MTV Video Music Awards

The Biggest Hot 100 Hits to Peak at Nos. 50-26

Elton John performs at the Barclays Center on December 31, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. This was the first time he has performed in New York City on a New Year's Eve. 
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Clearly, the most popular songs at any given time scale the upper ranks of the Billboard Hot 100. Still, America's singles chart of record for 56 years sports a history filled with well-loved classics that peaked at every position, from No. 1 … all the way down to No. 100.

For renowned titles that stopped in the chart's lower rungs, perhaps they weren't huge hits originally, but gained steam over time. Or, they were popular at particular formats, such as country, R&B/hip-hop or rock, but did not cross over to complete mainstream success.

Updating a favorite feature first posted five years ago, each Tuesday throughout January, Chart Beat is combing through the Hot 100 peak position-by-peak position, subjectively highlighting songs that live on in iTunes libraries, movies, TV and/or radio, no matter how high (or not) they ultimately climbed on the Hot 100.

Certainly, it's great to be No. 1. But, the Hot 100's rich archives reveal winners at every number.

Here's part three. Part one ran two weeks ago, covering classics that hit Nos. 100-76. Part two, posted last week, remembered well-worn hits that peaked at Nos. 75-51. Come back a week from today, on Jan. 27, for the conclusion, highlighting venerable hits that peaked between Nos. 25 and 1.

No. 50
"A Little Less Conversation," Elvis Vs. JXL (2002)

The King of Rock & Roll extended his record for most charted titles in the Hot 100's history, as this remix of his 1968 entry (a No. 69 hit) became his 107th entry. A year later, a remix of his 1969 track "Rubberneckin' " became his 108th, and most recent, Hot 100 chart hit. (Several of Presley's earlier classics, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock," were released prior to the chart's Aug. 4, 1958, inception). (Check out Billboard's tribute to what would've been Presley's 80th birthday on Jan. 8.)

Honorable Mentions:
"Taking It All Too Hard," Genesis (1984)
"I Want It All," Queen (1989)
"Boot Scootin' Boogie," Brooks & Dunn (1992)
"Somewhere Only We Know," Keane (2005)
"Because of You," Reba McEntire Duet With Kelly Clarkson (2007)


No. 49
"Tempted," Squeeze (1981)

Few singers have charted with as many hit songs under different billings than Paul Carrack. In addition to this pop/adult radio standard, which reached No. 8 on Mainstream Rock Songs, the Sheffield, England-born artist has provided vocals for smashes by Ace ("How Long") and Mike + the Mechanics ("Silent Running," "The Living Years"), as well as on his own ("Don't Shed a Tear"). Carrack even played organ on Elton John's 14-week Hot 100 No. 1 tribute to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind 1997."

Honorable Mentions:
"Mexico," James Taylor (1975)
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," the Beatles (1976)
"Have a Heart," Bonnie Raitt (1990)
"There She Goes," the La's (1991)
"American Woman," Lenny Kravitz (1999)

No. 48
"Yellow," Coldplay (2001)

Coldplay made its maiden Hot 100 appearance on the chart dated March 10, 2001, with this track, which served as a more triumphant introduction to the band on the Adult Alternative Songs (No. 2) and Alternative Songs (No. 6) airplay charts. Two years later, the band's "Clocks" peaked at No. 29 on the Hot 100. Coldplay has notched a modest three Hot 100 top 10s – "Speed of Sound" (No. 8, 2005), "Viva La Vida" (No. 1, 2008) and "A Sky Full of Stars" (No. 10, 2014) – belying its lofty stature in music. Its profile includes seven Grammy Awards and 18.2 million albums sold in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.

Honorable Mentions:
"Street Fighting Man," the Rolling Stones (1968)
"Games Without Frontiers," Peter Gabriel (1980)
"Small Town Boy," Bronski Beat (1985)
"Who You Are," John Mayer feat. Katy Perry (2014)
"Welcome to New York," Taylor Swift (2014)


No. 47
"Shout - Part 1," the Isley Brothers (1959)

Though Joey Dee & the Starliters carried the song to No. 6 three years later, the eventual pop culture party favorite was originally written and recorded by the Isley Brothers. The composition (which has complemented TV commercials for, naturally, Shout detergent) was the first of the Isley Brothers' 40 Hot 100 hits and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Honorable Mentions:
"Greased Lightnin'," John Travolta (1978)
"Themes From E.T. (The Extra-Terrestrial)," Walter Murphy (1982)
"I'm Gonna Get You," Bizarre Inc (1993)
"Backwater," Meat Puppets (1994)
"Brighter Than the Sun," Colbie Caillat (2012)

No. 46
"It's Raining Men," the Weather Girls (1983)

A late-night TV trivia nugget for Letterman's last year: "It's Raining Men" was co-written in 1979 by Late Show With David Letterman bandleader Paul Schaffer. Following the Weather Girls' breakup, vocalist Martha Wash sang subsequent dance classics for Black Box ("Everybody Everybody," "Strike It Up"), Seduction ("You're My One and Only True Love") and C+C Music Factory ("Gonna Make You Sweat [Everybody Dance Now]"). She's also enjoyed six solo No. 1s on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart.

Honorable Mentions:
"Rebel Yell," Billy Idol (1984)
"Wouldn't It Be Good," Nik Kershaw (1984)
"Hold Me," Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston (1984)
"Lambada," Kaoma (1990)
"Hello," Martin Solvieg & Dragonette (2011)

No. 45
"Handle With Care" Traveling Wilburys (1988)

When George Harrison needed a B-side for a single from his album Cloud Nine, he called upon friends in high places. This potential throwaway song proved the catalyst for the supergroup Traveling Wilburys: Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. The act charted on the Hot 100 with this song and follow-up "End of the Line" (No. 63, 1989). On the Billboard 200, the band sent Vol. 1 to No. 3 in 1988 and Vol. 3 to No. 11 in 1990. A 2007 re-release of material from both sets, plus bonus cuts, reached No. 9.

Honorable Mentions:
"Go West," Village People (1979)
"Should I Stay or Should I Go," The Clash (1982)
"Hot Hot Hot," Buster Poindexter & His Banshees of Blue (1988)
"The Cup of Life (The Official Song of the World Cup, France '98)," Ricky Martin (1998)
"Madness," Muse (2013)

No. 44
"Centerfield," John Fogerty (1985)

Part of the reason the song wasn't a bigger hit: it was the B-side to "Rock and Roll Girls," which reached No. 20. The subject matter of "Centerfield" (and those catchy hand claps), however, have made it evergreen. In a meta honor, the tale of some of baseball's all-time greats, Fogerty performed the song at the 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the first time that a song was included as part of the annual festivities. "As a little boy, I loved baseball," he said that year. "I dreamed about being a major league player. Of course, it didn't work out that way. But to be associated at all, in any way, is wonderful."

Honorable Mentions:
"Love T.K.O.," Teddy Pendergrass (1981)
"Tom Sawyer," Rush (1981)
"Love My Way," Psychedelic Furs (1983)
"Trouble Me," 10,000 Maniacs (1989)
"It's All Been Done," Barenaked Ladies (1999)

No. 43
"Those Were the Days," Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton (as the Bunkers) (1972)

The All in the Family TV theme song that preceded such exchanges as the following:

Mike Stivic: That's what's wrong with this country, nobody asks questions anymore!
Archie Bunker: Can I ask you a question?
Mike: Sure.
Archie: Why don't you shut up?

Honorable Mentions:
"Katmandu," Bob Seger (1975)
"Somewhere," Barbra Streisand (1986)
"Spring Love (Come Back to Me)," Stevie B (1988)
"Selling the Drama," Live (1994)
"The Worst," Jhene Aiko (2014)

No. 42
"Torn," Natalie Imbruglia (1998)
"Lego House," Ed Sheeran (2013)

We'll mention two: "Torn" was one of the biggest smashes of the '90s … but it spent only two weeks on the Hot 100, at Nos. 42 and 47, in 1998. Why? The song, along with fellow hits such as No Doubt's "Don't Speak," was a radio-only promo single, as labels withheld commercial availability for certain airplay hits in hopes that consumers would instead purchase albums. According to rules in place for much of its run at radio, "Torn" was ineligible to chart on the Hot 100. Only when Hot 100 policy was revised to allow songs not available at retail to appear as of Dec. 5, 1998, did "Torn" show. It spent 11 weeks atop Radio Songs beginning in May 1998.

More recently, Sheeran's "Lego House" stopped just outside the Hot 100's top 40, but provided another entrant in his fast-building catalog of hits. The track (whose video subs Ron Weasley for Sheeran) reached No. 10 on Adult Pop Songs and has sold 1.1 million downloads.

Honorable Mentions:
"Handbags and Gladrags," Rod Stewart (1972)
"You Can't Always Get What You Want," the Rolling Stones (1973)
"Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," Waylon & Willie (1978)
"Dreams," Cranberries (1994)
"Tongue Tied," Grouplove (2012)

No. 41
"Tiny Dancer," Elton John (1972)

No. 41, man ... Peaking at No. 41 is similar to being the caller before the correct caller in a radio contest. Or, the 999,999th customer at the supermarket, just missing out on a free shopping spree (ok, I guess that only happens in '80s sitcoms). In any case, chart-watchers (and artists and labels, too) have long lamented those entries denied the esteemed descriptor of "top 40 hit" on the Hot 100 by a mere spot. To help ease the sting, No. 41 receives special treatment in this feature with an expanded list, along with "Tiny Dancer," one of John's most beloved songs. Perhaps most importantly, these 20 songs remain memorable today:

"From Me to You," the Beatles (1964)
"Mission-Impossible," Lalo Schifrin (1968)
"Okie From Muskogee," Merle Haggard and the Strangers (1970)
"La Grange," ZZ Top (1974)
"Changes," David Bowie (1975)
"Rock and Roll Never Forgets," Bob Seger (1977)
"Ease On Down the Road," Diana Ross Michael Jackson (1978)
"Good Times Roll," the Cars (1979)
"It's All I Can Do," the Cars (1979)
"Workin' for a Livin'," Huey Lewis & the News (1982)
"We Close Our Eyes," Go West (1985)
"Pretty in Pink," Psychedelic Furs (1986)
"Knocked Out," Paula Abdul (1988)
"It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be," Aretha Franklin/Whitney Houston (1989)
"Love Is All Around," Wet Wet Wet (1994)
"Closer," Nine Inch Nails (1994)
"That Thing You Do!," the Wonders (1996)
"Wide Open Spaces," Dixie Chicks (1998)
"The Story of Us," Taylor Swift (2010)
"***Flawless," Beyonce feat. Nicki Minaj or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)
No. 40
Tie: "The End of Our Road," Marvin Gaye (1970),
"Video Killed the Radio Star," the Buggles (1979)

Not only were the above two titles lucky enough to eek into the top 40, but they also hold historical significance for ushering in lasting media institutions. Gaye's "The End of Our Road" was, ironically, the first song spun by Casey Kasem on "American Top 40" (now under the star-powered stewardship of Ryan Seacrest). Just as aptly titled, "Video Killed the Radio Star" signaled the birth of MTV at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1, 1981.

Honorable Mentions:
"Limbo Rock," the Champs (1962)
"All I Really Want to Do," the Byrds (1965)
"Just Like Heaven," the Cure (1987)
"Who Let the Dogs Out," Baha Men (2000)
"Tim McGraw," Taylor Swift (2007)

No. 39
"Paradise By the Dashboard Light," Meat Loaf (1978)

The actor/singer's signature song – despite his sending "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" to No. 1 in 1993 – barely grazed the top 40, although its parent album, Bat Out of Hell, has sold 14 million copies, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Jim Steinman wrote this epic, as well as Celine Dion's 1996 No. 2 Hot 100 hit "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." "That was my song," Meat Loaf laughingly told Billboard in 2006 of "Back." "I wanted to record it, and Jim said, 'Let's wait,' and so I took him at his word. The next thing you know, Celine Dion is recording it."

Honorable Mentions:
"God Only Knows," the Beach Boys (1966)
"Memory," Barry Manilow (1983)
"Runaway," Bon Jovi (1984)
"Accidentally in Love," Counting Crows (2004)
"i," Kendrick Lamar (2014)


No. 38
"Constant Craving," k.d. lang (1992)

Kathryn Dawn Lang's first Hot 100 entry (of two) reached No. 2 on Adult Contemporary and yielded a Grammy Award for best female pop vocal performance. In 2008, the Edmonton, Alberta-born singer/songwriter/actress celebrated 20 years of charting on the Billboard 200 with her first top 10 album, Watershed (No. 8).

Honorable Mentions:
"Peace of Mind," Boston (1977)
"Love Stinks," J. Geils Band (1980)
"Farewell My Summer Love," Michael Jackson (1984)
"Get Ready for This," 2Unlimited (1995)
"Dance With My Father," Luther Vandross (2003)

No. 37
"The Way I Am," Ingrid Michaelson (2007)

In 2014, Michaelson scored her biggest pop radio hit with "Girls Chase Boys," which reached No. 6 on Adult Pop Songs (and reached No. 52 on the Hot 100). Now, she's charting with follow-up "Afterlife," which holds at its No. 21 peak to date on Adult Pop Songs. But in 2007, Michaelson broke through with "The Way I Am." It rose to No. 2 on Adult Alternative Songs and has sold 1.6 million downloads.

Honorable Mentions:
"It Keeps You Runnin'," the Doobie Brothers (1977)
"Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," Jimmy Buffett (1977)
"Back in Black," AC/DC (1981)
"Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)," Icicle Works (1984)
"I Could Not Ask for More," Edwin McCain (1999)

No. 36
"Rapper's Delight," Sugarhill Gang (1980)

From Nov. 10, 1979 – the date that "Rapper's Delight" debuted – through the Hot 100 dated Jan. 24, 2015, rappers rank second (Lil Wayne, 123), third (Jay Z, 83) and fourth (Drake, 73) for most visits, reinforcing the impact of one of hip-hop's pioneering acts.

Honorable Mentions:
"Mr. Spaceman," the Byrds (1966)
"Sweet Emotion," Aerosmith (1975)
"Everyday I Write the Book," Elvis Costello (1981)
"You Get What You Give," New Radicals (1999)
"Neon Lights," Demi Lovato (2014)
No. 35
"You Shook Me All Night Long," AC/DC (1980)

Not only has the song become an indispensable entry in hard rock history, it's spurred the placement of parent album Back in Black as the sixth-best-selling release ever, according to the RIAA. With sales of 22 million, it trails only the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, Michael Jackson's Thriller (29 million each), Led Zeppelin's IV, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Vol. I & II (23 million each).

Honorable Mentions:
"Jingle Bell Rock," Bobby Helms (1959)
"Crazy on You," Heart (1976)
"A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)," Romeo Void (1984)
"Come Clean," Hilary Duff (2004)
"Me Against the Music," Britney Spears feat. Madonna (2003)

No. 34
"Creep," Radiohead (1993)

One of the defining tracks of '90s alternative wasn't even the highest-peaking song by that title of its era: that honor belongs to TLC, whose "Creep" hit No. 1 two years later. (There's also Stone Temple Pilots' "Creep," a No. 59 Radio Songs hit in 1994.) Of course, as Radiohead's sound has evolved into more experimental avenues, the band has most notably spearheaded shifts in music distribution, as evidenced by its 2007 Billboard 200 topper In Rainbows, famously first offered online at a price of consumers' choosing.

Honorable Mentions:
"Friends," Elton John (1971)
"Holding Out for a Hero," Bonnie Tyler (1984)
"Why," Annie Lennox (1992)
"1, 2, 3, 4," Plain White T's (2009)
"Forever & Always," Taylor Swift (2009)

No. 33
"Seasons of Love," the Cast of Rent (2005)

How do you measure ... the success of this joyous theme song from Rent? The musical has totaled a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, four Tony Award victories, 5,123 Broadway performances and a reported $280 million in grosses. And, long before her "Let It Go" and Frozen fame, Idina Menzel made her Broadway debut in Rent, marking her first professional theater job.

Honorable Mentions:
"Prove It All Night," Bruce Springsteen (1978)
"Pride (In the Name of Love)," U2 (1984)
"What Is Love," Howard Jones (1984)
"(Meet) the Flintstones," the B.C. 52's (1994)
"It's My Life," Bon Jovi (2000)


No. 32
"What a Wonderful World," Louis Armstrong (1988)

Not heavily promoted to radio upon its initial release in 1968, the song Bubbled Under the Hot 100 (No. 116) and reached No. 12 on Adult Contemporary. Only when reintroduced in the film Good Morning, Vietnam did it finally enter the Hot 100 (and climb to a new peak of No. 7 on Adult Contemporary). The iconic trumpeter was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 as a forefather of rock.

Honorable Mentions:
"Already Gone," Eagles (1974)
"Main Title (Theme From "Jaws"), John Williams (1975)
"Cheeseburger in Paradise," Jimmy Buffett (1978)
"Roxanne," the Police (1979)
"Theme From New York, New York," Frank Sinatra (1980)


No. 31
"A Change Is Gonna Come," Sam Cooke (1965)

Released as a single just days after Cooke's death, "A Change Is Gonna Come" was inspired by Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." It has since become not only a hallmark of the '60s Civil Rights Movement, but also, just as poignantly in 2015, a timeless anthem in the continued quest for racial harmony and equality.

Honorable Mentions:
"The Pink Panther Theme," Henry Mancini and His Orchestra (1964)
"Poor Poor Pitiful Me," Linda Ronstadt (1978)
"Genius of Love," Tom Tom Club (1982)
"It's My Life," Talk Talk (1984)
"A Thousand Years," Christina Perri (2012)
No. 30
"I Just Had Sex," the Lonely Island feat. Akon (2011)

Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone's joy clearly isn't matched by their girlfriends, played in the song's video by Blake Lively and Jessica Alba. (Can you blame them?) The act's only top 40 hit, the cut, featuring Akon showing off his comedic chops, boasts 226 million global YouTube views and has sold 1.3 million downloads.

Honorable Mentions:
"High Hopes," Frank Sinatra and "A Bunch of Kids" (1959)
"In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida," Iron Butterfly (1968)
"Our House," Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
"Man on the Moon," R.E.M. (1993)
"Don't Know Why," Norah Jones (2004)

No. 29
"Under Pressure," Queen & David Bowie (1981)

In one of the happiest accidents in rock history, Bowie entered the studio with Queen to sing backup vocals on another of the group's songs. Instead, they wound up writing one of the genre's quintessential standards. Vanilla Ice sampled its famous bassline on his 1990 No. 1 "Ice Ice Baby," although Bowie and Queen's Freddie Mercury were not immediately paid or credited for their contribution. "Back in the day I wasn't in control of much of anything," the rapper recalled in 2006. "To a young kid it's like, whoa, 'They're paying me real well, so I'm gonna do whatever they tell me.' I hated the image, I hated the gimmicks. (But) I am happy with who I am today."

Honorable Mentions:
"Viva Las Vegas," Elvis Presley With the Jordanaires (1964)
"Working for the Weekend," Loverboy (1982)
"Everybody Hurts," R.E.M. (1992)
"Bless the Broken Road," Rascal Flatts (2005)
"Run the World (Girls)," Beyonce (2011)


No. 28
"Old Time Rock & Roll," Bob Seger (1979)

The Detroit rocker sent 18 songs to higher peak positions on the Hot 100, but this track, most famously covered by underdressed air guitarist Tom Cruise in Risky Business, was chosen as one of the RIAA's Songs of the 20th Century in 2001. Who else remade it? As a cast member of Kids Incorporated, a 10-year-old Fergie earnestly sang it for TV audiences in 1985.

Honorable Mentions:
"It Was a Very Good Year," Frank Sinatra (1966)
"Wild Night," Van Morrison (1971)
"Up on the Roof," James Taylor (1979)
"Personal Jesus," Depeche Mode (1990)
"Teach Me How to Dougie," Cali Swag District (2010)

No. 27
"Mercy," Duffy (2008)

The Welsh singer/songwriter attributes the song's success to its universal appeal. Especially: its relatable lyrics about "having a feeling towards someone, whether it's a romantic feeling or just some chemistry that you don't want, and you desperately want to be released from that feeling."

Honorable Mentions:
"My Way," Frank Sinatra (1969)
"Hold On Loosely," .38 Special (1981)
"Leave a Tender Moment Alone," Billy Joel (1984)
"Heal the World," Michael Jackson (1993)
"The Cave," Mumford & Sons (2011)

No. 26
"In Your Eyes," Peter Gabriel (1986)

Although Peter Gabriel's ballad charted higher (No. 26) upon its first release in 1986 than its reissue three years later (No. 41), the song might not appear on this list at all had it not enjoyed such a resurgence. The song blasted from John Cusack's boom box in 1989's Say Anything, and, thus, became synonymous with one of the most celebrated romantic gestures in movie history.

Honorable Mentions:
"My Bonnie (My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)," the Beatles With Tony Sheridan (1964)
"Juke Box Hero," Foreigner (1982)
"Hard to Handle," the Black Crowes (1991)
"Blue," LeAnn Rimes (1996)
"Misery Business," Paramore (2008)


Up next, on Jan. 27, part 4: No. 25 all the way to No. 1