When it comes to the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, landing anywhere in the top 40 is usually enough to garner general attention and bolster one’s music career. It’s then no surprise that many of history’s most iconic songs never reached No. 1, even if they sold in massive numbers and became more or less ubiquitous across the culture. Quick examples include everything from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” both of which peaked at #2. (And unlike them, here are some famous musicians who have never topped the Hot 100.)
To determine the biggest songs that peaked at No. 2, 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 peaked at the No. 2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 were considered. Chart data is current through the week of Nov. 19, 2022.
They’re not on this list, but one example of a mega-popular band that never reached the top is Creedence Clearwater Revival, which scored five No. 2 singles on the Hot 100 but never made the extra step up (though John Fogerty would eventually get there as a solo artist with “Centerfield”)? Another famed performer, Bruce Springsteen, has never topped the chart, despite cracking the top 10 on multiple occasions. (To Springsteen’s credit, he did pen Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s chart-topping cover version of “Blinded by the Light.”)
One must wonder: Do artists take it personally when they peak at second place without climbing any further? Given their competitive spirit and outsized egos, we imagine they do. But the silver lining is that plenty of these No. 2 singles enjoy lasting legacies of their own, occasionally outshining and even outselling the song or songs that initially bested them. Here’s to the runner-ups that have become champions over time. (Some songs even get a second shot at the top slot. Here are some classic songs that have returned to the Billboard Hot 100.)
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