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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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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
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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

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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

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277. Hoobastank – “The Reason”

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

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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

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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
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274. Twenty One Pilots – “Ride”

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

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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

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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

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271. Public Image Ltd. – “Disappointed”

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

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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

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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

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268. Muse – “Dead Inside”

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

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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

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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

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265. Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”

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

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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
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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

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

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

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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
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