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

on July 05, 2017, 12:00am
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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

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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
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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

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337. Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott – “Hero”

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

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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

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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

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334. Saliva – “Always”

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

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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

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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

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

Date Reaching Number One: 5/15/10

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

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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

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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
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328. 3 Doors Down – “Kryptonite”

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 

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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

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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

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325. The Neighbourhood – “Sweater Weather”

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

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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
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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

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322. Big Data featuring Joywave – “Dangerous”

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

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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

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