During the first year of Billboard‘s Adult Alternative Airplay chart, listeners of the rock radio format enjoyed tastes of both the survey’s all-time biggest artist and song.
That initial Adult Alternative Airplay tally (under its industry name Triple A, short for “adult album alternative”) featured DMB’s then-current single “Satellite,” which went on to become its first top 10. Building off its breakthrough with its 1994 debut LP Under the Table and Dreaming, the band seemed tailor-made for success at the format, and succeed it has, with 11 No. 1s credited either to the band or its frontman, the third-most in the chart’s history. U2 and Coldplay lead with 13 chart-toppers apiece and place at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, on the Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Artists recap.
Meanwhile in October 1996, The Wallflowers, led by Jakob Dylan, debuted with “One Headlight.” That December, the track began a 14-week command, now tied for the fourth-longest in the chart’s archives. U2’s “Beautiful Day” ruled for a record 16 weeks in 2000-01 and ranks at No. 10 on the Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Songs 25th chart.
Back to DMB, the group rules as the chart’s top artist in part by sheer volume of successful songs. Between his solo and band endeavors, Matthews has charted a combined 33 entries on the weekly Adult Alternative Airplay chart, four more than any other act. The majority are from DMB, most recently via the No. 24-peaking “Come Tomorrow,” featuring Brandi Carlile, in summer 2019.
The act’s highest entry on the all-time songs chart is “Everyday,” at No. 48, after it reigned for eight weeks in 2001-02, joined by DMB’s “You and Me” (No. 58) and “Crash Into Me” (No. 62), Matthews’ solo “Oh” (No. 67) and the group’s “Where Are You Going” (No. 69). Those five titles mark the second-most among all acts on the all-time list, after Jack Johnson‘s seven.
While U2 was around long before the Adult Alternative Airplay chart’s 1996 inception, DMB got a slight of a head start on the chart, as the Bono-led vets first appeared on the list with “Discotheque” in early 1997. U2’s No. 2 rank on the all-time artists recap is supported by, like Matthews’, a sizable amount of entries: 29. One U2 track, “Beautiful Day,” graces the all-time songs chart.
Coldplay, at No. 3 on the Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Artists chart, is the highest-placing act that debuted in the 2000s, powered by 28 career chart appearances. Its 2003 15-week No. 1 “Clocks” ranks as the No. 2 entry on the all-time songs tally (likewise the biggest hit among songs from the 2000s), alongside two other entries: “Speed of Sound” (No. 46) and “Viva La Vida” (No. 56).
The top all-time artist and song that didn’t chart until the 2010s? Mumford & Sons, at No. 7 on the artists ranking, and Portugal. The Man‘s “Feel It Still,” at No. 4 on the songs survey; see below for more on the latter.
Johnson is No. 4 on Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Artists, also with a formidable track record since he first appeared with “Flake” in March 2002. He’s notched 10 No. 1s, most recently last summer with his Milky Chance collaboration “Don’t Let Me Down.” His seven songs (or nearly a quarter of his 24 career entries on the weekly chart) that infuse the Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Songs ranking are “Upside Down” (No. 24), “If I Had Eyes” (No. 25), “Flake” (No. 26), “Good People” (No. 51), “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” (No. 61), “Don’t Let Me Down” (No. 80) and “You and Your Heart” (No. 98).
Sheryl Crow is the highest-ranking woman on the all-time artists chart, at No. 5. Like Matthews, she, too, was present on Adult Alternative Airplay in 1996, with her No. 1 that year “If It Makes You Happy.” Of her 24 chart appearances, seven have hit the summit, the most of among women. Two make the all-time songs tally: “My Favorite Mistake” (No. 47) and “Soak Up the Sun” (No. 87).
Behind The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” and Coldplay’s “Clocks” on the Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Songs chart, Matchbox 20‘s “3AM” ranks at No. 3, followed by Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” at No. 4 and Train‘s “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” rounding out the top five. “3AM” posted a 14-week reign in 1997-98, “Feel It Still” ruled for 11 weeks in 2017 and “Drops of Jupiter” dominated for 14 frames in 2001.
Longevity also benefits songs on Greatest of All Time rankings (see methodology below), and the top two songs to spend the most time on the weekly Adult Alternative Airplay chart rank in the historical recap’s top 30. Kings of Leon‘s “Use Somebody” totaled 52 weeks on the chart in 2009-10, including two at No. 1, and finishes at No. 15, while John Mayer‘s “No Such Thing” logged 51 weeks in 2001-02 (one at No. 1) and places at No. 27.
Browse Billboard‘s exclusive Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Artists and Adult Alternative Songs charts, which run 50 and 100 positions deep, respectively. The full rankings also appear in the latest, Feb. 20-dated, Billboard print issue.
Billboard‘s Greatest of All Time Adult Alternative Artists and Adult Alternative Songs rankings are based on weekly performance on the radio airplay-based Adult Alternative Airplay chart (from rankings dated Jan. 20, 1996, through Jan. 23, 2021). 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 during various periods. Artists are ranked based on a formula blending performance, as previously outlined, of all their Adult Alternative Airplay chart entries.