The first two times Billboard celebrated the Alternative Airplay chart’s anniversary, Foo Fighters reigned as the top act, while Muse’s “Uprising” claimed top song honors, both in 2013 (for the survey’s 25th year) and 2018 (30th).
Some things don’t change. As Billboard reveals the updated Greatest of All Time 35th-anniversary recap of Alternative Airplay – which began in the issue dated Sept. 10, 1988 – it’s Foo Fighters who again rank above the rest as the tally’s top act.
Upon the list’s latest milestone, Billboard recognizes the Alternative Airplay chart’s top 100 songs and top 100 artists, from its September 1988 inception through September 2023. (See chart methodology below.)
Foos Fight to Top Artist Chart Again
Foo Fighters remain in a league of their own as Alternative Airplay’s No. 1 act over the chart’s first 35 years.
Mind you, the band’s old rival, Red Hot Chili Peppers, didn’t make it easy. The Chili Peppers remain at No. 2 behind the Foos, an order that’s persisted since the 25th-anniversary ranking.
Despite no movement at the top, neither band rested on its laurels between years 30 and 35. The Dave Grohl-fronted Foo Fighters released Medicine at Midnight in 2021, an album that spurred four Alternative Airplay top 10s. Earlier this year, the rockers followed with But Here We Are, their first following the death of longtime drummer Taylor Hawkins in 2022. Already the Foos have notched their first No. 1, “Rescued,” since 2014.
Anthony Kiedis and Red Hot Chili Peppers, meanwhile, released two albums, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen in 2022, LPs that christened the return of guitarist John Frusciante. The result was a pair of No. 1 songs in “Black Summer” and “Tippa My Tongue,” extending the band’s record for the most chart-toppers – 15 – in the ranking’s history.
It’s not just the top two that remain the same. The top five acts for the 35th anniversary refresh are in the positions that they held in 2018. To recap: Green Day at No. 3 (three chart appearances since the 30th, including the No. 1 “Oh Yeah!” in 2020), Linkin Park at No. 4 (one No. 1 in the Meteora outtake “Lost,” released in 2023 as part of the album’s 20th-birthday reissue) and U2 at No. 5 (no chart appearances, but Bono and Co. still hold the record for the most Alternative Airplay appearances: 42).
The top 10, however, sees some movement. Weezer moves up to No. 6, from No. 9, from, in large part, a streak of four No. 1s since 2020 that’s still intact as of this writing, while Imagine Dragons shoot into the top 10 at No. 7, from No. 16, via a pair of leaders in 2021-22. R.E.M., Cage the Elephant and Pearl Jam round out the top 10, with Cage the Elephant also joining the top 10 for the first time, up from No. 15.
The recap’s top debuting act is one that, perhaps surprisingly, wasn’t among the top 100 in 2018: Panic! at the Disco, the Brendon Urie-led outfit that first appeared on Alternative Airplay in 2006. In 2018, the seeds for a Panic! renaissance had begun to be sown with the band’s first Alternative Airplay No. 1 in “Say Amen (Saturday Night).” After that anniversary, the act ruled the chart for 16 weeks with “High Hopes” and followed with the three-week leader “Viva Las Vengeance” in 2022.
Meanwhile, for the first time, two solo women appear among the chart’s top 100 artists. Alanis Morissette, who ranked at No. 62 on the 30th anniversary list, places at No. 67, joined by Billie Eilish, who debuts at No. 93. One of the format’s breakout stars since the last anniversary, Eilish has already racked up four No. 1s, surpassing Morissette for the most rulers by a solo woman – or any soloist – in the ranking’s history.
The 30th anniversary featured eight women or acts either fronted or co-fronted by women in the top 100. For the 35th, that number jumps to 11, with Eilish, Grouplove and Paramore joining in. The Cranberries lead all such acts at No. 62.
All Time Low’s ‘Monsters’ Roars to No. 1
Most weeks ever on the chart. Third-most weeks at No. 1.
Yeah, it makes sense that All Time Low’s “Monsters” featuring blackbear now reigns as the all-time biggest song in the Alternative Airplay chart’s history.
When “Monsters” debuted at No. 36 on the May 30, 2020-dated ranking amid the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it marked All Time Low’s first Alternative Airplay appearance despite nearly a decade-and-a-half of Billboard chart entries; even to that point with five top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, the rockers weren’t a household name on radio, their biggest airplay hit being the No. 13-peaking “Good Times” on Adult Pop Airplay in 2017.
But “Monsters” persisted, riding a wave of pop-punk throwbacks and revivalism to No. 1 on Alternative Airplay that September. It remained there for 18 nonconsecutive weeks, ultimately tying Foo Fighters’ “The Pretender” for the third-longest rule ever.
Here’s the thing, though: It wasn’t done. The song spent its final week at No. 1 on Jan. 23, 2021, and didn’t fall off the survey until a tick over a year later, through the chart dated Jan. 29, 2022. During that span, continued radio airplay kept the song anywhere between Nos. 2 and 9 – in fact, after dropping to No. 9 in June 2021, it rebounded as high as No. 3 that September.
In all, “Monsters” maintained on Alternative Airplay for 88 weeks, 12 more than its closest competitor (more on it in a moment). And even now, the song remains within the top 10 of recurrent airplay at the format.
That closest challenger? Another newcomer to the all-time list’s top 100. Lovelytheband’s “Broken” ranks at No. 2 following a stretch that includes nine weeks at No. 1 in 2018 and 76 total weeks on the chart. It spurred a career for the trio that has included four additional top 10s, including the No. 3-peaking “Sail Away” earlier this year, and a No. 78 debut on the all-time artists survey.
Muse’s “Uprising,” the previous recap’s No. 1, is pushed to No. 3 on the Alternative Airplay chart’s top songs retrospective, while the previous Nos. 2 and 3 tracks, Rise Against’s “Savior” and Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still,” drop to Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. The latter remains in possession of the chart’s longest No. 1 run – 20 weeks – while “Savior” is still the top-ranking song all-time that never reached No. 1 on a weekly ranking, peaking at No. 3 in 2009.
The other song to join the top 10 since the 30th anniversary is the aforementioned “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco, at No. 9 following 16 weeks at No. 1 and 49 total frames on the survey.
Billboard‘s Greatest of All Time 35th Anniversary Alternative Airplay Songs & Artists rankings are based on weekly performance on the radio airplay-based Alternative Airplay chart (from its Sept. 10, 1988, inception through Sept. 2, 2023). Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates over various periods. Artists are ranked based on a formula blending performance, as outlined above, of all their Alternative Airplay chart entries.
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