Advertisement

Ranking: Every Alternative Rock No. 1 Hit from Worst to Best

"You had better do what you are told. You'd better listen to the radio."

Advertisement
Advertisement

    Artwork by Steven Fiche (Buy Prints and More)

    As formats have changed from records to tapes to CDs to MP3s to streaming, few things in the music world have remained constant. It’s somewhat surprising how relevant the radio remains, especially considering the wealth of other ways we have to consume music. But a hit can still make a career, and radio stations still get better access to artists than almost any other media outlets. Even some of the biggest technological shifts, like Apple Music, are still channeling the spirit and (in the case of Zane Lowe) figures rooted in radio.

    And likewise, for many of Consequence of Sound’s writers and readers, our earliest experiences with music came from the radio. Be it pop, hip-hop, or rock, memories can be traced back to car rides with our families, fighting with siblings over control of the dial, and eventually getting our own rides with the pre-sets all our own. For some of us older alternative rock fans, we might be able to look back at the early days of alt as a format. Sure, there was punk and new wave and college radio before 1988, but that was the year that Billboard first started tracking alternative rock, initially known as modern rock.

    And since 1988, alternative rock has been the home format of some of the biggest artists of our time and certainly some of the biggest artists within Consequence of Sound’s scope. Among the artists with chart-topping records are Red Hot Chili Peppers for most number one hits (12) and Muse for the longest reign at number one (19 weeks for “Madness”), and consistently high performances have come from acts as wide-ranging as U2, Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, and Cage the Elephant. All in all, 354 songs have topped the chart over 29 years, with the latest being Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still”.

    Advertisement

    And in that time, there have also been many, many questionable turns. In the early days of the chart, the Modern Rock songs were largely separate from what would chart on the Hot 100, allowing for some pretty, uh, interesting material to triumph (check out some Midnight Oil or Jesus Jones for a lesson on what once was and shall never be again). But the commercial viability of grunge rock allowed for a lot more crossover between alternative and mainstream, and this has seen an ebb and flow since the early ’90s. Sure, rock might not be hip with critics right now, but acts from Twenty One Pilots to Mumford & Sons have proven that alternative is still a healthy corner of the marketplace.

    Revisiting the history of alternative rock has proven both educational and nightmarish for us. Ranking these 336 songs has meant having to figure out exactly where each of the 11 Linkin Park number one cuts belong in the history of alt, and for every forgotten gem from the likes of Cracker, The Sundays, and Concrete Blonde, there are also the tortuous sounds of Creed, Nickelback, and Jet. We’ve discovered that maybe acts like Of Monsters & Men and Incubus are better than usually given credit for, and likewise, just because Elvis Costello penned a song doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good. And we’ve also seen that despite alternative’s ability to shift sounds over the decades, it has still been particularly unkind to anyone trying to contribute who isn’t a white male.

    And so, here they are, every single godforsaken or great number one hit in alternative rock history. Fair warning, we’ve offered the “View All” option, but because there are over 300 YouTube links, it may crash your browser. We suggest going page by page to avoid that problem — trust us, it’s not just for the clicks.

    –Philip Cosores
    Executive Editor


    Advertisement

    354. Lostprophets – “Last Train Home”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/24/04

    Even if Lostprophets lead singer/monstrous child rapist Ian Watkins wasn’t the most genuinely evil figure in rock music this side of Gary Glitter, “Last Train Home” would still be a saggy baby diaper of a hit single, self-important in all of its whining and rallying cries for hope. Worst of all, so many musically snobby college kids bought into this shit back in 2004, passing it off as emo revivalism when it was really just generic nu metal. –Dan Caffrey


    353. Gene Loves Jezebel – “Jealous”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/11/90

    One way of thinking of the alternative charts archives is as a time capsule (our very own Wayback Machine) that can transport us back to any week in alternative music over the past 28 years. For instance, we can travel back to that week in the summer of 1990 when Gene Loves Jezebel perched atop the charts: a magical week of cheesy guitars, big hair, and a return to the gallant, impassioned romantic declarations of yore (“I like you a lot/ You are so beautiful, and that is a fact, yeah, yeah”). Or we can always opt to leave the past alone. Yeah, that one please. –Matt Melis


    352. Awolnation – “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/9/15

    It’s bad enough that their band name sounds like a lost P.O.D. song, but cribbing beats and rhythms from New Order or When in Rome should lead to automatic jail time. Also, wouldn’t “Hollow Moon” suffice? No need for the parentheticals. –Michael Roffman
    __________________________________________________________

    351. Seether – “Fake It”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 1/5/08

    It was almost impossible to go more than an hour without hearing at least one Seether song on the radio for the two years after 2005’s Karma & Effect came out. Their first single to reach number one came from their follow-up, a much weaker album about adjusting to success, with “Fake It” serving as the nadir. (Just watch the video to see the most awkward interaction with models on a plane.) The only single of theirs to hit platinum in the US, the song was a low point for the group, especially with its horrendous choice of lyrics (“I feel so raped”) to describe something other than sexual assault. If you want to look at an example of learning all the wrong lessons from Nirvana, here you go. –David Sackllah


    350. Puddle of Mudd – “Psycho”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/19/08

    How Puddle of Mudd managed to snag a No. 1 song for anything in 2007 is an unsolved mystery. That’s a good six years after “Blurry” and “She Hates Me”. Yet, here we are, talking about “Psycho”. Eh, skip the song and rent the movie. –Michael Roffman


    349. Staind – “Believe”

    Date Reaching Number One: 9/13/08

    Regardless of your feelings about the merits of their earlier work, by the late 2000s, Staind had settled into a complacent facsimile of their past selves, and this was most apparent with “Believe”, the lead single from their sixth album, 2008’s The Illusion of Progress. They knew the formula for turning in bland, vaguely inspirational platitudes and took the safe route on this retread of their better earlier work. –David Sackllah


    348. P.O.D. – “Youth of the Nation”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 3/30/02

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and P.O.D.’s “Youth of a Nation”, a tale of teen suicide, parental abuse, and shootings told from heaven … yeah, no, it’s already mawkish and weird in hindsight. Mindful, but maudlin. Jesus, American Christian metal can sound so self-sanctimonious. –Blake Goble
    __________________________________________________________

    347. Rag’n’bone Man – “Human”

    Date Reaching Number One: 3/25/17

    How are you supposed to take someone seriously if they call themselves Rag’n’bone Man? Should have been a hard sell on that alone, but it turns out the song is also a Hozier and Everlast hybrid monstrosity. –Philip Cosores
    __________________________________________________________

    346. Nickelback – “How You Remind Me”

    Date Reaching Number One: 9/22/01

    When a song’s so bad it becomes a punchline, you know that band has a giant hit on their hands. At this point, making fun of Nickelback is like kicking someone who’s already being kicked while they’re down. But what do they care? Thanks to the thundering guitar, Chad Kroeger’s growl, and presumably the bottom of every bottle, “How You Remind Me” was the most-played song of 2002 and Billboard’s number one rock song of the decade. Ugh. —Allison Shoemaker


    345. 10 Years – “Wasteland”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/25/06

    Ah, the years where overly dramatic post-grunge ballads were king. “Wasteland” was a prime example of the overwrought singles that defined the era, and 10 Years were relegated to history as a one-hit wonder that quickly faded away. Their number one position felt like a fluke, an example of a bland alt-rock power ballad storming the charts because it was too inoffensive to be stopped. –David Sackllah


    344. Three Days Grace – “Pain”

    Date Reaching Number One: 3/3/07

    The group’s third single to top the alternative charts was one of the biggest boosts for self-hatred and sadism since the heyday of Nine Inch Nails. While some of their earlier singles had brighter moments of distilling anger in its purest form into a four-minute single, “Pain” was more an obnoxious earworm that was inescapable throughout the year the group’s second album, One-X, was released. The fact it was the band’s last single to top the charts was surely no coincidence. –David Sackllah
    __________________________________________________________

    343. Linkin Park – “Breaking the Habit”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/28/04

    The great innovation of Linkin Park was the way they combined two popular but often violent genres — hip-hop and metal — with lyrics approved by everyone’s mother. “I don’t know what’s worth fighting for/ Or why I have to scream,” Chester Bennington sings, so vague that it’s almost a parody of teenage rebellion. And yet the turntable scratches add an urgency to the song and set Linkin Park apart from other bands going for a similar sound. Besides, someone has to speak for the kids whose moms take them to Hot Topic. –Wren Graves


    342. Crazy Town – “Butterfly”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/17/01

    The irony of Crazy Town is that their smash hit, “Butterfly”, is the song that simultaneously launched their career and ended it. Crazy Town themselves resented the success of their biggest (and only) charting single, a bubblegum number masquerading as rap rock. The band’s feelings of alienation as a result of the song’s popularity put them in good company with anyone who ever stepped foot on a gymnasium floor for a school dance in the early aughts. –Zack Ruskin


    341. Creed – “Higher”

    Date Reaching Number One: 10/16/99

    What kind of deal with the devil allowed Creed to make this garbage a hit? It’s a totally sub-par power ballad drenched in sterilized, post-grunge sound, topped off with trite lyrics and Scott Stapp’s lousy Eddie Vedder impression. This piece of shit won a Grammy, for fuck’s sake. —Allison Shoemaker
    _________________________________________________________

    340. Seether – “Rise Above This”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/3/08

    Whatever angsty post-grunge the group had supplied in their earlier work was eradicated for this single, a more pop-focused attempt at writing vaguely inspirational lyrics about overcoming obstacles. A transparent attempt to crossover to the pop charts, the song was devoid of personality and truly represented one of the lower points of alt-rock chart history. –David Sackllah


    339. Shinedown – “Second Chance”

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/14/09

    If many popular alt-rock groups of the 2000s represented America’s heartland, Shinedown carried the torch of the South. Coming from Jacksonville, Florida, one of the group’s early hits was a faithful cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”, and the rest of their music followed suit by fitting in that mold. “Second Chance”, a cookie-cutter ballad about leaving home and overcoming adversity, was their only song to hit the top of the charts, another example that many bands who hit the top of the charts during this time did so with their most bland cuts as opposed to songs that showed any semblance of originality or personality. –David Sackllah
    __________________________________________________________

    338. Capital Cities – “Safe and Sound”

    Date Reaching Number One: 6/15/13

    “Safe and Sound” topped the charts for just one week, a fitting reign for a song that virtually screams, “Oh, hey, I guess the VMAs are back from commercial.” It may also be the loosest interpretation of “alternative” on this entire list. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    337. Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott – “Hero”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 6/8/02

    The majority of June 2002 belonged to “Hero”, a three-week champion that saw the frontmen of Nickelback and Saliva joining forces for an especially over-the-top slice of arena rock cheese in celebration of Spider-Man’s release, despite the film’s “watch as they all fly away” chorus not making much sense in context of a superhero who doesn’t actually fly. But who’s counting? –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    336. Three Days Grace – “Animal I Have Become”

    Date Reaching Number One: 9/9/06

    The alternative charts were often as much a referendum of a band’s prior success as an evaluation of how popular a certain song was. The first single from Three Days Grace’s second album was a natural extension of the band’s sound, upping the tempo and focusing more on self-frustration rather than pure rage, but its quick ascent on the charts was caused more from the anticipation after the huge success of their first, self-titled record. –David Sackllah


    335. David J – “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/18/90

    As a bassist for both Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, David J has inarguably left a mark on alternative music. For that reason, it’s best to forget the skid marks left when “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur” inexplicably screeched into the chart’s top parking spot in 1990. The extended metaphor of a chauffeur being the man who will make everything alright (he’s “filling that tank with both gas and dreams,” after all) not only evokes cringes but sheer boredom. Couldn’t J have been our pilot, tax professional, or server for the evening instead? Any of those seems preferable. How exactly did this song end up at number one? I can only surmise that chauffeurs secretly run the music industry while we stare at the back of their heads. –Matt Melis


    334. Saliva – “Always”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/1/03

    There are a few respects in which “Always” is completely of its early aughts radio rock era: the generic, “hard-charging” production, Josey Scott’s officiously earnest delivery, and the song’s lyrical journey through a broken relationship that ends in a fit of grisly domestic violence. Especially that last one. There was a lot of that during the time. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    333. The Sisters of Mercy – “More”

    Date Reaching Number One: 12/15/90

    Sisters of Mercy never really saw their full potential, ceasing to make new music following a dispute with their label after their third record. As a result, the precious few singles they did release have a smaller sample size with which to be compared. In this context, “More” is not one of their best singles. It’s also just not very good, in any context. –Pay Levy


    332. Linkin Park – “Burn It Down”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/4/12

    There’s almost something to like about 50% of this relatively recent Linkin Park hit, with Chester Bennington’s choruses finding a playful, marching cadence. But when Mike Shinoda chimes in with particularly unfortune raps, it serves as a stark reminder that rap-rock still walks among us. Frightening. –Philip Cosores


    331. The Dirty Heads featuring Rome Ramirez – “Lay Me Down”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/15/10

    Somewhere above, Bradley James Nowell is having an Oppenheimer moment. –Michael Roffman


    330. Kongos – “Come with Me Now”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/12/14

    With an odd blend of accordion, a walloping drumbeat, and woefully generic lyrics, KONGOS’ “Come with Me Now” is the South African band’s biggest, platinum-certified hit. Rocking a cheesy, anthemic chorus, the track was perfect fodder for sports teams’ hype videos throughout the world. –Killian Young


    329. Judah and the Lion – “Take It All Back”

    Date Reaching Number One: 1/7/17

    There’s a lot to hate about this song. There’s the way it begins with its chorus, as if designed for an audience without the attention span to make it through the first verse without it. There’s the arrangement, which raises the question, when did danceable banjo tunes became a smart business strategy? But by far the worst are the hacky moments where singer Judah Akers mentions the banjo or the mandolin and follows with a little solo from that instrument. It’s the kind of idea you wish you could be there for the moment they came up with it, just so you could tell them that it’s literally the least cool move in rock and roll history. –Philip Cosores
    __________________________________________________________

    328. 3 Doors Down – “Kryptonite”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/20/00

    In my reimagined cut of Richard Donner’s Superman (1978), Lex Luthor presents Superman with two lead trunks. One contains a glowing chunk of Kryptonite on a chain and the other a CD player and a copy of 3 Doors Down’s chart-topping superhero single. “What’s the difference?” the Man of Steel asks, his powers already draining from his body. “Well, the first Kryptonite will kill you,” chuckles the evil genius. “And the second ‘Kryptonite’ will make you wish you’d picked the first.” –Matt Melis 


    327. Jet – “Cold Hard Bitch”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/8/04

    Even back in 2003, the woman-done-me-wrong song was a tough sell, petty in content and already done better by a countless number of classic rock bands. In Jet’s case, fellow Aussies AC/DC had beaten them to the punch several times over. And while Cameron Muncey knows his way around the fret board, he’s no Angus Young. Few guitarists are. –Dan Caffrey


    326. Three Days Grace – “Just Like You”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/7/04

    While they never reached the same heights of popularity as contemporaries like Staind or Seether, Three Days Grace largely defined the landscape of alt-rock radio from 2004-2007 with their brand of broad, angst-ridden rock. Their debut record was a runaway hit, and while “Just Like You” may have been the only track from it to hit number one (as opposed to the blunter, superior “I Hate Everything About You”), almost every single from it was ubiquitous at the time. While the band’s formulaic trick of big power chords would grow stale quickly, it’s easy to see how their music resonated with fans by tapping into raw frustration. –David Sackllah


    325. The Neighbourhood – “Sweater Weather”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 6/1/13

    There are so many warning signs about how terrible The Neighbourhood is: the unneccesary “u” in their name, their obsession with only being displayed in black and white, frontman Jesse Rutherford’s neck tattoo of the upside down pyramid from the dollar bill. If you conributed to the 111 million streams of the drudge that is “Sweater Weather”, you probably got what you deserved. –Philip Cosores


    324. Velvet Revolver – “Slither”

    Date Reaching Number One: 7/3/04

    The late Scott Weiland’s star-studded collaboration with the leftover soul of Guns N’ Roses was uninspiring to say the least. (“Fall to Pieces” is still the most laugh-worthy rock ballad in the last 20 years.) Having said that, “Slither” was by far the most tolerable slice of magic in the group’s soupy mediocrity, mostly due to its rallying chorus and STP-throwback refrain. But, there’s so much going on, as if they’re all trying their damndest to prove they’re all still worthy, making this song, and the band itself, feel more or less like a relic. –Michael Roffman
    __________________________________________________________

    323. The Railway Children – “Every Beat of the Heart”

    Date Reaching Number One: 9/8/90

    The real mystery may be how this song got filed under “alternative” in the first place. If The Railway Children’s saccharine chart-topper was indeed alternative at the time, then the mainstream charts must’ve been a surefire sugar coma waiting to happen. Ultimately, “Every Beat of the Heart” registers more like a palpitation than a steady pumping and may leave modern listeners secretly rooting for cardiac arrest. –Matt Melis


    322. Big Data featuring Joywave – “Dangerous”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/16/14

    If you could add the ingredients for a song destined for innocuous success on the charts, and maybe an iPhone commercial, “Dangerous” would be a good source to mine. Hell, even the names of the two projects involved, Big Data and Joywave, sound like the reminants of a hundred other band names. –Philip Cosores


    321. Fitz and the Tantrums – “The Walker”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/3/14

    When Fitz and the Tantrums’ “The Walker” came out in 2013, I worked at a AAA radio station. On a good day, we played the song every two hours. Each time, I pulled up our website to see who wrote this neo soul, wannabe pop, elliptical motivator of a song. “Oh, them.” It’s the song of every car commercial, every phone plan, every Sprite bottle — AKA every ad willing to pay money so this song soundtracks way too large a percentage of your life. If you want to do a non-annoying whistle, at least take notes from Peter Bjorn and John. —Nina Corcoran


    320. Linkin Park – “Waiting for the End”

    Date Reaching Number One: 1/8/11

    Unlike many of their rap-metal peers, Linkin Park at least try to break their usual bad habits on “Waiting for the End”, keeping their lyrical moodiness in the middle-schooler’s notebook where it belongs. But the reggae-infused gratitude doesn’t fare much better — noble in its intent, yet awkward in its execution. If only the band could get more specific in their varying emotions. –Dan Caffrey


    319. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Dani California”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/22/06

    We actually kinda like “Dani California”. The problem is we also liked it back when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released it as “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” in 1993. Despite the glaring similarities between the two songs, Petty balked at the idea of legal action. “I seriously doubt there is any negative intent there,” the heartland rocker told Rolling Stone. “And a lot of rock and roll songs sound alike.” Good on Petty for keeping matters in perspective, and not to fret: We’ll be seeing far more original fare from the Red Hot Chili Peppers throughout this list. –Matt Melis


    318. Incubus – “Love Hurts”

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/21/09

    Oh, what a pitiful era for Brandon Boyd’s Incubus. Light Grenades, the then-highly anticipated follow-up to 2003’s exceptional A Crow Left of the Murder, was such a letdown, supported by one hell of a single (see: “Anna Molly”) and yet plagued with generic ballads and meandering alternative soup. “Love Hurts” was a mix of the two, mostly of the former, trying desperately to re-capture the plastic magic of Make Yourself’s sappy “Drive”. Nope. Not with these lyrics. –Michael Roffman


    317. Nothing but Thieves – “Trip Switch”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 3/26/16

    What year is this? With vocals that recall Muse’s most commercial releases and a beefy chorus that hearkens back to mid-aughts heavy alt-rock, Nothing but Thieves seem trapped a decade in the past. It’s a wonder that music like this is being made in 2016. It’s even more of a wonder that there is an audience for it. –Philip Cosores


    316. X Ambassadors – “Renegades”

    Date Reaching Number One: 6/27/15

    It’s Low-Fat Mumford & Sons, served with Diet Imagine Dragons. It’s jeans with pre-cut holes. It’s hair dyed gray. It’s a Xerox of a copy of a counterfeit of a reproduction of a photograph of a ghost of something that once rocked. –Wren Graves
    __________________________________________________________

    315. Trapt – “Headstrong”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/31/03

    One-hit wonder Trapt rode the early ’00s nu metal wave to huge commercial success with “Headstrong”. (The track also surprisingly shot to #4 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart.) With fumbling, macho lyrics, the track was destined to be played (edited) at high school sporting events and on video game soundtracks for years to come. –Killian Young


    314. The Offspring – “Hit That”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/14/04

    The most dispiriting thing about “Hit That” isn’t that synth line, though that doesn’t help the song’s standing as one of The Offspring’s more embarrassing moments. It’s the lyrical subject matter, which repurposes the behind-doors suburban blight of “The Kids Aren’t Alright” as a joke song about a wacky philanderer’s wandering eye. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    313. Grouplove – “Tongue Tied”

    Date Reaching Number One: 6/30/12

    “Let’s bump the beats till beddy-bye,” croons lead vocalist Hannah Hooper. While the indie pop ditty is chock-full of sugary lyrics, that one takes the cake for the most cloying. Perhaps it was a slow summer for the airwaves because at the end of June 2012, this humdrum track cracked the very top. –Danielle Janota


    312. The B-52’s – “Good Stuff”

    Date Reaching Number One: 7/11/92

    It would take a lot for me to say a bad word about The B-52’s. Even their ’90s albums. “Good Stuff” was featured in D2: The Mighty Ducks. Let’s move on. –Adam Kivel


    311. Bush – “The Sound of Winter”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 10/29/11

    Bush’s 2011 reunion album, The Sea of Memories, wasn’t much of a comeback. Without guitarist Nigel Pulsford and bassist Dave Parsons, the band was a shell of its former self, and the music suffered. Simply put, they became a standard modern rock band, stumbling around without the shiny grunge and the murky sexuality that sold them to millions two decades previously. “The Sound of Winter” is one of a couple tracks worth enjoying, but even then … it’s just not the same. –Michael Roffman


    310. Sum 41 – “Fat Lip”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/18/01

    Ah, the early aughts — the golden era of head banging to power chords. Even though pop punk had plenty of heroes, Canadian act Sum 41 offered up “Fat Lip” anyway as the bro-like anthem where flipping people off and inconsiderate ‘tudes were deemed cool. Clearly trying to rip off Beastie Boys’ delivery while going heavy on the crunchy guitar chords, the band redeem whatever’s worth salvaging in the song solely by writing that immediately recognizable intro. –Nina Corcoran


    309. Limp Bizkit – “Re-Arranged”

    Date Reaching Number One: 12/18/99

    Fred Durst, visionary that he was, realized that nobody can scream about faith and nookie forever. Consider “Re-Arranged” the Limp Bizkit frontman’s attempt to inject a little soul into the nu metal movement — an audible championed by the alt charts at the time and one surely bemoaned by generations to come. That type of public fickleness comes with the territory, though. As Durst sings, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” or in this case, the backwards, red Yankees ballcap. –Matt Melis


    308. Twenty One Pilots – “Stressed Out”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 11/21/15

    After listening to a few Twenty One Pilots’ songs, it’s clear what has them so stressed out — they don’t really fit anywhere, but are widely accepted everywhere. The two made a name for themselves as a genre-defying duo with wild stage presence. And in addition to “Stressed Out” climbing the alternative chart, the track recently crossed over to the number one spot on the pop chart as well. “Stressed Out” resonates with listeners, as the two sing about “the good ‘ol days” before the stress of reality set in. Although, having a single earn 2X platinum certification doesn’t seem all that stressful. –Lyndsey Havens


    307. Staind – “So Far Away”

    Date Reaching Number One: 9/20/03

    How do you follow up the success of “It’s Been Awhile”? If you’re Staind, the answer is repeating the formula with another dramatic power ballad about reminiscing over “how far we’ve come,” a theme around success and nostalgia that pervaded much of the rock music at the time (and all but defined Nickelback). One of the band’s bigger successes, it reinforced the notion for hard rock bands that the way to top the charts was to tamper down any rough edges and go for something that would be well-suited for montages. –David Sackllah


    306. Anberlin – “Feel Good Drag”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/2/09

    In one of the stranger stories of the decade, Anberlin was a mid-level Christian alt group who, despite their rougher edges, were less popular than similar faith-based alt-rock bands like Switchfoot, Relient K, and Underoath. “Feel Good Drag” was originally on the group’s 2005 album, Never Take Friendship Personal, but as it rose in popularity, they re-recorded it for their 2008 major label debut, New Surrender, and it ended up topping the charts three years after its release. The song was catchy enough, but the tone of its lyrics leave a bad taste as it takes the point of view of a man engaging in an affair with a woman in a committed relationship, talking about “sin” and “the devil” in a way that puts the blame on the girl while skirting responsibility. Even a great hook can’t hide disturbingly judgmental lyrics. –David Sackllah


    305. Alex Clare – “Too Close”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/25/12

    “Too Close” is an unwieldy union of modern-era, attitude-tinged singer-songwriter folk and dubstep, which makes its relentless catchiness all the more aggravating. It’s a trifle, and one born of a very specific moment in music, and it ranks high in the all-time pantheon of nonsensical bass drops. But it also topped the alternative charts for a month, so it got something very right. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    304. Sugar Ray – “Fly”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/2/97

    Years from now, so much of the popular culture we hold dear will disappear, left in the hands of our descendants. And should a historian from another time ever need to chart the exact style and feel of the late 1990s in America, the aural bowling shirt at a backyard tiki party that is “Fly” will take them on a journey of gentle, sun-soaked grooves. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
    __________________________________________________________

    303. Green Day – “Bang Bang”

    Date Reaching Number One: 11/12/16

    You have to respect a band that can score a No. 1 based solely on their previous accomplishments. That’s the only thing that explains the success of Green Day’s “Bang Bang”, a limp attempt at emphasizing their punk rock bona fides. It’s the kind of song you know you’ll never hear on the radio again after its cycle concludes. Green Day deserve to be grandfathered in, sure, but we can still want better songs to receive that treatment. –Philip Cosores
    __________________________________________________________

    302. Finger Eleven – “Paralyzer”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/25/07

    Nothing says nu-metal like a band singing about a guy knocking back drinks while eyeing a girl in a pretentious dance club but being too much of a wimp to go up and say something. Yet somehow this track went on to be the band’s biggest hit and the album won a Juno. Canadians, man. –Ben Kaye


    301. Thirty Seconds to Mars – “From Yesterday”

    Date Reaching Number One: 3/31/07

    As if to preemptively distract the listener from the song’s forced angst and tired lonely-at-the-top lyrics, Thirty Seconds to Mars went for broke with the 13-minute music video for “From Yesterday”. They probably prefer to think of it as a short film, but fuck that. “Thriller” is a short film. “Smooth Criminal” is a short film. Hiring 400 Chinese soldiers and cladding your bandmates in battle armor? That’s just showing off, and in no way does it guarantee profundity. Besides, Thirty Seconds to Mars’ music is too blockheaded to be equated to martial arts. –Dan Caffrey


    300. Mumford & Sons – “Believe”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/18/15

    “Believe” builds like a Mumford song, and it’s sung like a Mumford song, and yet for all of that, it sounds like it could be by any of a dozen different bands. It’s not just the lack of ferocious banjo; it’s the anemic synths and boilerplate guitar that we get instead. It’s that so much of what made Mumford & Sons interesting wasn’t just replaced, but replaced broadly, badly, boringly. –Wren Graves


    299. Fitz and The Tantrums – “Out of My League”

    Date Reaching Number One: 10/12/13

    An example of how sometimes the definition of “Alternative” just doesn’t really know what it means. Fitz and the Tantrums’ first album had a few decent tracks on it, but the sophomore effort proved their shtick was wearing thin quickly. The chorus comes so close to being catchy, falling instead into mostly grating. I literally fell asleep on my feet during this song at a show, which probably says all there is to say about it. –Ben Kaye


    298. Linkin Park – “Lying from You”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/29/04

    Years before they became notable for their work as venture capitalists, Linkin Park were at a level where nearly every single they released became a massive hit, especially those from 2003’s Meteora (which has gone six times platinum). “Lying from You” was one of the mid-level cuts from the album (more notable for its pairing with Jay Z’s “Dirt off Your Shoulder” on the collaborative EP Collision Course than on its own) and its fifth single to reach number one. Far from their last stop, the song was little more than another notch on their belt while becoming titans of alt-rock radio in the early 2000s. –David Sackllah
    __________________________________________________________

    297. Elvis Costello – “The Other Side of Summer”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/25/91

    Had the alternative charts been around in the late ’70s or earlier in the ’80s, Elvis Costello likely would’ve been a permanent, spectacled fixture near their apex. As it stands, the early ’90s found him Attractionless, taking coiffing cues from Chuck Manson, and drawing musical inspiration from “Kokomo”. This pastiche’s aim is far less than true. –Matt Melis


    296. 311 – “Love Song”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/1/04

    311 offer up a perfectly serviceable, reggae-flavored tiki bar rendition of this Cure classic. And somewhere back in 1989, Robert Smith is still sitting alone in a cave among stalagmites wondering what he’s gotta do to feel his enduring love reciprocated by the charts. Hopefully, a new generation of spelunking Cure fans soon found him and explained that 311 had sent them. –Matt Melis


    295. Puddle of Mudd – “Blurry”

    Date Reaching Number One: 1/26/02

    As fun as it is to tear down some of the lower-ranked songs on this list, we should also remind ourselves that we let them get to number one. For instance, I didn’t think anything of “Blurry” when I first heard it. Hell, I kind of liked it! Featuring a chorus with zero mentions of ass-smacking, it showed a more serious side of Puddle of Mudd not seen in their first single, “Control”, so much so that I could apply it to my own teenage relationship problems (shudder). But if I ever find myself remembering it fondly, I just watch this a few times in a row. –Dan Caffrey


    294. A Perfect Circle – “Weak and Powerless”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 11/1/03

    A Perfect Circle is the collaboration between Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel, and it’s a great example of the Bill Waterson quote, “A good compromise leaves everyone mad.” For their second album, Keenan wanted to explore the art-metal sound he’d mined so effectively for Tool, while Howerdel wanted to do something more atmospheric. The result is as slow as molasses and nearly as colorful. The lyrics are a game of metal Mad Libs: “Someone feed the monkey while I dig in search of China/ White as Dracula as I approach the bottom.” –Wren Graves


    293. Stone Temple Pilots – “Between the Lines”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/24/10

    It’s unfortunate and confusing that Stone Temple Pilots’ only trip to the top of the alt charts came in 2010, on their sixth album, for a song as bland as “Between the Lines”. Even more so, the lyrical content comes across as more brash than tragic in light of frontman Scott Weiland’s death. It’s important to remember that the band was much, much better than this song. –Philip Cosores


    292. Lifehouse – “Hanging by a Moment”

    Date Reaching Number One: 1/27/01

    “Hanging by a Moment” doesn’t sound a day older than 1997, which makes its three weeks atop the charts in early 2001 curious inasmuch as it was late to the over-earnest prom-rock party. It is, however, a little muscular for a song of its ilk, a tendency promptly smoothed over long before the band got to “You and Me.” –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    291. Muse – “Resistance”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 3/20/10

    Remember Muse, the rock band that sounded like Tom Morello on guitar and Rachmaninoff on piano while having the cutting lyrics of someone who’s read Noam Chomsky? “Resistance” is not by that band. Taking all the bloated production of Coldplay’s lesser work and infusing it with lines like “Kill your prayers for love and peace/ You’ll wake the thought police” was never much of a strong formula, but hey, it did take Muse to #1 on the alternative charts and #7 on the rock charts. Resistance has never felt so futile. –Dan Bogosian
    __________________________________________________________

    290. Kaleo – “Way Down We Go”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/20/16

    I heard this song on a movie trailer recently. I can’t remember what the film was, proving there is something that is actually less memorable than this song. Who would’ve thought? –Philip Cosores
    __________________________________________________________

    289. Fun – “Some Nights”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/11/12

    Have you ever wondered what Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia” would sound like if performed by a tasteless version of Queen? Just listen to “Some Nights”, a train wreck of a song that is almost charming in how cluelessly uncool it is. Needless to say, it was a massive success, not only topping the alt charts but reaching number three on the Billboard 200. –Philip Cosores
    __________________________________________________________

    288. Crash Kings – “Mountain Man”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/10/10

    In the late aughts, it appeared as if every rocker with a piano was taking notes from The White Stripes’ 2005 relic, Get Behind Me Satan. Cold War Kids? Check. Crash Kings? Double check. “Mountain Man” is “My Doorbell” without the signature oomph. –Michael Roffman
    __________________________________________________________

    287. Sugar Ray – “Every Morning”

    Date Reaching Number One: 2/20/99

    “Every Morning”‘s central image of a halo hanging on a bedpost is actually quite evocative, but once you hear what Mark McGrath wants to use it for, you kind of hate him. And while it might work as some sort of satirical character study of a scumbag a la Randy Newman, Sugar Ray only really knows how to do sincerity. Even if the girlfriend’s cheating, too (which she might be, according to the lyrics), that somehow just makes things more icky. –Dan Caffrey
    __________________________________________________________

    286. Linkin Park – “What I’ve Done”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/21/07

    “What I’ve Done” might just be Linkin Park’s last true mega hit, and that it was; topping the alternative charts for 15 weeks in 2007, the single saw LP transitioning away from nu metal as its primary stock in trade toward a sound still arena-friendly but less specific to one moment in music. The song is also forever cemented as the sound of Optimus Prime making promises of a better tomorrow for Earth. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    285. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/20/11

    Following the huge success of Stadium Arcadium with their first single in five years, RHCP were almost guaranteed the number one spot provided they didn’t shit the bed completely on the lead single for I’m with You. While “The Adventures of Raindance Maggie” may have been one of the band’s weakest singles to hit the top spot, it was inoffensive enough for listeners to not abandon the group following the (second) departure of John Frusciante. While the resulting album would be the group’s weakest in over 20 years, it was at the point in their career where they had generated enough goodwill with their fanbase to coast for as long as they wanted to. –David Sackllah
    __________________________________________________________

    284. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below”

    Date Reaching Number One: 7/5/03

    Chevelle was another of the many hard rock bands who dominated alt-rock radio in the post-nu metal years alongside groups like Trapt and Disturbed, and “Send the Pain Below” was their only song to hit number one. More radio-friendly than the aforementioned hard rock groups (mostly due to their lack of screaming), Chevelle had a respectable run of decent singles that never really left a strong impression one way or another. –David Sackllah


    283. Barenaked Ladies – “One Week”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/22/98

    “One Week” is essentially two songs in one. There are the verses — pop culture-laden, stream-of-consciousness rap that’s ostentatiously difficult to understand, much less mimic — and then there’s the catchy chorus, a fairly straightforward description of the progression of an argument. Neither is all that great, though both have a tendency to get stuck in one’s head on an epic, horrifying loop. It’s a crying shame that this piece of silliness was BNL’s biggest US hit. —Allison Shoemaker


    282. Goo Goo Dolls – “Slide”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 10/31/98

    Ah, the ’90s, that golden age when singing ability and needing a lozenge were indistinguishable. John Rzeznik rasps his way through cookie-cutter love songs, part of a new genre at the time called Pop Rock (and yes, that’s a candy, too, but one that undersells how sugary the music is). The period after grunge produced some of the most flaccid rock music ever, and “Slide” is no exception. –Wren Graves


    281. The Lemonheads – “Into Your Arms”

    Date Reaching Number One: 11/6/93

    It’s a shame that “Into Your Arms” is the only Lemonheads song to reach number one. “It’s a Shame About Ray” stands tallest among the tracks that missed the cut, but go listen to “Being Around”. It’s cheesy but super charming. “Into Your Arms”? Straight gouda. Written by Robyn St. Clare of the band The Hummingbirds, it’s a fine acoustic jam that probably won’t convince you to listen to more of Evan Dando and co. — though you totally should. –Adam Kivel


    280. Lit – “My Own Worst Enemy”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/10/99

    “My Own Worst Enemy” is much better as a piece of ‘90s nostalgia and a top-notch karaoke jam — seriously, it always kills — than it is as an actual song. It’s a paint-by-numbers piece of radio-friendly pop-punk, heightened only slightly by some (well-deserved) self-deprecation. Now it’s a hoot, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sort of suck. —Allison Shoemaker
    __________________________________________________________

    279. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Dark Necessities”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/13/16

    No band has dominated the alt charts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so it’s not a surprise when their first single of their latest record tops the charts. And even though there is a lot to like, including an earworm bass line from Flea and production gloss from Danger Mouse, it hardly resonates when compared to their previous highs. This is minor Chili Peppers, raised up out of respect more than anything. –Philip Cosores


    278. Linkin Park – “Somewhere I Belong”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/12/03

    Out of all their angsty singles, “Somewhere I Belong” is arguably the most tolerable few minutes from Linkin Park. The problem is that they stress the angst similar to how Coldplay over-sensationalizes everyday romances, so it’s hard to ever take them seriously. “I get lost in the nothingness inside of me,” Mike Shinoda sings, later admitting: “I can’t believe I didn’t fall right on my face.” How that ever left his notepad … good god. Whatever the case, this song was (still is?) a life raft to depressed teens everywhere and mainly for that orgasmic chorus. If only AIM was still around… –Michael Roffman


    277. Hoobastank – “The Reason”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/17/04

    Apart from their god-awful moniker and diva vocal delivery, Hoobastank know how to write a hit. Their 2004 single “The Reason” employs non-annoying piano chords that guitar dodges on the upbeat — much of which works thanks to the song’s clean production — to create a melody that’s both relaxing and enticing. Two decades later, the song’s still way too relevant, racking up almost 200 million plays on YouTube alone. –Nina Corcoran


    276. The Cure – “Never Enough”

    Date Reaching Number One: 9/29/90

    The straightforward rock guitar strains of the one lackluster new track from The Cure’s 1990 remix collection, Mixed Up, sounded almost as out of place among the most popular alternative singles of the time as it did tacked on the end of a collection of extended mixes, and yet “Never Enough” spent three non-consecutive weeks on top of the modern rock chart in the fall of 1990. –Sarah Kurchak


    275. Papa Roach – “Last Resort”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/5/00

    I’m by no means trying to downplay the pain of Papa Roach singer Jacoby Shaddix — we all have our problems. But the way he sings (raps?) about it in “Last Resort” is so generalized that his struggle doesn’t feel real, even though I’m sure it is. But I’ll be goddamned if that guitar line doesn’t burrow itself into your consciousness like a (insert standard simile for pain here). –Dan Caffrey
    __________________________________________________________

    274. Twenty One Pilots – “Ride”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/9/16

    Is this the future of rock? A little hip-hop, a little dub, a little aggravating, and a lotta catchy? Kind of like Sublime on steroids. With five hit singles, three of them number ones, “Ride” represents the worst-case scenario for Twenty One Pilots — a musical cornucopia that lacks for good taste. –Philip Cosores


    273. Green Day – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

    Date Reaching Number One: 12/11/04

    “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was one of American Idiot’s biggest hits in a crowded field of them, topping the charts for 16 weeks. And the massive groundswell of goodwill for that album as both Green Day’s comeback in a fashion and for its ambitions were enough to obscure the fact that “Boulevard” is also a straight-up power ballad, with all the maudlin keys and sentiments such a description would suggest. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    272. Staind – “It’s Been Awhile”

    Date Reaching Number One: 4/28/01

    “It’s Been Awhile” was a four-month hit for Staind and the driving force behind the band’s third LP, Break the Cycle, ascending to the top of the US album charts at large. Full disclosure: Aaron Lewis’ delivery of “It’s been a while/ Since I’ve gone and fucked things up, just like I always do” is something of a meme around the CoS offices for its out-of-nowhere excess. And yet, it’s also one of the graver, more powerfully delivered rock hits of its time, as those went. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    271. Public Image Ltd. – “Disappointed”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 7/29/89

    “Friends will let you down, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have friends,” John Lydon digressed to MTV’s 120 Minutes around the time “Disappointed” surfaced. Who knew the former Sex Pistol could be so reasonable? This chunk of alternative rock from Public Image Ltd. actually sounds a little ahead of its time, glistening by with a steamboat of distortion that sounds stripped from My Bloody Valentine. Lydon’s vocals echo David Byrne, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. It helps that there’s so much venom on his tongue: “You cheat easily/ Like all charity.” Ouch. –Michael Roffman


    270. Fuel – “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)”

    Date Reaching Number One: 11/4/00

    Imagine former Fuel guitarist Carl Bell chopping vegetables while watching Jeopardy!. He shouts out a correct response — “Who is Bachman–Turner Overdrive?” — and gets so excited that he unintentionally slices open his finger. He writes “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” while waiting for stitches in the ER and ends up with a couple Gold records. That’s not how the song was created, but its title is still good enough to inspire a nifty creative writing exercise, so we’ll forgive the lyrics’ self-pitying view on male/female relationships. –Dan Caffrey


    269. Tears for Fears – “Break It Down Again”

    Date Reaching Number One: 7/24/93

    This wasn’t a proud hour for Tears for Fears. Curt Smith was no longer in the band, which makes this more or less a solo effort by Roland Orzabal — and it sounds like it, too. Vocally, “Break It Down Again” feels quite singular, leaning heavily on Orzabal as he valiantly attempts to lift this song higher and higher as the minutes go. His little scat three minutes in — “And they won’t simmer, won’t simmer, won’t simmer down” — is playful, but altogether, it’s a little empty. –Michael Roffman


    268. Muse – “Dead Inside”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/23/15

    The driving synthpop of Depeche Mode is an obvious reference point for “Dead Inside”, which bears more than a passing resemblance to “Personal Jesus”. But by the time Drones came out in 2015, Muse had already become so monolithic — so self-contained in their grandiosity — that they didn’t need outside reference points. Like pretty much every song written by Matt Bellamy, “Dead Inside” is a little silly (what’s with those robot voices?) but also worthy of begrudging respect for its cross-genre playfulness. –Collin Brennan


    267. The B-52’s – “Channel Z”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/5/89

    Though it preceded “Love Shack” and “Roam”, Cosmic Thing’s “Channel Z” never gets the same attention. Produced by Nile Rodgers, the groovy tune tells the story of a radio station that just plays static. The B-52’s were fun enough to make the rest of the radio stations not playing their songs sound just that dull, as they were “living on the edge of Z.” –Adam Kivel


    266. Julian Cope – “Charlotte Anne”

    Date Reaching Number One: 1/21/89

    Every international act has a problem cracking the United States. English singer-songwriter Julian Cope, however, managed to squeeze in once with “Charlotte Anne”, a bubbly, refreshing slice of new wave rock that literally sounds like 1988. Pity he’s since disowned the song and album it’s from: My Nation Underground. Couldn’t he just cope with it? –Michael Roffman


    265. Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 11/1/97

    It’s easy to write Chumbawamba off as that British band with a funny name who got knocked down but got back up again in the mid-’90s. Far fewer people recall that these anarchists had actually been together for nearly two decades before “pissing the night away” on the American alternative charts. Whether you choose to view “Tubthumping” as the band’s 15 minutes or as one blip across an expansive contrarian career, it’s hard to argue against that chorus — as memorable and celebratory as any you’ll find on this list. –Matt Melis


    264. Alien Ant Farm – “Smooth Criminal”

    Date Reaching Number One: 8/25/01

    Dude, you do not turn the King of Pop’s track into a nu metal song. Wait, you’re doing the severely underrated “Smooth Criminal”? And I guess Dryden Mitchell’s popping, vibrating vocals do fit the lyrics pretty well. Aw hell, the video’s string of referential homages to Michael Jackson’s career are pretty neat, too. And bassist Alex Barreto’s facial expressions? Fine, you got me. Plus, this cover probably introduced a new generation to MJ’s music, so props for that at the very least. –Ben Kaye
    __________________________________________________________

    263. The Strumbellas – “Spirits”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/21/16

    A couple years too late to really capitalize on the stomp-clap craze, The Strumbellas’ success with “Spirits” was still impossible to thwart — the song was just too damn catchy. But it’s also the type of song that quickly becomes cloying, making for a flash-in-the-pan moment that defied the trends of the time. –Philip Cosores


    262. The Offspring – “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”

    Advertisement

    Date Reaching Number One: 10/4/08

    After five long years, their longest gap between albums at the time, The Offspring returned in 2008 with Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. (Fun fact: The album was one of my earliest CoS reviews. Spoiler: The comments were ugly.) Second single “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” apes Panic! at the Disco — the percussion alone — but purists should still find solace in trademark hooks like: “Dance fucker dance, he never had a chance/ It was really only you.” Not their best work, but still miles ahead of barfopolis follow-up single “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?”. Blech. –Michael Roffman


    261. Unwritten Law – “Seein’ Red”

    Date Reaching Number One: 5/11/02

    Okay, okay. So “Seein’ Red” may as well be called “Rock Song in Hip Youth Culture Film/TV Program #468” for the way it was treated at the time. But the song was a bigger hit than you might remember (a full month at #1 in early summer ’02), and for those whose nostalgia trips include various goofy rock anthems, you can do a lot worse on this list and elsewhere than Unwritten Law’s biggest hit. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
    __________________________________________________________

Personalized Stories

Around The Web

Advertisement