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No Hit Wonder

"We are not Smash Mouth; we do not have a radio hit. We're not a One-Hit Wonder, we're a ten year failure."
Chris Demakes of Less Than Jake

The music business can be quite fickle. For every One-Hit Wonder, there's at least one act who manages a streak of hits that lasts for decades, or at least a handful of big hits.

Then there's the No Hit Wonder, an artist who proves commercially successful, or at least manages to have a long career, without having a hit at all. While there are other ways an artist can achieve success besides having hits (such as album sales and concert attendance), it's considered rare since album sales are generally driven by popularity of individual songs, and artists with no hits tend not to develop enough of a fanbase to make their concerts well-attended. In many cases, a No Hit Wonder will have had singles that never went anywhere on the charts, but which are still well-known and well-loved by a large number of people. See also Hitless Hit Album.


Examples:

  • Bob Marley, despite his historical significance, had one song in the US charts that peaked at #51: "Roots Rock Reggae" from Rastaman Vibration. He had more success worldwide.
  • Ryan Adams has had only two charting singles stateside (yes, one of them is his near-hit "New York, New York"), but both peaked so low they might as well have not charted. Internationally, he's had more luck, with six hits in the UK.
  • Famed Canadian roots rock group The Band was one of the most influential groups of the late 60s and early 70s, but never had a song reach the Top 20 in the USA. (They did have two albums go gold and reach the top ten).
  • Comedian Tim Wilson recorded from 1993 to 2014, mixing live stand-up comedy with comedic songs, done either live or in studio. Despite his lack of chart success, Wilson was a regular fixture on The Bob & Tom Show and had album sales in the millions.
  • Rodney Carrington, even after getting an ABC sitcom that lasted two full seasons. He finally managed to crack the Top 40 in late 2009 with a dead-serious Christmas song that got to #31.
  • Led Zeppelin's sole entries on the UK singles chart are a couple of rereleases. They never released singles in their home country until they broke up. They were more successful overseas; "Whole Lotta Love" hit the top five in nine countries.
  • Limp Bizkit has sold over 40 million records worldwide, but they never had a Top 40 hit on the Hot 100. Their best performance was "Rollin'", which peaked at #65.
  • Generally this will happen to peddlers of Album Oriented Rock Ś the word "album" should clue you in that they don't tend to have hit singles.
  • Also common in Texas; countless country/Americana/red dirt acts will build enormous fanbases through clubs and sell hundreds of thousands of albums, but never break through into the mainstream. Examples include Cross Canadian Ragweed and Randy Rogers Band.
  • Doctor Steel has a large and growing fanbase, but only released five albums (three of those via digital download) and never charted.
  • Phish. They came close to a mainstream pop hit a couple of times (with "Free" in 1996 and "Heavy Things" in 2000) but fell quite short both times.
  • Jeff Buckley never hit the Billboard Hot 100, and his only album (Grace) didn't even hit the top 100 of the albums chart (it peaked at #149).
    • Though Buckley would have had a hit if not for Billboard's rules regarding recurrents (which have since changed) because his cover of "Hallelujah" topped iTunes after being performed on American Idol, but it was deemed ineligible.
  • Whereas the other big third wave ska groups in The '90s (No Doubt, Sublime, Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) managed at least one hit single at the peak of the ska revival, Less Than Jake continues to be the only one that hasn't charted very highly but remains popular as a live act.
  • Country-rapper Colt Ford has had impressive grassroots levels of album sales despite having singles that got no higher than #40.
  • The Ramones. One of the most influential bands of all time. Highest charting single? "Rockaway Beach" from Rocket To Russia, which only made #66 on the US Pop chart in 1978.
  • The Velvet Underground, who barely scraped the lowest part of the Billboard chart with their first two albums The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat.
  • Judas Priest. Their biggest hit "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" peaked at #67.
  • Cledus T. Judd, a country music parodist, has been constantly recording since 1995. He didn't even chart until 2000, and his best chart entry is #48 country. Yet he's recorded over a dozen albums and even had one go gold without a charting single.
  • Wire. Did well on the Independent Music charts, but for the most part have remained just under the radar since their formation. Almost had hits with "Outdoor Miner" and "Kidney Bingos".
  • Folk-rock and children's music duo Trout Fishing In America has been recording regularly since 1992, but despite a couple Grammy nominations, they've never had a single hit.
  • Tom Waits has been steadily releasing music for almost four decades and has yet to have a hit single, even though his highest-charting album, Bad As Me peaked at #6 on the billboard charts. He seems to be a popular cover choice though, as Rod Stewart took a cover of Waits' "Downtown Train" to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and yet, in a stunning aversion of Covered Up, Waits' version still remains the more famous version).
  • Yo La Tengo has never had a hit single, yet they're darlings of the indie world and have had a long, successful career.
  • Dropkick Murphys have never charted on any singles chart (nope, not even the Billboard Modern Rock Chart) despite steady album sales and massive regional popularity in the New England area of the United States. In fact, their song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" is one of few songs to ever sell over 1,000,000 digital copies in the United States without ever charting on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Welsh Psychedelic folk band Gorky's Zygotic Mynci is probably one of the more unfortunate examples of this trope. Despite decent album sales, critical acclaim on both sides of the pond, a cult following and the endorsement of beloved BBC DJ and indie tastemaker John Peel, the band failed to have any of their singles make the Top 40 in the UK. In fact, they had singles that charted at #41, #42, #43, #47 and #49. The fact that they sounded nothing like the other contemporary young British guitar bands at the time probably only further hindered their chart success.
    • "Indie" tastemaker being the key - although Peel was much respected, his influence on the mainstream was minimal, and a great many of the acts he championed suffered the same fate, from comedy song specialists Half Man Half Biscuit to British reggae group Misty In Roots. The band most associated with his patronage, The Fall, did actually avert the trope, but did so with Covered Up versions of Kinks and R. Dean Taylor songs rather than their more idiosyncratic original material.
  • Primus (and their many, many splinter acts) only managed to land a #62 single (#12 in the UK) with "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver", and Top 10 albums with Pork Soda and Tales From The Punchbowl in 1993 and 1995 respectively, but have kept a loyal following since their formation in 1984.
  • King Crimson has been around since the sixties, has had multiple band members, many of whom have worked with some of the biggest names in rock music, and has inspired most prog-rock bands of the last few decades, yet they are mostly unknown by the mainstream.
  • Country music duo Corbin/Hanner is an interesting example. Despite several charting singles between 1979 and 1993, they never entered Top 40 on the country charts. However, many stations play their "Work Song" on Monday mornings.
  • Pavement is one of the most acclaimed indie bands of all time and its first two albums are both considered classics, but the only mainstream singles chart the band ever appeared on was the UK chart, with several singles charting, but none higher than #27 and only two in the top 40.
  • While Josh Groban has only been around for just over a decade, he has managed five platinum albums (including the Christmas one) and was ranked the number one biggest selling artist in 2007. His biggest Billboard hit is his duet of "The Prayer" with CÚline Dion, which peaked at #70. He's had somewhat better chart success in Canada, but even there his biggest hit charted at #25.
  • Country Music singer Katie Armiger has been recording since 2007. She's amassed seven albums and put out 13 singles, but her best showing yet is #42.
  • Billy Joe Shaver is considered one of the pioneers of the "outlaw country" genre of the 1970s, but he has almost no chart action whatsoever to speak of despite his popularity.
  • They Might Be Giants is a US example, never hitting the Billboard Hot 100 but getting to Number 3 in the UK charts for "Birdhouse in Your Soul" (and 23 for "Boss of Me").
  • Dream Theater has been successful for over 20 years, but they've only had one hit, "Pull Me Under." They mocked this with their Greatest Hits compilation "Dream Theater's Greatest Hit (and 21 Other Really Cool Songs)".
  • Insane Clown Posse have one of the most dedicated fanbases in music, and have been well-known for over 20 years. And yet, though many of their albums have reached the top 20, they've never had a hit song - their highest-charting was "Santa's a Fat Bitch", which peaked at #67 in 1998, though "Hokus Pokus" did reach #53 in the UK.
  • How about the classics? Look no further than Constantino Dall'Argine (1842-1877), who hailed from from Parma and was never heard of again after his version of The Barber of Seville failed in Bologna in 1868 — and it was set to the same libretto used by the person to which it was dedicated, Gioachino Rossini, who died just two days after its premiere.
  • Bob Rivers is the second most well-known parody artist ever (way behind "Weird Al" Yankovic), but unlike Al has never had a hit song. His most well-known song, "The Twelve Pains of Christmas", only gets sparse radio airplay every holiday season.
  • Canadian country singer Lisa Brokop, at least in the US. Among her first three American albums (two for Capitol Records, one for Columbia Records), she had nothing chart higher than #52 on the country charts, and no chart action whatsoever from any subsequent releases. However, she has been fairly popular in Canada both before and after said albums.
  • Despite being very influential in launching all-female bands and originating Underwear of Power for female artists, The Runaways never had a hit song. They were, however, very popular in Japan.
  • Modern English might be considered a One-Hit Wonder by some people. Unfortunately, said "hit," "I Melt With You," peaked only at #76.
  • The Clash were famous for a time as the band to have released the most UK singles without ever hitting the singles Top Ten, until the uncharacteristic "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" hit number one after being used in an advert.
  • Arctic Monkeys are one of the biggest indie acts right now, however their only song to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100 is "Do I Wanna Know?", which peaked at #70. They are more successful on the charts in their native UK, however.
  • Nickel Creek, despite being one of the most famous "newgrass" (modern bluegrass) acts, never once hit Top 40 on the country charts. This is par for the course for bluegrass acts, however.
  • Canadian electropop artist Lights, who has two gold albums and no hits outside her native country, and only a few in it.
  • Banks didn't have any of her songs reach the Hot 100, with only "Beggin For Thread" hitting #16 in the Bubbling Under charts, though it has seen some alternative radio airplay.
  • Captain Beefheart: one of the most influential Avant-garde Music artists of all time, never scored one hit in his career.
  • Michael Bublé has six platinum albums. His biggest single is "Haven't Met You Yet", which peaked at #25 in the US.
  • Country Music singer Junior Brown is one of the more famous guitarists in the genre, due in part to his "guit-steel", a hybrid of electric guitar and lap steel. His songs "Highway Patrol" (a Red Simpson cover) and "My Wife Thinks You're Dead") are also well known, but they only got to #73 and #68 on the country charts and are his only chart entries.
  • The Mavericks were one of the more popular alternative-country bands of The '90s, with several Grammy wins and multi-platinum album sales. However, their chart showings were sparse: only six of their singles even hit Top 40 on the country charts, with their best showing ("All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down") only reaching #13.
  • British indie rock band The Heavy doesn't see any airplay of their music in the U.S., and their only song to get any sort of regular airplay in their native UK was "What Makes A Good Man?". Furthermore, their only album to chart on the U.S. Billboard 200 was The Glorious Dead, which only peaked at #191. This might come as a surprise for some people, considering that their songs are all over advertisements, movie credits, and video game soundtracks, you could be forgiven for thinking they would be more commercially successful.
  • Australian singer Natale Imbruglia is often thought of as a one-hit wonder in the U.S., however her one hit "Torn" (which was Covered Up from the band Ednaswap) fell short of the Top 40 peaking at #42. This is a little understandable, however, as it was all over the airwaves upon release and spent a whopping 14 weeks atop the AC charts. It also was subject to a chart quirk that prevented songs that weren't released as singles from being let onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • British-Jamaican rapper Slick Rick had a Gold-certified single with "The Show" in 1985, dominated the hip hop and R&B charts betweeen 1988 and 2001,note  and all but one of his albums (Behind Bars, which peaked at #51) peaked in the top 40 of the Billboard 200. Despite this, he only has one top 100 single: the title track of Behind Bars, which only peaked at #87 before dropping off the chart.
  • Tech N9ne has sold over two million albums, garnered legions of loyal fans known as "Techn9cians", and has become one of the most respected figures in hip-hop. Only one song has entered the Hot 100, 2015's "Hood Go Crazy" (featuring 2 Chainz and B.o.B.), which peaked at #90.
  • Bj÷rk is well known to the public for her behavior, outrageous costumes, and nationality. However, few people can actually name any of her songs. That said, she's managed to get two songs into the Hot 100 — "Big Time Sensuality" in 1993 (peaking at #88) and "Earth Intruders" in 2007 (peaking at #84).
  • New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden are one of the biggest, most respected Heavy Metal bands of all time and a mainstay of rock radio stations worldwide. Naturally, they haven't had one single enter the American Hot 100.
  • Rage Against the Machine was one of the most popular rock acts of the '90s and helped popularize Rap Metal, which lead to the Nu Metal explosion that happened later in the decade. Highest charting single? "Bulls On Parade", which peaked at #62. This is averted in the UK, where "Killing in the Name" actually topped the charts in Christmas 2009... 17 years after its release.
  • The video game EarthBound Beginnings had a full soundtrack released in Japan, with English vocals, mainly done with British unknowns. The most noteworthy was Catherine Warwick, who was 14 when she recorded "Pollyanna', "Bein' Friends" and "Wisdom Of The World". These songs are well-known now thanks to the EarthBound franchise gaining a worldwide following. However, her solo career after that tanked. Her first and only single release in the UK was the mediocre "Marine Boy" with b-side "Taxi Driver" which charted quite low and killed a solo career. She would show up a few years later as part of the girl duo Those 2 Girls, with this... with a b-side of this..... that also failed to chart and the group went nowhere. She vanished shortly after that and hasn't had a music career since nor has the EarthBound fan community even been able to locate her, and is now really only known for the EarthBound songs, and even those didn't become a worldwide hit until well over a decade after they came out in Japan. One could likely blame this on the fact she had talent, but her solo career wasted it on attempted pop hits that didn't showcase that talent.
  • The Strokes helped popularize the garage rock revival movement and were one of the biggest indie rock bands of the early-2000s. They only had one song chart on the Hot 100: "Juicebox", which only peaked at #98.
  • Jane's Addiction was one of the most influential bands in Alternative Metal. Their only chart entry? 2003's "Just Because", which only peaked at #72.
  • Alice in Chains is widely regarded as the heaviest grunge band of all. Naturally, they're the only one of the Big Four (the others being Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden) to have never hit the Top 40, their highest charter "No Excuses" falling just short at #48.
  • Scatman John only got to #60 with his most famous song, "Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop)" and never charted stateside again. However, he was more successful internationally.
  • Pentatonix are a huge phenomenon, with That's Christmas to Me becoming the best-selling Christmas album since Michael Buble's Christmas. They've charted two Christmas songs in the top 40 through digital sales, but not much else.
  • Sum 41 was one of the biggest Pop Punk bands in the world during early-'00s. Their only charter in the US? "Fat Lip", which only reached #66.
  • Three Days Grace has been recording since 2003, but their biggest hit is "Pain" which peaked at #44. Though like Jeff Buckley and Natalie Imbruglia, they were screwed out of a hit by chart rules since their song "Never Too Late" was a big crossover hit, but due to the time it spent in the bottom half of the charts during its run on rock radio, it was deemed ineligible to re-enter due to recurrent rules (which has since changed) by the time it was sent to pop radio, and was stuck at its #71 peak.
  • LCD Soundsystem have a dedicated fanbase, with their third album, This Is Happening, debuting in the top ten of the Billboard 200. None of their songs have ever reached the Hot 100.
  • Deftones are one of the most acclaimed Alternative Metal bands of all time, and a major Ensemble Darkhorse of Nu Metal. However they never appeared on the Hot 100. The closest they got was their signature "Change (In the House of Flies), which fell five spaces short.
  • Little Mix have 3 certified platinum albums and are one of the most prominent girl groups today, yet only 2 of their songs have entered the Hot 100 charts ("Wings" and "Black Magic").
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NoHitWonder