Total injustice: How did these amazing singers never have a top 10 Billboard hit?


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It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s true and bears repeating — a lot of popular music is terrible, and a lot of great music never gets popular. We would love to pretend it was otherwise, but it’s been a truism ever since they had to bury Mozart in a pauper’s grave.


While there have been very few modern-day Mozarts, there have still been plenty of contemporary musicians with a lot of talent and a lot to offer who have never seen the upper reaches of the Billboard charts. That includes the following 10 artists, who prove that all the talent in the world won’t necessarily buy you a hit single.

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1. Nick Cave

Nick Cave has been a beloved musical figure since the 1980s, both as a solo artist and with his backing band, the Bad Seeds. Sadly, this has not done him a bit of good on the Billboard charts, but it’s okay. If he has trouble sleeping at night due to his lack of stateside chart success, he can always take comfort in the fact that he has legions of hardcore fans who have stayed by his side for decades.


Image Credit: NPK/Flickr.

2. The Velvet Underground

The saying goes that very few people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but the few people who did all went on to form their own bands. That must have been cold comfort to the group, whose albums struggled to make it into the Billboard Top 200, but people are still talking about them and listening to them today, while many bands who charted higher than they did have been forgotten.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

3. PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey got lots of stateside airplay during the 1990s, as she and a slew of other alternative rock acts became the favorites of radio programmers everywhere. She didn’t do too badly on the charts either, with three top 40 albums to her credit. However, the top 10 eluded her, and she never had that one monster hit single to put her over the top. In fairness, she’s never seemed to care about that at all, and she released a well-received album, “I Inside the Old Year Dying,” in July of 2023, so clearly, she’s not crying over not selling albums in Mariah Carey quantities.

Image Credit: PJ Harvey by Dave Mitchell (Plastic Jesus)/ Flickr (None).

4. Tom Waits

For someone as well-known as Tom Waits, it’s surprising that in all his decades as a performer, he never had a top 10 hit. Of course, when you listen to his gravelly singing voice that’s meant to recall Louis Armstrong, it becomes a lot less mysterious. Having said that, his catalog is full of brilliant and timeless music, should you acquire the taste.

Image Credit: Gut (Anna Wittenberg) / Wiki Commons.

5. Hüsker Dü

During the grunge revolution of the 1990s, one band was regularly named by all the popular new flannel flyers as a primary inspiration – Minneapolis’ Hüsker Dü. The band was only on the scene for a few years and broke up in 1987, years before they could elbow their way into the alternative scene that they had inspired, but they’re still remembered fondly today while many of the bands they inspired have been forgotten.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

6. Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson’s career dates back to his tenure with Fairport Convention in the 1960s, and since then, he’s never slowed down, releasing a staggering number of albums that are beyond counting by all but his most diehard fans. He’s never had anything remotely resembling a hit, but he’s one of the best guitar players out there and deserves every bit of his loyal following.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

7. Siouxsie and the Banshees

Siouxsie and the Banshees are goth royalty, creating beloved records for people in dour moods since the 1970s. Despite their high profile and genuinely great music, the band never got above number 65 on the Billboard charts for their 1991 album “Superstition.” The band broke up in 1996, but since Siouxsie is only 66, we can hope she’ll want to come back and show the kids how it should be done.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

8. Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti was known as “The King of Afrobeat.” While audiences in the United States may not have had him on their radar during his 1970s glory days, his association with former Cream drummer Ginger Baker could have been parlayed into a higher profile stateside. Sadly, it was not to be, and Kuti never landed anywhere near the Billboard Top 10. He passed away in 1997.

Image Credit: Alain Guilloux/YouTube.

9. Merle Haggard

It may come as a shock, but Merle Haggard never had a Billboard Top 10 hit. Yes, he topped the country charts countless times, but he never had that one crossover hit like Dolly Parton had with ‘9 to 5’ to make him a pop music success. At the same time, few artists are as associated with stone-cold, hardcore country as Merle, so maybe that’s okay.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

10. Tori Amos


Tori Amos has done well when it comes to selling albums, as eight of them to date have made the Billboard Top 10. However, as far as singles were concerned, it’s a different story. 1998’s “Spark” was her highest-charting single ever, peaking at number 49 on the Billboard Top 10. However, she remains a popular live attraction with a solid and loyal fan base, so the lack of hit singles hasn’t hurt her.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

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