Alternative Songs

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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.

Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. In this instance, the word "alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream rock music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music. At times, "alternative" has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock. Although the genre evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s, music anticipating the sound of the genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as The Velvet Underground.

<i>Billboard</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Billboard is an American entertainment media brand owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Eldridge Industries. It publishes pieces involving news, video, opinion, reviews, events, and style, and is also known for its music charts, including the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, tracking the most popular songs and albums in different genres. It also hosts events, owns a publishing firm, and operates several TV shows.

Modern rock is rock music made between the late 1970s to present day. Some radio stations use this term to distinguish themselves from classic rock, which is based in 1960s–1980s rock 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]

Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, better known as BDS, is a service that tracks monitored radio, television and internet airplay of songs based on the number of spins and detections. The service, which is a subsidiary of Nielsen Corporation provides the basis for Nielsen Media publication Billboard in the United States, while in Canada, BDS helps determine the Canadian BDS Airplay Chart and the Canadian Hot 100 chart, which is published by Jam! and in the website for Canadian Music Network, in determining their radio airplay music charts and determines the chart movement in Billboard's Hot 100 chart when combined with single sales from Nielsen SoundScan. From August 2006 to its final June 2009 publication, BDS also provided chart data for R&R after Nielsen acquired the trade. On September 10, 2009, the website struck a partnership with Nielsen BDS to provide radio airplay charts and related data for over 20 formats.

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]

Radio & Records (R&R) was a trade publication providing news and airplay information for the radio and music industries. It started as an independent trade from 1973 to 2006 until VNU Media took over in 2006 and became a relaunched sister trade to Billboard, until its final issue in 2009.

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

Red Hot Chili Peppers American rock band

Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1983. The group's musical style primarily consists of rock with an emphasis on funk, as well as elements from other genres such as punk rock and psychedelic rock. When played live, their music incorporates elements of jam band due to the improvised nature of many of their performances. Currently, the band consists of founding members vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea, longtime drummer Chad Smith, and former touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the best-selling bands of all time with over 80 million records sold worldwide, they have been nominated for sixteen Grammy Awards, of which they have won six, and are the most successful band in alternative rock radio history, currently holding the records for most number-one singles (13), most cumulative weeks at number one (85) and most top-ten songs (25) on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. In 2012, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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

Foo Fighters American rock band

Foo Fighters is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1994. It was founded by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the dissolution of Nirvana after the suicide of Kurt Cobain. The group got its name from the UFOs and various aerial phenomena that were reported by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II, which were known collectively as "foo fighters".

Uprising (song) Muse song

"Uprising" is a song by the English rock band Muse. It was released on 7 September 2009 as the lead single from the band's fifth studio album, The Resistance (2009). The song was written by band member Matt Bellamy, produced by the band, and mixed by Spike Stent. "Uprising" peaked in the top 10 in seven countries. It was certified silver in the United Kingdom, gold in four countries, platinum in two countries, and double-platinum in the United States, making it Muse's best-selling single.

Muse (band) English rock band

Muse are an English rock band from Teignmouth, Devon, formed in 1994. The band consists of Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard (drums).

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 July 20, 2019, is "Gloria" by The Lumineers. [6]

Peek-a-Boo (song) song by Siouxsie and the Banshees

"Peek-a-Boo" is a song by English rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees. It was released in 1988 as the first single from the band's ninth studio album, Peepshow. Melody Maker described the song as "a brightly unexpected mixture of black steel and pop disturbance" and qualified its genre as "thirties hip hop". "Peek-a-Boo" was rated "Single of the Week" in both Sounds and NME. Sounds wrote that it was a "brave move", "playful and mysterious". NME described it as "Oriental marching band hip hop" with "catchy accordion." They then said : "If this nation was served by anything approaching a decent pop radio station, "Peek A Boo" would be a huge hit."

Siouxsie and the Banshees English rock band

Siouxsie and the Banshees were an English rock band, formed in London in 1976 by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux and bass guitarist Steven Severin. They have been widely influential, both over their contemporaries and with later acts. Mojo rated guitarist John McGeoch in their list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" for his work on "Spellbound". The Times cited the group as "one of the most audacious and uncompromising musical adventurers of the post-punk era".

The Lumineers American folk rock band

The Lumineers are an American folk rock band based in Denver, Colorado. The founding members are Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites. Schultz and Fraites began writing and performing together in Ramsey, New Jersey in 2005. Cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek joined the band in 2010, and was a member until 2018. The Lumineers emerged as one of the most popular folk rock/Americana artists during the revival of those genres and their growing popularity in the 2010s. The band's stripped back raw sound draws heavily from artists that influenced Schultz and Fraites such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. They are known for their energetic live shows and several international hit singles including "Ho Hey", "Stubborn Love", "Ophelia" and "Cleopatra". The band has become one of the top touring bands in the United States and also sells out shows around the world.


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)
U2 (8)
Cage the Elephant (8) [21]

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
86 Red Hot Chili Peppers [23]
82 Foo Fighters [23]
71 Linkin Park [23]
56 Green Day [23]
46 Muse [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

42 U2 [27]
39 Pearl Jam [28]
34 Foo Fighters [29]
33 Red Hot Chili Peppers [27]
Green Day [27]

Songs with most weeks on the Alternative Songs Chart

The following songs have charted for more than 52 weeks.

76"Broken" Lovelytheband [30]
65"Savior" Rise Against [31]
64"First" Cold War Kids [31]
58"Do I Wanna Know?" Arctic Monkeys [31]
57"1901" Phoenix [31]
56"Wish I Knew You" The Revivalists [31]
55"Sit Next to Me" Foster the People [31]
53"Feel It Still" Portugal. The Man [31]
"Uprising" Muse [31]

Songs with most weeks at number one

The songs with 16 or more weeks at number one.

20"Feel It Still" Portugal. The Man 2017 [32]
19"Madness" Muse 2012–13 [32]
18"The Pretender" Foo Fighters 2007 [32]
17"Uprising"Muse2009–10 [32]
16"High Hopes" Panic! At The Disco 2018–19 [33]
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" Green Day 2004–05 [32]
"It's Been Awhile" Staind 2001 [32]
"Scar Tissue" Red Hot Chili Peppers 1999 [32]

Albums with at least three Alternative Songs number ones

Source: [34]

5 songs
Meteora   Linkin Park ("Somewhere I Belong," "Faint," "Numb," "Lying from You," "Breaking the Habit," 2003–04)
3 songs
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

Related Research Articles

All My Life (Foo Fighters song) song by the American alternative rock band Foo Fighters

"All My Life" is a song by the American band Foo Fighters, released as the first single from their fourth album, One by One. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance, and spent ten straight weeks at number 1 on the Alternative Songs chart and it peaked at number 3 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. It was also a top 5 hit on the UK Singles Chart.

Numb (Linkin Park song) 2003 single by Linkin Park

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Scar Tissue 1999 single by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Dani California single

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One Headlight 1996 single by The Wallflowers

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Into Your Arms 1993 single by The Lemonheads

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Ho Hey 2012 single by The Lumineers

"Ho Hey" is a song by American folk rock band The Lumineers. It was released on June 4, 2012, as the lead single from their debut self-titled studio album. The music video was released on March 11, 2012. "Ho Hey" reached number one for 18 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Rock Songs chart, as well as two weeks in the top spot on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and eight weeks in the top spot on the Adult Pop Songs chart, and reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming their first single to do so, as well as their first top 5 single. It also reached number 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart, behind "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars. It is also their first single to be certified in the US.

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This article summarizes the events related to rock music for the year of 2017.

This article summarizes the events related to rock music for the year of 2016.


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