You’ll Never Believe These Surprising Artists Who Never Had a No. 1 Hit

We assume our favorite musicians have many No. 1 songs, but many great artists go their whole career without landing the top spot on the charts. From famous Grammy upsets to artists who can’t seem to get past No. 2, these are the surprising artists who have never had a No. 1 hit. Not even the boss could get his song to the top (page 10).

1. James Brown

James Brown
Musician James Brown | Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

The Godfather of Soul had 90 songs crack the Billboard top-100 list, yet none made it to the No. 1 spot. The closest he got was No. 3 with “I Got You (I Feel Good)” in 1965, followed decades later by “Living in America,” which made the No. 4 spot in 1986. Brown’s first song on the top-100 list was “Try Me,” which ranked No. 48 in 1959.

Next: Knock, knock, knockin’ at the No. 2 spot

2. Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan performs
Pop icon Bob Dylan performs in 2012. | Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty Images

The rock icon has had lots of hits throughout his career, including “Rainy Day Women,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” However, none made it to the top on the Billboard chart. The closest Bob Dylan came was No. 2 with “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965 and “Rainy Day Women” a year later. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” peaked at the No. 12 spot in 1973.

Next: All I wanna do is have a No. 1 hit.

3. Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow
Music artist Sheryl Crow | Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Although she sings catchy tunes, Sheryl Crow has never had a No. 1 hit. The closest she’s come was “All I Wanna Do” in 1994, which stalled in second place. “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men blocked her from that coveted top spot. Crow has had three other top-10 hits: “Strong Enough” (No. 5), “If it Makes You Happy” (No. 10), and her duet with Kid Rock, “Picture” (No. 4).

Next: Getting to No. 1 is a battlefield.

4. Pat Benatar

Four-time Grammy Award winner Pat Benatar
Four-time Grammy Award winner Pat Benatar | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

With her iconic style and music videos in MTV’s early days, you’d think Pat Benatar would have at least one top hit. She has four songs land in the top 10, but none got higher than No. 5. “Love is a Battlefield” rose to the fifth spot in 1983. Her other top-10 hits are “We Belong,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Invincible (Theme From the Legend of Billie Jean).”

Next: Can’t touch that No. 1 spot

5. MC Hammer

MC Hammer
Hip-hop artist MC Hammer | Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for IEBA

He made parachute pants look cool in the ’90s. But the rapper never had a No. 1 hit. MC Hammer actually spent eight weeks on the Billboard top-200 albums chart with Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em. But the closest his songs ever got to No. 1 on the top-100 chart was “Pray,” which made it to No. 2. His iconic hit, “U Can’t Touch This,” peaked at No. 8.

Next: The record for the most second-place songs without a No. 1 hit.

6. Creedence Clearwater Revival

Rock band Creedence ClearwaterqRock band Creedence Clearwater
Creedence Clearwater Revival | Edgar Negrete/ Images

Creedence Clearwater Revival had five songs make it to the No. 2 spot: “Proud Mary (1969),” “Green River (1969),” “Bad Moon Rising (1969),” “Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain (1970)” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See the Light (1970).” This secured them the record for the band with the most No. 2 songs without ever getting to No. 1.

Next: This ’90s trio had three runner-ups.

7. En Vogue

R&B group En Vogue performs at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
R&B group En Vogue performs at the 2019 Grammy Awards. | Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

This ’90s R&B trio had six No. 1 hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart but were never able to land the top spot on the Billboard chart. They came close with their hits “Hold On,” “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” and “Don’t Let Go (Love),” but they all leveled out at No. 2.

Next: He had No. 1 hits with his band but couldn’t make it solo.

8. Don Henley

Don Henley
Musician Don Henley | Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

He got a taste for the No. 1 spot with Eagles’ hits “Hotel California,” “Best of My Love,” “One of These Nights,” “Heartache Tonight,” and “New Kid in Town.” But a solo Don Henley only ever made it to No. 2. His 1992 duet with Patty Smyth, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” was No. 2 for six weeks but wasn’t able to surpass Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.”

Next: They couldn’t dance their way to the No. 1 spot.

9. Martha & the Vandellas

Bakersfield hosts Martha and the Vandellas
Martha and the Vandellas in 2015 | Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

You may have grown up singing tunes like “Heat Wave” and “Dancing in the Street.” And you may think these popular songs were No. 1 hits. But Martha & the Vandellas never cracked the top spot on the top-100 chart. “Dancing in the Street” came close at No. 2. “Heat Wave” stalled in fourth, and “Nowhere to Run” peaked at the No. 8 spot.

Next: This rock icon was never the boss of the charts.

10.  Bruce Springsteen

“The Boss” aka Bruce Springsteen | Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen has never had a No. 1 hit. The Boss has seen dozens of songs reach the top 10, including “Dancing in the Dark,” which held steady at No. 2 for four weeks behind Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” But the hit from Springsteen’s Born in the USA album is the closest he’s come to topping the charts.

Next: This ’90s boy band had everything — except a No. 1 hit.

11. Backstreet Boys

Backstreet Boys
The Backstreet Boys perform | Randy Holmes via Getty Images

These ’90s heartthrobs never got the top spot on the Billboard charts. The closest the Backstreet Boys came was No. 2, with “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” in 1999. They may have been able to score the top hit with “I Want it That Way,” which was No. 1 on the Radio Songs Airplay chart. At the time, the Billboard top 100 combined sales and airplay data to decide rankings. Because the song wasn’t released as a commercially available single at the time, it was only No. 6.

Next: She’s collaborated with top artists but doesn’t have a No. 1 hit yet.

12. Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj
Rapper Nicki Minaj performs | Andreas Rentz/MTV 2018/Getty Images for MTV

She’s landed on the top-10 list several times, thanks in part to her collaborations with other artists, but Nicki Minaj just hasn’t been able to crack that second-place spot. “Anaconda” peaked at No. 2 in 2014. “Super Bass,” Bang Bang,” “Till the World Ends,” and “FEFE” all made it to No. 3.

Next: The only direction left to go was up …

13. One Direction

One Direction in 2015
Four of the five members of One Direction in 2015 | Steve Granitz/WireImage

Although they have the word “one” in their band name, One Direction doesn’t have a top hit. They’ve had several singles crack the top-10 list. “Best Song Ever” was, indeed, their best song ever, peaking at No. 2 in 2013. “Drag Me Down” and “Live While We’re ¬†Young” ranked third in 2015 and 2012.

Next: Her hit trailed Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” for 10 straight weeks.

14. Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott
Rapper Missy Elliott | Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Something in the Water

She’s a rap superstar, but Missy Elliott hasn’t made it past the No. 2 spot. In 2002, “Work It” spent 10 weeks in second place behind Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” In 2005, “1, 2, Step” also spent 10 weeks in second. This 10-week streak is tied with Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” for the longest time a song has been second without making it to No. 1.

Next: This artist spent all his time getting other artists to No. 1.

15. Babyface

Singer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds | Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Babyface has written and produced No. 1 hits for famous artists like Madonna, Boyz II Men, Whitney Houston, and Toni Braxton. But he’s never cracked the top spot with his own music. The closest he’s come is No. 4 with “When Can I See You” in 1994. His top-10 hits include “Every Time I Close My Eyes,” “Whip Appeal,” and “It’s No Crime.”