The charts are the part of a musician’s career that brings fortune to the fame. While cultural influence is a hotly debated and intangible measure of success, the numbers don’t lie. The following five musicians hold the record for most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100—widely considered the definitive ranking of popular singles in the US.—throughout the course of their career.
Number-one hits: 12
The female counterpart to Jackson’s fame was the Michigan-born “Queen of Pop." Madonna’s songwriting, signing, and provocative performances pushed the boundaries of the international pop scene throughout the '80s, '90s, and still to this day. Her influence permeated into the fabric of pop culture with her impact on music, fashion and film. Throughout her career, Madonna released 12 chart-topping singles to hold the top spot for a total of 32 weeks.
4. Michael Jackson
Number-one hits: 13
Michael Jackson’s career in many ways redefined the scope and status of what it meant to be a pop star. From his early days with the Jackson 5 to his continued successes throughout life, Jackson’s career was as much marked by fame as it was by controversy. Nonetheless, his vocal range and iconic dance moves spread across the globe to international craze and massive chart-topping success. Thirteen of Michael Jackson’s songs—including classics like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It"—held the number one spot on music charts for a sum total of 32 weeks.
Number-one hits: 14
At number five, Rihanna is one of the top chart-busting musicians of all time, despite having the shortest career of the artists on this list. Hailing from Barbados, her career began in earnest in 2005 when she successfully auditioned for Jay-Z with Def Jam Records and debuted with her hit single "Pon de Replay". While that just missed the top spot, she went on to rack up a slew of hits, a combination of solo songs and featured credits. Her longest running top spot was held by “We Found Love”, recorded with DJ Calvin Harris, which held the number one spot for 10 weeks.
2. Mariah Carey
Number-one hits: 18
Known for her massive vocal range and melismatic singing style, Mariah Carey is the second-most chart-topping musician of all time. Immortalized in her hit holiday song "All I Want For Christmas Is You", Carey began her career in the late '80s and went on to dominate the '90s. She continued a massively successful career, releasing 18 chart-topping songs to hold the number-one spot on the pop charts for a record of 79 weeks, longer than any other musician on this list.
1. The Beatles
Number-one hits: 20
You know that you’ve reached a new pinnacle of success when you spark debates in clinical psychology to describe your effect on female fans. In addition to their wide regard as most influential band of all time, the forerunners of the British Invasion are the best-selling band in history to date. Throughout their career, the Beatles sold 1.6 billion singles and 177 million albums. Of their singles, 20 took the number-one spot on pop charts for a running total of 59 weeks at the top of Billboard. From their status as icons of the counter-culture movement of the '60s and '70s to the earth-shattering feuds surrounding the breakup of their band, the legacy of The Beatles is one of pop history and folklore. It comes as no surprise that they earned their timeless spot at the top of industry records.