Making it in the USA is a dream of many music acts – mainly because the American market is extremely lucrative. But not everybody who has reached stardom internationally has been able to crack the US. Here are five superstars who found themselves locked out of American success.
1. Robbie Williams
In the history of music there will likely to be no internationally famous singer more ignored by the US than Robbie Williams. Take That, the band in which he began his career, did reach the Top 10 with Back for Good but as a solo artist Williams not only hasn’t had a US Top 10, he hasn’t even hit the US Top 40. This despite having released, or been featured on, over 50 singles since going solo in 1996. He has hit the top spot of the singles charts in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. He’s had seven #1 UK singles and sold over 75 million records worldwide. Yet he has only twice hit the US Hot 100, reaching #53 with the ballad Angels and #72 with Millennium. Angels did reach #10 on the Adult Contemporary but that is almost insultingly ironic considering Williams cultivated a “bad boy of pop” image. Also ironically, although Williams’ Take That band mate Gary Barlow has only enjoyed a small amount of solo success he took his one US hit So Help Me Girl to #44 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, besting Williams’ American success.
Releasing their first single in 1994, boy band Boyzone reached #1 nine times in their native Ireland and six times in the UK. Their cover of the Bee Gees’ Words hit the top ten worldwide, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden. Their single No Matter What was an even bigger international hit going to the #1 in not just Ireland and the UK but also Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Taiwan and Denmark. Reports put their total record sales worldwide at over 25 million. But they have never hit the US Hot 100. Ronan Keating is the Boyzone member with the most success away from the group but despite multiple worldwide #1s he has only managed to take his song Lovin’ Each Day to #32 on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart.
Effectively Boyzone Version 2 (they were created by Boyzone manager Louis Walsh and co-managed by Ronan Keating), Westlife were even more successful than the original with twelve Irish and thirteen UK #1s. Unlike Boyzone they actually did manage to hit the US Hot 100, their first single Swear It Again reaching #20. Despite major international successes such as If I Let You Go, My Love, Queen of My Heart and a remake of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl they have never had another US hit.
4. John Farnham
Although Farnham had US hits during his time as lead singer of Little River Band, he has had almost none as a solo star. Farnham’s first wave of solo stardom came as a 1960s Australian teen idol with over thirty singles – none of which broke through significantly outside of his home country. It was his post-LRB career that saw him attain international success, beginning in 1986 with You’re The Voice, a #1 in Australia, Sweden and Germany that also reached the top 10 in a multitude of other nations. He has major success since, mostly in his home country but also in places such as New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. However You’re The Voice is his only US hit, skimming the outer reaches of the Hot 100 at #82.
5. Wet Wet Wet
Scottish band Wet Wet Wet formed in 1982 but broke through in 1987 with their album Popped In Souled Out. They hit the top of the UK charts three times, most notably with a remake of the Troggs song Love Is All Around. That spent 15 weeks at #1 and also reached the summit in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands Australia, Sweden and New Zealand. In France, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland and Italy it went to #2. But it could only make it to #8 on the US Adult Contemporary Chart and #41 on the Hot 100. During their career they released a total of 30 singles but despite having #1s and top 10s with many of them in other territories they reached the US Hot 100 only one other time, their first single Wishing I Was Lucky hit #58.