Special Report

Most Popular Artists That Never Had a No. 1 Hit

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At one time, music to a musician’s ears was the phrase “Number one with a bullet.” That was the music industry lexicon for a fast-moving song that reached the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100 and was still selling quickly. (The bullet was a mark next to the song title.)

A performer doesn’t need to have had a song to summit the Billboard Hot 100 as an imprimatur of stardom or success. Even so, it is always surprising to discover that some of music’s greatest artists have not reached the peak of the Billboard Hot 100.

To determine the most popular artists that never had a No. 1 hit, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on chart performance from the Billboard Hot 100. Artists were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (if they had had one) would be worth 100 points, while a week at No. 2 is worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point.

Only artists who’ve never had a song reach No. 1, either as solo performer or featured artist, were considered. Highest-charting entries include only songs on which the performer in question is listed as the primary artist (not a featured act). Chart data is current through November 19, 2022.

Contemporary pop stars such as Demi Lovato and Dua Lipa have enjoyed great success and reached the top 10 without making No. 1. In the case of Lipa, she has fallen just short twice. Rap stars such as Big Sean, Lil Baby, Khalid, and Busta Rhymes have raced up the Billboard rap and hip-hop charts, but have not crested the Hot 100 either. (These are the biggest hits that were never No. 1.)

Country stars Florida Georgia Line and Rascal Flatts have been all over the radio, and Blake Shelton has had extended exposure as a judge on the television-music show “The Voice.” Yet none of them has reached the apex. (But click here to see the best-selling country music albums of all time.)

Icons James Brown and Sam Cooke changed soul music forever yet none of their contributions to American music culture was rewarded with a No. 1, either. Present-day rockers Imagine Dragons have not reached the top, and neither have older-generation rock legends Bruce Springsteen and Electric Light Orchestra.

Click here to see the biggest artists that never had a No. 1 hit

40. Demi Lovato
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 36 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 42 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Sorry Not Sorry (No. 6 for 1 week)

The former child actor on television shows such as “Barney & Friends” has built a strong singing career, starting with her debut album, “Don’t Forget.” That LP reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Lovato has had four singles crack the Billboard Hot 100. Lovato’s biggest hit was “Sorry Not Sorry,” which climbed to No. 6 and was on the chart for 36 weeks.

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39. Train
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 14 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 21 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Hey, Soul Sister (No. 3 for 4 weeks)

Train is a seven-member pop-rock band from San Francisco formed in 1993 that has opened for acts such as Barenaked Ladies and Counting Crows. They became stars in their own right in 2009, finding an audience in the adult contemporary segment with the release of the six-time-platinum-selling “Hey, Soul Sister,” their highest-charting single to date. Train has had two other top-10 singles – “Drive By” and “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me).”

38. Sam Cooke
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 34 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 44 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Chain Gang (No. 2 for 2 weeks)

Sam Cooke was one of the most important artists in the history of soul who embraced the struggle for civil rights in his music with songs such as “A Change Is Gonna Come.” “Chain Gang” was his greatest success, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 top 10. Three other songs were top-10 hits for Cooke – “Twistin’ The Night Away,” “Another Saturday Night,” and “Shake.”

37. Electric Light Orchestra
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 24 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 36 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Don’t Bring Me Down (No. 4 for 2 weeks)

Electric Light Orchestra was a rock band with a classical music sensibility. Their first U.S. hit, from the 1974 album “Eldorado,” was “Can’t Get It Out of My Head.” Other hits followed through the 1970s, such as “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Strange Magic,” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.”

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36. Jackie Wilson
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 53 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 65 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Night (No. 4 for 2 weeks)

R&B and soul singer Jackie Wilson churned out hits from the mid-1950s into the 1970s, though he did not enjoy quite the crossover success of such other black performers as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke. “Night” reached the highest position of any of his singles on the Hot 100. Five other songs were top-10 hits: “Lonely Teardrops,” “Alone At Last,” “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher…“, “Baby Workout,” and “My Empty Arms.”

35. Busta Rhymes
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 20 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 33 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: I Know What You Want (featuring Mariah Carey & The Flipmode Squad) (No. 3 for 3 weeks)

This Brooklyn-born performer ( Trevor Smith Jr.) was a rap force during the 1990s and 2000s. His album “The Big Bang” topped the Billboard 200 in 2006. Rhymes has had seven top-10 hits, many of which are collaborations, such as “Don’t Cha” with the Pussycat Dolls, “Look At Me Now” with Chris Brown and Lil Wayne, “What’s It Gonna Be?” with Janet, and his biggest hit, “I Know What You Want” with Mariah Carey & The Flipmode Squad.

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34. Linkin Park
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 23 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 28 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: In The End (No. 2 for 1 week)

The San Francisco quintet incorporated diverse music genres – metal, rap, punk, electronic, and pop – to become one of the early 21st century’s most successful music acts. Their biggest single is “In The End,” which reached No. 2 and was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 39 weeks. Other top-10 singles were “What I’ve Done” and “New Divide.”

33. Morgan Wallen
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 28 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 28 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: You Proof (No. 5 for 1 week)

The controversial Tennessee-born Wallen made a name for himself with bro-country songs about drinking (like “Whiskey Glasses”), but also broadened his appeal with more romantic compositions. Wallen has had four top 10 songs on the Hot 100: “You Proof,” “Wasted On You,” “7 Summers,” and “Don’t Think Jesus.”

32. Andy Williams
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 41 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 56 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Can’t Get Used To Losing You (No. 2 for 4 weeks)

Always easy on the ears, Williams posted five top-10 songs on the Hot 100: “Can’t Get Used To Losing You,” “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” “Lonely Street,” “The Village of St. Bernadette,” and “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story.”

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31. Backstreet Boys
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 18 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 35 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) (No. 2 for 2 weeks)

The boy band Backstreet Boys rode the late 1990s’ teen-pop explosion to the top of the music industry, with six songs climbing into the top 10, all of them spending at least six weeks on the chart: “Shape of My Heart,” “All I Have to Give,” “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” “I Want It That Way,” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).”

30. Juice WRLD
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 74 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 76 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Lucid Dreams (No. 2 for 2 weeks)

Juice WRLD, born Jarad Higgins, passed away at age 21 in 2019. In his brief time in the spotlight, Juice WRLD used the influences of R&B and indie rock to produce a No. 2 hit, “Lucid Dreams,” which spent 48 weeks on the BIllboard Hot 100 chart. He had 74 songs chart on the Hot 100 in all, and nine became top-10 hits, among them “Godzilla,” “Come & Go,” and “Wishing Well.”

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29. J. Cole
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 66 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 69 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: my.life (featuring 21 Savage & Morray) (No. 2 for 1 week)

Rapper/producer J. Cole has had a string of No. 1 albums that feature his critical look at the world, eschewing music as entertainment in favor of the message. Including “my.life,” 10 of his songs have climbed into the top 10. These include “amari,” “ATM,” and “Middle Child.”

28. Luke Combs
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 22 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 24 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Forever After All (No. 2 for 1 week)

This North Carolina-born country singer’s first single, “Hurricane,” was the first of his 13 No. 1’s so far on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, but he has yet to summit the Hot 100 – though he did get to No. 2 with “Forever After All.” Combs had one other top-10 song, “The King Of Love We Make,” which reached No. 8.

27. Journey
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 25 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 49 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Open Arms (No. 2 for 6 weeks)

The ballad “Open Arms” has been this arena-packing San Francisco group’s biggest success, reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100. They’ve had five other top 10 songs, including “Who’s Crying Now” and “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).”

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26. David Guetta
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 22 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 31 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Without You (featuring Usher) (No. 4 for 2 weeks)

Parisian-born electronic music producer and DJ David Guetta gained international crossover success during the late-2000s with hits such as “One Love” and “Nothing But the Beat,” and his house anthems populated dance charts in the 2010s. Guetta has had six other songs reach the Hot 100 top 10, among them “Sexy Chick,” “Titanium,” and “Club Can’t Handle Me.”

25. Bruce Springsteen
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 26 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 44 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Dancing In The Dark (No. 2 for 4 weeks)

Bruce Springsteen is one of the biggest rock acts of all time, but he’s known more for his albums than his singles. Nonetheless, he has had considerable Hot 100 success, charting 12 singles in the top 10. Among these are “Dancing In The Dark,” “Glory Days,” “Hungry Heart,” “Born In The USA,” and “I’m On Fire.”

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24. George Strait
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 37 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 47 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: She’ll Leave You With A Smile (No. 23 for 1 week)

George Strait’s take on country music, in contrast to the prevailing urban cowboy tone of the early 1980s, resonated with listeners. Between 1981 and 2012, the Texas native set the record for most chart-toppers on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Crossover success has eluded him, however. His biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 has been “She’ll Leave You With A Smile.”

23. The Pointer Sisters
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 26 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 43 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Slow Hand (No. 2 for 3 weeks)

Since they began performing in the 1970s, these Oakland-born siblings – Ruth, Anita, June, and Bonnie – have performed boogie-woogie, bebop, blues, country, funk, disco, soft rock, electro-pop, and hard rock, backed Grace Slick and Boz Scaggs, and even won a country Grammy. They’ve had seven songs reach the Billboard Hot 100 top 10, and two of them, “Slow Hand” and “Fire,” climbed to No. 2.

22. Trey Songz
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 36 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 41 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Bottoms Up (featuring Nicki Minaj) (No. 6 for 1 week)

Singer-songwriter Trey Songz has had considerable album success since the mid-2000s, releasing seven LPs that reached the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart. He’s also had two singles crack the top 10 on the 00 chart, and both were collaborations – “Bottoms Up” with Nicki Minaj, and “Say Aah” with Fabolous.

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21. 2 Chainz
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 40 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 47 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: We We Own It (Fast & Furious) (featuring Wiz Khalifa) (No. 16 for 1 week)

2 Chainz is the stage name of Tauheed Epps, a rapper from Atlanta. He broke out in 2012 with the album “Based on a T.R.U. Story” that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. 2 Chainz’s biggest success has been “We We Own It,” from the movie “Fast & Furious,” which reached No. 16.

20. Faith Hill
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 23 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 35 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Breathe (No. 2 for 5 weeks)

Faith Hill became one of country music’s biggest stars of the 1990s and 2000s. She followed on the crossover success of country songstress Shania Twain and scored hits on the Billboard Hot 100. “Breathe” was her biggest hit, reaching No. 2 for five weeks. Other top 10 successes included “It’s Your Love” with husband Tim McGraw, “The Way You Love Me,” and “This Kiss.”

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19. Brook Benton
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 48 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 58 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: The Boll Weevil Song (No. 2 for 3 weeks)

Brook Benton scored seven No. 1’s on the R&B charts, starting in the late 1950s, and landed eight songs on the Hot 100. These included “The Boll Weevil Song,” which reached No. 2, and two songs that climbed to the third spot – “It’s A Matter Of Time” and “Hotel Happiness.”

18. Toby Keith
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 39 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 47 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Red Solo Cup (No. 15 for 1 week)

Country singer Toby Keith became a household name in 2002 with his post 9/11 patriot-stoking song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).” Keith has had 20 chart-toppers on Billboard’s Hot Country Song chart, though his country-music success has yet to translate to general music stardom. His highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 is “Red Solo Cup.”

17. OneRepublic
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 15 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 24 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Counting Stars (No. 2 for 2 weeks)

Bolstered by the songwriting prowess of frontman Ryan Tedder, who has earned Grammys writing for high flyers Beyoncé, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and Adele, OneRepublic reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 with “Counting Stars,” which spent 68 weeks on the chart. “Apologize,” their breakthrough hit in 2007, also got to the second spot.

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16. Rick Ross
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 53 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 57 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: The Boss (featuring T-Pain) (No. 17 for 1 week)

This rapper from the Miami area put his city on the map with his tales of the glamor and danger of drug trafficking. Five of his albums went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. His greatest success on the Hot 100 has been “The Boss.”

15. Brad Paisley
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 40 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 46 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Then (No. 28 for 2 weeks)

With a nod to the past by including country legends George Jones in his videos, Paisley has forged ahead with a country style that has rolled up 18 No. 1s and 33 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, but crossover success has eluded him thus far. The 2009 single “Then” was his biggest Hot 100 hit.

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14. Big Sean
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 54 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 62 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Bounce Back (No. 6 for 1 week)

Detroit rapper Big Sean (Sean Anderson) graduated to albums from self-released mixtapes, with resounding results. He’s had three chart-topping albums on the Billboard 200 and seen three songs climb into the top 10. Besides “Bounce Back,” his highest ranked singles were collaborations with Justin Bieber (“As Long As You Love Me”) and Nicki Minaj (“Dance [$$$]).”

13. Blake Shelton
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 42 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 46 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Boys ‘Round Here (featuring Pistol Annies & Friends) (No. 12 for 1 week)

Shelton has had 14 chart-toppers on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Yet despite his TV fame from serving as a judge on “The Voice,” crossover appeal has been elusive. Of his 42 songs that have charted on the Hot 100, his greatest success has been “Boys ‘Round Here.”

12. Rascal Flatts
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 37 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 42 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: What Hurts The Most (No. 6 for 1 week)

Rascal Flatts succeeded by appealing to various demographics with their brand of country music crossing over into adult contemporary. They’ve had 12 singles top the Hot Country Songs chart, but “What Hurts The Most” is one of two of their songs to get into the top 10 in the Hot 100 listings. The other is oft-played “Life Is A Highway,” which rose to No. 7.

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11. Dua Lipa
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 19 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 23 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Don’t Start Now (No. 2 for 1 week)

Lupa most recently collaborated with Elton John on a remix of the rock legend’s song “Cold Heart.” Besides that pairing, she’s had three other top 10 hits on the Hot 100: “Don’t Start Now” and “Levitating” both reached No. 2, while “New Rules” climbed to No. 6.

10. Florida Georgia Line
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 24 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 33 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Cruise (featuring Nelly) (No. 4 for 1 week)

The duo of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard formed Florida Georgia Line just after meeting at Belmont University in Nashville. Their polished act and appealing persona took country music by storm in 2012, riding the song “Cruise” – about the glories of the open road – to commercial success. It became the biggest-selling country song ever to that point, and got additional life with a remix version featuring the rapper Nelly.

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9. Jason Aldean
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 38 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 41 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Dirt Road Anthem (No. 7 for 1 week)

Success did not come right away for Aldean, but when it did, it came in torrents. He had four albums top the Billboard 200 and nine chart-toppers on the Hot Country Song rankings. His biggest success to date on the Hot 100 has been “Dirt Road Anthem.”

8. Khalid
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 32 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 40 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Talk (No. 3 for 4 weeks)

R&B singer Khalid (Khalid Robinson) scored a commercial success just out of high school with the ballad “Location” in 2016. His first album, “American Teen,” came out the following year, and reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Three of his five top-10 charting singles were solo efforts, including “Talk.”

7. Keith Urban
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 46 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 56 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Kiss A Girl (No. 16 for 1 week)

The Australian-born Urban has two chart-topping albums to his credit so far on the Billboard 200, and 16 of his songs have reached the top of the Hot Country Songs chart. Urban has also had 46 songs chart on the Hot 100, most successfully 2009’s “Kiss A Girl.”

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6. Imagine Dragons
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 19 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 36 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Radioactive (No. 3 for 4 weeks)

Imagine Dragons gained extensive airplay in the 2010s with their hooky pop choruses, and the Las Vegas-based band won its first Grammy in 2014 for this diamond-certified hit “Radioactive” from their album “Night Visions.” “Radioactive” spent 87 weeks on the Hot 100. Imagine Dragons had four other songs gain top 10 status: “Demons,” “Believer,” “Thunder,” and “Enemy.”

5. Luke Bryan
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 36 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 40 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Play It Again (No. 14 for 1 week)

Easy-going Luke Bryan’s brand of country music had a softer bro-country vibe aimed more for suburban tastes than backwoods honky-tonk joints. Four of his albums have reached the peak of the Billboard 200 and he’s had 12 Hot Country Songs chart No. 1’s. Bryan has also had 36 songs get into the Hot 100, including his biggest success, “Play It Again.”

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4. James Brown
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 96 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 112 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: I Got You (I Feel Good) (No. 3 for 3 weeks)

Brown was one of the greatest, most exhilarating performers in musical history. He charted 110 songs on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, topping the list 17 times. Seven of his singles reached the Billboard Hot 100 top 10. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” with the Famous Flames was his biggest hit. Other memorable singles included “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (Part 1)” with The Famous Flames, “Living in America,” and “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud (Part 1).”

3. Kenny Chesney
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 58 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 84 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: Out Last Night (No. 16 for 1 week)

Kenny Chesney has nine albums that have topped the Billboard 200 and 23 chart-toppers on the Hot Country Songs chart. His most notable crossover success has been “Out Last Night” in 2009.

2. Lil Baby
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 132 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 134 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: The Bigger Picture (No. 3 for 1 week)

No performer on this list has had more songs (132) that have had more time on the Billboard Hot 100 (134 weeks) than rapper Lil Baby. Three of his albums topped the Billboard 200, and 13 of his singles, either alone or in collaboration, gained top-10 status. “The Bigger Picture” is his biggest success so far.

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1. Tim McGraw
> Number of Hot 100 entries: 60 songs
> Time spent on the Hot 100: 86 weeks
> Highest-charting entry: It’s Your Love (featuring Faith Hill) (No. 7 for 1 week)

Tim McGraw’s arena-packing performances, emphasizing a more empathetic country style, have produced one of country music’s most prodigious careers. His much-publicized and celebrated marriage to country star Faith Hill hasn’t hurt either. For all his success as a country superstar – four No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and 26 chart-toppers on the Hot Country Songs chart – McGraw has not had a crossover No. 1. He’s had three songs get to the top 10, however, two of which were collaborations – one featuring his wife, Faith Hill.

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