In addition to being on the shortlist for the title of Greatest Band Of All-Time (Migos memes aside), The Beatles were also a commercial force unlike any other. Perhaps the most telling example of how just big Beatlemania was is the fact that they amassed 20 number one hits in the United States, a number made all the more impressive by the fact that it happened in a span of less than 10 years. For 50 years, no one has been able to to surpass the Beatles record for most Billboard No. 1 hits, so let’s look at some current pop stars who might have a shot at this milestone.
The active artist with the most songs to top the Billboard Hot 100 is Mariah Carey, who has done it 18 times. With only two more needed to tie, and three to break, she would seem like an easy favorite. There’s just one problem: She hasn’t done it in eight years. Yes, Mariah’s last No. 1 was her 2008 single “Touch My Body,” a collaboration with The-Dream that was undeniably catchy. Since then, her biggest hit was the Eminem diss “Obsessed,” which made it to No. 7 in 2009. In the 2010’s, Mariah’s most popular song was the Miguel collaboration “#Beautiful,” which peaked at No. 15.
So, she’s on a bit of a cold streak, but it’s not impossible for her to get three more No. 1s. She’s still a big name, and she has a history of working with the right people. With that said, if I were to pick the performer who had the best shot at grabbing the Beatles’ record, I’d go with Rihanna, who has already amassed 13 No. 1 hits, and would seem to have a great chance at bringing in several more.
Admittedly, she’s been in a bit of a drought lately, too. Her last No. 1 was her Eminem collaboration “The Monster,” which topped the charts in late 2013. For the last time she was the lead artist on a No. 1 hit, you’d have to go back to 2012’s “Diamonds.” Still, there’s a few reasons to bet on Rih. First off, while it seems like she’s been around forever, she’s still only 27 years old. For comparison’s sake, she’s younger than Bruno Mars and Katy Perry, and only a year younger than Taylor Swift. With that in mind, it seems like she will be a mainstay in pop music for years to come, with the chance to rack up several more major hits.
What could be the biggest force standing in Rihanna’s way here? It might her own musical desires, which appear to be drifting away from conventional pop. Consider her latest album, Anti. The title alone could suggest a rejection of commercialism, while the album’s style is a bit of a departure. While Rihanna’s music has always had a caribbean influence along with an R&B feel, for most of her albums, pop was at the forefront. This feels like a bit of a change for her, particularly her intriguing decision to cover Tame Impala’s “Same Ol’ Mistakes.” So, why do I still think she has a shot at the Fab Four’s mark? Because she’s one of the biggest forces in mainstream music, and may be at a stage in her career where she can set trends rather than follow them.
After Rihanna and Mariah, there’s a few other artists who have a puncher’s chance at this mark. The most obvious one would have to be Katy Perry, who currently has nine chart toppers under her belt. If she has another monster album like Teenage Dream — which spawned five number ones (six if you count “Part Of Me,” which was on the reissue) — she has a decent shot. Taylor Swift and Adele are two of the biggest names going today, but they both have a lot of catching up to do. They currently have four chart-toppers apiece, and despite both being forces to contend with, the thought of either one of them having 17 more number ones for the rest of their career seems a tad farfetched, if not entirely impossible.
There’s a decent chance no one will ever take down the Beatles mark. After all, they were a pop culture phenomenon like no other, and it only makes sense that they would hold a record like this to reflect that. Still, if Rihanna can bang out smash singles the way she did in the late 2000s and early 2010s, she could end up making history. So could Mariah if she can team up with the right people for a few more killer jams. One thing’s for sure, if any performer were able to take down one of the Beatles longest-running records, they would go down as one of the most enduring pop stars of all-time.