Special Report

The Biggest Hits That Were Never No. 1

It’s never been easy for an artist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. So many things have to go right for a performer to reach the summit, such as airplay, timing of the song’s release, and what the competition is like. 

Even though a single does not reach the Billboard apex, though, that doesn’t mean that it is not a hit. To determine the biggest songs that never went No. 1, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Songs were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. Only songs that never reached the No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 were considered. Chart data is current through the week of Nov. 19, 2022.

All of pop music’s greatest classic performers – The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, and Stevie Wonder, to name just a few – recorded singles that failed to top the Hot 100. The same holds true for more contemporary performers. On the 24/7 Tempo list of biggest songs that never went to No. 1, hitmakers such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and Dua Lipa are all represented – though 19 of these songs got to No. 2, including two by Sheeran. You might be surprised at some of the famous musicians who have never topped the Billboard Hot 100.

Click here to see the biggest songs that were never No. 1

Every song on the list had staying power, however, spending at least 45 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, and the majority were on that Billboard chart for 50 weeks or longer. The Imagine Dragons’ song “Radioactive,” which peaked at No. 3, was on the Billboard Hot 100 for 87 weeks. (These are the most dominant reigns in Billboard history.)

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