In the entertainment industry, a sleeper hit is a film, television series, music release, video game or some other entertainment product that is initially unsuccessful on release but becomes a big success later on. A sleeper hit may have little promotion or lack a successful launch, but then garner a fan following that rewards it media attention, which in turn increases its public exposure and public interest in the product.
Some sleeper hits in the film industry are strategically marketed for audiences subtly, such as with sneak previews a couple of weeks prior to release, without making them feel obliged to see a heavily promoted film. This alternative form of marketing strategy has been used in sleeper hits such as Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), There's Something About Mary (1998), and The Sixth Sense (1999).
Screenings for these films are held in an area conducive to the film's demographic. In the case of Sleepless in Seattle, a romantic comedy, screenings were held at suburban shopping malls where romantic couples in their mid 20s to early 30s spent Saturday afternoons before seeing a new film. In theory, a successful screening leads to word-of-mouth marketing, as it compels viewers to discuss an interesting, low-key film with co-workers when they return to work after their weekend.
Easy Rider (1969), which was created on a budget of less than $400,000, became a sleeper hit by earning $50 million and garnering attention from younger audiences with its combination of drugs, violence, motorcycles, counter-culture stance, and rock music.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) was considered a flop for the first 6 months of its release until it found popularity in midnight screenings. A Christmas Story (1983) was initially a modest success with little promotion,but after Ted Turner purchased the MGM backcatalog a few years later and began rerunning the film on his cable networks every December, it became an iconic Christmas classic.
The 1979 Australian film Mad Max , which sprung from the Ozploitation movement and helped to popularise the post-apocalyptic dystopia genre, held the record for the biggest profit-to-cost ratio for several years until it was broken in 1999 by The Blair Witch Project , also a sleeper hit.
The independent film Halloween , which played over the course of fall 1978 through fall 1979 and relied almost completely on word-of-mouth as marketing, was also a sleeper hit, having a box-office take of $70 million on a budget of only $325,000. Its success caused other slasher films to try the same approach, although few fared as well, since horror films heavily rely on opening weekend box-office and quickly fall from theaters. Other notable examples of horror sleeper-hits to follow in Halloween's wake include A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, Scream in 1996, The Blair Witch Project in 1999, Saw in 2004, and Paranormal Activity in 2007.
Hocus Pocus , which was initially a box-office flop, eventually became a sleeper hit through television airings on the 13 Nights of Halloween block on what is now Freeform.
Don Howard's 1952 recording of "Oh Happy Day" was one of the earliest sleeper hits. Featuring only Howard's baritone vocals and his acoustic guitar played at an amateur level, it was initially released regionally and was never expected to become a hit. A massive groundswell of support from teenagers in Howard's home base of Cleveland, Ohio, led to the song rapidly rising in popularity,despite music industry scorn; cover versions (including one by Larry Hooper and the Lawrence Welk orchestra) were quickly rushed into production, and by 1953, there were no fewer than four hit recordings of the same song circulating, including Howard's original.
The Romantics' 1980 single "What I Like About You" was a minor hit upon its release, charting at number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, while not charting at all in the United Kingdom. It eventually became one of the most popular songs of the 1980s thanks to its use in various advertising campaigns.
The 1987 single "Welcome to the Jungle" by American rock band Guns N' Roses performed poorly in both the United States and the United Kingdom when first released in September of that year. As the band's popularity grew steadily in 1988, it became a sleeper hit in the US and reached the top 10 of the Billboard charts. It was then re-released in the UK, charting within the top 40 there.
Nirvana's second album 'Nevermind" was released in September 1991 with low expectations, hoping to sell 500,000 copies. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number 144, but slowly climbed up the charts over the following months, entering the top 40 in November. The album was selling 300,000 copies a week by December, before in January 1992, Nevermind replaced Michael Jackson's Dangerous at number 1 on the Billboard charts. The album would go on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide.
The R&B singer Raphael Saadiq's classic soul-inspired album The Way I See It was a sleeper hit.Overlooked upon its release in 2008, it ended up charting for 41 weeks on the US Billboard 200.
"Just Dance" and "Poker Face" by pop singer Lady Gaga were both released in 2008 but did not become popular hits until the end of the year and the following year in certain countries, including the US and the UK.
The R&B singer Miguel's 2010 debut album All I Want Is You performed poorly at first, debuting at number 109 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 11,000 copies,while underpromoted by his record label. As its singles achieved radio airplay and Miguel toured in the record's promotion, All I Want Is You became a sleeper hit and reached 404,000 copies sold by 2012. As of November 2017, the album has been certified platinum in the US.
Alessia Cara's 2015 debut single, "Here", became a sleeper hit near the end of the year, ultimately reaching number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and ranking high on several year-end lists of 2015's best songs.
"Truth Hurts", by American singer Lizzo, was released in September 2017 and did not chart until its appearance in the 2019 romantic comedy film Someone Great led to the single debuting at the number 50 position on the Hot 100. As the song became a sleeper hit on the chart, an updated version of the original music video—featuring the singer in a "wedding-gone-wild" concept—went viral. By September 2019, the single had reached number one on the chart, and the video had been viewed at least 93 million times. The single also benefited from its use in TikTok videos by users who lip-synced or referenced the lyric "I just took a DNA test, turns out, I'm 100 percent that bitch".During its chart run, Gary Trust, the senior director of charts at Billboard, noted the rarity of a song topping the Hot 100 almost two years after its release, but explained that, "in the digital era, it's much easier than ever before for music fans to be exposed to older songs that might've been overlooked the first time around." According to Paper magazine's Michael Love Michael, Lizzo's sleeper hit can also be explained by a more inclusive popular media since the song's original release: "Black women are more visible than ever on magazine covers; fashion is having broader conversations about size, racial, and ethnic diversity. Lizzo's presence in these spaces signals a future of greater inclusion."
Pocket Monster Red and Green were released in 1996 in Japan, and later released as Pokémon Red and Blue in 1998. They followed several years of development and became sleeper hits.Believing it to be a one-time product, Nintendo initially shipped 200,000 copies, a relatively low amount. Most media ignored the games, but largely by word-of-mouth stemming from the hidden character Mew's introduction, their popularity gradually spread throughout Japan, selling a million units by the end of 1996. They eventually became the best-selling video games ever in Japan, with 7.8 million copies sold, and 45 million sold worldwide. After becoming a national sensation in Japan, the franchise was introduced to the United States in September 1998, going on to start a worldwide craze dubbed "Pokémania".
Portal was released in 2007 with little fanfare as part of the game compilation The Orange Box , but eventually became a "phenomenon".
SteamWorld Dig (2013) was released on the 3DS by little-known developer Image & Form. It became one of the first indie games mentioned in a Nintendo Direct, and ultimately sold over a million copies on all platforms. If the game had not succeeded, the studio would have been forced to close.
TLC is an American girl group whose original line-up consisted of Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas. Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1991, the group was very successful during the 1990s. They scored nine top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including four number-one singles "Creep", "Waterfalls", "No Scrubs", and "Unpretty". The group also recorded four multi-platinum albums, including CrazySexyCool (1994), which received a diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). TLC also became the first R&B group in history to receive the Million certification from the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for FanMail (1999).
Rob Zombie is an American musician, singer, songwriter, programmer, voice actor, and filmmaker. He is a founding member of the heavy metal band White Zombie, releasing four studio albums with the band. He is the older brother of Spider One, the lead vocalist of the industrial metal band Powerman 5000.
Thriller is the sixth studio album by American singer Michael Jackson, released on November 30, 1982 by Epic Records. Reunited with Off the Wall producer Quincy Jones, Jackson was inspired to create an album where "every song was a killer". With the ongoing backlash against disco, Jackson moved in a new musical direction, incorporating pop, post-disco, rock and funk. The album features a single guest appearance, with Paul McCartney becoming the first artist to be featured on Jackson's albums. Recording took place from April to November 1982 at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, with a production budget of $750,000.
Tony! Toni! Toné! is an American soul/R&B group from Oakland, California, popular during the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s. During the band's heyday, it was composed of D'wayne Wiggins on lead vocals and guitar, his brother Raphael Saadiq on lead vocals and bass, and their cousin Timothy Christian Riley on drums and keyboards. Other members were Elijah Baker, Carl Wheeler, Randall Wiggins, and Amar Khalil, and Antron Haile. Personnel changes include lead singer Dyson Tate and vocalist Frank Stickemz.
Raphael Saadiq is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. He rose to fame as a member of the multiplatinum group Tony! Toni! Toné! In addition to his solo and group career, he has also produced songs for such artists as Joss Stone, D'Angelo, TLC, En Vogue, Kelis, Mary J. Blige, Ledisi, Whitney Houston, Solange Knowles and John Legend.
Eternal is the 28th studio album released by The Isley Brothers on DreamWorks Records on August 7, 2001. Now popular again with audiences, almost single-handledly for Ronald Isley's "Mr. Biggs" persona, Eternal included production from not only R. Kelly who gave the Isleys their biggest hit as leading artists in over two decades with "Contagious" but also from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Raphael Saadiq and Ronald's wife at the time, Angela Winbush. Based on the mega-success of "Contagious", Eternal peaked at #3 on the Billboard Billboard Top 200 album charts and #1 on the R&B album chart selling over two million copies having it certified double-platinum. The first album the Isleys released as a duo in over a decade, Ernie Isley also showcase his talents as a guitarist in songs like "Move Your Body" and the aptly titled "Ernie's Jam" while Ronald was still as vocally strong on this album as he had been throughout the Isley Brothers' legendary catalogue.
The discography of American musician, film director, screenwriter, and film producer Rob Zombie consists of six studio albums, three compilation albums, two remix albums, two live albums, one video album, 14 singles, and eight promotional singles. Zombie first rose to fame as a member of the heavy metal band White Zombie, with whom he released four studio albums; the group disbanded in 1998. Opting to continue making music as a solo artist, Zombie began working on his debut solo studio album that would come to be known as Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International (1998). The project became a commercial success for Zombie, entering the top five of the Billboard 200 in the United States and selling over three million copies in the United States alone. The album spawned three singles, all of which were used extensively in films and video games following their release. Zombie released remixed versions of songs from his debut studio album on American Made Music to Strip By (1999), which peaked inside the top forty in the United States.
The Way I See It is the third album by American R&B singer, songwriter, and producer Raphael Saadiq. It was released on September 16, 2008, by Columbia Records.
Ray Ray is the second studio album by American R&B singer, songwriter, and producer Raphael Saadiq. It was released October 5, 2004, by his record label, Pookie Entertainment. After being dropped from Universal Records, Saadiq formed the label and recorded the album. He pursued a 1970s-inspired musical direction that was looser than his 2002 debut album, Instant Vintage, and produced Ray Ray with Michael Angelo, Jake and the Phatman, and Kelvin Wooten.
"Ask of You" is a song by American singer Raphael Saadiq, released as a single from the Higher Learning soundtrack. It was Saadiq's biggest solo hit, peaking at number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Miguel Jontel Pimentel is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor. Raised in San Pedro, California, he began pursuing a music career at age thirteen. After signing to Jive Records in 2007, Miguel released his debut studio album, All I Want Is You, in November 2010. Although it was underpromoted upon its release, the album became a sleeper hit and helped Miguel garner commercial standing.
All I Want Is You is the debut studio album by American R&B singer and songwriter Miguel. It was released on November 30, 2010, by Jive Records and ByStorm Entertainment.
Stone Rollin' is the fourth studio album by American R&B singer, songwriter, and producer Raphael Saadiq. It was released on March 25, 2011, by Columbia Records.
"Love That Girl" is a song by American recording artist Raphael Saadiq, released as a single on August 5, 2008, by Columbia Records. It was the lead single for Saadiq's 2008 album The Way I See It. The song was written by Saadiq and co-producer Bobby Ozuna. "Love That Girl" is a Motown-inspired soul song with sweet-natured, innocent lyrics about affection.
"100 Yard Dash" is a song by American recording artist Raphael Saadiq, released as a single on March 30, 2009, by Columbia Records. It was the second single from Saadiq's 2008 album The Way I See It. "100 Yard Dash" is an upbeat soul song about love as a fast, impulsive race. Although it did not chart, the song was well received by music critics.
Melissa Viviane Jefferson, known professionally as Lizzo, is an American singer, rapper, songwriter, and flutist. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she moved to Houston, Texas, where she began performing, before moving to Minneapolis, where she began her recording career. Before signing with Nice Life and Atlantic Records, Lizzo released two studio albums—Lizzobangers (2013), and Big Grrrl Small World (2015). Lizzo's first major-label EP, Coconut Oil, was released in 2016.
"Get Involved" is a song by Raphael Saadiq and Q-Tip, released on March 23, 1999, from the soundtrack The PJs: Music from & Inspired by the Hit Television Series. Produced by the duo, the song contains elements of "I'll Always Love My Mama" by The Intruders.
"Truth Hurts" is a song released by American singer and rapper Lizzo. It was originally released on September 19, 2017, by Nice Life Recording Company and Atlantic Records, but then re-released as a radio single in 2019. It was written by Lizzo, Jesse Saint John, Steven Cheung, and Ricky Reed, the latter two having co-produced the track. Mina Lioness, a singer based in London, was credited as a co-writer of the song on October 23, 2019.
American singer and rapper Lizzo has released three studio albums, two mixtapes, two extended plays, 23 singles, and one promotional single. Before signing with Atlantic Records, she released two studio albums—Lizzobangers in 2013 and Big Grrrl Small World in 2015. In 2014, Time named her one of 14 music artists to watch. Her first major-label extended play, Coconut Oil, was released in 2016.
"Show Me Love" is a song by American singers and songwriters Alicia Keys and Miguel. It was written by Keys, Miguel, Daystar Peterson and Morgan Matthews, while production was handled by Keys and Matthews. The song was released on September 17, 2019 through RCA Records with UMPG as the lead single from Keys' upcoming seventh studio album Alicia, which is set for a May 15, 2020 release. It is an R&B ballad involving feelings of desire. A remix version of the song featuring American rapper 21 Savage was released on November 4, 2019.
Popular misconceptions can get a movie off to a slow start, and they may have helped turn 'A Christmas Story' into the sleeper of this season.
While best-selling games like Final Fantasy grabbed the top slot for a couple of dramatic months and then faded, Pokémon sales grew slowly and steadily--and they did not stop.