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Who’s the Biggest Pop Star Right Now Without a Hot 100 No. 1 Hit? (2022 Edition)

The closest-but-not-quite stars of this decade when it comes to reaching the Hot 100's apex.

The year 2021 saw a number of veteran artists and newcomers score the first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s of their careers. While Olivia Rodrigo (“Drivers License” and “Good 4 U”), The Kid LAROI (“Stay” with Justin Bieber) and Giveon (Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” also featuring Daniel Caesar) got there relatively early in the game, it was a longer trip to No. 1 for Anderson .Paak (“Leave the Door Open,” with Bruno Mars as Silk Sonic) and particularly Future — who had collected well over 100 Hot 100 hits before finally reaching the apex with his appearance on Drake’s “Way 2 Sexy,” also featuring Young Thug.

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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 six of his studio albums to date, each with first-week numbers well into the multiple hundreds of thousands. But despite getting closer essentially with each new album release — including a No. 2 bow for “m y . l i f e,” alongside 21 Savage and Morray, in the first chart week following the release of 2021’s The Off Season — pole position on the Hot 100 has remained elusive for the NC MC. 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 23-year-old singer-songwriter has yet to take any of his 31 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 in summer 2019 with his own solo single, “Talk” — but he has not come particularly close yet this decade, a sign that perhaps it is going to be challenge for Khalid to scratch his name off this list in the next few years.

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa’s superstar status was confirmed at the beginning of the decade with the rise of Future Nostalgia lead single “Don’t Start Now,” which took over radio and climbed to her highest Hot 100 position yet in early 2020. 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), and despite subsequent Future Nostalgia smash “Levitating” topping the Year-End Hot 100 chart for all 2021, it never ruled the Hot 100 in any individual week — meaning there’s still pop worlds left for the London-born hitmaker to conquer.

Lil Baby

Since his “Yes Indeed” first debuted in the top 10 in 2018 (thanks in large part to a valuable Drake assist), few artists have been as unmissable on the Hot 100 as Lil Baby. But the closest he’s gotten to the top spot so far are appearances on a pair of No. 2-peaking Drake hits (“Wants and Needs” and “Girls Want Girls”), while his best showing as a lead artist has been the No. 3 debut for “The Bigger Picture,” his 2020 protest track recorded in response to George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent worldwide protests.

Lil Durk

Frequent Lil Baby collaborator Lil Durk has not yet come particularly close to topping the Hot 100 as a lead artist — the Morgan Wallen-assisted “Broadway Girls” debuted at No. 13 in late 2021, bring him closest — but he’s knocked on the door as a featured artist, reaching No. 2 with his appearance on Drake’s 2020 smash “Laugh Now Cry Later,” and also hitting the top 20 last year with assists given to Pooh Shiesty (“Back in Blood,” No. 13), DJ Khaled (“Every Chance I Get,” No. 20) and Nardo Wick (“Who Want Smoke??,” No. 17). Whether on his own record or someone else’s, chances are pretty good Durk gets back into No. 1 contention sooner than later.

SZA

While 2017 debut LP Ctrl brought SZA critical adulation and a huge fanbase, it didn’t get her within range of a Hot 100 No. 1 — but she’s since gotten there many times over, first via late-’10s collabs with Maroon 5 (“What Lovers Do,” No. 9) and Kendrick Lamar (“All the Stars,” No. 8), then in 2021 with her own solo shots “Good Days” (No. 9) and “I Hate U” (No. 7). While a No. 3 peak for her guest appearance on Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” in ’21 is as close as she’s yet gotten to the top spot, she should at least have a chance to break the seal when she’s finally able to get out her breathlessly anticipated sophomore LP.

Luke Combs

While country stars have had a devil of a time making it to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in the 21st century, Luke Combs has come as close as anyone from the genre in recent years, with his TikTok-teased “Forever After All” crashing in at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 2020. With 2019 sophomore album What You See Is What You Get officially elevating Combs to Nashville’s superstar stratosphere, his next album could certainly be the one with the single that gets him (and country music in general) over the final Hot 100 hump.

Blackpink

Despite their enormous global popularity, so far Korean girl group Blackpink have yet to breach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 — though they’ve gotten close, reaching No. 13 in 2020 with the Selena Gomez collab “Ice Cream.” The group’s members have been busy with solo projects in recent years, but any time they reassemble, they’re a threat to push their way further into Hot 100 history.

Marshmello

As dance producers have all but vanished from the charts in recent years, the masked Marshmello continues to become more and more omnipresent, with his collab-heavy, cross-genre dominance resulting in him becoming the only artist to ever top each of Billboard‘s Hot Rock Songs, Hot Country Songs and Hot Dance Songs charts. But one chart he’s still yet to top is the Hot 100 — though he’s reached the runner-up spot twice, along with Bastille on “Happier” in 2019, and with the late Juice WRLD on “Come & Go” in 2020.

Imagine Dragons

In an era where rock crossovers to the Hot 100 are an increasingly rare phenomenon, Imagine Dragons keep scoring 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 though they haven’t hit the top 10 since, they’re never totally gone for long: Their J.I.D. collab “Enemy” climbs to No. 45 on the most recent Hot 100, a new peak for the song.