, of course).
This actually has started a meme on YouTube, where Manowar comments are filled up with "Hail from (location)." Europe is immensely common.
Florida-based Iced Earth have a particularly large fanbase in Greece, so they've recorded two of their three (to date) live albums there, Alive in Athens and Live in Ancient Kourion.
Les Nubians is a nu-soul duet that enjoys some fame in the US, the UK and many other English-speaking countries, despite singing often in their mother tongue. In its homeland of France, it remains an obscure, seldom ever seen music group.
While he's still moderately popular in Europe, German singer and former rock band Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider seems to be quite a big thing in Russia. His fascination for Russian culture, that led to the polka-rock anthem Trainride in Russia and a ballad sung entirely in Russian (Platchet Soldat) might have something to do with it.
Jozin s bazin, a Czech novelty song, has achieved memetic status in Poland and Russia.
It's even been translated into Polish, but the Czech version is still more popular.
This can even happen within a single country, as the Dixie Chicks found out. Natalie Maines' anti-Bush comments at a London concert on the eve of the invasion of Iraq pretty much gutted the band's existing fanbase, a large portion of which was politically conservative. To this day, the Chicks' popularity in "middle America" (i.e. the Central and Southern US, the base of the modern Country Music fandom) hasn't recovered. However, Maines' comments simultaneously picked up a lot of new fans for the band in liberal, anti-war "blue states" that normally aren't seen as being receptive to Country Music (as well as in Canada), enough to send their next album, the 5x-Grammy-winning Taking the Long Way, double-platinum.
Another "within a single country" example: gay icons. There are many acts that had mediocre or no success on mainstream music charts, but had incredible success within the gay community.
"1980-F" by the British band After The Fire is an instrumental which is obscure at best in the UK and just about everywhere else in the world except for Germany. The reason for its rare fame might be that it was chosen as the theme music for the early 80s TV show Na sowas!
By the 1960s, blues music had faded almost into obscurity in the USA. In the UK and parts of continental Europe, however, it began to gain a cult following. Old American blues musicians actually started to tour overseas.
Although they'd enjoyed moderate sucesses on the album charts in their native Britain with their first two albums, Def Leppard's success in America quickly overtook their popularity at home with the release of Pyromania; Phil Collen recalls the tour for that album beginning in a club in London and ending in a stadium in San Diego. The band didn't have a hit single in Britain until 1987, ten years after they formed, and even then many British listeners assumed they were Bon Jovi rip-offs (even though they pre-dated Bon Jovi) and were surprised to learn that Def Leppard were the most popular band in America.
There's a Canadian Progressive Rock band named Saga, which almost nobody has heard about. This isn't the case in Puerto Rico, where the band is so popular they even were given the keys to the city by the current mayor. Granted, the band is not bad at all, but they were overshadowed in the local and worldwide prog rock scene by their contemporaries, a simple rock trio who were later known as Rush.
Although Porcupine Tree is well-known to prog fans and have at least a cult following, in the UK and the US, they're a massive, groundbreaking band in Mexico and Netherlands. Just for the record: their last year appearance in Mexico was supposed to be a one night stand in april; half the tickets sold out through the first 2 days and they ended opening three more dates. And Netherlands was the country where their live album Anesthetize, and also their last two dates of the "Fear of a Blank Planet" world tour (sold out in case you mind), were filmed. Go figure it out.
As a matter of fact, this is the reaction to each and every Steven Wilson project in Mexico, and he is well aware of it. His project Blackfield will release a new album this year, and they will perform in Mexico in June.
This could be considered a special case of "David Hasselhoff Loves Germany". Steven is a huge fan of Mexico, and he filmed his documentary "Insurgentes" (a word of special meaning in Mexico, since that's how people address to the authors of their two biggest civil wars: the war of independence in 1810 and the mexican rebellion in 1910) in that country, most specifically in the capital city. the man himself said a car trip through the streets of downtown Mexico City is what inspired him to make this documentary, and record his first solo album (also called "Insurgentes") the way it was recorded.
They also seem to be significantly bigger in Poland than in the more traditional markets.
Korean artist BoA is hugely popular in Japan, to the point of having sung a ton of theme songs and producing numerous albums for Japan and South Korea at the same time. The Korea love hasn't stopped with her. Many native-Korean acts (especially DBSK, Girls' Generation, and KARA) have followed to gain notoriety. Most notably, in their first-year debut in Japan (both in the same year), Girls' Generation and KARA won awards and broke records on the charts.
Rural Scandinavia is dominated by a subculture known as raggare, embracing the Greaser culture, with Rockabilly music and American memorabilia from The Fifties.
Russian singer Vitas, (in)famous for his incredibly high-pitched voice, has sold millions of records in China and is largely forgotten in Russia itself.
Believe it or not, a lot of people from Caribbean countries like old 50s American pop songs that are mostly popular among old baby boomers in the U.S., mainly because of the popularity of waltz dancing. Also popular there is country music from the 60's and 70's, which often shocks people since most Caribbean countries are majority black. This is explained as being because the only American music imported into those countries during that time period was country music, and West Indians were unaware of the cultural associations that country music has in the States. This NPR article discusses how, at a reggae/danchall event in Jamaica, a Kenny Rogers song starts playing and everyone goes crazy.
Country Music is quite popular in Germany, too, and had a particular heyday in the 70s and 80s. In the south with its many American forces, people would tune in to AFN instead of German public radio stations because AFN had better music. There is quite a number of German country musicians and bands, too, particularly from the Hamburg area up north, home of Truck Stop (singing German), Gunther Gabriel (singing German) and more recently Texas Lightning of Eurovision Song Contest fame (with a Texan singer singing English). Being one of the largest European nations and a transit country, Germany has a lot of long-distance truck traffic and cultivated a somewhat romantic image of truckers in the 70s, linked with country music. One of Truck Stop's first hits shows this phenomenon: The singer is a trucker who would love to listen to Dave Dudley (the master of trucker country), Hank Snow and Charlie Pride, but he can't receive AFN where he currently is.
Israeli singer Bo‘az Ma‘uda, winner of season 5 of Kokhav Nolad (כּוֹכָב נוֹלָד, lit. ‘A Star Is Born’, the Israeli version of ‘Pop Idol’), is very popular in Eastern Europe.
The Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez, while very popular in in his native Egypt (he's considered, with fellow Egyptian Umm Kulthum and Syrian-Egyptian Farid al-Atrash to be one of the three greats of Arabic music)note Specifically, Umm Kulthum is the greatest-ever singer, Farid al-Atrash is the greatest musician, and Abdel Halim is the greatest male singer, was if anything even more popular in Morocco.
The Russian band t.A.T.u. is very popular in South America and Japan.
Of course, SNL also did a parody of t.A.T.u., but let's be honest, the Japanese parody is much better.
Manchester band James have enjoyed modest success in their native UK, but they are huge in Greece. They have had a large number of hit songs, so much so that they call the country their "second home" and visit almost every year for concerts.
Bobby Caldwell is an American R&B musician who has had a legendary 30+ year career... in Japan. His best-known song in the United States, "What You Won't Do For Love", was from his first album way back in 1978, and is probably more well-known now for having been heavily sampled by Tupac Shakur.
The popularity of The Corrs has lasted far longer in Australia than it ever did anywhere outside of Ireland and the UK.
In the sixties, a rock band called The Renegades was formed in Birmingham. They remained obscure in Britain (probably because there was a million other Beatles clones around at the time), but gained notable success in Finland and later in Italy.
Northern Soul was built on this trope. Unsold records in American warehouses made their way to the U.K. and were bought by proto-DJs to play at shows. In this way completely forgotten tracks became huge hits.
Lady Gaga, while indeed popular in the States, (though sometimes on the internet...she can be a bit of a Base Breaker here in the USA), the Japanese love her. What with her unique fashion, combined with her pop songs, you could say, she was born for Japan.
Of Monsters And Men is an Icelandic band whose first album, already available in Europe, was not scheduled for an American release until early 2012. However, due to their single "Little Talks" being played on an alt-rock radio station in Philadelphia, their overseas interest has gotten to the point where for a while, everyone posting on their Facebook wall is either from Iceland or Philadelphia. The song eventually peaked at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and #20 on the Hot 100. The band performed at many major American music festivals in 2012, all while having very minor popularity in their native Europe.
The Crüxshadows are a Florida goth/darkwave band that's little known in the US but has gotten Top 40 radio airplay in Germany.
80's hardcore punk band Flag of Democracy were one of the lesser known bands during the explosion of American hardcore during that era. However, they are very popular and influential in Japan. So much so that they even did a cover of Puffy Ami Yumi's "Umi Heto" for a Japanese compilation.
Foghat had a few hit singles in the US, but never charted in their homeland of the UK.
The song "Reflection" from Mulan has become a sort of gay anthem here in the Philippines.
Soul Coughing, a mid 1990s alternative rock band based in New York City, oddly enough has a large fan following in Minnesota. KREV/WREV/KFCE triplicast known as "Rev 105" (Now WGVX/WGVY/WGVZ), a now long defunct radio station based in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, played Soul Coughing frequently.
Swedish Power Metal band Sabaton have carved a huge following in Poland due to their song 40:1 and thanks to it they've found their way into mainstream news and done concerts in museums, even being asked to play it in the city of Gdańsk for the Polish Independence Day in 2008.
In Argentina, Megadeth has a striking huge popularity, more than they have on the rest of the countries, US included. To the point where they were the first to record a live album/DVD there: That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires. The quote on the Quotes page came from this interview after the gig which ended as the source of the live album.
Also in Argentina, The Rolling Stones. Yes, they are legends of rock everywhere, but here there is basically a subculture: "rolingas", heavily based in worker and lower classes, with its own fashion and musical genre, which they themselves never wore. When they were playing a few arenas by city in the mid nineties, they'd play to about 70,000 people each night.
In 1987, the Ramones' decided to do their first tour around South America, with shy expectations. Little they knew they would achieve such a mainstream popularity (and especially in Argentina) capable of being compared with that of The Beatles' British Invasion of the U.S. in the 1960s, further leaving a footprint in Latin America's rock music (see below) and being a unique paradox of a punk rock band with full stadiums and major companies (like Coca-Cola) sponsoring them. In 1995 in Argentina for example, they played at the Obras Sanitarias stadium... 6 NIGHTS IN A ROW. After this, they toured the country every year (starting in 1991) until the band broke up in 1996. In 1994, in the middle of a tour celebrating the band's 20th anniversary, they decided to do a gig in Argentina on May 19th (Joey Ramone's birthday). Even more, Dee Dee Ramone married with an Argentine fan and lived with her in Banfield, in the southern suburbs of Buenos Aires. One of the band's final non-festival performances (before they accepted appearing in Lollapalooza) was at the River Plate football stadium, which has a capacity for 70,000... You can see in this video filmed from inside the band's car the extent of Argentina's passion for the Ramones, and here you can search how well did in sales the Ramones albums in Argentina. Also, ex band members Marky Ramone and CJ Ramone tour Argentina (and other South American countries) every year with their current bands.
After their show in 1987, the Ramones inadvertently gave birth to a new rise of Argentine punk rock bands like Attaque 77, Flema, 2 Minutos, El Otro Yo and Expulsados along with others, which within a few years would become mainstream in other Latin American countries (especially Mexico) and further would give birth to Latin America's punk rock.
Developed in Argentina, Tango is the social dance in Finland. Note that while Tango music is fairly known worlwide thanks to its rise in the '20s, and that in its homeland is also culturally important, in Finland it has its one local subgenre. Seinäjoki is even referred as "the second world capital of tango". Colombia also is very kind towards tango, one of the reasons being the place where Carlos Gardel died in a plane accident. And also, tango is very popular in... Japan. For the record, in the 2009 Tango World Championship held in its homeland Argentina, the winner was a Japanese couple (no kidding).
Reggae in general and Bob Marley in particular is spectacularly popular in the Pacific island of New Caledonia. How popular? When one walks the streets of Nouméa, about one in four people is usually wearing Rastafarian colours and/or a Bob Marley T-shirt, and young people carry around transistor radios playing Bob Marley all the time. I caught a bus from one end of the island to the other and most of the way there were three separate radios playing different reggae tracks at all times! This appears to be identification with a fellow island culture, helped along by the fact that, as Melanesians, the native Kanaks are darker in skin-tone than most other peoples of the Pacific.
Muse is really huge in South Korea, and they are one of the most famous foreign rock bands there. Chances are six out of ten Koreans you talk to will know at least one of their songs.
Speaking of South Korea, the now infamous K-Pop scene never really took off until about the 90s or so. Before that, the biggest influence on South Korean pop culture was Cantopop, from Hongkong. In particular, Leslie Cheung, popular enough to this day to get a tribute to him at the start of the second MNet Asia Music Awards.
Gabriella Cilmi is very succesful and well liked in the UK compared to her lukewarm loving from her home country Australia,
Sopor Aeternus, German gothic/darkwave band, has a huge following in Latin America, to the point where many Youtube videos of the band's songs have comments only in Spanish. They have a sizable following in Russia and Poland as well
Inna, while modestly popular in her homeland of Romania, has a major following in the rest of Europe, the UK and even the US to some extent, thanks to YouTube.
American singer Ke, aka Kevin Grivois, while his song "Strange World" was a #1 hit on the US Billboard Dance Charts, was huge in the UK, Germany, and Italy. In fact, none of his music was actually released in the States.
Norwegian band Motorpsycho has quite of a cult following in Italy, for some reason.
British pop singer Chris DeBurgh, who was actually born in Argentina, is more popular in Brazil than in Ireland and the UK. He's also more popular in Norway and Iran.
American R&B band The Stylistics managed to be more popular in the UK. It inspired Manchester band Simply Red to do a cover of the Stylistics' biggest hit, "You Make Me Feel Brand New".
Shiv-r have been much more successful in Europe (especially Germany)) than in their home country, Australia.
A Japanese emo-punk band, Uplift Spice, isn't too terribly popular (if Oricon charts are to go by) in their home country. In France though, they are big, really big. They had a lot of airtime in Nolife channel, which broadcast J-music and anime. Thanks to that, they did a lot of concerts in France and nearly every video on Youtube is filled by French-language comments. One song in particular, "Kanojo", is usually ripped straight out of Nolife channel PV.
The novelty spoken word single "Australiana" by Austen Tayshus was big in Australia, but for some reason it was huge in Argentina, reaching #1 despite the fact that much of the slang and cultural references would have been lost on the audience. Maybe they really like puns.
Speaking of Australians having success in South America, the 80s ska/punk band Spy vs Spy were big in Brazil, where they were marketed as surf rock.
Alt-country band The Mavericks had only modest success in the US: while their albums sold well and they won a Grammy, none of their singles ever made Top 10 on the country charts or crossed over to pop. In Canada, "What a Crying Shame" and "Here Comes the Rain" both made Top 10, and a cover of the standard "Blue Moon" made #15 on the Canadian AC charts in 1995, while 1998's "Dance the Night Away" was a Top 5 hit in the UK and a minor hit in the Netherlands. Their albums also charted higher overall in the UK.
From the bridge of Steve Taylor's song "On The Fritz": "So they love Jerry Lewis in France; does that make him funny?"
Kansas City roots rock band The Rainmakers had one minor hit in the US, but they were (and continue to be) extremely popular in Norway.
Maryland-born DJ Ian Carey is much more popular in Canada.
Miley Cyrus' fame only slightly decreased since changing to a more "adult" image, but she still felt that foreign audiences would be more welcoming of her than in America. As a result, she performed exclusively overseas for her 2011 "Gypsy Heart Tour", earning over $25 million in countries like South and Central America, Australia, the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.
Glenn Gould, a pianist, is a Canadian music performer that is popular in Russia. This was reported by CBC Music, during his 80th birthday celebration.
Remember Jentina? No? Well, apparently now Italy is the only country that does, since her debut album was released only there after the success of her singles.
The Philippines absolutely adore David Archuleta. Given his startling similarities to several of the country's biggest pop stars, it's not surprising. He even made an album there consisting of covers of some OPM (Original Pinoy Music) songs (Which later got available internationally on iTunes), and even sang the theme song to a Pinoy Soap Opera there (also an OPM song he covered).
Thanks to the viral YouTube video, the K-pop song "Gangnam Style" by PSY has hit it big in the US and Western Europe. Eastern Europe and South America had already succumbed to cultural technology and already had K-pop airplay. Before "Gangnam Style", playing a song on a Top 40 station in America that wasn't in English or Spanish was unheard of.
Korean boyband EXO have garnered a huge international following to the point where they are one of the most popular tags on tumblr, despite their debut song only peaking at 41 on the South Korea Gaon Single Chart
The Youngblood Brass Band, which is a fusion of a brass band and Rap, is much more popular over in Europe, constantly touring there. The only return to the US every now and then to do a show in their hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.
Kings Of Leon were initially more popular in the UK than in the US, scoring nine Top 40 singles and having all of their albums peak in the Top 5 of the album chart. While they've since broken out in the US as well, "Use Somebody" remains their only real pop hit there.
While having a small cult following in their native U.S., Sparks was greeted with success mirroring Beatlemania in England when their third album, Kimono My House, was released in 1974.
Diana Ross's "If We Hold on Together" — yes, the Award Bait Song from The Land Before Time — was so popular in Japan that it remained #1 on Oricon International charts for 12 weeks and was even used as a theme song for a Japanese drama.
When the Dixie Chicks made their political statement about how ashamed they were of representing the same state as then-President Bush, their popularity declined in the United States. However, said statements won them a lot of new fans in Canada (to the point where their following tour had many added Canadian shows to replace canceled American shows) and a small following in Europe as well.
Everclear was more popular in Australia than the US in the Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow era. The song "Local God" was practically ignored in the US, but received a lot of airplay in Australia because it was released on the William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet soundtrack when the band's Australian fandom was at its peak. It was included as a bonus track on Australian copies of So Much for the Afterglow. Unfortunately the band's popularity also waned faster over there.
Elton John usually only plays "Skyline Pigeon" in Brazil, where the piano version (an outtake first available as a B-side to "Daniel") got much airplay.
Brazilian band Paralamas do Sucesso was shocked to see that during the period that they were down in popularity, their songs were really huge in Argentina, resulting in an album with their songs in Spanish, many sold out concerts there, and a album that flopped in Brazil but was sold well with the hermanos (but the tour for that album, and resulting live record, lead to a resurgence in their homeland).
British pop star Robbie Williams is just as successful in Latin America as he is in Europe.
Arkona, Russian pagan metal band, is more popular in other European countries and North America than in their native Russia. It may have to do with foreigners finding the Russian language interesting.
KISS don't play "I Was Made For Loving You" at home in America where the song is absolutely loathed. In Germany, on the other hand, it was their biggest hit.
The first country beyond the United Kingdom that really took to David Bowie was Japan. The fact that his Glam Rock "look" was heavily inspired by Japanese fashion (in particular the work of designer Kansai Yamamoto, who would create some of his later costumes) and Kabuki theater certainly contributed to this. He's given special attention to the country for years — he did a TV commercial for sake in 1980 and wrote an instrumental piece for the ad ("Crystal Japan") that became a single there. And five of his seven studio albums from 1993 onward each have a bonus track that is, at least initially, exclusive to the Japanese release.
The Mark & Clark Band, an American band fronted by identical twin singing pianists Mark and Clark Seymour, are unknown in their native land. However, their epic eight-minute 1977 single “Worn Down Piano” became a major hit and enduring pop classic in the Netherlands.
Country singer Billie Jo Spears was modestly successful on the country charts in the US, but had a bout of major pop stardom in the UK.
Lindsey Stirling's self-titled album peaked at number 79 in the US but hit the top ten in several European countries.
In classical music, the Japanese positively adore Frederic Chopin. The International Chopin Piano Competition in Poland, where pianists from all around the world come to play Chopin's music and are judged on their performance, always have multiple Japanese competitors. Why else do you think they made a video game about him?
The Offspring, though by no means small in their home territory of the US during their heyday, are disproportionately huge in Australia, still headlining festivals a decade and a half after their peak.
After the crowd's positive response to "Spare Me the Details" at a Sydney show in 2013, Dexter Holland remarked "we can't play that one back home".
It's rumoured that Flight of the Conchords failed to get their projects funded in their home country of New Zealand because their humour was deemed "too local". However, when their fictionalised lives became first a BBC radio series in UK and then a HBO TV series in United States, they became a Cult Classic, finally earning a recognition in New Zealand.
Sparklehorse wasn't big anywhere, but bigger in the UK than the US.
Laura Cantrell is bigger in the UK than the US and tours there regularly. This no doubt has a lot to do with the endorsement of John Peel, who said of her debut "it is my favourite record of the last ten years, possibly my life".
Wigan in Greater Manchester, United Kingdom is certainly one place that this trope goes Up to Eleven, for the following acts:
Their look and style tends to be emulated, especially given that Wigan has garnered a reputation for unusual fashions amongst women and following fashionable female celebs.
Rick Springfield was extremely popular in the US in the 80s as opposed to lower reception in his native Australia.
Bad Boys Blue - a German-based pop group consisting of an Englishman, a Jamaican, and an American - was one of the first pop acts to achieve popularity in the Glasnost-era Soviet Union.
Californian Indie Pop trio HAIM has received much more fame and success in Britain and Australia then their native US. They topped the BBC sound of 2013 and since the release of their debut album have reached the number 1 and number 2 spots on the album charts in the UK and Australia respectively.
Opera composer Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) was famous enough in his native Germany, but in Paris people went nuts over him and the entire music scene there divided into two parties over his new kind of opera. It is said that when a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart went on tour to Paris, his lack of success was attributable to him not taking a position on Gluck, so he was largely ignored by both the Gluckites and the anti-Gluckites.
Speaking of Mozart, his operas were appreciated and fêted much more in Prague than in Vienna (where he lived), which is why he always felt much more happy when he went to Prague.
Roy Orbison, while... kinda forgotten in te USA, was always recalled fondly in Australia and Britain. And adored in Bulgaria. He dropped by there in 1980 and got mobbed by Bulgarian fans like in The Sixties!
While Iron Maiden is popular everywhere, Chileans absolutely adore them. This may or may not come from how they were banned from performing in Chile in the early nineties... for supposedly being "satanic". But ever since the ban was lifted, every time they dropped by they've been total hits.
Barry Cryer is best known in Britain as a radio comedian and comedy writer. He is known only as a respected elder statesman of stand-up comedy. But in 1957, his brief foray into singing earned him one big number one single hit. In Finland.
Yohio, a rock star from Sweden is very popular in Japan.
Atomic Kitten were popular enough in their native UK. However they also managed to achieve four number 1 singles in New Zealand where their stuff was never promoted. It was also a given that if their single didn't chart well in the UK, it would fare better in other countries. Their low selling final single reached number 1 in Taiwan.