From Justin Bieber to Michael Jackson, Britney Spears to Lady Gaga, you won’t believe which pop mega hits never conquered the coveted No. 1 slot on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Payphone” by Maroon 5
Peaked at: No. 2 | July 7, 2012
No. 1: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
It was the soundtrack of the summer of 2012, and one of seemingly innumerable chart-topping, record-breaking hits for the pop-rock band. The jam boasted an unusual collaboration (for Maroon 5) with a rap verse by Wiz Khalifa. It was infectious, nostalgic (because pay phones are so retro), and a welcome change for a veteran band whose sound was struggling not to go stale. But Adam Levine and the gang were up against one of the most viral songs of the decade–newcomer Carly Rae Jepsen’s impossibly catchy “Call Me Maybe”–and the latter wasn’t going anywhere. (What’s up with the phone-themed songs?)
“Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber
Peaked at: No. 2 | Apr. 14, 2012
No. 1: “We Are Young” by Fun.
Despite a record-breaking first week in digital sales—and sugary promises of “chillin’ by the fire while eatin’ fondue” with Justin Bieber—the 21-year-old’s “swaggy” pop beat failed to dethrone Fun.’s six-week run at No. 1, peaking at its debut spot of No. 2. What is, perhaps, even more shocking is that “Boyfriend” soared higher on the charts than any other single to date by the Biebs, including “Baby,” “As Long As You Love Me,” and “Beauty And A Beat.”
“Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by Backstreet Boys
Peaked at: No. 2 | Sept. 6, 1997
No. 1: “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy & Mase
The name is one of the most recognizable in boy band history–setting an example for subsequent tween obsession phenomena like One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer, and the Jonas Brothers–and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” was undeniably the group’s break-out hit. Unfortunately for BSB, Biggie Smalls was at the height of his career, and snagged the top spot that week. This was the closest the Backstreet Boys ever got to No. 1–even “I Want It That Way” only reached No 6. Ugh—quit playing games with my heart, Billboard Chart!
“Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake & Lil Jon
Peaked at: No. 4 | June 14, 2014
No. 1: “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX
It was one of the most contagious party jams of 2014, and still manages to get crowds going like no other. Much more than a song, “Turn Down For What” became a catch phrase; a go-to hash tag across social media; a lifestyle statement for vivacious millennials whose collective motto is work hard, play harder. But the Billboard Hot 100 did turn down that week—for Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”
“Heartless” by Kanye West
Peaked at: No. 2 | Feb. 21, 2009
No. 1: “Crack A Bottle” by Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
If nothing else, Kanye West is brilliantly unconventional, forever lingering just far enough outside the box to remain completely unpredictable. Simplistically composed, yet ingeniously avant-garde, “Heartless” was no exception—slaying Top 40 standards, going 5x Platinum, and inspiring countless notable celebrity covers. And yet, even Yeezy couldn’t knock the unshakeable trio behind “Crack A Bottle”—Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent—out of the No. 1 slot, stalling at No. 2.
“Drunk In Love” by Beyonce
Peaked at: No. 2 | Feb. 15, 2014
No. 1: “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry feat. Juicy J
It was the surprise album drop heard ‘round the world when Beyonce released her eponymously titled fifth studio album in late 2013. Though “Drunk in Love” received cult-like reception–becoming the go-to anthem for alcohol-induced love affairs everywhere—the “Crazy in Love” sequel shockingly never hit No. 1 on the #Billbort Hot 100. Instead, it peaked at No. 2–’cause Katy Perry came at Beyonce like a dark horse.
“I Knew You Were Trouble.” by Taylor Swift
Peaked at: No. 2 | Jan. 12, 2013
No. 1: “Locked Out Of Heaven” by Bruno Mars
No one has straddled the pop/country line as successfully–and gracefully–as the enviable force that is Taylor Swift. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” was the 25-year-old’s first bold step away from her country-leaning roots, as well as the first glimpse of Taylor Swift 2.0. The universal vulnerability of the lyrics–coupled with an uber catchy dub step vibe–tugged at the heartstrings of bad boy-scorned girls everywhere, forcing them to dance, cry, and shout the chorus bitterly to their own personal heartbreaker. Yet somehow, the break-up ballad never reached the summit, effectively leaving T-Swift “locked out of Heaven.”
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
Peaked at: No. 2 | Dec. 5, 2009
No. 1: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys
If she hadn’t already done so with “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” Lady Gaga certainly secured her spot in the metaphorical pop star hall of fame with the Europop-inspired, French-infused “Bad Romance.” Unfortunately for Mother Monster, the timing was off, as one of the greatest New York City pride ballads to ever grace our ears had already skyrocketed to No. 1, and would remain there for five weeks, leaving Gaga in second place. But the pop diva wasn’t too heartbroken, as the single later garnered two Grammy Awards.
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Peaked at: No. 4 | March 3, 1984
No. 1: “Jump” by Van Halen
Though Michael Jackson is no longer with us, his mighty reign endures through the generations, and “Thriller” (with its legendary accompanying music video) could be Michael’s most generationally-transcendental hit. For a ‘90s kid like myself, who missed out on the King of Pop’s most iconic years, “Thriller” is one of a handful of songs I recognize and know the lyrics (and dance!) to. But it was an extraordinary week for music back in March of 1984, and Mr. Jackson was trumped by Van Halen’s “Jump” (No. 1) and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” (No. 2).
“Oops!…I Did It Again” by Britney Spears
Peaked at: No. 9 | June 10, 2000
No. 1: “Maria Maria” by Santana feat. The Product G
It’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most deliciously classic pop hits of the millennium never so much as reached the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 9 the week of June 10, 2000. This is especially mind boggling when you consider Britney’s lesser-known hits like “Hold It Against Me,” “3,” and “Womanizer” all made it to No. 1. “Oops” may not have won the heart of the Billboard, but at least Brit has the Heart of the Ocean.
Which of these hits is most surprising to you? Let us know in the comments below!