Last year, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott finally crossed their name off the list of music’s biggest stars without a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit, with “Thank U, Next” and “Sicko Mode” respectively marking each artist’s first single to reach the chart’s apex.
In 2019, they’ve been followed to the top by Halsey — who had already had a No. 1 as a featured artist, but notched her first as a solo lead with “Without Me” — as well as the Jonas Brothers (scoring their first chart-topper with comeback single “Sucker”), Billie Eilish (“Bad Guy”), Shawn Mendes (“Señorita”), Selena Gomez (“Lose You to Love Me”) and even Billy Ray Cyrus (along with Lil Nas X on the “Old Town Road” remix).
Still, even without those marquee names, the pool of major pop artists without a Hot 100-topper remains a crowded one. Here is a brief rundown of ten artists currently in the debate for the distinction of being “next” on the ranking of the biggest stars without a No. 1 on their resume.
Ariana’s frequent collaborator — with whom she shares a pair of Hot 100 top five hits in “Side to Side” (No. 4, 2016) and “Bang Bang” (No. 3, 2014) — has come within one spot of the chart’s apex, with solo smash “Anaconda” in 2014. But despite hitting the top 10 a stunning 17 times (most recently with her guest appearance on 6ix9ine’s “FEFE,” which peaked at No. 3 last August), and despite having cracked triple digits with her total Hot 100 entries last November — more than any other female artist in history — she’s still yet to reach the chart penthouse. (Her September “retirement” may seem to close the book on her ever doing so, though she’s still released the solo “Fendi” since then, and a new album may still be on the way.)
Cole is one of music’s most reliable LP-sellers at this point, having now topped the Billboard 200 albums chart with all five of his studio albums to date, each with first-week numbers well into the multiple hundreds of thousands. But his success on the Hot 100 has been more tempered: Aside from debuting three songs in the top 10 during the release week of most recent LP K.O.D. in 2018 (“ATM,” No. 6; “Kevin’s Heart,” No. 8; “KOD,” No. 10), 2016’s No. 7-peaking “Deja Vu” and this year’s “Middle Child” (a career-best No. 4) remain the North Carolina MC’s only other visits to the chart’s top 10. Given Cole’s lack of a consistent pop radio presence over most of the last half-decade, however, his presence on this list may be less surprising than some others.
While the practically post-genre Khalid has found stardom scoring hits alongside everyone from Billie Eilish to Kane Brown to Marshmello to Normani, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter has yet to take any of his 25 Billboard Hot 100 hits to the top of the chart. He came two spots away alongside Logic and Alessia Cara on the No. 3-peaking “1-800-273-8255” in 2017, a peak which he matched this summer with his own solo single, “Talk.”
In terms of volume, no one has blanketed the Hot 100 more in 2019 than Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, better known as DaBaby. The ascendant North Carolina rapper has notched a staggering 20 hits on the chart this year — including all 13 tracks on his October album Kirk — which ties Post Malone for the most of any artist. But while Post already has a trio of No. 1s to his credit (including the 2019 chart-topper “Sunflower”), DaBaby’s rookie year hasn’t seen him get any higher than No. 7, with breakout hit “Suge.”
Twenty One Pilots
The duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun were absolutely unavoidable on the Hot 100 in 2016, with their “Stressed Out” and “Heathens” smashes taking them all the way to No. 2 on the chart, and in-between single “Ride” pulling up not far behind at No. 5. Though second album Trench, released in October 2018, didn’t create the same kind of Hot 100 momentum — lead single “Jumpsuit” has scored the highest ranking on the chart from the set to date, with a modest No. 50 peak — all three of the previously mentioned smashes are currently still in Spotify’s top 100 most U.S.-played songs of all time, and the duo flying to such elevations again in the future would hardly be a shock.
Similar to Cole, the rapper born Nayvadius Wilburn has been a Billboard 200 conqueror (six No. 1 albums, including with his self-titled effort and Hendrix in consecutive weeks in March 2017) and Hot 100 fixture (90 entries total, most recently with his appearance on Post Malone’s “Die For Me”) without ever really threatening the top spot on the latter. The 2017 No. 5-peaking solo smash “Mask Off” has brought him closest, with only his featured appearance on Lil Wayne’s 2013 hit “Love Me” taking him to the top 10 previously.
Another Ariana collaborator, Zedd has come closest to the Hot 100’s apex with his 2014 collab with the powerhouse pop vocalist, “Break Free,” which hit No. 4 in that August. It’s one of four top 10 hits for the superstar DJ on the chart, and in 2018, he scored two entries in the Hot 100’s top half: “The Middle,” with Grey and Maren Morris, which hit No. 5 on the chart last April, and “Lost in Japan,” his Shawn Mendes collab, which climbed to a No. 48 peak that November.
The K-pop septet and cultural phenomenon seems to hit a new milestone every week or two, including scoring the first No. 1 album for any K-pop act on the Billboard 200, and setting the YouTube record for the most views in the first 24 hours for a video in any genre. But despite their career of impressive achievements, one feat that has thusfar eluded them is topping the Hot 100 — they’ve come closest with “Boy With Luv,” a Halsey collab that debuted at No. 8 this April, and “Fake Love,” a No. 10 hit in 2018.
In an era where rock crossovers to the Hot 100 are an increasingly rare phenomenon, Imagine Dragons keep scoring top 10 hits like it was still the height of ’80s arena rock. “Thunder” (No. 4) and “Believer” (No. 4) both brought the Las Vegas quartet back to the chart’s top five last year — which they’d previously visited in 2013, with “Radioactive” (No. 3), their highest-charting smash to date — and they challenged the chart’s top tier twice in 2018, with third Evolve single “Whatever It Takes” (No. 12) and follow-up set Origins‘ lead single “Natural” (No. 13).
Florida Georgia Line
You probably wouldn’t have thought to include the country duo on a list like this before 2018, since despite their continued consistent success on the country charts, they hadn’t visited the top 10 of the Hot 100 in a half-decade, since the Nelly-featuring “Cruise” (No. 4, 2013). But they made a triumphant return to the chart’s highest tier last year, even bettering their old peak by climbing to No. 2 with their Bebe Rexha collab “Meant to Be” — leaving open the possibility that FGL could be the first country act to top the Hot 100 since Taylor Swift still registered as a country artist. (“Talk You Out of It,” the group’s biggest 2019 hit, reached a No. 57 peak on the chart in August.)