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Who's the Biggest Pop Star Right Now Without a Hot 100 No. 1 Hit? (2020 Edition)

J. Cole
Wesley Mann

J. Cole photographed on Aug. 16, 2018 at The Silo in Houston.

In 2018, 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.

Last year, they were 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).

Now, one of the biggest stars of the 2010s finally sees her name come off the board with the ascent of Doja Cat's "Say So" -- featuring a guest verse from Nicki Minaj, who finally hits No. 1 for the first time with her 109th Hot 100 entry. (It's also the first chart-topper for Doja, though it's just her third time total on the chart.)

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.

J. Cole

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 KOD in 2018 ("ATM," No. 6; "Kevin's Heart," No. 8; "KOD," No. 10), 2016's "Deja Vu" (No. 7) and 2019'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.

Khalid

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 28 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 last summer with his own solo single, "Talk."

DaBaby

In terms of volume, no one blanketed the Hot 100 more in 2019 than Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, better known as DaBaby. The ascendant North Carolina rapper notched a staggering 22 hits on the chart last year -- including all 13 tracks on his October album Kirk -- a tally which he's added another 17 entries to already this year, most from his recent chart-topping LP Blame It on Baby. Still, despite his chart omnipresence, he hasn't risen any higher on the chart than No. 7, with Baby on Baby breakout hit "Suge."

Dua Lipa

Any concern that Dua Lipa would be a one-album wonder for her 2017 self-titled debut -- which spawned the top 10 smash "New Rules," as well as several other international chartbusters -- were allayed by the rise of Future Nostalgia single "Don't Start Now," which took over radio and climbed to her highest Hot 100 position yet. But the song topped out one spot short of the chart's apex -- held off by Roddy Ricch's "The Box," in the midst of its 11 week run on top -- meaning there's still pop worlds left for the London-born star to conquer.

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 generate the same kind of Hot 100 success -- abrasive lead single "Jumpsuit" has scored the highest ranking on the chart from the set to date, with a modest No. 50 peak -- this year's poppier "Level of Concern" seems to be reversing their momentum, as the new quarantine-themed single debuted at No. 23 in April.

Future

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 Hendrxx in consecutive weeks in March 2017) and Hot 100 fixture (98 entries total) without ever really threatening the top spot on the latter. The 2017 No. 5-peaking solo smash "Mask Off" had brought him closest, until Drake collab "Life Is Good" took him all the way to No. 2 earlier this year -- where it spent eight weeks, also unable to unseat "The Box."

Megan Thee Stallion

She owned last summer -- even has the trademark to go with it -- with a catchphrase that turned into a real-life hit, and she seems posed to potentially do the same in 2020 with "Savage," which was already well on its way to being her most viral hit when a Beyoncé remix came around to shoot it into the stratosphere. Still, Megan Thee Stallion is currently stuck at No. 2 with "Savage" behind Doja and Nicki, so only time will tell if she'll be able to cross her name off this list with her latest Internet-breaker.

BTS

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 thus far eluded them is topping the Hot 100 -- they've come closest with "On," from this year's Map of the Soul: 7, which bowed at No. 4 this March.

Imagine Dragons

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 in 2017 -- 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 that 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.)

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