Alternative Songs

Alternative Songs (also called Alternative and formerly known as Modern Rock Tracks and Hot Modern Rock Tracks) is a music chart in the United States that has appeared in Billboard magazine since September 10, 1988. It lists the 40 most-played songs on alternative and modern rock radio stations. The chart was introduced as a companion to the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and its creation was prompted by the explosion of alternative music on American radio in the late 1980s. During the first several years of the chart, it regularly featured music that did not receive commercial radio airplay anywhere but on a few modern rock and college rock radio stations. This included many electronic and post-punk artists. Gradually, as alternative rock became more "mainstream" (particularly spearheaded by the grunge explosion in the early 1990s), the Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Songs charts began featuring more of the same songs. However, the formats would differentiate themselves by the late 2000s. Today, the Alternative Songs chart favors more indie rock, indie pop, and synth-pop bands while the Mainstream Rock chart favors more alternative rock, hard rock, and heavy metal music.

The chart is based solely on radio airplay. As of 2012, approximately 80 radio stations are electronically monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.[1] Songs are ranked by a calculation of the total number of spins per week with its "audience impression", which is based upon exact times of airplay and each station's Arbitron listener data. The chart had 30 positions when it was introduced in September 1988, and was expanded to 40 positions on September 10, 1994.[2]

The chart was renamed Alternative Songs beginning with the June 20, 2009 issue after Billboard fully absorbed Radio & Records, whose similar chart was called "Alternative" instead of "Modern Rock".[3]

The Red Hot Chili Peppers hold the record for most number-one songs at 13, a record they have held since 2016.[4]

Foo Fighters are the chart's top act and "Uprising" by Muse is the Alternative Songs chart's all-time No. 1 song.[5]

The first number-one song on the Alternative Songs chart was "Peek-a-Boo" by Siouxsie and the Banshees. The current number-one song for the chart dated December 21, 2019, is "Orphans" by Coldplay.[6]


The first Alternative Songs chart appeared in the September 10, 1988 edition of Billboard magazine, then known as "Modern Rock Tracks".[7] The first song to reach the chart's No. 1 position was Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Peek-a-Boo", which topped the charts for two weeks.[8] In the chart's early years, the chart was closely associated with college rock, new wave, post-punk and electronic genres with a large presence of British, Irish and Australian artists, as only 24 of the chart's first 82 number-one hits were by American acts.[9] Bands including Depeche Mode, Pixies, The Cure, New Order and R.E.M. were amongst the most popular acts on Alternative radio in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[9] Many rock artists do not release commercial singles in the United States. Several popular songs which were not released as commercial singles did not qualify for the Hot 100 before December 1998, but performed very well on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

In 1991, with the release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana (which reached No. 1 on November 23, 1991),[10] grunge became a new form of alternative rock to chart. However, grunge did not have a dominating presence on the chart in its heyday; over time, grunge would grow into popularity as a representation of alternative rock in the mainstream. Iconic grunge songs fared decently on the Alternative Songs chart but better on the Mainstream Rock Songs.[9] For example, "Black" by Pearl Jam peaked only at No. 20 on the former but No. 3 on the latter.[11][12] This was because the college rock and new wave of the 1980s remained the dominant styles of the format, while grunge became an alternative rock style that was popular on the Mainstream Rock format.

In the mid-1990s, alternative rock songs began to crossover to Pop radio, with acts such as Green Day, The Offspring and Alanis Morissette being played on Pop stations after establishing hits on the Alternative chart.[9] Dominant genres included pop punk and softer alternative rock, as grunge acts such as Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots did not reach No. 1, while Britpop, a form of alternative rock from the UK, was represented only by Oasis.[9] By the late-1990s, the Alternative Songs chart was ruled by relatively lighter alternative rock bands such as Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty and Sugar Ray and a plethora of one-hit wonders.[9][13]

At the turn of the century, alternative radio embraced nu-metal/rap rock with bands including Korn, Limp Bizkit and most famously, Linkin Park. Chris Molanphy of Pitchfork stated that "possibly the most loathed period for music of the last half-century, the rap-rock years-- when looked through the prism of the Modern Rock chart’s evolution-- are a logical endpoint to a decade when alt-culture steadily de-wussified itself."[9] Garage rock from the likes of The White Stripes and The Strokes also became hits in the early-2000s as a counter to the over-aggression of rap rock.[9]

In the mid-2000s, the Alternative charts were ruled at the top by its most dominant members. From 2003 to 2008, the No. 1 song was by either Foo Fighters, Green Day, Incubus, Linkin Park or Red Hot Chili Peppers 49% of the time – 152 out of 313 weeks.[9] During this time, classic '90s alternative groups such as Nine Inch Nails and Weezer enjoyed their biggest success, while emo (Jimmy Eat World), indie rock (Modest Mouse) and pop punk (Fall Out Boy) also were popular.[9] In 2007, "The Kill" by Thirty Seconds to Mars set a record for the longest-running hit in the history of the US alternative chart when it remained on the national chart for 52 weeks.[14] Rise Against's "Savior" later broke the record by spending 65 weeks, followed around the same time by "1901" from Phoenix at 57.[15] In 2009, Billboard renamed the chart to "Alternative Songs".[3]

In the 2010s, the Alternative charts were led by softer indie pop and folk, and crossed over new acts to pop radio for the first time since the late-'90s; these acts being Foster the People, Imagine Dragons, fun., and Gotye.[9] The chart also began to diverge from the Mainstream Rock chart, as only 10 of 40 songs were shared between the two in November 2012, compared to 23 of 40 in November 2002.[16] For the chart's 25th anniversary in 2013, Billboard published a list of the 100 biggest hits in the history of the Alternative chart. "Uprising" by Muse was listed at No. 1, having spent 17 weeks on the top of the chart and 53 weeks in total. "Savior" by Rise Against was listed at No. 2, peaking at #3 but staying on the chart for a record-breaking 65 weeks.[17]

In 2018, Billboard released its Greatest of All Time Alternative Songs 30th-anniversary recap. The Foo Fighters continued its reign as the chart's No. 1 act over the list's first 30 years, after leading the 25th-anniversary recap. Muse's "Uprising" retained its standing as the all-time No. 1 song. Rise Against's " Savior" again ranked at No. 2, while Portugal. The Man's "Feel It Still" entered at No. 3, the highest debut on the 30th anniversary songs list, following its record 20-week reign in 2017.[18] Only six bands have charted in all four decades of the chart's existence – Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 and Beastie Boys.[19]

Chart achievements

Artists with the most number-one songs

Source: [20]

Red Hot Chili Peppers (13)
Linkin Park (11)
Green Day (11)
Foo Fighters (10)
Cage the Elephant (9) [21]
U2 (8)

Acts who've reached No. 1 in at least three decades

Source: [22]

Beck (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)
blink-182 (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)
Foo Fighters (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)
Green Day (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)
Red Hot Chili Peppers (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)
U2 (1980s, 1990s, 2000s)

Artists with the most cumulative weeks at number one

Weeks at No. 1ArtistSource
86Red Hot Chili Peppers[23]
82Foo Fighters[23]
71Linkin Park[23]
56Green Day[23]

Songs that debuted at number one

"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" by R.E.M. (1994)[24]
"Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006)[25]
"What I've Done" by Linkin Park (2007)[26]

Artists with most chart entries

39Pearl Jam[28]
34Green Day[29]
Foo Fighters[30]
33Red Hot Chili Peppers[27]

Songs with most weeks on the Alternative Songs Chart

The following songs have charted for more than 52 weeks.

65"Savior"Rise Against[33]
64"First"Cold War Kids[33]
58"Do I Wanna Know?"Arctic Monkeys[33]
56"Wish I Knew You"The Revivalists[33]
55"Sit Next to Me"Foster the People[33]
53 "Feel It Still"Portugal. The Man[33]

Songs with most weeks at number one

The songs with 16 or more weeks at number one.

20"Feel It Still"Portugal. The Man2017[35]
18"The Pretender"Foo Fighters2007[35]
16"High Hopes"Panic! At The Disco2018–19[36]
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"Green Day2004–05[35]
"It's Been Awhile"Staind2001[35]
"Scar Tissue"Red Hot Chili Peppers1999[35]

Albums with at least three Alternative Songs number ones


5 songs
Meteora  Linkin Park ("Somewhere I Belong," "Faint," "Numb," "Lying from You," "Breaking the Habit," 2003–04)
3 songs
Trench  Twenty One Pilots ("Jumpsuit," "Chlorine," "The Hype," 2018–19)
Evolve  Imagine Dragons ("Believer," "Thunder," "Whatever It Takes," 2017–18)
Only By the Night  Kings of Leon ("Sex on Fire," "Use Somebody," "Notion," 2008–09)
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace  Foo Fighters ("The Pretender," "Long Road to Ruin," "Let It Die," 2007–08)
Stadium Arcadium  Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Dani California," "Tell Me Baby," "Snow ((Hey Oh))," 2006–07)
With Teeth  Nine Inch Nails ("The Hand That Feeds," "Only," "Every Day Is Exactly the Same," 2005–06)
American Idiot  Green Day ("American Idiot," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Holiday," 2004–05)
Californication  Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Scar Tissue," "Otherside," "Californication," 1999–2000)
Jagged Little Pill  Alanis Morissette ("You Oughta Know," "Hand in My Pocket," "Ironic," 1995–96)
Dookie  Green Day ("Longview," "Basket Case," "When I Come Around," 1994–95)
Achtung Baby  U2 ("The Fly," "Mysterious Ways," "One," 1991–92)

Other chart achievements

See also


  1. "The charts" (fee required). The Sun Herald. 2005-08-25. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
  2. "Alternative Songs: Top Alternative Songs Chart: September 10, 1994". Billboard.
  3. Gary Trust (2009-06-10). "Chart Beat: Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Shinedown". Billboard. Archived from the original on 14 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  4. "Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Dark Necessities' Only 4th Song to Top Mainstream Rock, Alternative & Adult Alternative Charts". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  5. "Foo Fighters Top Act, Muse's 'Uprising' No. 1 Song in Alternative Songs Chart's 30th Anniversary Recaps". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  6. "Coldplay Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  7. "Alternative Chart 25th Anniversary: Top 50 Artists, Most Top 10s, Most No. 1s & More". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  8. "Siouxsie & The Banshees". Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  9. "Radio-Friendly Unit Shifters | Pitchfork". Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  10. "Nirvana – Chart history | Billboard". Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  11. "Pearl Jam – Chart history | Billboard". Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  12. "Pearl Jam – Chart history | Billboard". Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  13. Hyden, Steven (2013-10-01). "Indie Rock's Tuneful Death Rattle". Grantland. Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  14. Roth, Kaj (February 2, 2007). "30 Seconds to Mars Breaks Modern Rock Record". Melodic. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  15. Trust, Gary (October 2, 2010). "Extended Stays". Billboard. 122 (39): 42. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  16. "Jangle All The Way: New Acts Soften Alternative Airwaves". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  17. "Alternative Chart 25th Anniversary: Top 100 Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  18. "Foo Fighters Top Act, Muse's 'Uprising' No. 1 Song in Alternative Songs Chart's 30th Anniversary Recaps". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  19. "Nine Inch Nails Extend Alternative Songs Streak With 'Less Than'". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  20. Rutherford, Kevin (January 24, 2017). "Green Day Lands 11th No. 1 on Alternative Songs With 'Still Breathing'". Billboard. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  21. "Cage the Elephant Alternative Songs Chart History". [Billboard (magazine)}. July 3, 2019. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  22. Rutherford, Kevin (December 7, 2017). "Beck Scores Record-Breaking No. 1 on Alternative Songs with 'Up All Night'". Billboard. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  23. Rutherford, Kevin (6 June 2018). "Muse Returns to No. 1 on Alternative Songs Chart With 'Thought Contagion'". Billboard Music. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  24. "Alternative Songs: Top Alternative Songs Chart September 24, 1994". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  25. "Alternative Songs: Top Alternative Songs Chart April 22, 2006". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  26. "Alternative Songs: Top Alternative Songs Chart April 21, 2007". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  27. "U2's 'You're the Best Thing About Me' Debuts on Rock Charts". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  28. "Pearl Jam – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
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  30. "Foo Fighters – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  31. "Coldplay – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  32. ""Alternative Songs Chart the Week of May 11, 2019"". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  33. "lovelytheband's 'Broken' Breaks Alternative Songs Longevity Record". Billboard. 2019-03-01. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  34. ""Alternative Songs Chart the Week of December 21, 2019"". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  35. Rutherford, Kevin (28 November 2017). "Portugal. The Man's 'Feel It Still' Breaks Record for Most Weeks at No. 1 on Alternative Songs Chart". Billboard Music. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  36. "High Hopes Alternative Songs Chart History". Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  37. Rutherford, Kevin (13 March 2018). "Imagine Dragons' 'Evolve' Is First Album With 3 Alternative Songs No. 1s This Decade". Billboard Music. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  38. Trust, Gary (September 30, 2013). "Chart Highlights: Rihanna Returns, Fitz And The Tantrums Rule Rock, Yandel Leads Latin Airplay". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  39. "Modern Rock Tracks". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 106 (27): 102. July 2, 1994. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  40. Macdonald, Patrick (December 23, 1994). "Music Notes". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  41. "Lorde First Woman in 17 Years to Top Alternative with 'Royals'". Billboard. 16 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  42. White, Emily (September 8, 2015). "Elle King Is Just Second Woman to Top Alternative Songs Chart in Two Decades". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  43. "Lorde Links Longest Alternative Songs Reign By A Woman With 'Royals'". Billboard. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  44. Rutherford, Kevin (May 20, 2019). "Billie Eilish Scores First Airplay Chart No. 1 as 'Bury a Friend' Tops Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
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