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- The Billboard Hot 100 has measured the 100 top pop songs in America based on sales, radio play, and online streaming since 1958.
- While some musical artists rack up No. 1 hits like it’s nothing (e.g., Mariah Carey and The Beatles), some prolific artists have never topped the Hot 100.
- James Brown had 92 songs chart on the Hot 100, but never made it to No. 1.
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For six decades now, Billboard has been keeping track of what Americans are listening to via the Hot 100 list, which measures the top 100 pop songs in America based on sales, radio play, and online streaming.
While how we listen to music has changed immensely since then, it still remains a goal of many artists to try and climb the charts, all the way to No. 1.
However, some of the most beloved bands and artists have never achieved the coveted spot atop the Hot 100. Of these 17 musical acts, some still have plenty of time to make it. Keep scrolling to see who’s never had a No. 1 hit. It might surprise you.
Though Nirvana has sold millions of albums around the world — and plenty of posters that adorn college dorm walls to this day — the closest they ever got to the top of the charts was “Smells Like Teenage Spirit,” which peaked at six.
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It’s hard to overstate the influence that Nirvana had on pop music in the early ’90s. Grunge, suddenly, was everywhere, and the youth of America had a new icon to look up to: Kurt Cobain.
Before Cobain’s untimely death 25 years ago, Nirvana had released three albums, two of which had reached No. 1, “Nevermind” and “In Utero.” But their singles never reached the same level on the Hot 100.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was their only song to crack the top 10. Other popular Nirvana singles like “Lithium” and “Come As You Are” reached No. 64 and No. 32, respectively.
Bruce Springsteen might have some of the most recognizable songs in the world, but none of them have garnered the top spot on the Hot 100.
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“But, surely, ‘Born to Run’ hit No. 1?,” you might think. Nope, that song peaked at No. 23. You could follow up with, “What about ‘Born in the USA?'” Not that one either – that ode to America topped off at No. 9.
Springsteen has gotten close with 1984’s “Dancing in the Dark,” which reached No. 2, and has been certified platinum.
The Backstreet Boys have sold millions of records over 26 years, but have never reached the coveted top spot.
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Though the Backstreet Boys were inescapable in the ’90s and early 2000s, they’ve never had a No. 1 song. The closest they came was their No. 2 hit in 1996, “Quit Playing Games (with My Heart).”
Other hits like “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” “I Want It That Way,” and “Shape of My Heart” peaked at No. 4, No. 6, and No. 9, respectively.
The band is currently in the middle of a comeback, however. Their 2019 album “DNA” reached No. 1, so maybe there’s still time for this boy band.
The Who might be one of the most famous bands of the ’60s and ’70s, but they only had one song make it to the top 10.
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While The Who’s signature song might be “Baba O’Riley,” that wasn’t even released as a single in the US. Their lone song to crack the top 10 is “I Can See For Miles” in 1967 from their third album, “The Who Sell Out.”
Jimi Hendrix might be one of the greatest guitar players of all time, but he never had a single make it to the top 10, let alone the top of the chart.
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Hendrix is regularly named the greatest guitarist of all time, but his legendary talent didn’t translate to chart success. Hendrix’s highest-charting single was 1968’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which reached No. 20.
His third and final album, “Electric Ladyland,” did earn the top spot, though, in 1968.
Sheryl Crow came close with “All I Wanna Do,” but ultimately fell short.
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Sheryl Crow has sold over 50 million albums worldwide, but hasn’t achieved the same success with her singles. “All I Wanna Do,” her third single ever, reached No. 2, and it remains her highest-charting song to-date.
“Everyday is a Winding Road” made it to No. 11, “Soak Up the Sun” peaked at No. 17, and “The First Cut is the Deepest” only made it to No. 14.
Not one of Led Zeppelin’s 16 singles has reached No. 1.
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Led Zeppelin’s highest-charting song is 1969’s “Whole Lotta Love,” which peaked at No. 4.
But the real shocking news about Led Zeppelin’s discography? That their signature song “Stairway to Heaven,” frequently called one of the best songs of all time, never even charted. The band didn’t release it as a single, though it was one of the most frequently requested songs on the radio during the ’70s.
Resident rap queen Nicki Minaj has come close to No. 1 with “Anaconda,” which peaked at two.
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Minaj has released over 100 singles, if you include her songs as a featured artist. But even though her songs are particularly ubiquitous on the radio, she’s never hit No. 1. Earworms like “Super Bass,” “Anaconda,” and “Starships” reached three, two, and five, respectively.
Among her highest charting songs as a featured artist are “Bed Rock,” “Side to Side,” “Beauty and a Beat,” and most recently “Fefe.” These peaked at two, four, five, and three, respectively.
Bob Dylan may have just won a Nobel Prize, but he’s never had a No. 1 song.
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Two of his other most iconic songs, “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” failed to chart at all.
Shania Twain is the best-selling female country music star of all time, but that doesn’t translate to Hot 100 chart-toppers.
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But her most successful single pulled up just short at No. 2, “You’re Still the One.” After that, “From This Moment On,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” reached four, seven, and 23, respectively.
Johnny Cash’s 49-year career resulted in millions upon millions of albums sold, but just one top 10 hit.
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Cash is a singular figure in music history, with his music ranging from rock to country to blues to gospel. He’s still revered as one of the most prolific musicians of all time.
However, he only had one song in his entire career crack the top 10, which was 1969’s live version of “A Boy Named Sue,” which peaked at No 2.
Though they were the biggest band in the world at one time, One Direction never achieved a No. 1.
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One Direction had a few chart-toppers in their home, the UK, but never could crack the top of the Hot 100 in the US. The closest they came were No. 2 “Best Song Ever,” No. 3s “Drag Me Down” and “Live While We’re Young,” and No. 4 “What Makes You Beautiful.”
Modern rock legends Green Day have had plenty of No. 1s on the Alternative chart, but on the Hot 100? Not so much.
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Green Day didn’t have a song enter the Hot 100 until 2004’s “American Idiot” which reached No. 61. But at that point they’d already had five No. 1s on the Alternative chart: “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around,” “J.A.R.,” and “Minority.”
Their highest-charting song, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100.
James Brown had dozens of songs make it to the Hot 100, but never notched a No. 1 under his belt.
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Brown is another legend who shockingly never reached the top spot. He came close more than a few times with songs like “Living in America” (peaked at four), “I Got the Feelin'” (peaked at six), and “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (peaked at three).
But in total, he charted over 90 songs on the Hot 100.
Missy Elliot is one of the most prolific rappers of all time, but has yet to reach No 1.
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After taking a seven-year hiatus from music, Elliott returned in 2015 with “WTF (Where They From),” and then 2017’s “I’m Better,” so it remains to be seen if she’ll reach the top.
Bob Marley’s music is beloved around the world, but he didn’t have that much chart success.
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Reggae icon Marley still remains the face of his genre decades after his death. His songs remain popular around the world, but it took some time for his music to gain a following. Marley and his band, the Wailers, released dozens of songs before one reached 51 on the charts, “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” and it ended up being his highest-charting song.
Demi Lovato has more than a few inescapable songs, but none of them have reached No. 1.
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Lovato has garnered her fair share of radio hits, but none of them have topped the charts. Summer songs like “Cool for the Summer,” “Sorry Not Sorry,” and “Here We Go Again” peaked at 11, six, and 15, respectively.