Random

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 in the US had one song that peaked at #51. He had more success in the UK.
  • 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.
  • Michigan-based comedic act Da Yoopers has been around since 1975, self-releasing comedy albums since 1986. Though known mainly in Michigan for their regionally topical songs such as "Second Week of Deer Camp" and "Rusty Chevrolet," the band has received regular airplay on Dr Demento shows. None of their songs have ever charted.
  • 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.
  • The Drive-By Truckers have released 8 albums in 9 years, but have no chart success.
  • Generally this will happen to peddlers of Album Oriented Rock — 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. He 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 Nineties (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", 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.
  • 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.
  • Progressive Rock band Gentle Giant's biggest hit was their album Free Hand which managed to get up to #48 in the U.S. And these guys lasted for 11 albums before breaking up.
  • The 4˝-decade career of NRBQ would qualify as legendary if it hadn't happened almost completely under the radar. The now-familiar epithet "Greatest Band you've Never Heard Of" was originally coined in the '70s to describe them.
    • On the other hand, group member Al Anderson has made a name for himself as a Country Music songwriter.
  • 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.
  • John Otway
  • 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.
  • The Free Design
  • 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.
  • Melvins have been around since 1983, released their first album in 1987, and have put out 19 studio albums note . Three of those albums have gotten onto Billboard's "Heatseekers", and one also made it onto the "Independent Albums" chart, but they've never had any true hits.
  • 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 Céline 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.
  • Country band BR549 recorded consistently from 1996 to 2006, but they didn't make Top 40 once, and only charted three times overall (and all three chart entries were off their debut).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Clinton Gregory, a country singer who has been active since 1990 and charted 11 times, never had a major hit on the country charts. There was actually a point in 1991 where he was the only independently signed artist on the charts. Despite his lack of chart success, he still has a small following to this day, with nine albums.
  • 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.