Alternative Songs (also called Alternative and formerly known as Modern Rock Tracks and Hot Modern Rock Tracks) is a music chart in the United States that has appeared in Billboard magazine since September 10, 1988. It lists the 40 most-played songs on modern rock radio stations, most of which are alternative rock songs. The chart was introduced as a companion to the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and its creation was prompted by the explosion of alternative music on American radio in the late 1980s.
The chart is based solely on radio airplay. As of 2012, approximately 80 radio stations are electronically monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. Songs are ranked by a calculation of the total number of spins per week with its "audience impression", which is based upon exact times of airplay and each station's Arbitron listener data.
Many rock artists do not release commercial singles in the U.S. Several popular songs which were not released as commercial singles did not qualify for the Hot 100 before December 1998, but performed very well on Modern Rock Tracks.
During the first several years of Modern Rock Tracks, the chart featured music that did not receive commercial radio airplay anywhere but on Modern Rock radio stations, of which there were few. This included many electronic and post-punk artists. Gradually, as alternative rock became more "mainstream" (particularly spearheaded by the grunge explosion in the early 1990s), the Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts began featuring more of the same songs. Today, the Alternative Songs chart (Modern Rock) favors more alternative rock, indie rock, and punk rock bands while the Mainstream Rock Songs favor more hard rock, post-grunge and heavy metal.
The chart was renamed Alternative Songs beginning with the June 20, 2009 issue after Billboard fully absorbed Radio & Records, whose similar chart was called "Alternative" instead of "Modern Rock".
The first number-one song on Modern Rock Tracks was "Peek-a-Boo" by Siouxsie and the Banshees. The current number-one song, for the issue dated February 7, 2015, is "Cigarette Daydreams" by Cage the Elephant.
- Artists with the most number-one songs:
- Artists with the most cumulative weeks at number one:
- Red Hot Chili Peppers (85)
- Foo Fighters (82)
- Linkin Park (71)
- Green Day (50)
- Muse (40)
- The Black Keys (37)
- Artists with the most top ten songs:
- Red Hot Chili Peppers (24)
- Foo Fighters (21)
- U2 (20) (tie)
- Green Day (20) (tie)
- Pearl Jam (19)
- The Smashing Pumpkins (17) (tie)
- The Offspring (17) (tie)
- Linkin Park (17) (tie)
- Three songs have debuted at number one on this chart:
- "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" by R.E.M. (1994)
- "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006)
- "What I've Done" by Linkin Park (2007)
- No single act has replaced themselves at number one on Modern Rock Tracks, although when "All My Life" by Foo Fighters replaced "You Know You're Right" by Nirvana on November 23, 2002, this gave back-to-back chart-toppers to musician Dave Grohl.
- Dave Grohl has made the top of this chart with a record four different bands: Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nine Inch Nails.
- Linkin Park's 2003 album Meteora has generated the most number-one Modern Rock hits, with five.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Californication and Linkin Park's album Meteora have generated songs with the highest total number of weeks spent at number one, each with thirty weeks total.
- The song that has taken the longest time to reach number one on Alternative Songs is "Out of My League" by Fitz and The Tantrums (33 weeks).
- Jane's Addiction has had the longest time between number-ones (13 years), with "Been Caught Stealing" (1990) and "Just Because" (2003).
- The band to have the most charted songs without a number-one single is Korn, with 21.
- The band with the most charted songs is U2 with 41, followed by Pearl Jam with 39.
- "Savior" by Rise Against holds the record for most weeks in the chart, with 65 between 2009 and 2010. It is followed by "Do I Wanna Know?" by Arctic Monkeys, "1901" by Phoenix, "Uprising" by Muse, and in a 9 way tie, "The Kill" by Thirty Seconds to Mars "Face Down" by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven, "Feel Good Drag" by Anberlin, "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons, "Pompeii" by Bastille, "Trojans" by Atlas Genius, "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities, "Out of My League" by Fitz and The Tantrums, "Sweater Weather" by The Neighbourhood and "Animal" by Neon Trees) which spent 58, 57, 53, and 52 weeks on the chart, respectively. The top 4 songs also hold the unique distinction of spending over 52 weeks on the list, a feat made possible by remaining in the top 10 beyond week #52, as all songs to subsequently chart below that threshold and see no significant gains are retired from the chart. (One exception: the aforementioned Muse returned for its 53rd and final week at #10 with "Uprising".)
- In addition to the aforementioned 52 week rule, any song with 20 or more chart weeks to not see any significant gains to chart below #15 will be retired.
- Seven songs released on an independent record label have reached number one on this chart: "Come Out and Play" by The Offspring, "What It's Like" by Everlast, "Panic Switch" by Silversun Pickups, "1901" by Phoenix, "Lay Me Down" by The Dirty Heads featuring Rome Ramirez, "Little Lion Man" by Mumford & Sons, "Do I Wanna Know?" by Arctic Monkeys and "The Sound of Winter" by Bush.
- Although Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" did not hit number-one on the chart where it only peaked at number-two on July 2, 1994, it actually became the Modern Rock Tracks year-end number-one single of 1994, the only song to do so without ever being number one on the weekly chart.
- In August 2013, Lorde became the first woman to top the Alternative Songs chart since Tracy Bonham in 1996. In September 2013, Lorde surpassed Alanis Morissette to become the woman with the longest-running single at number one on the Alternative Songs chart when "Royals" spent its sixth week at number one.
- Thirty-two songs have spent ten weeks or longer at number one. These are:
- 19 weeks
- 18 weeks
- 17 weeks
- 16 weeks
- 15 weeks
- 14 weeks
- 13 weeks
- 12 weeks
- 11 weeks
- "My Own Worst Enemy" — Lit (1999)
- "Kryptonite" — 3 Doors Down (2000)
- "Pork and Beans" — Weezer (2008)
- "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" — The Offspring (2008)
- "Lay Me Down" — The Dirty Heads featuring Rome Ramirez (2010)
- "Lonely Boy" — The Black Keys (2011-12)
- "Sweater Weather" — The Neighbourhood (2013)
- "Fever" — The Black Keys (2014)
- 10 weeks
- List of number-one alternative hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Modern Rock chart
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- Trust, Gary (September 30, 2013). "Chart Highlights: Rihanna Returns, Fitz And The Tantrums Rule Rock, Yandel Leads Latin Airplay". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
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- "Phoenix - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
- Trust, Gray. "Kenny Chesney Scores A Perfect 10". Billboard. Archived from the original on 28 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-29.
- Bush Back Atop Alternative Songs With Self-Released 'The Sound of Winter'. Billboard. Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
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- Macdonald, Patrick (December 23, 1994). "Music Notes". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- "Lorde First Woman in 17 Years to Top Alternative with 'Royals'". Billboard (magazine). 16 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "Lorde Links Longest Alternative Songs Reign By A Woman With 'Royals'". Billboard (magazine). 16 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
- "Muse's 'Madness' Rewrites Record For Longest-Reigning Alternative Songs No. 1". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved February 11, 2013.