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

on July 05, 2017, 12:00am

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”.

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

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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

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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

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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
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351. Seether – “Fake It”

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

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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

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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

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348. P.O.D. – “Youth of the Nation”

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
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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
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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

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345. 10 Years – “Wasteland”

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

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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
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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

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342. Crazy Town – “Butterfly”

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

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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
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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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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

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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

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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

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317. Nothing but Thieves – “Trip Switch”

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

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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
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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

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314. The Offspring – “Hit That”

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

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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

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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

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311. Bush – “The Sound of Winter”

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

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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

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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

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308. Twenty One Pilots – “Stressed Out”

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

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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

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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

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305. Alex Clare – “Too Close”

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

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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
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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
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302. Finger Eleven – “Paralyzer”

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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

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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

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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

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294. A Perfect Circle – “Weak and Powerless”

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

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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

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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

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291. Muse – “Resistance”

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
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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
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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
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288. Crash Kings – “Mountain Man”

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
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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
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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

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

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
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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

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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

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282. Goo Goo Dolls – “Slide”

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

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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

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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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260. Linkin Park – “The Catalyst”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/4/10

By 2010, it was really hard to distinguish what was special about a new Linkin Park single, and “The Catalyst” is a particularly uninspired smash. It’s more Shinoda-heavy than most and finds the band at least working with some different tones and textures than usual. Still, its success was 100% reliant on previous Linkin Park and not its own quality. –Philip Cosores

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259. Depeche Mode – “Walking in My Shoes”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/15/93

On this gloomy, mid-tempo synth-rocker, which fittingly hit No. 69 on the Hot 100, Depeche Mode mouthpiece Dave Gahan answers to charges of immorality and indecency by asking his accusers to slink around in his Docs for a few days. Despite the cliched lyrics, sinner Dave sells the track with his earnest, unapologetic delivery. –Kenneth Partridge

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258. 311 – “Down”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/14/96

Eww, rap-singing rock from a bunch of bleached blonde boys trying to mimic Bad Brains. Still, just forget the Trasher video sound for a second, tune out the dated record scratches and tinny drums, and what remains is 311’s best part of “Down”: hella-hard rocking guitar. –Blake Goble

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257. Ian McCulloch – “Proud to Fall”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/11/89

The first ever solo single from Ian McCulloch, better known as the voice behind Echo and the Bunnymen, doesn’t come close to matching that band’s heights. But the combination of a familiar voice and a simple verse-chorus-verse songwriting allowed “Proud to Fall” a month at the top of the charts in late 1989. –Philip Cosores

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256. Happy Mondays – “Kinky Afro”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/19/91

Produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne, “Kinky Afro” acts as a bubbly hot tub of synths for vocalist Shaun Ryder. There’s a claustrophobic chamber sensibility to the repetition, namely the revolving guitars that gently move the hips. So, why did this win over America while the rest of the band’s work went somewhat unnoticed? Blame it on the chorus: Ryder paraphrases Labelle’s infamous “Lady Marmalade”, adding a sexy bow on the top that’s far too attractive to not unravel. Someone bring back Madchester. –Michael Roffman

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255. Jesus Jones – “The Devil You Know”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/23/93

The fact that Jesus Jones was still finding success in 1993 speaks to just how slow-moving the music industry can be. We think that Nirvana changed things overnight, but no, this stuck-in-the-’80s band with some of the worst hairstyles of all time still had a couple years to exist with grunge before fading away into obscurity. –Philip Cosores

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254. Eve 6 – “Inside Out”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/8/98

In retrospect, this track is an example of how stale ’90s alt-rock could be at times. But come on, you still know every single lyric and bust it out at karaoke every now and then. There are even some pretty slick moments of lyricism in there, until you get to that chorus and the trite blender metaphor. Now I’m through with you. –Ben Kaye

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253. Audioslave – “Be Yourself”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/9/05

2005 was not rock music’s finest year. Audioslave, for its part, was neither a strike for nor against. I’m still a little puzzled why Chris Cornell likes drinking out of paper coffee cups in music videos so much, but maybe that’s just me. Looking like Mark McGrath’s older brother, Cornell delivers a solid vocal performance on a song with a purposefully simple concept. Sometimes, this approach yields a classic, other times, a shoulder shrug and four weeks atop the alternative charts. –Kevin McMahon

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252. Simple Minds – “See the Lights”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/11/91

“See the Lights” was the death rattle for the US relevance of Scottish lads Simple Minds. The band was so entrenched in ’80s culture, what with owing much of their fame to The Breakfast Club and all that, that it’s surprising they made it as far into the ’90s as this 1991 single. –Pay Levy

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251. Midnight Oil – “Blue Sky Mine”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/7/90

Though melodically and instrumentally “Blue Sky Mine” is really lacking anything to hold onto with 2016 ears, the backstory is still pretty interesting. The song recalls the experience of miners in Wittenoom, Australia, who worked pulling asbestos from the earth, eventually succumbing to all sorts of asbestos-related diseases. The site is now a ghost town, but the story lives on in the form of this very mediocre song. –Philip Cosores
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250. Electronic – “Get the Message”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/22/91

With New Order on the brink of collapse and The Smiths recently dissolved, it only seemed natural that two of Manchester’s finest musical exports would come together. While Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner may seem like a perfect pair, the duo’s three albums as Electronic have been somewhat forgotten by time despite all of them being chart successes in the UK. Their self-titled debut also performed well in America, with second single “Get the Message” hitting #1 in Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and #15 in the Hot Dance Single Sales. While the song is somewhat dated and Sumner is no Morrissey (a line like “I always thought of you as my brick wall/ Built like an angel six feet tall” is brilliantly stupid), Johnny Marr still reckons that it’s the best song he’s ever written. Despite those questionable lyrics, his nuanced and layered guitar tracks put up a strong argument for his end of the songwriting. –Edward Dunbar
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249. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Tell Me Baby”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/23/06

2006’s Stadium Arcadium ended up being a huge success for RHCP, winning the Grammy for Best Rock Album and ending up one of the the best-selling records of their career. The band used the double album to blend their earlier funk inclinations with more radio-friendly ballads. “Tell Me Baby”, the record’s second single, was a watered-down version of both, pleasing enough to hit number one but less memorable than many of the better singles they put out throughout the decade. –David Sackllah

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248. U2 – “Discothèque”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/1/97

A 30-second clip of “Discothèque” was leaked onto the Internet in October 1996, and it was two months later that the full track finally hit the Web, which goes to show how much people were clamoring for electro-U2. Pop is a blemish in the band’s discography, and look no further than lead single and opening track “Discothèque” for a reason why. –Pat Levy

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247. AFI – “Miss Murder”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/5/06

Over a decade after getting their start, Northern California rockers AFI scored their biggest commercial hit with DECEMBERUNDERGROUND. “Miss Murder” hasn’t aged that well lyrically, but the successful single remains the band’s only track to reach #1. Despite skirting screamo territory, the song still managed to achieve mainstream success, peaking at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. –Killian Young

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246. Big Audio Dynamite – “Just Play Music!”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/17/88

“Just Play Music!” and its top-tier success in ’88, a tropicalia of post-punk noises, can only be explained or elevated by cocaine. It hums along amusingly enough, but B.A.D.’s song never truly goes anywhere. The song’s like the anthem for crazy crap on the walls at a T.G.I. Fridays, loud, garish, and inescapable. –Blake Goble

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245. Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Fall Down”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/18/94

It’s no “Walk on the Ocean”, but “Fall Down” thrives from its movie montage chorus: “Jump back, got to get out of here/ Been too long this time.” It’s like you can almost see a bunch of scrappy protagonists cleaning things up. (Fun fact: The song actually appeared in Wesley Snipes’ 1994 parachuting flop, Drop Zone. Get it?) Nonetheless, Toad the Wet Sprocket soundtracked the lives of millions of confused Generation Xers, sometimes begrudgingly, but you can’t fault them for being catchy. –Michael Roffman

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244. Peter Murphy – “Cuts You Up”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/10/90

Fun Fact: Peter Murphy’s “Cuts You Up” replaced Love and Rockets’ “So Alive” in the top slot on the Modern Rock Charts in 1990, notable because Love and Rockets were Murphy’s old bandmates in Bauhaus. Not So Fun Fact: The Love and Rockets song is way better. –Philip Cosores

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243. Everlast – “What It’s Like”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/26/98

Everlast’s post-House of Pain career was about as long and successful as his House of Pain career, with one big hit making up for a wealth of obscurity. Still, “What It’s Like” is an undeniable hit, managing to top the alternative charts for nine weeks between 1998 and 1999 and even reaching number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. –Philip Cosores

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242. Evanescence featuring Paul McCoy – “Bring Me to Life”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/29/03

Made popular from its inclusion on the soundtrack to 2003’s disappointing film adaptation of Daredevil (Ben Affleck’s first attempt at playing a superhero and his first film with future ex-wife Jennifer Garner), this song showed the goth inclinations of post-grunge with its impassioned, dramatic delivery and heavy use of Hot Topic goth imagery. Beyond all that, though, was a truly impressive song that showcased how strong a performer Amy Lee was, a singer who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her talent and influence on similar goth-leaning ballads that can be found in indie rock today. –David Sackllah

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241. Soul Asylum – “Misery”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/3/95

You won’t find a more sublime melody on this list — glowing yet dampened with melancholy. Then Dave Pirner opens his mouth: “They say, ‘Misery loves company.'” Okay, we can grant a rock song a cliche. He continues, “We could start a company and make misery.” Okay, we can grant a rock song a play on words and maybe even a questionable business venture. But by the time he’s trying to sell us shares in “Frustrated Inc.”, listeners should’ve already been stowed away aboard that runaway train never coming back. –Matt Melis

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240. The Church – “Metropolis”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/14/90

Think of The Church, and you’re apt to start humming “Under the Milky Way”. (Those of you who went a little further in might start reaching for a guitar to play “Reptile”.) But if the charts are doing the talking, “Metropolis” is the cut that stood high above the rest and for admirable reasons: It’s full of understated pleasantries, from Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes’ roaming guitar work to everything that vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Steve Kilbey adds. And it’s a lot. “It’s nice,” you’ll say. –Michael Roffman
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239. The Revivalists – “Wish I Knew You”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/20/17

It’s rare that songs this anonymous find success, but the neo-soul of The Revivalists is sturdy and hooky enough to get over that fact. Still, it’s hard to see this song having legs beyond this run, ultimately a nice tune that lacks claws. –Philip Cosores

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238. Fastball – “The Way”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/11/98

For an alt-mainstream landscape that by 1998 was absolutely tilting more in favor of pop than rock, “The Way” is one of the more interesting offerings of that phase, a melancholic drift through a summertime haze that’s every bit as infectious as its fellow hits of the time while managing just a little more gravitas than most of its contemporaries. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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237. Everclear – “Everything to Everyone”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/20/97

Look, no one begrudges Everclear for that moment when they sanitized their gnarly early sounds to go pop. “Everything to Everyone” is just one of those humdingers that works through its rock jollity, then gets stuck in your head forever, FORE-EV-ER, because of that damn police siren noise playing over the main track. –Blake Goble

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236. Neon Trees – “Animal”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/2/10

Complete with hand-claps, a shimmery, pop-punk sound, and a great big chorus, “Animal” seemed tailor-made to land in a bunch of commercials, dominate the airwaves for a few weeks, get covered on Glee, and wind up in Rock Band. That’s exactly what happened. It’s fine. —Allison Shoemaker

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235. Walk the Moon – “Shut Up and Dance”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/28/15

Insipid pop? Sure. But you can’t deny 1) how inescapable Walk the Moon’s triple-platinum radio hit was over the past few years and 2) that the track is damn catchy, from its shimmering synth breakdown to its crowd-pleasing chorus. –Killian Young

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234. Green Day – “Know Your Enemy”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/9/09

Green Day’s first single off 21st Century Breakdown topped three Billboard Charts – Rock Songs, Alternative Songs, and Mainstream Rock Tracks – upon its release in 2009. “Know Your Enemy” tread the same anti-establishment road as career-reviving rock opera American Idiot with less rage and urgency, but was a respectable return to the mainstream nonetheless. –Karen Gwee

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233. Foo Fighters – “Long Road to Ruin”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/1/08

Foo Fighters can be just as toothy when they’re playing slow and quiet as when they’re playing loud and fast — just listen to “Stranger Things Have Happened”. That would have made a stronger second single for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, a potential study in contrast after the hell-raising assault of “The Pretender”. But “Long Road to Ruin” finds itself stuck somewhere in the middle, the perfectly fine mid-tempo rocker that never fully commits to acceleration or being a satisfying comedown. –Dan Caffrey

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232. Midnight Oil – “Forgotten Years”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/19/90

Rarely do Peter Garrett’s vocals match up with Midnight Oil’s new wave sensibilities — the guy sounds like he secretly wants to sing in a punk band. As a result, the political indictments of “Forgotten Years” are snarled to the point of parody, even as the brightened chord progressions reel you in. –Dan Caffrey

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231. Linkin Park – “New Divide”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/20/09

Really, it was only a matter of time before Linkin Park and Transformers consummated their inevitable relationship. But here we are, watching Chester Bennington on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, like there was any other way that both entities’ career arcs could have played out. “New Divide” even went to number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Wrap your head around that. –Philip Cosores

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230. Weezer – “Beverly Hills”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/2/05

For longtime Weezer fans, Make Believe couldn’t touch their earlier discography. But the 2005 LP spawned Rivers Cuomo & co.’s first number one hit with “Beverly Hills”. With its simple riff/drumbeat, hand claps, and catchy chorus, the track also peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains to this day a staple sing-along anthem. -Killian Young
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229. Green Day – “Still Breathing”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/12/16

More than 20 years after their first No. 1 hit, it’s remarkable that Revolution Radio managed to squeeze out two more. The shame is that they had to sound their most patronizing and wimpy in doing so. “Still Breathing” makes Green Day’s acoustic ballads feel muscular by comparison. –Philip Cosores
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228. Foals – “Mountain at My Gates”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/19/2016

We’re at now now. Everything that is happening now is happening now. (Spaceballs, anyone?). Anyway, at press time, Foals’ “Mountain at My Gates” is the number one song on the alternative charts, which is surprising because it isn’t particularly strong, but also comforting in that the band is at least mildly interesting. Does this mean alt radio is in good shape or bad shape? Nah, it’s just business as usual. –Philip Cosores
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227. Jesus Jones – “Right Here, Right Now”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/9/91

For an alternative dance track released in 1991, “Right Here, Right Now” plays better than you’d expect. It’s an upbeat blast, a work of total optimism. Music for sports montages, watching footage of the Berlin Wall collapse, or playing on a Walkman while studying for an exam. For maximum effect, listen to the song while twisting a flannel around your waist, and squinch your face so it does that “ah-haw, yeah!” thing. –Blake Goble

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226. Lenny Kravitz – “Fly Away”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/21/98

Just how many Nissan Xterras did Lenny Kravitz help sell with this song? “Fly Away” was the least funky tune on Kravitz’s 5, an old-style rocker with the same kind of guitar hook memorability as “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”. “Fly Away” started off fun, then became easy to groan about with repetition and overplay in ads. –Blake Goble

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225. Suzanne Vega – “Blood Makes Noise”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/10/92

A lot of what allowed Suzanne Vega’s “Blood Makes Noise” to hit the top of the charts was the success of her ’80s tracks “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka”, both far superior radio songs that haven’t dulled with time. “Blood Makes Noise” isn’t a boring song; it just isn’t very memorable either. –Philip Cosores

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224. Foo Fighters – “Something from Nothing”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/6/14

In an unbiased opinion, this track off the Foo Fighters’ musical roadmap-inspired record, Sonic Highways, is the best — as it was inspired by the city of Chicago. The song, which was the album’s first single, earned itself a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance, but hearing Grohl grunt, “Fuck it all/ I came from nothing” is reminder enough that he needs no prize for what he does. After all, he’s “Something from Nothing”. Isn’t that enough? –Lyndsey Havens

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223. Kings of Leon – “Radioactive”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/16/10

“Radioactive” was the first single released by Kings of Leon while they were already rock stars, and the song carries the bravado of a band having already found success. The flip side of that is that is remarkably vanilla when compared with the tracks that earned them their fame. –Philip Cosores

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222. Smash Mouth – “Walkin’ on the Sun”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/27/97

“Walkin’ on the Sun” may not be the only song in this feature that foregrounds a halfhearted dalliance with “rap,” but Smash Mouth’s first and earliest in a series of inescapable hits may have one of the most suspect examples of them all. It’s also just a strange pop hit, one that doesn’t seem to belong in its time but makes sense when you contextualize it as something far more targeted for the parents than the kids. Didn’t stop Can’t Hardly Wait from approximating it as the sounds of a hip high school party, though. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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221. Tears for Fears – “Sowing the Seeds of Love”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/14/89

As a lifelong Tears for Fears fanatic, I’ve never been too impressed by “Sowing the Seeds of Love”. It’s not the Billy Joel verses, either — those work. It’s that damn “True Colors”-esque chorus that desperately wants to exude the awe and wonder of The Beatles. Everything else gels in their jammy R&B way, especially the closing refrain when the vocals ricochet off one another and sound less like The Fab Four and more like, you know, Tears for Fears. Sigh, 1989 was fucking weird. –Michael Roffman
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220. Bush – “Swallowed”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/16/96

Gavin Rossdale is a gorgeous man and, back in the mid-’90s, knew just how to grime up an otherwise pretty rock song. The key, though, has always been to listen to Bush without hearing exactly what Rossdale’s singing. If you follow that rule, the hit Steve Albini-produced single “Swallowed” may be one of your favorite memories from that second wave of ’90s grunge, but if you start paying too close attention (“swallowed” rhymed with “followed,” “borrowed,” “hollowed,” “sorrowed,” and “oh no”), you may start to suspect that Shooter McGavin helped Rossdale pen this one. –Matt Melis

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219. Milky Chance – “Stolen Dance”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/27/14

This German electro-pop duo seemingly came out of nowhere with this instant international hit, but it didn’t feel so instant. It charted at the number one spot in a handful of countries, but took 21 months for the song’s hypnotic and redundant backbeat to finally win over ears in the US. Now that it has, it’s a song easily recognizable after just the first few seconds. –Lyndsey Havens

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218. The Replacements – “Merry Go Round”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/13/90

There’s nothing wrong with “Merry Go Round”, but it’s admittedly a ho-hum Paul Westerberg song. The Replacements are another in a long line of bands who were churning out garage classics long before there was even an alternative chart to acknowledge them. Chalk it up to unfortunate timing, and let’s just hope that listeners who found the ‘Mats through this single didn’t stop there. It may have been a radio hit, but this was nowhere near the “Left of the Dial”. –Matt Melis

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217. 10,000 Maniacs – “These Are Days”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/21/92

I’ve never believed in Natalie Merchant’s optimistic sloganeering, if only because the poetry is so immature and overwrought. But I do believe in the clarified way she sings it, and I believe even more in the jangly guitar of the late Rob Buck. Uplifting as long as you don’t listen to the words. –Dan Caffrey

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216. Semisonic – “Closing Time”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/30/98

Give Semisonic credit for recognizing that a song called “Closing Time” would be destined to shut down every college bar for the remainder of time. Still, the song is exactly the kind of alt pop that ushered in a safer alternative rock sound in the late ’90s. –Ryan Bray
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215. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/8/17

Portugal. The Man has been a band on the verge of happening for nearly a decade. So, it’s fitting that their first radio hit managed to climb all the way to the top of the charts. What’s a bummer is just how little the band sounds like themselves on the track, barking up the neo-soul tree in order to fulfill their destiny. You gotta do what it takes, I suppose. –Philip Cosores
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214. Thirty Seconds to Mars – “This Is War”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/31/10

The weakness of “This Is War” is the heavy-handed message from Jared Leto and co., who know no subtlety when tackling the big issues facing humanity. Truth is the chorus of this song still kinda rules, demonstrating that Thirty Seconds to Mars are probably a better band than most people give them credit for. They’re just not nearly as good as Jared Leto’s hubris would have you believe. –Philip Cosores

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213. Vance Joy – “Riptide”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/23/14

The first place I heard this song was the 2014 Bonnaroo recap video, which is actually pretty perfect given the fact this twee indie pop track seems to be designed almost completely for cutesy commercials and nostalgic highlight reels. Always suckers for self-deprecating love songs, America kept “Riptide” on Billboard’s Top Alternative list and Hot 100 for 43 weeks straight. –Danielle Janota

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212. Coldplay – “Adventure of a Lifetime”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/20/16

In the annals of unlikely sentences, “Coldplay just keeps getting better” has to be close to the top, and yet here we are in 2016, and Coldplay just keeps getting better. That infectious, descending guitar riff sounds like a disco sitar, and it might be the best bit of guitar in the band’s decade-and-a-half history. With help from the hit-making production team Stargate, “Adventure of a Lifetime” peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. –Wren Graves

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211. Crash Test Dummies – “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/12/94

How does a song about a car crash, birthmarks, and a strict religious upbringing not only top the alt charts but become a worldwide phenomena? As Crash Test Dummies songwriter Brad Roberts explained, it helps a lot when people can hum the chorus in any language. Shrewd marketing, Mmm, Mmm. –Matt Melis

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210. Hoodoo Gurus – “Come Anytime”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/26/89

“Come Anytime” predates the onslaught of ’90s alternative that would soon follow for a good four to five years. Hoodoo Gurus smacked the States around from Down Under with a timeless ditty that juggles around the heart for the sake of therapy. Singer-songwriter Dave Faulkner called it “a romantic song about an unromantic subject,” insisting that “you can reverse the adjectives and the statement would be equally correct.” Whoa, man, you’re not speaking my language there, but your song certainly does. –Michael Roffman

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209. Jane’s Addiction – “Just Because”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/2/03

For a brief, ephemeral moment in 2003, it sounded like Jane’s Addiction was ready to kick ass again like it was 1995. “Just Because” comes out of the gate crushing those guitars, Perry Farrell screams like a sexed-up maniac, the track owns, but strangely lessens with each listen. Oh, the rest of Strays was hodge-podge, but “Just Because” stood out and stays as a harsh, hot, and heavy one. –Blake Goble

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208. Weezer – “Pork and Beans”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/17/08

One of the better songs on Weezer (The Red Album), “Pork and Beans” only becomes slightly annoying when you consider what came after it. That would be Raditude, of course, an album that proved Rivers Cuomo’s dabbling in dorky hip-hop was becoming much more than a novelty. And that’s coming from a Raditude apologist. –Dan Caffrey

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207. U2 – “Vertigo”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/6/04

There’s a fine line between poetry and nonsense, and Bono has spent his career wobbling back and worth across that line like a drunk. “Vertigo” is a hodge-podge of anti-capitalism, surreal imagery, drunken romance, the word “Yeah!” repeated several times, and lessons from the first week of elementary Spanish. Nonsense, in other words, and yet Edge’s guitar riff is so eloquent that the point is made anyway. –Wren Graves
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206. The Lumineers – “Ophelia”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/11/16

“Ophelia” wasn’t a surprise hit, as its hooky piano line and song structure make it memorable from the first listen. What has been surprising is just how enduring it has been. The song still gets radio spins after more than a year in rotation, serving to create a signature song for a band that already had a signature song. That’s a rare feat. –Philip Cosores

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205. Primitive Radio Gods – “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/27/96

The first single from I-Rails singer Chris O’Connor’s solo project, Primitive Radio Gods, came out of nowhere to claim the top position on the alternative chart in the summer of 1996 thanks to a spot on The Cable Guy soundtrack and the mid-‘90s zeitgeist’s exceeding patience for pseudo-soulful self-indulgence. “Standing” also made it to #10 on the Hot 100 (and fell just short of #1 in Canada). –Sarah Kurchak
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204. Cage the Elephant – “In One Ear”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/7/10

“I’m a phony in disguise trying to make the radio,” sings Cage the Elephant frontman Matthew Shultz on “In One Ear”, and it is the rare occasion where it actually seems true. Unlike their other hits, the song comes across as the big, dumb rock song that populates much of the radio, a task Cage the Elephant mostly rise above. At that, it’s not terrible, but also not indicative of the dynamics that they are capable of. –Philip Cosores

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203. Soul Asylum – “Somebody to Shove”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/5/92

“Somebody to Shove” was the song that suggested Soul Asylum would stick around the ’90s a little longer than naysayers thought. The Minneapolis four-piece did what any band craving radio coverage would do: pander to broken-hearted listeners. “I’m waiting by the phone,” frontman Dave Pirner yelps. “Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone.” Nailed it. –Nina Corcoran

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202. System of a Down – “Hypnotize”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/21/06

It’s hard to imagine a song about Tienanmen Square making it big in 2005, but that was just the case with System of a Down’s oddball “Hypnotize”. While the track was also certified gold, Hypnotize (the album) was the more successful hit overall, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200. –Killian Young

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201. Fun featuring Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/21/12

The vapid, endlessly catchy “We Are Young” was undoubtedly most of the world’s introduction to fun. Led by singer Nate Ruess’ soaring vocals, the song – which would eventually win a Grammy for Song of the Year – was an inescapable fact of life following its massive commercial success, as it was certified five-times platinum. –Killian Young

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200. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “The Impression That I Get”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/28/97

In the late ’90s, alt rock dusted off its zoot suit and went the bygone way of hep cats and daddy-o’s — and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones helped pave the way with their irresistibly fun “The Impression That I Get”. Once the ska-core band made it kosher, even cool, to put horns on the radio again, the full-on swing revival ensued … and petered out about three days later. Knock on wood. –Matt Melis

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199. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Snow (Hey Oh)”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/27/07

Latterday Red Hot Chili Peppers rarely came close to ’90s RHCP in terms of quality, and most of their big singles throughout the new millennium were retreads of earlier hits. “Snow” was the 2006 version of “Californication” or “Scar Tissue”, a passive, stately ballad built around the repetition of one of John Frusciante’s more memorable riffs. One of the band’s more successful singles of the decade, its crowd-pleasing approach made it destined to top the charts. –David Sackllah
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198. Pearl Jam – “World Wide Suicide”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/1/06

Nobody can dispute that Pearl Jam are kings of the road. However, the merit of their studio output post-Yield remains up for debate. It’s easy then to see why “World Wide Suicide” marched to the top of the charts in the mid-aughts. A reaction to the ongoing disaster in Iraq and somewhat of a throwback to the rawer sound of the band’s youth, Eddie Vedder and co. tapped into an intensity not seen from them in years. Some would argue not seen since then either — at least not on an album. –Matt Melis

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197. Alice in Chains – “Check My Brain”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/3/09

A lot of nerves surrounded the release of Black Gives Way to Blue, Alice in Chains’ comeback album after 14 years of studio dormancy and their first record with William DuVall replacing the late Layne Staley as frontman. While “Check My Brain” may actually be the least interesting song on the entire record, hard rock fans no doubt were grateful to hear that familiar, fuzzy sludge once again paired with those inimitable Alice harmonies. –Matt Melis
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196. Imagine Dragons – “Believer”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/1/17

Though only their second No. 1 after “Radioactive”, the band really have no trouble following up their breakthrough with more hits from debut album Night Visions. But when their sophomore LP failed to follow suit, it was fair to think that Imagine Dragons might have been a flash in the pan. Flash to 2017, and “Believer” isn’t just one of the biggest rock songs of the year, but it’s also made headway on pop radio, which is virtually unheard of these days. It’s a career-solidifying song and one that warrants the billion times you’ll hear it before you die. –Philip Cosores

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195. U2 – “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/24/95

When Warner Brothers wants a bigger Batman, and Joel Schumacher’s putting codpieces and rubber nipples on the dark knight, what better way to drum up some good faith and soothe audience bafflement than with a sturdy U2 song? “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” is probably best remembered for being attached to a Bat-movie, but it’s dorky, catchy, and vampish Pop-era stuff. –Blake Goble
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194. The Lumineers – “Cleopatra”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/11/17

This one barely got any play from KROQ in Los Angeles, but apparently it did really well elsewhere. It’s not hard to hear why, as the song is sturdy, propulsive, and sentimental — a combo that might play to a more like-minded audience in the Pacific Northwest or the South. Modern radio usually doesn’t have room for songs like this without a gimmick, songs that rely so heavily on craft. The success of “Cleopatra” is ultimately heartening. –Philip Cosores

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193. Death Cab for Cutie – “You Are a Tourist”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/9/11

Death Cab for Cutie’s only career number one single sadly feels like their first alt radio release to pointedly try for success. While early tracks like “Soul Meets Body” and “I Will Follow You into the Dark” found lasting success on the dials, they didn’t pander like this one. “You’re a Tourist” is all one note, its hook an obvious guitar lick and verse that never really finds a chorus, still tasteful and engaging without being remotely special. As such, its reign was hardly dominant, hitting number one for a single week in the summer of 2011. –Philip Cosores

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192. Audioslave – “Like a Stone”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/17/03

Kind of surprising that Soundgarden never had a number one hit (though “Black Hole Sun” peaked at number two in 1994 and was the most played song on radio for that whole year). Still, Chris Cornell checks in a couple time with his ex-Rage Against the Machine mash-up band Audioslave (Rage also never had a number one). “Like a Stone” doesn’t have the urgency of the members’ past bands, but Cornell’s strong vocal performance and a killer Tom Morello guitar solo make this a worthwhile entry into the alt-rock canon. –Philip Cosores
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191. Better Than Ezra – “Good”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/25/95

The mildly quirky debut single from New Orleans alt pop rockers Better Than Ezra, with its nasal hiccup of a chorus that walked the line between catchy and annoying with all of the grace of a giddy drunk, reigned over the modern rock chart for five weeks in 1995 and peaked at 30 on the Top 100. The title only slightly oversold the quality of the song. –Sarah Kurchak

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190. Thirty Seconds to Mars – “Kings and Queens”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/30/10

Cult favorites Thirty Seconds to Mars have recently angled for grand stadium rock, and “Kings and Queens” hit the mark for a triumphant anthem. For fans, it was the first taste of This Is War, showcasing singer Jared Leto’s powerhouse vocals and a nuanced sound that departed from the more hard-edged A Beautiful Lie. The track also peaked at #4 on the Rock chart. –Killian Young

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189. Dishwalla – “Counting Blue Cars”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/29/96

This song is deep, man. God as a woman, as perceived through the innocence of a child? California band Dishwalla hit it out of the park with this alt-radio staple; it stayed on the alternative chart for 26 weeks in 1996, topping out at number one, and ultimately reached 15 on the Hot 100. –Katherine Flynn

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188. Morrissey – “Tomorrow”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/15/92

On the final song on Your Arsenal, his finest solo album to that point, Morrissey insists he’s human and needs to be loved, just like everybody else does. It’s a point he’d made before and that he’s returned to many times since, though never with the glam-a-billy groove and super-powered shimmer of this, his first alternative #1. It’s either a light pop song disguised as a dark night of the soul or the other way around. Only Moz knows for sure. –Kenneth Partridge

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187. XTC – “The Mayor of Simpleton”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/1/89

By the time “The Mayor of Simpleton” got elected to the top of the alternative charts in 1989, Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and the rest of XTC had long since retired from touring and settled into the band’s middle age as purely a recording act. But while their most groundbreaking work may have already been behind them, any five seconds of this track — lyrically, an update on Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” — will make it obvious, even to a simpleton, that this brilliant British band was far from past it. –Matt Melis

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186. Incubus – “Anna Molly”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/23/06

Incubus may have been a hard-rock group on paper, but their most memorable hit came in ballad form on “Drive”. For this bag of wordplay that led off 2006’s Light Grenades, the band found success with a slightly heavier sound that was more akin to their album material. Full of indiscriminate power chords and a catchy chorus, the song soared in an era where a feature in Guitar Hero could help a song as much as radio play. –David Sackllah

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185. Live – “Lakini’s Juice”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/1/97

The passive-aggressive distortion more than justifies the orchestra that explodes at the song’s end. We just wish frontman Ed Kowalczyk wouldn’t feel so guilty about his hedonism, as he makes a much more fascinating heathen than he does a mystic. You can’t blame him. The latter’s a lot harder to pull off without sounding like an elitist. –Dan Caffrey

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184. Cage the Elephant – “Trouble”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/3/16

If there is anything to be learned by this massive list, it’s that no one is an underappreciated hit maker like Cage the Elephant. Look at “Trouble”, their most recent No. 1 as of 2017, a perfectly competent exercise at borrowing from both M. Ward and Pixies without really ripping off either. And maybe what’s best about the song is Cage’s ability to toe the line between retro and timeless. That’s the essence of the band, hitting on classic rock and roll tropes that few others pay homage to, but without delving into tribute or redundancy. –Philip Cosores
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183. The Verve Pipe – “The Freshmen”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/3/97

It’s the song that launched a thousand inappropriate musical numbers at high school graduations. “The Freshmen” is chock-full of the kind of heartfelt, grim angst that brings you down, right from the first notes on that sad, sad guitar, and then gets forgotten as soon as a new song picks up the pace. The song’s radio-friendly slow burn makes it more memorable than most of its fellows, but it’s still a pretty average piece of sonic self-flagellation. —Allison Shoemaker

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182. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/2/13

It’s near impossible to talk about “Radioactive” without envisioning frontman Dan Reynolds going crazy on a huge marching band-esque drum — as he did during the band’s several live performances of the song, everywhere from Saturday Night Live to the 2014 Grammys. Though Imagine Dragons’ live performances propelled the band’s career, this song alone earned Diamond certification from the RIAA, solidifying it as the sixth song to ever receive such high praise. –Lyndsey Havens

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181. Gin Blossoms – “Found Out About You”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/15/94

“Found Out About You” was the lesser of Gin Blossoms 1.0’s two jams, but it still managed to out-chart “Hey Jealousy”, which only reached #4. It was also the last that the charts would ever see of principal songwriter and lead guitarist Doug Hopkins — who was ousted after its release and tragically didn’t make it through the following year — but definitely not of the band that he founded. –Steven Arroyo

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180. R.E.M. – “Bang and Blame”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/17/94

Part of what makes “Bang and Blame” feel so minor is the weight of the R.E.M. catalog. Would the track make the top 50 songs by the legendary band? Maybe? At that, it’s a catchy enough song that is surprising as a single, mostly getting the nudge because so much of Monster is more difficult and more interesting. –Philip Cosores

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179. Counting Crows – “Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/13/94

How big were Counting Crows after August and Everything After dropped? Put it this way: a whole episode of Full House revolved around tickets to one of their concerts. Yes, Adam Duritz and band moped their way right into the Tanner’s living room — a venue usually reserved for Rippers, Beach Boys, and Olsen twins. So, when “Einstein on the Beach” appeared shortly after their debut as part of the DGC Rarities Vol. 1 compilation, it actually acted as a bonus AAEA single, and fans, primed after successful charters “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here”, shot this jangly E=MC^2/Humpty Dumpty barnburner straight to the top. –Matt Melis 

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178. Sting – “All This Time”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/26/91

While the Police would have crushed the alt rock charts had they existed when the band was around, Sting’s solo material is largely too light for the format. That said, “All This Time” is hardly among Sting’s strongest output and doesn’t even live up to Gotye’s Sting impression on “Somebody That I Used to Know”. –Philip Cosores

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177. Live – “Selling the Drama”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/21/94

Search engines may be rendered practically useless by their name, but everyone still found out about Live, and most of us owned Throwing Copper. Looking back, it’s not hard to see how “Selling the Drama” sold us on the band. It’s a familiar enough rock sound made almost exotic by a slightly harder edge and singer Ed Kowalczyk’s ability to erupt from a countryish croon into a powerhouse rallying cry that put us squarely on his side — even if we weren’t exactly sure what side that was most of the time. –Matt Melis

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176. U2 – “The Fly”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/9/91

“The Fly” marked the genesis of “experimental/ironic U2”, in that it spawned one of Bono’s first weird characters and played with the concept of what a U2 song was expected to be to the point of warping it into something no one was prepared for. It’s well placed, wedged midway through Achtung Baby, but this is just decent, uh, rock and roll music. –Pat Levy

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175. Matchbox Twenty – “Push”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/26/97

There was a point in time, very brief, where Matchbox Twenty was considered “alternative.” While you are picking your jaw up off the ground, consider that this first MB20 record had a gazillion singles that were all inescapable on VH1, but only one conquered the alt charts. It was the first single, the sonically light and emotionally obvious “Push”, still a pretty good cut if you can get past the whining and the eyeliner. –Philip Cosores

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174. Love and Rockets – “So Alive”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/24/89

With all due respect to Godfather Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets were arguably the best thing to come out of the demise of seminal goth outfit Bauhaus, and this slithering, Nanageddon-summoning single from their self-titled fourth album was their biggest hit. “So Alive” spent five weeks perched atop the alt rock chart and made it as high as three on the Hot 100. –Sarah Kurchak

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173. Beastie Boys – “Ch-Check It Out”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/19/04

“Ch-Check It Out” might not be the Beasties’ best work from a lyrical standpoint (“I’m a man that’s on a mission/ Said, ‘Son, you better listen/ Stuck in your ass/ It’s an electrician’” is not a career highlight), and it’s not even the best single off To The 5 Boroughs in a “Triple Trouble” world. But the production is the thing, because it’s one of the Beasties’ best late-era beats. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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172. Belly – “Feed the Tree”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/6/93

An utterly early ‘90s mix of fuzzy guitars, post-punk power pop, sugar sweet vocals, and the existential contemplation of the gravity of the circle of life propelled “Feed the Tree,” the lead single from the recently reunited Belly’s debut album, Star, to the top of the alt chart for three weeks in March, 1993. –Sarah Kurchak

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171. Silverchair – “Tomorrow”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/2/95

The members of Silverchair, now pushing 40 and on “indefinite hibernation” as a band, may never quite escape the “Silverhighchair” or “Kindergarden” jokes that came along with being 15-year-olds clearly riding in from their native Australia on the post-grunge wave. Hell, just watch the video for “Tomorrow” and try not thinking Kurt Cobain when you see the blonde, stripe-shirted Daniel Johns thrashing about or eyeballing the camera. Here’s the thing, though. All teenage bands ape their heroes. But Silverchair were good enough to make the other side of the world take notice. –Matt Melis

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170. Nine Inch Nails – “Survivalism”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/14/07

Remember when Nine Inch Nails was edgy? It wasn’t long ago. While 2013’s Hesitation Marks stumbled by unnoticed, flip back a few years, and you’re right at 2007’s Year Zero, a rallying political album that was all the evidence any fan needed to show others that Trent Reznor was still a god of sorts. “Survivalism” was the kickoff single to that LP, and “kickoff” is an apt description, as it pummels and roars with all the aggression NIN initially hallmarked. It’s a damn shame that HBO show never came to fruition. –Michael Roffman

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169. New Order – “Regret”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/1/93

Despite being at the height of their popularity worldwide, New Order were already in tatters by the time they released their sixth album, Republic. While the album itself is all but forgotten by both band and fans, “Regret” stands as one of New Order’s finest pop moments. Peter Hook’s melodic bass playing is the song’s strong backbone as glacial synths mingle with ham-fistedly strummed guitars. A top-five hit in their homeland, it stands as their last major hit in America, nearly cracking the Billboard top 10. –Edward Dunbar

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168. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “By the Way”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/29/02

Following the groundbreaking success of 1999’s Californication, RHCP returned to number one with the title track to 2002’s By the Way. The single was a worthy follow-up, albeit one that found Kiedis stretching the use of his rhyming dictionary. It’s no “Give It Away” or “Soul to Squeeze” in terms of nonsensical phrases, but it came close with key non-sequiturs like “black jack, dope dick, pawn shop, quick pick.” –David Sackllah
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167. Kings of Leon – “Waste a Moment”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/3/16

After failing to score a hit with 2013’s Mechanical Bull, “Waste a Moment” is about the most straight-forward attempt at mass appeal that you could ask for. But that’s a look that works for Kings of Leon, with frontman Caleb Followill’s beer-battered drawl enough to infuse the most direct melody with personality. “Waste a Moment” was exactly the song that KoL needed in 2016 and bought the band another round of arena dates in the process. –Philip Cosores
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166. Depeche Mode – “I Feel You”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/27/93

The leadoff track on DM’s “grunge album,” Songs of Faith and Devotion, is a slightly gnarlier take on the industrialized ’50s rock and roll of 1989’s “Personal Jesus”. Musically, it’s the flip: a song about falling at the feet of some savior and surrendering all control. Fans debate whether it’s about love, sex, drugs, or Christ — like there’s really a difference in the Mode’s world. –Kenneth Partridge

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165. The Psychedelic Furs – “Until She Comes”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/7/91

The Psychedelic Furs had so many great songs that didn’t even sniff number one, so it’s a little strange that “Until She Comes” — a relatively late cut from 1991’s World Outside — is one of the few that climbed the charts. It’s a bittersweet, heavily acoustic number about addiction that musically recalls one of the band’s strongest singles from a decade earlier: “Pretty in Pink”. –Collin Brennan

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164. Foo Fighters – “Let It Die”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/2/08

Starting soft and almost angelic, the Foos’ instrumentation on this single gets as thrashing and tense as the relationship described in the lyrics, often said to be about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. As the tension escalates for four minutes, the title line — “Why’d you have to go and let it die?” — is delivered with more and more force. –Michael Madden

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163. Tracy Bonham – “Mother Mother”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/8/96

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill had blasted the alternative rock doors wide open for women a year prior, and classically trained violinist Tracy Bonham took full advantage. While not as memorable as Morissette’s hits, “Mother Mother” — a message to a mother from a daughter now out on her own — felt perfect for alt radio at the time, even as the song manically bounced from acoustic strumming to violin-accented post-grunge to Bonham screaming, “Everything’s fine!” right into listeners’ ear canals. –Matt Melis

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162. Linkin Park – “Faint”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/9/03

Say what you will about nu-metal as a whole, but at least Linkin Park were creative in the range of sounds they incorporated on Meteora (like the strings throughout “Faint”). The lyrics are heavy-handed and petulant, but the track features one of the band’s heaviest, adrenaline-pumping breakdowns courtesy of Chester Bennington. For this same reason, “Faint” didn’t quite have the same crossover appeal as some of the band’s more radio-friendly hits. –Killian Young

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161. The Presidents of the United States of America – “Lump”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/21/95

How’s this for a hit: a girl who might actually be a tumor lives in a swamp, sings with a band, falls in love, and eventually is no longer inside the singer’s head, either because she leaves or because she’s, you know, a tumor. PUSA’s novelty punk song isn’t smart. It’s just catchy as hell, and as “Weird Al” put it in his “Gump” parody, that’s all I have to say about that. —Allison Shoemaker

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160. Green Day – “J.A.R.”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/26/95

A hold over from the Dookie sessions, “J.A.R.” was officially released as a contribution to the soundtrack of the 1995 coming-of-age flick Angus. It’s classic mid-’90s Green Day, which by itself was enough to land it atop the modern rock charts in August 1995. Still, file this one in the “if you’ve heard one Green Day song, you’ve heard them all” category. –Ryan Bray

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159. Pearl Jam – “Who You Are”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/7/96

It’s all about the drums for this quirky Pearl Jam hit. “Who You Are”, a soft cut off the band’s more eclectic album, 1996’s No Code, was a collaboration between Eddie Vedder, guitarist Stone Gossard, and drummer Jack Irons. Irons designed the odd beat by digging deep into his memory banks, specifically to a Max Roach drum solo he heard at the tender age of eight. In a wise move, Vedder focuses more on the sitar (!) than his vocals. How it topped the charts, though, is beyond me. –Michael Roffman

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158. Morrissey – “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/2/94

It’s a work of perfectly harmonious contrasts. On one hand, “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get” boasts this proud march of acoustic guitar, and on the other, Morrissey swoons with his bitter grace pleading for love in all the wrong ways. For what’s ostensibly a theme for stalkers, the music could sound so much uglier than found on this lavish song. –Blake Goble

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157. R.E.M. – “Stand”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/28/89

R.E.M.’s playful stab at replicating the cheesy genius of the pre-fab pop hits of fictional bands like The Archies and Sid and Marty Krofft’s Banana Splits (which guitarist Peter Buck once called, with genuine fondness, “the stupidest song we’ve ever written”) ruled both the alternative and mainstream rock charts in 1989. Green’s second single also hit six on the Top 100 and became the theme for the equally so-stupid-it’s-genius TV show Get a Life. –Sarah Kurchak

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156. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – “Not Sleeping Around”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/16/93

Who’s Ned? And where did he get an atomic dustbin? (Well, I’m sure in 1993, plutonium was available at every corner drugstore…) Questions of nomenclature aside, while the Neds may never have caught on big in America in the early ’90s, the unrelenting two-bass drive of “Not Sleeping Around” doesn’t sound a bit like rubbish in 2016. –Matt Melis

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155. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “My Friends”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/18/95

The Peps proved they could do slow and humble with “Breaking the Girl”, but that got somewhat erased by subsequent Blood Sugar Sex Magik single “If You Have to Ask”. And that’s to say nothing of “Give It Away”, which still continues to overshadow the band’s introspection with its knucklehead rapping. Still, “My Friends” was a refreshing reminder of how beautiful Anthony Kiedis can be in his balladry, a simple offer of support to his loved ones — comrades, exes, kids, the works. –Dan Caffrey

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154. XTC – “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/30/92

Before Crash Test Dummies covered “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” for the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack, XTC had already scored their second and last alternative No. 1 hit with the song. While actually inspired by a jack o’lantern carved by band songwriter Andy Partridge — and not directly about figures like John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, or Jesus Christ — the folk-rock song told the tale of an individual whose goodness ultimately led to him being snuffed out by the government — heady commentary from an alt rock song with little dumb or dumber about it. –Matt Melis

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153. Lou Reed – “Dirty Blvd.”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/11/89

Often derided for its musical simplicity (along with the rest of Lou Reed’s New York album), “Dirty Blvd.”‘s lack of tricks just makes more room for the rambling words. In that way, it fights for its status as a lyrically headier companion to “Walk On the Wild Side”, just as detailed in its character descriptions, but more socially minded in its grueling depiction of the NYC class divide. –Dan Caffrey

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152. World Party – “Way Down Now”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/9/90

World Party leader Karl Wallinger may be “way down now,” but the former Waterboys keyboardist’s lone chart-topper feels nothing like a pity party. A kitchen sink of instruments alongside a traditional rock sound pack every bit of available space on this track like a dance floor that leaves no room for wallflowers. –Matt Melis

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151. The Psychedelic Furs – “All That Money Wants”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/1/88

Nobody seems to care much about The Psychedelic Furs anymore, which is a shame, because these guys did the ‘80s better than just about anyone. Released in 1988, “All That Money Wants” belongs to the compilation album All of This and Nothing, which features plenty of much better singles from years past (including “Heartbreak Beat”, “Dumb Waiters”, and “Love My Way”). This is the one that finally got the band a number one hit, starting a chain reaction that would lead to steady chart success in the early ’90s. –Collin Brennan

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150. Blink-182 – “Bored to Death

No Tom, no problem. On their debut single since the loss of co-lead Tom DeLonge, Blink-182 landed only the third alt chart topper of their career. It’s a cut that feels moulded and shaped to be a hit, still plump with lyrical charms and Travis Barker’s 5th gear percussion. In fact, it’s to the point that if you squint hard enough, you’ll think this was the same Blink you’ve loved since childhood. And, essentially, that’s the best that could be hoped for. –Philip Cosores

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149. Bush – “Comedown”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/23/95

Gavin Rossdale’s clumsy attempts at surreal poetry make it hard to pinpoint what most of Sixteen Stone is about (if it’s actually about anything at all). But it’s safe to say that “Comedown” probably explores heroin addiction. And even if it doesn’t, the twitchy slouch of Nigel Pulsford’s guitar and Dave Parsons’ bass are as good a sonic representation of an opioid stupor as any. –Dan Caffrey

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148. Camper Van Beethoven – “Pictures of Matchstick Men”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/21/89

Nothing about Camper Van Beethoven was ever conventional. Their lone chart-topper, “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, was actually a cover of a 20-year-old Status Quo song, and that unforgettable violin that pierced through the alt airwaves wasn’t even courtesy of the band’s longtime violinist, Jonathan Segel. Shortly after topping the charts, frontman David Lowery left the skinheads at the bowling alley and formed the relatively normal Cracker. –Matt Melis

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147. The Charlatans – “Weirdo”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/23/92

Against all odds, The Charlatans continue to thrive nearly 30 years after their formation. While they retain a decidedly low profile in America, their home nation of Britain celebrates them as survivors of Madchester, Britpop, and whatever other labels you’d like to throw at ‘em. Despite that longevity, 1992’s “Weirdo” is still their biggest hit in America, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and #10 on the Hot Dance Club Singles. Driven by former keyboardist (RIP) Rob Collins’ skillful Hammond Organ riffage, the song tips its hat to The Hacienda’s 303 beats and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord all the while toeing the line between rock and dance in the same way that The Charlatans’ heroes, New Order, mastered. –Edward Dunbar

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146. Bleachers – “I Wanna Get Better”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/9/14

The piano-through-a-blender and relentless stomp sound may not seem like the best backdrop for a damn-simple idea, but all that frenetic sound is just a means to an end. “I Wanna Get Better” is all about that chorus, a triumphant, hard-fought statement that springs from hurt but is filled with joy. Calling it a sing-along sells it short — scream that shit, and scream it loud. What a solid, little pop song. —Allison Shoemaker

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145. Cake – “Never There”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/5/98

Cake exemplifies the late ’90s so succinctly that “Never There” could soundtrack both the ultra-cool Daria and the ultra-mainsteam Friends. The funky jam comes from a time in which swank trumpet, daggering bass, and a vibra-slap can all work on the radio. But the key here are the deadpan vocals of John McCrea, tapping into the ironic end of the era’s disaffected angst. Plus, it opens with that totally retro dial tone, which still sounds rad. –Adam Kivel

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144. Lou Reed – “What’s Good”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/8/92

Sitting near the very start of Magic and Loss, “What’s Good” sounds at first like a twangy take on the Velvet Underground chug, a simple progression looped and achy. But the song’s bleeding heart (“And what good was cancer in April/ No good, no good at all”) is the engine driving things here, as if Reed’s a combustion engine alternating between sorrow and frustration — until, anyway, he discovers the answer. What’s good? “Life’s good, but not fair at all.” It’s such a simple answer, but one delivered with incredible weight. –Adam Kivel

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143. Faith No More – “Midlife Crisis”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/8/92

Initially, Mike Patton dubbed this song “Madonna”, and that title stuck with the song on multiple setlists. (He wasn’t having all the media hoopla around the Material Girl.) Instead, as the name “Midlife Crisis” suggests, “It’s more about creating false emotion, being emotional, dwelling on your emotions and in a sense inventing them.” Peppered with samples by Simon and Garfunkel and Beastie Boys, it’s a thunderous anthem that’s fueled by some sizzling synths. Delightful. –Michael Roffman
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142. Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/10/16

Fourth time is the charm? After a run of megahits from their breakthrough fourth album, it was “Heathens” from the Suicide Squad soundtrack that showcased the duo actually capable of writing a good song. The song works because it maintains a single lane, ditching some of the schitzophrenic tendencies of the band in favor of, well, good taste. There might be time for 21P to mature yet. –Philip Cosores
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141. Nirvana – “You Know You’re Right”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/26/02

Courtney Love so believed in “You Know You’re Right” — a song recorded in January 1994 during Nirvana’s last studio session — that she filed a lawsuit against surviving members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic to prevent it from being buried on the band’s With the Lights Out box set. Once the parties struck a compromise and the song (originally labeled as “Kurt’s Song #1”) leaked onto the airwaves, nothing could prevent it from ascending the charts. While it’s nothing groundbreaking and shares many of the dynamics of previous Cobain compositions, no doubt the song felt like one last gift from a songwriter who unintentionally captured the imagination of a generation. –Matt Melis

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140. Bastille – “Pompeii”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/26/13

Love this song or hate it, it was everywhere during the summer of 2013, its tribal-sounding “eh-oh” trailing you through the aisle of every drugstore. British newcomers Bastille struck a chord with “Pompeii”, likening the experience of being a young adult human to the complete destruction of the ancient Roman city by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Seems legit. Beside reaching number one on the alternative charts, “Pompeii” ultimately charted at number 5 on the Hot 100. –Katherine Flynn

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139. The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/29/12

The chorus’ll give you a toothache faster than you can say either “ho” or “hey,” but there’s something irresistible about The Lumineers’ first hit. Wesley Schultz’s earnest, plaintive voice and the heart-on-sleeve lyrics are easy to sniff at, but hard to forget, and besides, it’s all about that pulsing, foot-stomping chant. Ho. Hey. Ho. Hey. Ho. —Allison Shoemaker

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138. The Cranberries – “Zombie”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/29/94

In the year of its release, The Cranberries’ 1994 LP, No Need to Argue, was the perfect blend of alt-rock and post-grunge grit for the youth to feel like someone just #understood. “Zombie” — the reactionary single about two boys who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington, England — is rightfully aggressive. Dolores O’Riordan belts out the chorus in her distinctly Irish croon like she knows college kids everywhere will be doing the same on road trips, windows rolled down, as loud as they can. –Nina Corcoran

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137. Peter Gabriel – “Digging in the Dirt”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/26/92

During his prime, Peter Gabriel was always at the forefront of musical innovation. By the time 1992’s Us was released, he was also at the peak of his solo career’s popularity. Thrusted into arena and amphitheater shows thanks to his prior album, So, Gabriel didn’t water down his sound for mainstream sensibilities with Us. “Digging in the Dirt”, a #1 on both the Billboard’s Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts, is a prime example of this. Its downtempo, drum machine-driven beat is reminiscent of the then recently released Blue Lines by Massive Attack (who would go on provide a remix of an earlier Gabriel song, “Games Without Frontiers”) while lyrically Gabriel dealt with his dwindling relationship with Rosanna Arquette and his daughter. –Edward Dunbar

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136. Sinéad O’Connor – “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/12/90

Everyone’s favourite Irish alt rock singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor. Forthright, eclectic, and experimental, she sings with a confessing folksiness. This is a song that skirts all the notions of a comfort zone, with O’Connor pleading, “How could I possibly know what I want when I was only 21?” one minute and “You asked for the truth, and I told you,” the next. The song pushes the pressure point of an entire generation’s frustration. Lyrically and musically, she dives into a hypnotic knot of dense drum lines, fierce and deliciously hummable. –Lior Phillips

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135. Bush – “The Chemicals Between Us”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/23/99

A collage of churning ecstasy. Edgy, powerful, and claustrophobic, “The Chemicals Between Us” is the song where Bush started making sense, padding out their earlier, somewhat lean grunge with fleshier electronic. The lyrics were all but enraptured, “Like a hammer, hell, to my head.” Nobody could mistake its crystalline originality, its bony emotional wallop. Frustration and sexual chemistry never sounded so beautiful. –Lior Phillips

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134. Foo Fighters – “DOA”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/26/05

Foo Fighters likely don’t pride themselves in carving out hooks like it’s a Sunday roast, but they should. For 20 years, they’ve owned our FM radios by elevating the claustrophobic confines of modern rock with some of the finest melodies this side of the six-string. “DOA” isn’t the best track off 2005’s In Your Honor — that would be “Another Round” — but it’s easy to see why this scorcher raced to No. 1. Those buttery popcorn verses and that venomous chorus are a double whammy. –Michael Roffman

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133. Linkin Park – “In the End”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/22/01

If you’re of the mindset that nu metal is a worthless era as a whole, “In the End” won’t sway you to its side. But Linkin Park was one of the biggest bands of that era and remains one of the few whose monster success followed them beyond it, for a reason. And “In the End” remains one of the most indelible, furiously over-the-top hits from that era, with one of the band’s most memorable hooks (and rap verses) in tow. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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132. Butthole Surfers – “Pepper”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/6/96

Here’s a case of a band whose lone hit barely scatches their surface — “Pepper” is far too normal. In most circles a one-hit wonder and in a much smaller one an iconic experimental outfit, Butthole Surfers found themselves unpredictably peppering the charts in 1996 with this single. If you only know “Pepper”, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life and delve into the chapter about these San Antonio legends. –Matt Melis

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131. Beck – “E-Pro”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/2/05

Coming off a melancholic masterpiece in Sea Change, fans of Beck were in for a surprise when they got ahold of Guero’s guitar-heavy, assertive lead single, “E-Pro”. Utilizing a rhythm track from the Beastie Boys’ “So Watch’cha Want”, “E-Pro” gave Beck his second #1 on the alternative charts and his first in over a decade. –Zack Ruskin

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130. Alanis Morissette – “Hand in My Pocket”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/14/95

Getting through the day can be hard enough. Can we really expect Alanis to rhyme on top of everything else? A sing-song guitar riff backs a list of “buts” — “broke but happy, short but healthy, sane but overwhelmed, lost but hopeful” — that feels like the singer reassuring herself that it’s not all bad. It may not be the most powerful track on Jagged Little Pill, but simplicity, authenticity, and just a little weirdness make “Hand in My Pocket” only a slightly lesser gem. —Allison Shoemaker

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129. R.E.M. – “Drive”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/17/92

Known more as a perfect table-setter for the band’s landmark Automatic for the People than a single, it’s odd that this slow-chugging opener was the one track from that album to top the charts. Then again, the song does have an ominous, “Working Class Hero” drive to it, an earned instrumental swelling, and a message for the times: “Hey, kids, where are you?/ Nobody tells you what to do.” It’s not so much a call to action as a reminder, and the undeniable response was a trip up the charts. –Matt Melis

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128. Pearl Jam – “Brother”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/28/09

How phenomenal an album was Pearl Jam’s Ten? Well, an outtake from those recording sessions topped the alt charts nearly 20 years later as a bonus track on a reissue. While Eddie Vedder may have never felt satisfied with the lyrics and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament nearly fell out over the track, “Brother” survives as an additional testament to the creative flurry the band formerly known as Mookie Blaylock channeled when crafting their most indelible album. –Matt Melis

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127. Kings of Leon – “Notion”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/19/09

Many old-school Kings of Leon fans took umbrage with Only the Night for what they saw as the band largely abandoning their sound for “mainstream” success. Still, even detractors have to admit “Notion” is a solid midpoint between old and new KoL. It’s not as overtly catchy as “Sex Is on Fire” or “Use Somebody”, yet manages both Anthony Caleb Followill’s stumbling lyricism and a hard-hitting chorus. Besides, you can’t deny the success when the band became only the fifth band ever to have three simultaneous Top 20 Alt singles when this song hit the charts. –Ben Kaye

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126. The Juliana Hatfield 3 – “My Sister”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/11/93

“I just came up with those four chords that are the verse, and then it sort of ended up not having a chorus,” Juliana Hatfield told Spin back in 2013 for their complete oral history on her landmark hit, “My Sister”. That’s a pretty ambitious project for a simple song, but then again, the track itself is something of an enigma. When a non-formulaic hit manages to top the charts, that’s a moment worth celebrating, namely in the sense that your faith in listeners is restored, albeit for a gasp. –Michael Roffman

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125. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians – “So You Think You’re in Love”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/21/91

Singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock has always been a brilliant weirdo — as a Soft Boy, backed by his Egyptians, or as a solo act. On “So You Think You’re in Love”, Hitch dialed down the weirdness just enough to sneak up the charts and give the public a taste of what too often went overlooked: a catalog of perfectly crafted jangle pop — quirks and all. –Matt Melis

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124. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Can’t Stop”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/8/03

“Can’t Stop” has so much going for it. It’s a quick build to a twitchy groove. Anthony Kiedis’ rapping verses punch, and John Frusciante’s melodic, reggae guitar runs the gamut of sound, plus the layer of the epic choruses, well, baby, you got yourself one of Red Hot’s best latter-day jams. It’s a song of inner freedom, a declaration of success and overcoming obstacles. –Blake Goble

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123. The Black Keys – “Fever”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/24/14

“Fever” was the hottest track on a lukewarm record. Given the commercial success of Brothers and El Camino, it was no surprise that The Black Keys would serve up another solid track or two on Turn Blue. While “Fever” is certainly not the band’s best, it’s still better than a lot of the indie rock that radio listeners are subject to. Clearly America felt the same way. –Danielle Janota

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122. Elle King – “Ex’s & Oh’s”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/19/15

When my dad likes a song that I also dig, you know it’s got some major appeal. Sure, Pops completely missed the explicitness of the lyrics and cheeky entendre of the title, but that doesn’t discredit the sexual empowerment of Elle King’s storming alt-country smash. Plus, the fact that this is only the second single by female artists to top the alternative charts since 1996 means Rob Schneider’s little girl deserves all the credit she’s earned in the last year for this Grammy-nominated hit. –Ben Kaye
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121. INXS – “Suicide Blonde”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/22/90

Go ahead. Make the obvious joke about Australian frontman Michael Hutchence’s untimely death. Are you back with us now? Splendid! Because despite what’s transpired, there’s no denying the immediate allure of harmonicas, horns, and a groovy bass line. Supposedly inspired by Hutchence’s then-paramour, Kylie Minogue, “Suicide Blond” is a near-perfect radio song that’s part U2, part Culture Club, but with a refreshing alternative kick. –Dan Pfleegor

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120. Porno for Pyros – “Pets”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/19/93

Perry Farrell’s musical career post-Jane’s Addiction has been spotty, but “Pets”, the second single from Porno for Pyros, remains one of the high points. A cynical look at man’s own self-destructiveness, the song sat atop the modern rock charts for almost a month during the summer of 1993. –Ryan Bray

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119. Marcy Playground – “Sex and Candy”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/27/97

Marcy Playground are the definition of a one-hit wonder, but it’s a hit that never tires. John Wozniak’s (are we sure he’s not Kurt Vile?) band topped the alt charts for a then-record 15 weeks on the back of a burrowing melody, strong backbeat, and heaping helpings of “double cherry pie.” It may be trippy and silly, but it’s also a damn good, little song. Dig it. –Matt Melis

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118. Cage the Elephant – “Back Against the Wall”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/6/10

From their self-titled debut, Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” was the more memorable track to be released (and the first step they had in the door of alternative fans), but “Back Against the Wall” was their first trip to number one. It still sounds a little too close to the White Stripes for comfort, but there are much worse influences a band could have had in the late aughts. –Philip Cosores

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117. Green Day – “Holiday”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/7/05

Billie Joe Armstrong railed against Bush on “Holiday”, but over a decade later, the song’s anthemic breakdown perfectly matches the shit that’s perpetually coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. (Ahem, “Bombs away is your punishment/ Pulverize the Eiffel Towers/ Who criticize your government!”) American Idiot was Green Day’s opus, and “Holiday” was the record’s third #1 single that continued to deliver the band’s brash political message. –Killian Young

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116. Incubus – “Megalomaniac”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/21/04

When Incubus returned in late 2003, the Calabasas collective strangled rock radio for six straight weeks with its spacey single “Megalomaniac”. “Yeah, you’re no fucking Elvis,” Brandon Boyd screamed, capturing the spirits of a confused rock ‘n’ roll populous, who oscillated between the sounds of Foo Fighters and The Strokes and The White Stripes all year. The KROQ-friendly hit was, in a sense, the band’s own “All My Life”, a declaration that said with the utmost confidence, “We’re back.” It was the perfect hook, line, and sinker for its accompanying album, A Crow Left of the Murder, which remains arguably their strongest and most assured release yet. Years later, it still burns in all the right places. –Michael Roffman

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115. The Sugarcubes – “Hit”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/29/92

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Bjork repeats on The Sugarcubes’ lone chart-topper. Oh, really, Bjork? That choice of title would suggest otherwise. Then again, I guess if naming your song “Hit” guaranteed one, everyone would be doing it. Silliness aside, this song about being accidentally smitten by love showcases Bjork’s singular, powerhouse vocals atop a raging torrent of percussive rock. It would be her introduction to many American alt rock fans just before leaving the ‘Cubes and embarking on one of the most celebrated solo careers of the past few decades. –Matt Melis

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114. U2 – “Staring at the Sun”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/12/97

Pop was like a big inside joke on commercial art and artifice. Andy Warhol: The Album, or something like that, sold through the then power-drunk lenses of U2 experimenting with new sounds. There were a lot of strange numbers: over-filtered, electrified tracks like “Discothèque” and “Mofo”. But not even an experimental period could cut into the graceful highs of a song like “Staring at the Sun”. This is classic U2, with a howling Bono and regal Edge guitar all the way through. –Blake Goble

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113. Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/9/10

Mumford and Sons’ debut single is also one of the best in their entire catalog. It introduced listeners to the banjo-led rock and démodé, rococo poetics that would launch the band to phenomena status. For better or worse, this is the song that changed the course of indie folk for the next five years, and few have been able to match it since. –Ben Kaye

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112. Cage the Elephant – “Cigarette Daydreams”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/31/15

None of Cage the Elephant’s hits sound less like a potential hit than “Cigarette Daydreams”. It’s a song that demands more patience than you usually receive from alt rock radio, and its success speaks to the goodwill the band have been afforded by the format. Still, there is something heartening about this song’s success, remnicent more of something you’d hear from Britain or on the classic rock dials, ultimately making this one of the best surprises on alt rock radio in the last decade. –Philip Cosores

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111. Foster the People – “Pumped Up Kicks”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/25/11

Topping the charts and owning the radio waves is an achievement bathed in riches. But, there’s a flip side to that coin: You risk overexposure and exhaustion by the masses. Such is the fate of Foster the People, whose 2011 single “Pumped Up Kicks” was everywhere, from sports arenas in the far reaches of the world to the grossest men’s urinal in Des Moines, IA. They also just couldn’t follow it up, which is understandable, as not everyone’s entitled to seconds in juggernaut success. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles rockers will always be remembered for owning an entire year (and more, to be fair) simply by making youthful homicide sound so fresh and poppy. –Michael Roffman

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110. The Psychedelic Furs – “House”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/20/90

Like The Replacements and XTC (both also on this list), The Psychedelic Furs began too early for their very best moments to be archived on the alternative charts. But that doesn’t mean “House” rising up the ranks was a mistake. It just means that if you love this song, there’s even more genius from Richard Butler and co. waiting for you to discover. Luckily, finding that older music is a lot easier today than back in the early ’90s. –Matt Melis

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109. The Cure – “High”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/11/92

At their best, The Cure were able to make you feel happy about being depressed, sweeping you up in their magical wisdom and punchy melancholy. “Wish”, the first single off their 1992 album, High, literally begins with a sparkly twinkle, as if Robert Smith has opened up the storm clouds and swept you off your feet in all his splendor and glory. From there, the song capitalizes on all the band’s accessible trademarks: the cozy bass lines, the earworm guitar hooks, and Smith’s teardrop poetry. For added measure, there’s even a feline overdub that would be way too obtrusive and atrociously precious if it were coming from any other band. Here? It’s David Copperfield-type shit. Now, that’s some power. –Michael Roffman 

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108. Sublime – “What I Got”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/26/96

Here’s a shame. Sublime singer-songwriter Brad Nowell had already been dead five months and one day when “What I Got” finally topped the charts. What should’ve been a moment of celebration instead acted as a reminder of loss. On a more positive note, 20 years later, a whole generation still know the song’s words by heart, and Nowell’s warm vibes and legacy live on. –-Matt Melis

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107. Nine Inch Nails – “Every Day Is Exactly the Same”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/4/06

2005’s With Teeth was Trent Reznor’s first album since 1999’s overstuffed, divisive The Fragile, and it represented both a return to cultural relevancy as well as huge commercial success, with all three singles hitting number one on the charts. This, the third one, was perhaps the most low-key as a highly relatable song about the boring monotony of day-to-day life. Full of the angst from Reznor’s ‘90s work, but with a bit more perspective, he made the smart decision of making this song about the mind-numbing dirge of routine a more understated one, with the tone of the music matching the disinterest of the lyrics. Strangely enough, it ended up being one of the most interesting songs to break up the boring power-ballad formula that defined most number one singles of the era. –David Sackllah

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106. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Soul to Squeeze”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/14/93

This song has quite the narrative. Originally recorded during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions, “Soul to Squeeze” was later released in 1993 as a single per its inclusion on the Coneheads soundtrack. Chris Farley even makes an appearance in its music video as a cigar-chewing carnival barker. Like the Chili Peppers themselves, the song is sweet, silly, and musically (check that pentamerous, supertonic note in the chorus) interesting. –Kevin McMahon

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105. Talking Heads – “Sax and Violins”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/1/92

The first Talking Heads single released after the creation of this chart, “Sax and Violins” was written for the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World. “The movie is supposed to take place in the year 2000, so I spent a lot of time trying to imagine music of the near future,” Byrne wrote in the liner notes to Heads compilation album Once in a Lifetime. “Post-rock sludge with lyrics sponsored by Coke and Pepsi? Music created by machines with human shouts of agony and betrayal thrown in? Faux Appalachian ballads, the anti-tech wave? The same sounds and licks from the ’60s and ’70s regurgitated yet again by a new generation of samplers?” Dude was straight prescient. Plus, the song is fantastic, a gust of Graceland-y synth and polyrhythm with Byrne arching over the top. –Adam Kivel

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104. Green Day – “Minority”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/30/00

Acoustic guitar and harmonica may not have been in the original recipe for Green Day’s brand of brash pop-punk, but they certainly did their part in helping “Minority” remain at #1 on the alternative charts for five consecutive weeks. Green Day’s lead single from Warning helped usher in a new sound for the band, one that would ultimately lead to many more trips up the charts. –Zack Ruskin

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103. System of a Down – “Aerials”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/5/02

Nobody was making music quite like System of a Down when they arrived on the scene, and they remain one of the early aughts’ most singular bands in this regard. “Aerials” is a strange choice for a rock hit, but in the fall of 2002, it was a soaring bit of operatic theatricality that took over mainstream metal. It may not be the best song off Toxicity (or even the best single, arguably), but it’s a completely singular hit from a homogenous time in rock. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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102. Cage the Elephant – “Mess Around”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/13/16

For many fans, this song couldn’t come soon enough. “Mess Around” was the first single to be released off the band’s latest record, Tell Me I’m Pretty, and offered a glimpse into how Dan Auerbach’s influence, as producer and guest guitarist, helped shape Cage’s evolved and edgier sound. –Lyndsey Havens

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101. The Cranberries – “Salvation”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/11/96

Ignore the clunky lyrics, which are essentially an anti-drug PSA in musical form. Instead, focus on those horn bursts, each one a heroin needle that (thankfully) fails to puncture the skin. Simply put, lead singer Dolores O’Riordan sells her message of “Drugs are bad, m’kay?” by replacing the question mark with an exclamation point, a punctuation mark made all the louder by “Salvation”‘s deeply unsettling music video. Warning: Do not watch if you’re afraid of clowns, especially ones with syringes for fingers and hair. –Dan Caffrey

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100. Foo Fighters – “Walk”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/6/11

Life’s short, and full of shit, but sometimes a song like “Walk” is all you need by your side. Doesn’t this song make you want to pick yourself up and try and try again? Grohl devised it, get this, as a sort of victory lap inspired by his first daughter learning to walk, and from there the song took on grander, easy-going ideas about second chances, being positive, and not letting life get ya down forever. The way the track enlarges into full-scale rock ‘n’ roll guitar power is nothing short of powerful. There’s pride in Grohl’s legs. This is alt rock at its most uplifting right here. –Blake Goble

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99. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Otherside”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/19/00

Californication solidified the Chili Peppers as kings of the ’90s, securing another set of hits years after Blood Sugar Sex Magik and One Hot Minute. The best example of their newer, more minimalist sound upon guitarist John Frusciante’s return to the band? “Otherside”. Single-note bass and guitar lines form perfect counterpoints as Anthony Kiedis cries out about a struggle with drugs and death. The chorus’ final lyric is never fully stated, but with the implied rhyme, we know what’s being said without it ever getting there. “I don’t believe it’s bad. Slitting my throat is all I ever…” Few moments in modern rock have shown such a clever trick up their sleeves since. –Dan Bogosian

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98. Cold War Kids – “First”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/12/15

Everybody loves a comeback story. Cold War Kids were having a tough time with critics and their popularity was waning before scoring their most successful radio hit ever with 2014’s “First”. Suddenly, the band wasn’t just relevant again; they were bigger than ever, and a lot of that has the commanding vocal performance of Nathan Willett on “First” to thank. It also was on the preview for the film Aloha before taking off, making it the only thing to benfit from the film Aloha. –Philip Cosores

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97. Cage the Elephant – “Come a Little Closer”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/23/13

There is something to be said about the atmospheric turn “Come a Little Closer” signified for Cage the Elephant as the lead single for 2013’s Melophobia. At that point, Cage’s singles rarely opted to be as laid-back as this song’s verse, but the move makes the the tension of the chorus and bridge all the more effective. Growth for Cage has been by the step and not the leap, but it is there if you look for it. –Philip Cosores

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96. Green Day – “American Idiot”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/25/04

It’s no surprise that Green Day’s direct shot at the Bush administration and mass media would be a hit. After all, it was released just before the start of Bush’s second term amid a wave of paranoia and political stupidity. Stripped of social commentary, this track is still blazing. In fact, I’d slap this punk pop protest back up at number one today if I could. –Danielle Janota

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95. The Wallflowers – “One Headlight”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/8/97

It can’t be easy being a musician who’s also Bob Dylan’s son. However, Jakob Dylan, as both frontman of The Wallflowers and a solo artist, has managed to move beyond his famous father’s shadow by penning a handful of really good songs. His band’s lone chart-topper, “One Headlight” burns slowly through dark environs and a fragmented narrative left open to interpretation. It’s a song that carries a dramatic weight to it — no matter whose kid is singing it. –Matt Melis

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94. R.E.M. – “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/24/94

R.E.M.’s opening volley from 1994’s Monster, the band’s reverb-soaked deep dive into alternative rock after a two-album flirtation with the weirdest, best fringes of adult contemporary, spent five weeks on the top of the modern rock chart, hit two on mainstream rock, and 21 on the Hot 100. It remains the best rock song ever written about a bizarre and random attack on a television journalist. –Sarah Kurchak

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93. Blink-182 – “I Miss You”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/3/04

One of only a pair of Blink-182 songs to ever top the alt charts, “I Miss You” is also one of a handful of successful sad Blink tunes. Based on where the band started, its adeptness at creating emotionally charged teenage anthems was a surprise, but “Adam’s Song”, “Stay Together for the Kids”, and “I Miss You” wound up being some of the most resonant tunes in the group’s arsenal, the latter of which spent two weeks at number one in 2004. –Philip Cosores

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92. Eels – “Novocaine for the Soul”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/12/96

“Life is good/ And I feel great,” E offers on the earwormy Eels jam “Novocaine for the Soul”. He follows that bit of flash, of course, by revealing the sarcasm: “Cause mother says I was/ A great mistake.” That alt radio angst could read as obnoxious, but wins over when paired with a tinkling glockenspiel, swooning low-end strings, and a massive hook. One listen, and it might take days for E’s repeated chorus to sputter out of your head. –Adam Kivel

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91. Muse – “Uprising”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/26/09

Given Muse’s growing popularity in the United States and the strong chart performances of the singles off 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations, it wasn’t surprising that the British band snagged their first Billboard alternative #1 with The Resistance’s “Uprising”, which dominated the chart for a full year. Menacing synths, a thumping drumbeat, and Matt Bellamy’s dramatic declarations of revolution made this the paradoxically populist-protest song of 2009. –Karen Gwee

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90. Goo Goo Dolls – “Iris”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/4/98

The Goo Goo Dolls walk a fine line between self-aware cheese and anthemic mottos, a balance most easily identifiable on 1998 hit “Iris”. Dramatic strings, unusual guitar tuning, and a fake outro are the song’s keys. They may be eyeroll-worthy, but the song’s lyrics have managed to transcend generations, making it from middle school notebooks to LiveJournal gifs to Tumblr threads. –Nina Corcoran

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89. The White Stripes – “Icky Thump”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/4/07

What is it about The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” that made it a hit? Was it the stream-of-consciousness lyrics? The swipe at racist Americans? That dread-inspiring opening synth? The epic riff, the odd title, or that weird bit in the middle that, as NME put it, “sounds like a Dalek committing suicide”? Who knows. Who cares. Whatever else it may be, it’s undeniably arresting. —Allison Shoemaker

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88. Big Audio Dynamite – “Rush”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/10/91

Big Audio Dynamite’s musical scope was largely too vast and worldly to cross over with fans the way The Clash did. But the band cracked the code on “Rush”, a fun, infectiously catchy dance rock jam that hung out for four weeks atop the modern rock charts in 1991. –Ryan Bray

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87. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Californication”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/12/00

Some bands become legacy acts that go through the motions by recycling fan favorites. Others keep one funky step ahead of the bunch by releasing some of their strongest work during their latter career stages. And that’s precisely what makes “Californication” so special. This titular alternative track cruises down the Pacific Coast Highway of West Side dreams and broken Hollywood fantasies. The song also allows Kiedis and company to summarize where they’ve been since the days of Magik, as well as where they’ll be cruising in the brave new millennium. –Dan Pfleegor

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86. Blind Melon – “No Rain”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/18/93

Blind Melon’s brief tenure together before the fatal overdose of lead singer Shannon Hoon yielded three US-charting singles and one lasting image of a girl in a bumblebee outfit tap-dancing her heart out. “No Rain” was a bittersweet love song that became a defining track of the 1990s alternative rock explosion, culminating in an 18-week stint on the alternative charts and a peak position of #20 on the Hot 100. –Zack Ruskin

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85. Nirvana – “About a Girl”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/10/94

Kurt Cobain worried that this jangly anomaly on Nirvana’s debut, Bleach, would alienate grunge fans. Maybe it did, but it would go down in history as a crucial turning point for Nirvana, the first evidence of the pop-rock flair that would propel the band to mega-stardom even as they retained their more punishing sounds. –Michael Madden

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84. Weezer – “Perfect Situation”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/28/06

Weezer’s 2005 album, Make Believe was initially marketed as a return to the band’s Blue Album form, but holy shit was that misleading. Make Believe is a mostly dreary affair, but “Perfect Situation” is one of the few exceptions that finds Weezer doing what they do best. Rivers Cuomo sings about being a down-on-his-luck schmuck in the verses, and the chorus erupts with a “Woah” that’s loud enough to melt away any bad will remaining from “Beverly Hills”. –Collin Brennan

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83. Modest Mouse – “Lampshades on Fire”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/28/15

With its Beach Boys-esque harmonies, “Lampshades on Fire” is as hooky as “Float On” was for Modest Mouse back in 2004. As the lead single to the band’s first album in eight years, 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves, the newer song heralded that MM had retained both mainstream appeal and, with Isaac Brock’s wild vocals in the verses, the band’s welcome rough edges. –Michael Madden

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82. Blink-182 – “All the Small Things”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/25/99

Pop punk bands, air guitar beginners, and too-drunk karaoke singers have “All the Small Things” to thank for aiding in their careers. Back when Tom DeLonge was still a part of Blink-182, he wrote their massive hit as an ode to his girlfriend (and now current wife), in the style of The Ramones. You don’t need to be a Blink-182 fan to know it’s certainly not their single most deserving of the #1 spot, but it’s deserving nonetheless. –Nina Corcoran

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81. The Jesus and Mary Chain – “Blues from a Gun”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/30/89

The advent of the alternative charts may have come too late for The Jesus and Mary Chain’s most famous singles, but that doesn’t mean the Reids were slowing down any by 1989’s Automatic. “Blues from a Gun” pulls from both Psychocandy and Darklands while finding an urgency all its own. Thankfully, by 1989, Americans had grown hip enough to Scotland’s finest to shoot these blues brothers to number one. –Matt Melis

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80. Coldplay – “Paradise”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/3/11

One of Coldplay’s many grandiose songs, “Paradise” cracked number one on the alternative songs charts and stayed on the list for a hefty 25 weeks. If the chart-topping doesn’t prove the song’s quality, this year’s Superbowl did. Five years after its release, the track still managed to move viewers at the stadium and at home. –Danielle Janota

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79. R.E.M. – “Orange Crush”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/26/88

When you’re listening to the radio, there’s that moment between songs where the future is uncertain — anything could be coming next. There are few radio moments as thrilling, for that reason, as hearing the iconic guitar chug kick off “Orange Crush”. It’s always a blast to sing along to an R.E.M. song in your best Michael Stipe nasal voice, and this one is no exception. –Adam Kivel

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78. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/17/11

“Lonely Boy” is so catchy and versatile that it’s been featured in everything from the trailer for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day to the NFL playoffs. Showcasing Patrick Carney’s high-energy drums and Dan Auerbach’s chugging guitar riff, the lead single off El Camino remains The Black Keys’ only platinum-certified track. –Killian Young

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77. Concrete Blonde – “Joey”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/14/90

Singer and songwriter Johnette Napolitano waited until the very last minute to write and record the lyrics to this heart-wrenching ballad about loving an alcoholic because they were so painful and personal (in her 2013 book, she revealed that “Joey” was about Wall of Voodoo’s Marc Moreland). What she finally committed to tape resonated with listeners so powerfully that it kept the track on top for four weeks in 1990. It was also the only Concrete Blonde song to crack the Top 100, making it as high as 19. –Sarah Kurchak
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76. The Head and the Heart – “All We Ever Knew”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/10/16

There are two kinds of success: the one that affords you playing big venues and getting you song in an occasional TV show or commercial, and the one that assures you a legacy. “All We Ever Knew” took Seattle’s The Head and the Heart from the first of these to the second, giving affirmation to their departure from Sub Pop for the majors. As a song, though, it was more business as usual for the band. Expert constructions to provide an uplifting and infectious shot in the arm are kind of their M.O. –Philip Cosores
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75. Bush – “Glycerine”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/16/95

Nirvana was always the cooler grunge band to like, but Bush certainly had their moments in the sun — or the rain, as it were. The band’s chart-topping ballad “Glycerine” is perhaps best remembered for Gavin Rossdale’s solo performance at MTV’s Spring Break ‘96. With a hurricane on its way, he stood out in the rain with his electric guitar and gave a moving performance that fortunately didn’t end in his death by electrocution. –Collin Brennan

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74. Alanis Morissette – “Ironic”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/16/96

Alanis Morissette may not have known what irony was when she wrote “Ironic” — something English teachers and Internet know-it-alls have been pointing out for years — but that doesn’t stop the third and final #1 single off Jagged Little Pill from being a classic, let-your-hair-down jam. The 20-year-old song remains a pop-culture staple, and just try not thinking of Morissette the next time you hear someone say, “It figures.” It’s as if she invented the phrase. –Matt Melis

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73. Third Eye Blind – “Semi-Charmed Life”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/24/97

Like most pop songs, Third Eye Blind’s massive hit “Semi-Charmed Life” has a sunny complexion with pretty bummer lyrical content. Most of the lines talk about a druggie’s descent into a crystal meth addiction, fittingly representative of certain trends in the 1997 music scene when this came out. Yet, here we are, singing along to it when it plays on the radio still in 2016. Let’s not forget that ear-piercing “Goodbyyyyyyyyyyye” — the word that appropriately waves adieu to karaoke wannabes who fail to sing that high, but we all try anyway. —Nina Corcoran

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72. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/20/08

Although never embraced by indie rock critics, Kings of Leon’s transition from the Southern Strokes to the Southern U2 was an impressive feat to witness. And the song that broke them through was completely deserving of it, as “Sex on Fire” is a soaring, if a little crass, anthem. The song would win the band a Grammy and go on to stand as the most recognizable song in their catalog. –Philip Cosores

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71. Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Peek-a-Boo”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/10/88

Siouxsie and the Banshees’ first mainstream US crossover, 1988’s “Peek-a-Boo” sounds way ahead of its time. The sample-based track (a flipped and chopped section of the group covering John Cale’s “Gun” sits at the song’s core) sounds a lot like recent St. Vincent, or maybe a remix of a Gwen Stefani pop jam. It’s pop-friendly, yet recycles bits of lyrics from “Jeepers Creepers” and features an accordion. –Adam Kivel

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70. Foo Fighters – “Rope”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/26/11

“Rope”‘s greatness lies not in the anthemic chorus (do the Foo Fighters have any other type of chorus?), but in the spaces between the staccato guitar bursts — the subtle slap delay, the occasional slide on Nate Mendel’s bass, and especially Dave Grohl’s constant yowling of “CHAAAOOOKE!,” which ends up having more catch and momentum than the song’s proper hook. –Dan Caffrey

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69. Live – “Lightning Crashes”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/25/95

If Live hadn’t already distinguished themselves from other alt rock bands with their first couple of singles off Throwing Copper, “Selling the Drama” and “I Alone”, then no doubt “Lighting Crashes” (not a single in the US) separated the band from the pack for good when it began receiving radio play. Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk shuffles in with a whisper and roars like thunder on this song about “the transference of life.” It’s a big song with a big idea that sounded nothing like anything else on the alt airwaves at the time. And I’m willing to wager it’s both the first and last time a song with the word “placenta” in it will ever top the alternative charts. –Matt Melis

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68. Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used to Know”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/3/12

This one is fresh enough that we still don’t know whether Gotye will storm back with a follow-up to this massive single. But even if it turns out to be a one-hit wonder, Gotye can at least say that his Police-meets-Manu Chau sounds has not been bettered on alt-radio and found a bit of creativity on a platform that is often devoid of it. –Philip Cosores

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67. Nine Inch Nails – “Only”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/22/05

Trent Reznor’s particular brand of dance metal is already unusual, but “Only” might have the strangest lyrics of any of his number one hits. Reznor speaks and sometimes shouts in a bizarre stream of consciousness that occasionally rhymes but mostly doesn’t. When he happens on a line he likes, he might repeat it a few times before continuing with the self-examination. That it was such a big hit is a testament to Reznor’s ability to capture the feeling of alienation. That, and Dave Grohl’s catchy-as-hell drumming. –Wren Graves

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66. Incubus – “Drive”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/3/01

Listening to the laid-back acoustic single “Drive”, it’s hard to believe that heavy metal and funk were once the dominant influences associated with Incubus. The third single off the band’s mainstream breakout, Make Yourself, was also their first number-one hit, attracting new fans with its more mellow, contemplative approach. –Collin Brennan

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65. Green Day – “Basket Case”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/20/94

Dookie, Green Day’s breakthrough third album and major label debut, doesn’t have a dud on it, but “Basket Case” is perhaps its most lasting gift. A song based on lead man Billie Joe Armstrong’s struggles with anxiety, the pop-punk track was snot-nosed disillusionment at its finest. Listeners agreed, as “Basket Case” spent 24 weeks on the alternative charts and became one of three Dookie singles to peak at #1. –Zack Ruskin

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64. Goo Goo Dolls – “Name”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/7/95

John Rzeznik has too beautiful a face to have kept bashing his head against a wall trying to break the Goo Goo Dolls as a straight garage or punk band. A Boy Named Goo, the single “Name” in particular, demarcates where the band made its break toward pop rock stardom. A beautiful progression that Rzeznik stumbled upon by accident, “Name” can be seen as the spiritual predecessor for the band’s other alt rock chart-toppers (especially “Iris”). Whether or not this four-and-a-half-minute departure registers as a triumph or tragedy largely depends on how you prefer your Goo Goos. Its place on this list should tell you how we feel. –Matt Melis 

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63. The Replacements – “I’ll Be You”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/11/89

It’s so appropriate that “I’ll Be You” was the last great song the mighty ‘Mats ever made because it also has the single greatest kiss-off line they ever wrote capping its chorus: “I’ll tell you what we could do: You be me for a while, and I’ll be you.” That it was one of only two to come even close to #1 on any chart — let alone sealing it — is equally dumbfounding, comical, and perfect. –Steven Arroyo

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62. Depeche Mode – “Policy of Truth”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/2/90

Honesty is the best policy, except for when it’s not. On “Policy of Truth” — which reached No. 15 on the Hot 100 and became the second straight alternative chart-topper from the Mode’s career-making Violator LP — Dave Gahan lectures some poor soul who’s refused to lie and now must pay the price. Even songwriter Martin Gore’s cocksure, ice-cold guitar lick taunts this truehearted wretch, offering a taste of the dark and sexy fun that all the fibbers are having. –Kenneth Partridge

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61. Pearl Jam – “Daughter”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/8/94

More than any other Pearl Jam song — and there are many like this — “Daughter” forces its listeners to reconcile a great anthemic-sounding hit with a chorus that very obviously details some dark family affairs. “Don’t call me daughter,” Eddie Vedder sings for what’s surely the song’s most recognizable line, yet “Daughter” became the band’s best-charting song by far upon its 1993 release on their sophomore album, Vs. –Steven Arroyo

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60. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/21/12

It’s easy to pigeon hole Of Monsters and Men with the “stomp clap” movement because of this song, their biggest hit, but the track’s strength really doesn’t reveal itself until viewed against who the band really is. They are a moody, melodicly rich group that wears their Icelandic roots in their sound, and they’ve as much in common with Arcade Fire as they do with Mumford & Sons. “Little Talks” should age really well, as the band gets less associated with the time in which it was released. –Philip Cosores

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59. Peter Gabriel – “Steam”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/12/92

Hot take: “Steam” is a stronger single than “Sledgehammer”. At six minutes, Peter Gabriel offers up a post-modern exhibition of his many, many talents. He tosses in every instrument imaginable — MVP being Daniel Lanois’ lush horn arrangements — but he also tosses in some unlikely key changes. There’s a seedy underbelly to the poppy fetishization at hand, as if he’s taking us from the razzle-dazzle of a NYC nightclub into the slimy sewers below. He even sells the rap midway through! Most fans recall its Grammy award-winning music video, but the song’s just as imaginative. –Michael Roffman

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58. The Cure – “Fascination Street”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/6/89

Disintegration featured a few stellar singles, but the truly interesting comparison here, chart-wise, is the difference between “Fascination Street” and “Lovesong”. The former reached the top of the alt chart, but only hit number 42 overall; the latter never peaked the alt chart, but hit number two overall. So, what makes “Fascination Street” the more alt choice? Perhaps the extended, moody, bass-driven intro. Or the ominous, noisy squealing at the edges? The fact that it’s two minutes longer? Likely all of that at once. “Fascination Street”, though, burns the alt torch brightly, the kind of thing that’d be perfect for a late-night ride through the city. –Adam Kivel

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57. The Black Keys – “Gold on the Ceiling”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/9/12

You know a track is really connecting with folks when the song’s Wikipedia page has a stacked section called “Use in popular media.” TV shows, movies, games, sports coverage, commercials; everybody wanted a piece of The Black Keys’ gold in 2012. Working with Producer Danger Mouse, the Keys core of Dan Auerbach, Brian Burton, and Patrick Carney came up with a hybrid knockout, a ‘70s-style throwback that combined sleazy, slinging guitar riffs with a fuzzed-up organ akin to the sounds of “Rock and Rock Roll Part 2”. “Gold on the Ceiling” is just tried-and-true music momentum that’s bluesy, glamorous, and insanely confident. It sounds like music to play as a psych-up before the big one, whatever that one may be. –Blake Goble
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56. Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/6/99

It’s easy to forget how strange Dave Grohl’s career has been. The non-songwriting drummer of Nirvana, one of the biggest rock bands ever, went on to form a different rock band capable of filling stadiums. It would be as if Ringo Starr had founded Wings. If you’re looking for how it happened, look no further than “Learn to Fly”, a catchy, driving rock anthem and Foo Fighters’ first Billboard Hot 100 hit, topping out at #13. –Wren Graves

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55. Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/11/09

By the time Only By the Night rolled around, Kings of Leon had officially transitioned away from the snarling southern fury of their early work and toward the accessible, anthemic rock on which they’ve headlined no shortage of festivals over the past few years. And it was “Use Somebody” that helped them do it, which stands to reason when you revisit a song that just sounds as though it was made to be played over the grandest vistas to the biggest possible crowds. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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54. The Raconteurs – “Steady, As She Goes”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/29/06

When Jack White announced the formation of The Raconteurs, many wondered why. After all, The White Stripes had just released Get Behind Me Satan and were one of the most popular rock bands in the world. Then we heard “Steady, As She Goes” – with a texture of sound that only a full band could realize, not to mention the compliment of Brendan Benson’s vocals – and we had our answer. The track spent 28 weeks on the alternative charts and established White as an artist who could not be constricted to any one group. –Zack Ruskin

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53. Cage the Elephant – “Shake Me Down”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/12/11

Cage the Elephant are known mostly for their balls-to-the-wall live performances, but “Shake Me Down” is arguably the Kentucky rockers’ most poignant piece of songwriting. The emotional track fixates on fears of mortality set to droning guitars, but singer Matt Shultz’s triumphant declaration that “I’ll keep my fixed on the sun” cuts through the darkness. It was also the band’s highest-charting song on the Billboard Hot 100. –Killian Young

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52. Jimmy Eat World – “Pain”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/4/04

Following the splash Jimmy Eat World made on alt radio with Bleed American, “Pain” surely received some good graces based on prior chart success. But don’t disregard just what a jam it is. The group chant “it takes my pain away” underscores a song with a bit more edge than Jimmy Eat World’s previous hits. It was a look that suited the emo luminaries and found success as the best-selling single of the band’s career. –Philip Cosores

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51. Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/20/12

Say what you want about Mumford & Sons, but any song that causes people to stop what they’re doing, throw back their heads, and howl can’t be all bad. Those quiet little verses with banjo and guitar pulsing like a heartbeat beneath, giving way to an explosive chorus that practically demands a sing-along. Go ahead, play it on a jukebox at a bar one night. Just see what happens. –Allison Shoemaker

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50. Green Day – “Longview”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/11/94

Part of the whole music fandom thing as a teen is looking at bands on stage or in videos and wishing you were them. But when you saw Billie Joe Armstrong sitting on that puke-plaid couch in the video for “Longview”, practically in a coma from the type of teenage boredom that no amount of pot or masturbation can cure, it was like looking into a rather unfortunate, dissatisfying mirror. In that way, Green Day felt painfully relatable, which somehow managed to make those shitty days just a little bit better. To this day, when I hear those opening drums and bass, I want to bite my lip, close my eyes, drive over to my parents’ house, and gut the couch in their basement. –Matt Melis

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49. Jane’s Addiction – “Stop!”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/1/90

If the alternative charts didn’t already exist, Billboard would’ve had to invent them for Jane’s Addiction. “Stop!”, the opening cut off the band’s seminal Ritual de lo Habitual, never tips off where it’s going next. It resists the urge at every turn to become a typical rock song and sound like anyone else. At any given time, much of radio consists of cookie-cutter bullshit. Jane’s have always been a breath of fresh chaos. –Matt Melis

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48. Hole – “Celebrity Skin”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/10/98

A lot of credit is given to the Billy Corgan-penned guitar riff on “Celebrity Skin”, but take a closer look at Courtney Love’s superb lyrics on this one. There are echoes of Victorian poetry and evocative notes on Hollywood culture and gender roles. This gem flies in the face of those that doubt Love’s artistic ability, a ripper with real heart. –Adam Kivel

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47. Kate Bush – “Love and Anger”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/9/89

While Hounds of Love all but effectively closed the first chapter of Kate Bush’s career by fusing together elements of sound that she hinted at previously (The Dreaming’s experimental art rock and her earlier albums’ baroque pop), The Sensual World contained her one and only #1 in America: “Love and Anger”. Declaring it to be “one of the most difficult [she’s] ever written,” it was the first song she started for The Sensual World, but the last to be fully completed. With a dancey coda that echoes “The Big Sky” and a subtle world music feel that she would fully explore in future cuts such as “Eat the Music”, “Love and Anger” acts as both a powerful statement and a bridge between her work in the late ’80s and the forthcoming 90s. –Edward Dunbar

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46. Foo Fighters – “The Pretender”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/1/07

Foo Fighters returned with a bang on “The Pretender”, the first single from Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. From Taylor Hawkins’ ferocious drumbeat to Dave Grohl’s howling vocals, the song is pure rock ‘n’ roll. The hit was the last track from the Foos to crack the Billboard Top 40 and crushed the record for most consecutive weeks (18) at #1. –Killian Young

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45. Silversun Pickups – “Panic Switch”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/27/09

“Panic Switch” wasn’t the first Silversun Pickups single to capture the music world’s attention — “Lazy Eye” claims that honor — but it remains the band’s most locked-in tune to date. Defined by Nikki Monninger’s driving bassline and Brian Aubert’s perfectly androgynous voice, “Panic Switch” is the closest these laid-back LA indie rockers can come to approximating a nervous breakdown. Still, it’s memorable more for its control than for its chaos. –Collin Brennan

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44. The Sundays – “Here’s Where the Story Ends”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/26/90

The are a few unfortunate effects of time with regards to alternative radio, and one of those is that a band like The Sundays can be all but forgotten within a few decades. But that goes for a lot of the sound that was popular before grunge, and “Here Is Where the Story Ends” has a lot more in common with the indie rock that would become popular post-2000. Still, nothing about the melody of Harriet Wheeler sounds dated, and 2016 ears find the track just as vibrant as ever. It’s just a little light for where alt rock was heading. –Philip Cosores

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43. Linkin Park – “Numb”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/22/03

The most successful single off the massively popular Meteora, “Numb” had all the hallmarks of a huge crossover hit. From Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington’s vocal harmonies to the distinctive synth intro, the track struck the perfect balance between its heavy instrumentation and sensitive lyrics. The song was also the band’s first to go platinum. – Killian Young

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42. The Offspring – “Come Out and Play”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/30/94

Despite its underlying message against gang violence, “Come Out and Play” was a song that inspired 10,000 middle school fist fights. To be fair, who wouldn’t get pumped after smashing this punky audio assault into their Discman? Fear not, though, because dreadlocked frontman Dexter Holland was quick to remind us kids about the ineffectual nature of juvenile criminal sanctions: “If you’re under 18, you won’t be doing any time.” Just make sure your teacher doesn’t see that parental advisory sticker on the album cover. –Dan Pfleegor

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41. Nirvana – “Heart-Shaped Box”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/16/93

“Heart-Shaped Box” is perhaps one of Kurt Cobain’s most well-written songs. Its lyrics read like a surrealist poem, painting a vivid pit of despair: Umbilical chords mingle with real ones, and if you aren’t angsty before a listen, you certainly will be after. While “Heart-Shaped Box” never topped the Billboard Top 40 charts, Cobain’s ability to couple iconic riffs with equally remarkable — when audible — lyrics is why his music took over a generation. –Kevin McMahon

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40. U2 – “Desire”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/22/88

Did U2 ever craft a more upbeat, jovial track than Rattle and Hum’s “Desire”? If so, it’s hard to think of it. “Desire” is just so bouncy and ebullient, so rocking and romantic; it knocks back and forth like a hot, little quickie. The Edge himself in 1988 characterized the song as trying to reach the spunk and energy of a different era, an antidote to solemn ‘80s sounds. Aimed as a fast homage on ‘50s and ’60s Americana, the Irish foursome blended the Bo Diddley beat, with the sound and style of The Stooges’ “1969”. U2 juxtaposed inherently American elements like blues, gospel, and folk with lyrics about hunger, capitalism, and faith. “Desire” is about that burning sensation, and “money money money money money” after all. –Blake Goble

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39. Oasis – “Champagne Supernova”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/6/96

One of the greatest closing tracks in alt-rock history has a lot of lyrics that don’t make much sense (here’s a serious physics question: How can one walk slowly down the hall and still be faster than a cannonball?). That doesn’t matter; like all great works of art released into and embraced by pop culture, “Champagne Supernova” has taken on countless new meanings and interpretations. Twenty years after its release, we’re still caught beneath the landslide. –Collin Brennan

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38. Elvis Costello – “Veronica”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/18/89

Given the talent involved, it would have been a disappointment if “Veronica” hadn’t topped the charts. In addition to Costello, one of the finest songwriters of his generation, T-Bone Burnett co-produced, and, wait for it, Sir Paul McCartney co-wrote and played bass. And then there’s the subject matter. Veronica isn’t a current flame or an extinguished one but rather Costello’s grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. So not only did Costello write a rock song (not a sentimental ballad) about his grandmother’s condition, but he also spread awareness about a cruel disease via alt radio before many other musicians had tackled that sort of issue. –Matt Melis

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37. Foo Fighters – “Best of You”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/9/05

Over two years had passed since One by One, and Foo Fighters fans eagerly embraced “Best of You”. Among the Foos’ dozens of singles, this rollicking track was the most commercially successful, also peaking at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100. –Killian Young

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36. Nine Inch Nails – “The Hand That Feeds”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/28/05

Nine Inch Nails tread dark water somewhere between industrial rock, new wave revival, and hard rock. “The Hand That Feeds” is the perfect storm of those genres. By repeating the same three notes, the band’s powerful anti-war song reaches peak intensity when Trent Reznor starts yelling the chorus: “Will you bite the hand that feeds you?” Over a decade later, you better have an answer. –Nina Corcoran

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35. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Give It Away”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/26/91

Perhaps the song that truly established the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ brand nationally, “Give It Away” has been played at literally every headlining concert they’ve thrown since the song was released as a single. With its pile of beautiful gibberish (“Blessed with a bucket of lucky mobility”) and its black-and-white glam music video, it still feels like a perfect reflection of what’s great about them. –Dan Bogosian

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34. Garbage – “#1 Crush”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/4/97

Teachers try a lot of angles to get students interested in reading Romeo and Juliet: romance, gangs, violence, teen issues, Leonardo DiCaprio. But what about Garbage’s “#1 Crush”, the remix of which appeared on the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack and stalked its way to the top of the alt charts? If Shirley Manson promising “I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart … and tear it part” doesn’t at least get them to lift their heads off their desks, then you aren’t teaching students — you’re teaching corpses. –Matt Melis

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33. Cracker – “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”

Date Reaching Number One: 5/9/92

If not for Beck releasing “Loser” less than a year later, Cracker’s “Teen Angst” — a generational update on “What the World Needs Now Is Love” — may have become the de facto Gen-X slacker anthem. Freshly removed from Camper Van Beethoven, frontman David Lowery joined guitarist Johnny Hickman and introduced Cracker to alt radio with this blazing, irreverent, state-of-the-world address. Lowery may not know what the world needs, but I think we can all agree with him that another folksinger ain’t it. –Matt Melis

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32. Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Kiss Them for Me”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/6/91

It took Siouxsie and the Banshees 15 years to find their way to the top of the rock charts. “Kiss Them for Me” steered the band’s post punk adventurousness in a more pop-friendly direction, and the shift was good enough to earn it a five-week stint atop the charts in the summer of 1991. –Ryan Bray

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31. U2 – “Mysterious Ways”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/30/91

That funky guitar, those congas, the jubilant chorus — “Mysterious Ways” is a track that doesn’t sound anything like a typical U2 song, while still clinging to the band’s love of defiant drums, raucous guitar, and damn good base lines. You know what they say: If you want to top the alternative chart for nine weeks, better learn how to kneel (on your knees, boy.) –Allison Shoemaker

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30. Muse – “Madness”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/13/12

Synthesizing electro rock, synth pop, a little bit of R&B, all the while stripping down the band’s flashier and louder elements, “Madness” is a distinguished work of moody alternative rock that was a huge hit. The dubstep vibration, the bassy rumble shakes itself right under the skin and into the heart, like ratcheting guilt in a deeply profound sadness, making “Madness” a sort of slow self-realization song. (Apparently, “Madness” was born from Matthew Bellamy reflecting on a fight with then-girlfriend Kate Hudson – who knew?) Here’s a song that escalates into wet-eyed eruption, but not in Muse’s signature brash style, and perhaps it’s why “Madness” became such an unshakeable hit. “Madness” currently holds the record for longest amount of time atop the Billboard alt charts (a bloody beautiful 19 weeks). –Blake Goble

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29. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/13/02

“It just takes some time,” sings Jim Atkins, but for Jimmy Eat World, it took no time at all for their alt-pop anthem about powering through to climb the Billboard alternative charts. The irresistible hook and universal message at the heart of “The Middle” even propelled it to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and into the iPods of middle-schoolers everywhere. –Zack Ruskin

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28. The Black Keys – “Tighten Up”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/6/10

We’ll always have a soft spot for the Akron duo’s first successful single. And how could we not? It’s one of the best meat-and-potatoes trad-rock jams The Black Keys have ever released. Not only did “Tighten Up” crack number one, but it crawled its way onto countless soundtracks and commercials in 2010. –Danielle Janota

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27. The B-52’s – “Love Shack”

Date Reaching Number One: 9/16/89

There’s no denying The B-52’s know how to party. When the pop-rock band released “Love Shack” in 1989, it was their informal invitation to the world to join in. In a cozy Atlanta cabin, saxophone wails and orders to bang on the door get everyone moving — even RuPaul. –Nina Corcoran

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26. U2 – “One”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/4/92

The band was at a crossroads on this one. Bono and The Edge were looking into European electronic music for inspiration after German reunification, but Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen somewhat wanted to hang back on the band’s old sounds. Achtung Baby was struggling to assemble, but eventually, like any great song, this “One” was born out of curious fiddling in the middle of a jam session. While drafting “Mysterious Ways”, The Edge started playing acoustic bridges that producer Daniel Lanois teased out into “One”. The rest, well, is history. “One” was a soulful, lamented track, a unifying rock ballad, which as Edge put it, “hits straight to the heart.” –Blake Goble

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25. My Chemical Romance – “Welcome to the Black Parade”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/4/06

On The Black Parade, My Chemical Romance transcended their emo roots by taking cues from grandiose glam rock of decades past, as singer Gerard Way cemented himself as a theatrical performer in the style of Freddie Mercury. “Welcome to the Black Parade” perfectly exemplified this evolution with the climactic blend of its soaring guitar riff, military-style drum cadence, and Way’s anthemic vocals. The track also became a big radio hit – surprisingly the band’s only time at the top of the alternative songs charts. –Killian Young

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24. Jane’s Addiction – “Been Caught Stealing”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/24/90

Are the dogs barking at the beginning of “Been Caught Stealing” the most famous pooches (not named Lou Dog) in the alt rock canon? As soon as you hear them, you know what band and song you’re listening to. And it’s not as though they’re just dogs barking on a track; these rovers are actually helping to establish the beat. It’s an oddball touch on Jane’s Addiction’s ode to five-finger discounts that you can’t imagine any other band doing. Add it to the reasons why you can’t talk alternative radio without mentioning Perry Farrell and crew. –Matt Melis

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23. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Scar Tissue”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/26/99

“Scar Tissue” is a gut punch from the burly fist of nostalgia — and it’s one that lands every time it is thrown. The Chili Peppers have been through a lot, as evidenced in Anthony Kiedes’ autobiography of the same name, yet what is most amazing about this song is not that you believe the musicians behind it, but that “Scar Tissue” makes it so easy to reflect on your own past. Hit songs that accomplish this level of relatability are the ones that stand the test of time. “Scar Tissue” spent 16 weeks atop the alternative charts in 1999 and has aged more gracefully than most of us who enjoyed the song back then. –Kevin McMahon

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22. Tori Amos – “God”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/19/94

I’m not sure what the pulse of America was in March of 1994, but the alt radio community was quite content to look to the skies in dissatisfaction alongside Tori Amos. Her slinking, percussive “God” seems like an unlikely anthem, but given the atrocities and injustices people see around them each and every day, a song that shows disappointment in — and offers to help — the deity (legit or man-made) orchestrating everything, and so often failing, feels both timeless and necessary. –Matt Melis

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21. Nirvana – “All Apologies”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/22/94

Just months before Kurt Cobain’s death, Nirvana registered the last alternative number one single of the band’s active life with the heartbreaking-in-retrospect “All Apologies”. The song took the top spot for two consecutive weeks in late January 1994, which still feels like a hollow consolation for the loss of popular music’s last great generational spokesperson. –Ryan Bray

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20. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/1/14

Anticipation for Arctic MonkeysAM was reaching a fever pitch when the English rockers released their second single, “Do I Wanna Know?”. With its snarling riff and Alex Turner’s reserved croon, the slow-burning track spent an impressive 10 weeks at #1. –Killian Young

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19. Phoenix – “1901”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/20/10

“1901” is the summation of everything that was perfect about 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — it was undeniably catchy, the perfect soundtrack to a European teenage birthday party where the theme color is pink, the punch is spiked with champagne, and the birthday girl’s boyfriend keeps making eyes at her best friend. “1901” was possibly the best song to represent the album as a whole, topping the alternative charts for two weeks in 2010. –Katherine Flynn

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18. Coldplay – “Viva la Vida”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/30/08

Four minutes of taught violin notes, soft church bells, and that thudding, persistent bass drum reminded bitter critics why pop-era Coldplay may not be so bad, even if they don’t want to admit it. The charts don’t lie: At the time of its release in 2008, “Viva La Vida” was their highest-charting single in American radio … ever. –Nina Corcoran

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17. Green Day – “When I Come Around”

Date Reaching Number One: 1/7/95

Green Day didn’t take long into their radio career to prove that they are more than a pop-punk band, with “When I Come Around” showcasing the trio’s ability to craft a timeless rock song as suitable for VH1 as for MTV. That would wind up being a touchstone of the group’s career, offering up songs like “Good Riddance” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to balance their more aggressive output. And it paid off on “When I Come Around”, which became the band’s biggest hit off their breakthrough Dookie, even landing in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. –Philip Cosores

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16. The Cure – “Friday I’m in Love”

Date Reaching Number One: 6/13/92

Just how good is “Friday I’m in Love”? Robert Smith was so impressed by the melody he wrote that he could have sworn he stole it from somebody else (he didn’t). The recorded song that appears on The Cure’s 1992 album, Wish, is slightly faster and more upbeat than the version the band rolls out at shows, which is really just as well. It’s a deeply nostalgic love song, and don’t we always remember past romance in a slightly different key? –Collin Brennan

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15. Foo Fighters – “All My Life”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/23/02

Even the Foo Fighters themselves have admitted that One by One has a large percentage of filler (about 40%, by my count), but even the filler packs more momentum than anything they’ve released to date, and that includes their debut. When considering that “All My Life” isn’t just one of their best singles — it forms the mantra of the record and their career as a whole: “Done, done, and I’m on to the next one.” Rock out, leave the stage a mess, record, save the world, wash, rinse, repeat. –Dan Caffrey

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14. Gorillaz – “Feel Good Inc.”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/27/05

Don’t stop, get it, get it. When Gorillaz dropped their 2005 single “Feel Good Inc.”, the whole world fell in love with that six-note bass line and De La Soul’s memorable rap over an otherwise dreary song about escapism. To this day, maniacal laughter has never sounded so damn cool. –Nina Corcoran

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13. The Killers – “When You Were Young”

Date Reaching Number One: 10/21/06

For as inescapable as The KillersHot Fuss tunes were, their one and only number one hit came on follow-up Sam’s Town. “When You Were Young” is a strange song, though, in that it felt like a reinvention for The Killers, a move for them to not be defined by their time (aughts) and place (Las Vegas) and to aspire to more. It was the song that telegraphed their becoming one of the biggest bands of this century, with an anthem as big as their aspirations. –Philip Cosores

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12. Modest Mouse – “Float On”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/31/04

Modest Mouse produced intricate, existential music for more than a decade. But it was the strangely optimistic “Float On” that propelled these Pacific Northwestern natives into the mainstream after four proper albums and a massive cult following. Isaac Brock is a unique frontman to say the least, so it’s fitting that “Float On” steers away from common topics like love and breakups to instead focus on near disasters, such as backing into a cop car or losing money to fake Jamaicans. Brock takes all the negativity in stride, though, content to march onward with a glass-half-full mentality and newly sober outlook on life. –Dan Pfleegor

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11. Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence”

Date Reaching Number One: 4/21/90

The centerpiece of Violator, Depeche Mode’s best album by that point, “Enjoy the Silence” also soon became a centerpiece for alternative stations everywhere – and, in many cases, still is. Today, it sounds like the perfect ending-credits song for the 1980s, some peak hybrid of dance music and sheer brood and an all-too-fitting culmination. It was also the first #1 alternative hit Depeche Mode would score, but not even their last for the year — the other happened to be “Policy of Truth”, the very next track on Violator. –Steven Arroyo

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10. Oasis – “Wonderwall”

Date Reaching Number One: 12/30/95

The song that launched 1,000 shitty karaoke renditions also inspired covers by The Mike Flower Pops and Ryan Adams, but there’s still something magical about hearing Liam Gallagher bleat over his brother’s acoustic guitar. The thing is, nobody quite knows what “Wonderwall” is about — including Noel Gallagher, who first said it was written for his then-girlfriend and later described it as being about “an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.” But whether you first heard it at high school prom or put it on every mix for every crush you ever had as a kid, chances are “Wonderwall” has saved you once or twice. –Collin Brennan

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09. Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/31/90

“Nothing Compares 2 U” is “alternative” only by virtue of Sinead O’Connor, as an artist, being labeled as such. There’s nothing very alternative about it at all — just synths, big drum sounds, and good, old-fashioned marquee heartbreak. It fared just as well on pop radio and is O’Connor’s most well-known song to this day, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in April of 1990. –Katherine Flynn

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08. Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/8/03

Queens of the Stone Age probably deserve to be on this list multiple times, but “No One Knows” is the band’s only No. 1 single. The groove is unmatched in all rock songs of the first decade of the new millennium, with an ensnaring four-to-the-floor rhythm. Plus, the riffs from Josh Homme’s guitar and Nick Oliveri’s bass are certainly some of the best in the band’s entire catalog, if not rock music at large. –Ben Kaye

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07. Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/22/95

So much attention has been devoted to identifying the mystery ex-boyfriend Morissette directly addresses on her first chart-topping single. However, the focus should be on the fact that Morissette — with the help of Glen Ballard, Dave Navarro, and Flea — unleashed the most intense jilted-lover song in alt rock radio history. It’s wounded, pissed off, and most of all cathartic. Morissette wrote “You Oughta Know” for herself (not him), and if you should ever find yourself in her position, nothing feels better than shouting along with her while speeding down a highway towards whatever comes next. –Matt Melis

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06. Beck – “Loser”

Date Reaching Number One: 2/5/94

Nine out of ten Gen-X slackers agree: Beck’s “Loser” is their anthem. Of course, that wasn’t Beck’s intention. The idea of rapping to folk stemmed from trying to get attention from ADD coffeehouse audiences. And that classic, antisocial slacker mantra: “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?” Merely Beck commenting on his own lousy (his assessment) rapping. But once a song hits the airwaves, it becomes what people make of it, and disgruntled, disconnected youth everywhere embraced the plaid duds, leaf blower, and nonsensical non sequiturs and adopted them as their own. Yo, cut it. –Matt Melis

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05. Lorde – “Royals”

Date Reaching Number One: 8/24/13

Before it was ubiquitous, before the friendship with T-Swift and the (Puddles the Sad Clown cover), “Royals” was just a great song by a young Kiwi. Lorde became the first woman in nearly 20 years to top the alternative chart and held it for nine weeks (a record) before crossing over to the Hot 100, where it also reigned supreme (as it did on our year-end list as well). Thumbing her nose at the tropes of pop and hip-hop while simultaneously embracing them, it’s refreshing, smart, and an undeniable earworm. —Allison Shoemaker

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04. R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/16/91

A killer mandolin riff usually doesn’t pave the path to the top of the alternative charts. However, Peter Buck’s mandolin part — a byproduct of the guitarist teaching himself the instrument while watching television one day — remains as instantly recognizable 25 years later as any sound on this list. Coupled with Michael Stipe’s lyrics of obsessive love, “Losing My Religion” became the dark, brooding hit that catapulted R.E.M. from college radio staples to among the biggest rock bands in the world. Out of the corner and into the spotlight. –Matt Melis

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03. Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Date Reaching Number One: 11/23/91

Nirvana single-handedly led the grunge trend of the ’90s when they dropped their biggest single to date, the pom-pom-filled “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which served as the album opener for 1991’s Nevermind. Once you hear that riff, you hear it everywhere. –Nina Corcoran

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02. The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”

Date Reaching Number One: 7/12/03

That perpetual drumbeat. Jack White’s guitar filtered through a Whammy pedal to give it the sound of an undulating bass. That guitar riff — a holy relic of earworms. The White Stripes may have landed with “Fell in Love with a Girl”, but it was “Seven Nation Army” that immortalized them as the leaders of a mainstream return to low-fi blues rock. It held at #1 on the alternative charts for three weeks, ultimately going on to be the chart’s third best-performing song of the decade. –Zack Ruskin

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01. The Smashing Pumpkins – “1979”

Date Reaching Number One: 3/2/96

“1979” was hardly The Smashing Pumpkins’ first rodeo. The band was already an alternative staple with tracks like “Today” and “Disarm” from Siamese Dream, but even with the lead single from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, a number one hit eluded the band. “1979” would wind up being their only number one song, and it’s fitting that it is also their best. Yes, there is sonic inventiveness with the fluttering guitar riff (frontman Billy Corgan would say at the time that “1979” was a roadmap to where the band was headed musically), but the song’s heart is Corgan’s melody and words. It’s nostalgic without pandering or being obvious, evoking the “cool kids” and the “freaks and ghouls” that come with being a teenager. As a result, it’s not just a song about being young, but it’s a song that can make you feel young again, complete with all the beauty and excitement we attach to youth. And that might be what alt radio is all about. –Philip Cosores

Click here to stream the entire list on Spotify. Special thanks to Joshua Vester for putting this together! 

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