When you take this list, of all the songs to top the Billboard Hot 100 for 10+ weeks (published on the occasion of “Despacito” making it to 14 weeks atop the chart), in its entirety, it’s actually kind of depressing. Notably, all but two of these 35 #1s came in the past 25 years; “End of the Road,” which was the first one to go past 10 weeks, first hit #1 this very week in 1992. Listen along here.
THE LONGEST-LEADING HOT 100 No. 1s
Weeks at No. 1, Title, Artist, Date Reached No. 1
16, “One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men, Dec. 2, 1995 — Almost 22 years later, this is actually a quite lovely ballad in tribute to lost loved ones. And of course, with the vocal talents of Carey and the men of BIIM, this sounds absolutely gorgeous. The biggest single of the ’90s.
14*, “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber, May 27, 2017 (*as of the chart dated Aug. 26, 2017) — Axe Bieber’s opening English verse and it’s pretty great, a sexy reggaeton grind. And even with him there — well, he’s fairly easily ignored.
14, “Uptown Funk!,” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, Jan. 17, 2015 — What I wrote for The Singles Jukebox on 11/28/14 still goddamn applies: “Greasy like Timberlake wants to be but is afraid to be, this is the best James Brown single since “Unity” – though the best comparison is “Living In America,” with Ronson as the Dan Hartman to Mars’s JB. This is clean but it’s still funky, and Bruno Mars further proves that he might be the baddest motherfucker around right now cuz he can do anything he damn well wants. ”
14, “I Gotta Feeling,” The Black Eyed Peas, July 11, 2009 — My loathing of BEP runs very deep; this song perfectly exemplifies why. It’s completely vapid, and exists only to be a “party starter.”
14, “We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey, June 4, 2005 — Oh look, Mariah had the biggest single of the ’00s, too — and in this case, with one of her all-time best singles, from her best front-to-back long-player, The Emancipation of Mimi. Give Jermaine Dupri lots of the credit, but also credit Mariah’s pipes and smarts.
14, “Candle in the Wind 1997″/”Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” Elton John, Oct. 11, 1997 — Sure, “Candle ’97” is well-meaning but turgid. But the other half of this double A-side is one of his most elegant ballads ever, produced note-perfectly by Chris Thomas, with some magnificent Bernie Taupin lyrics (and a great performance from Dame Elton herself).
14, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” Los Del Rio, Aug. 3, 1996 — Much better in its non-remixed version, the English-language lyrics make it sound ditzy. The music and original Spanish-language lyrics are plenty fun, though.
14, “I’ll Make Love to You,” Boyz II Men, Aug. 27, 1994 — Not my favorite Babyface composition; I prefer his production here to his lyrics. Of note: BIIM are the only artists with three songs on this list.
14, “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston, Nov. 28, 1992 — The smartest thing David Foster did with Whitney’s version of this was to leave the first 0:42 a cappella. No one who’s ever heard it will ever, ever forget it. The second-smartest was that thwack! drum he uses at 3:08 to punctuate the song — from here on, it’s just Whitney singing her fucking lungs out. And that she does.
13, “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy & Monica, June 6, 1998 — Darkchild and Dallas Austin teaming up to make absolute musical magic behind the boards, supporting Brandy and Monica making magic of their own, like Babs and Donna did 19 years earlier. This is the plushest, friendliest catfight ever.
13, “End of the Road,” Boyz II Men, Aug. 15, 1992 — They were better on uptempo material, or at least ballads that weren’t so damn sappy.
12, “Shape of You,” Ed Sheeran, Jan. 28, 2017 — Please shut the fuck up, you red menace. One of the worst singles of not just 2017, but the entire decade.
12, “Closer,” The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, Sept. 3, 2016 — This one’s actually gotten better with time and exposure; there’s a sadness to the lyrics that kinda gets to me. But I still think the Chainsmokers are dicks.
12, “See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, April 25, 2015 — Weird that Puth is the hook of the song, but his whiny-ass nasal voice is also the worst part of the song. Khalifa acquits himself nicely on this tribute to departed loved ones. (A theme that pops up numerous times in this list.)
12, “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell, June 22, 2013 — a/k/a the song that kept “Get Lucky” from #1. Also a/k/a “the rapey one.” Additionally a/k/a the one that, inexplicably, killed Thicke’s career, by & large.
12, “Boom Boom Pow,” The Black Eyed Peas, April 18, 2009 — As bad as “I Gotta Feeling” is, this is about 20x worse. They’re the personification of a Jock Jams album.
12, “Yeah!,” Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris, Feb. 28, 2004 — See, BEP, this is how you make a party-starter that doesn’t sound so fucking cheap. Lil’ Jon got his shot at a massive pop phenomenon and he took advantage of it, producing the #1 single of ’04 and the #2 single (behind “We Belong Together”) of the whole damn decade — and he won a Grammy in the process. This is peak mid-’00s, crunk&b perfection.
12, “Lose Yourself,” Eminem, Nov. 9, 2002 — A bit too full of itself, but at the same time, that’s what anthems do, don’t they? And it’s certainly better than “Eye of the Tiger” (with which it shares its DNA).
12, “Smooth,” Santana featuring Rob Thomas, Oct. 23, 1999 — I’m actually okay with “Smooth.” I know it’s easy to hate on it, but when you hear it in the wild, on an AC station, it still stands out, 18 years on, and sounds like nothing else surrounding it. (Especially as AC has become the format of the Sheerans, Swifts, and Perrys.) It’s a well-constructed song, well-sung — I’ve no use at all for Matchbox 20, but Rob Thomas has a strong voice, just in need of generally stronger material, and “Smooth” is that.
11, “Independent Women Part I,” Destiny’s Child, Nov. 18, 2000 — I thought then as I still do, that this is one of DC’s worst, limpest singles.
11, “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112, June 14, 1997 — Here’s what it comes down to: this is effective, no matter who you’ve lost. Puff was a genius when it came to re-using well-known classics and giving them new spins. (cf. “I’m Coming Out”->”Mo Money Mo Problems”)
11, “Un-Break My Heart,” Toni Braxton, Dec. 7, 1996 — A fascinating entry on this list, in that I think it’s the only entry whose stock was greatly beefed up by a remix — in this case, the Soul-Hex Anthem Radio Edit, done by Soul Solution and king-of-the-late-’90s-club-mix, Hex Hector. Many top 40 stations rotated said mix alongside the original ballad version of the song, with some even splicing the two together, which extended the shelf life of “Un-Break” greatly. The original is pure class — what David Foster did for Whitney on “I Will Always Love You,” he did for Toni here, and it’s one of Diane Warren’s best compositions as well. And the remix sizzles politely.
11, “I Swear,” All-4-One, May 21, 1994 — For those who thought to themselves, “I wish Boyz II Men weren’t quite so, y’know, black.”
10, “One Dance,” Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla, April 23, 2016 — So weird that this is Drake’s biggest hit ever: does anyone even remember it, a year later? “Hotline Bling,” I’d understand. That was iconic. But that was largely kept from #1 by…
10, “Hello,” Adele, Nov. 14, 2015 — Meet the new Adele, same as the old Adele.
10, “Happy,” Pharrell Williams, March 8, 2014 — Pure, unadulterated joy for all ages.
10, “We Found Love,” Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, Nov. 12, 2011 — Can we blame this for the EDM-ification of pop music?
10, “Low,” Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, Jan. 5, 2008 — Flo Rida is trash.
10, “Irreplaceable,” Beyonce, Dec. 16, 2006 — Sure, it’s got attitude, but it doesn’t feel sincere the way that, say, anything from Lemonade does. It feels pre-packaged.
10, “Gold Digger,” Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, Sept. 17, 2005 — One of Kanye’s laziest singles, and after seeing Ray once (and it was fine), I don’t ever need nor want to hear Foxx’s Ray Charles schtick again. It saddens me that to much of the world, this is the most well-known Kanye record.
10, “Dilemma,” Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland, Aug. 17, 2002 — That flip/interpolation (it’s both!) of Patti LaBelle’s “Love, Need and Want You” is just brilliant, Rowland’s vocal is great, and this kind of soft hip-hop becomes Nelly more than any attempt at “hardness.” Everything about this single is smart.
10, “Foolish,” Ashanti, April 20, 2002 — So Biggie’s “One More Chance” sampled DeBarge’s “Stay With Me,” and this sampled both of ’em. Putting Ashanti’s pretty vocals on top — “pretty” is the perfect descriptor of her voice — was a perfect combo. Still holds up, too.
10, “Maria Maria,” Santana featuring The Product G&B, April 8, 2000 — As opposed to “Smooth,” this is annoying. Blame Wyclef, and whoever the Product G&B are.
10, “Physical,” Olivia Newton-John, Nov. 21, 1981 — Fun fact: co-writer Steve Kipner went on, almost 20 years later, to write Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle.” That’s not a bad retirement plan, is it? This is one of the funnest, most entertaining, showbizzy pop singles of the early ’80s, completely succeeded in finishing the transformation of ONJ’s image to boot.
10, “You Light Up My Life,” Debby Boone, Oct. 15, 1977 — It’s as bad as you remember. Maybe worse. I mean, it’s a love song sung to Jesus. No, no, no.