Hit or Miss: North American songs that failed to chart in the US, and their successes abroad

With the advent of the Internet and streaming services such as YouTube and Spotify, music has become more readily accessible, in terms of both delivery platform and price. In turn, this has allowed for greater exposure for musical groups, both foreign and domestic, as users share music with each other effortlessly after a few simple clicks. Streaming services have had such a major impact on popular music that Billboard Magazine, which produces internationally recognized record charts each week, tweaked its algorithms to include on-demand streaming of individual songs to calculate its charts.

Before the addition of streaming music plays, Billboard’s charts, along with most other international record charts, were constructed according to record sales (physical, and later digital). Radio was the most ubiquitous form of advertising and marketing musical groups, and the lack of open, easy, and inexpensive communication across the world created musical markets that were distinct from one another: what you heard in London would differ from what you heard in Berlin (and further still, it could differ between East and West Berlin).

Of course, there were still international sensations (see the British Invasion), but on the whole, becoming a global hit was a more difficult achievement; artists were more likely to have regional success, simply by proximity. North-American artists would be more likely to sell well in North America, but there’s no guarantee for success in, say, the European markets.

But what about artists that had little-to-no success within their own regional markets? Would North American groups that floundered in the United States have any semblance of a chance in world markets?

In some instances, there was hope! Without further adieux, I present 15 songs by North American artists that reached number one on international singles charts (along with additional charts where the song was within the top 10), while failing to enter the US Billboard Hot 100.

N.B.: If you haven’t heard the artist or song, check out the accompanying YouTube clip and decide for yourself if they were snubbed in the US.

Anastacia – “Left Outside Alone” (2004)

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

Italian Singles Chart Position: #1

Spanish Singles Chart Position: #1

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #2

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #2

Danish Singles Chart Position: #2

Irish Singles Chart Position: #2

German Singles Chart Position: #2

Romanian Singles Chart Position: #2

UK Singles Chart Position: #3

Hungarian Singles Chart Position: #3

Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chart Position: #5

Finnish Singles Chart Position: #6

Swedish Singles Chart Position: #6

Belgian (Wallonia) Singles Chart Position: #7

French Singles Chart Position: #9

Aventura – “Obsesion” (2004)

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #1

Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chart Position: #1

French Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #1

Italian Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

Belgian (Wallonia) Singles Chart Position: #2

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #4

Run DMC vs Jason Nevins – “It’s Like That” (1997)

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

UK Singles Chart Position: #1

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #1

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #1

Finnish Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

Swedish Singles Chart Position: #1

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #2

Belgium (Wallonia) Singles Chart Position: #2

Belgium (Flanders) Singles Chart Position: #2

The Kelly Family – “I Can’t Help Myself” (1996)

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #1

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #2

Michael Jackson – “Earth Song” (1995) – Note: this entry is allowed on a technicality, but worth noting

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart (only released as a radio single, so did not chart)

Belgium (Flanders) Singles Chart Position: #1

Belgium (Wallonia) Singles Chart Position: #1

Danish Singles Chart Position: #1

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

Finnish Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #1

Spanish Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

UK Singles Chart Position: #1

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #2

French Singles Chart Position: #2

Swedish Singles Chart Position: #4

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #4

Italian Singles Chart Position: #6

Lionel Richie – “My Destiny” (1992)

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #4

UK Singles Chart Position: #7

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #8

 

David Hasselhoff – “Looking for Freedom” (1988)

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

German Singles Chart Position: #1

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

French Singles Chart Position: #12

Womack & Womack – Teardrops/Conscious of My Conscience (1988) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #2

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #2

UK Singles Chart Position: #3

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #4

French Singles Chart Position: #4

Irish Singles Chart Position: #4

Swedish Singles Chart Position: #14

Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares for Me/Love Me or Leave Me (1987) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #5

UK Singles Chart Position: #5

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #8

French Singles Chart Position: #9

Joe Dolce – Shaddap You Face/Ain’t in No Hurry (1980) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

UK Singles Chart Position: #1

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #2

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #4

Swedish Singles Chart Position: #5

Randy Crawford – One Day I’ll Fly Away/Last Night at Danceland (1980) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chart Position: #1

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #1

UK Singles Chart Position: #2

Telly Savalas – Some Broken Hearts Never Mend/Look What You’ve Done To Me (1980) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #1

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #2

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #4

German Singles Chart Position: #5

The Manhattan Transfer – Chanson d’amour/Popsicle Toes (1976) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #1

UK Singles Chart Position: #1

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #6

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #6

Barbi Benton – Ain’t That Just the Way (That Life Goes Down)/The Reverend Bob (1976) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

Swedish Singles Chart Position: #1

Norwegian Singles Chart Position: #2

Telly Savalas (he’s back!) – If/Rubber Bands and Bits of String (1974) [Single]

US Billboard Hot 100 Position: did not chart

UK Singles Chart Position: #1

German Singles Chart Position: #4

Swiss Singles Chart Position: #4

Dutch Singles Chart Position: #11

Austrian Singles Chart Position: #14