(November 22, 2019). The annual “All I Want For Christmas Is You” watch has officially begun.
It’s kinda like the Santa watch, where children stay up late hoping to catch ol’ St. Nick as he makes his annual rounds while bringing joy to millions of good little kids around the world.
Except, this is the watch for Mariah Carey’s yuletide radio staple, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the inescapable holiday tune that this week begins its annual streaming and radio stronghold with a re-entry on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 39 – a week before Thanksgiving even arrives – to launch its perennial seasonal trek up the charts.
Yep, it’s the watch to see whether this will be the year the song finally rises to the top of Billboard’s main singles chart and gives Ms. Carey that elusive 19th No. 1 single she’s been waiting nearly 12 years to achieve (her last No. 1 was “Touch My Body” in early 2008).
Each year, Mariah’s modern-day Christmas standard dominates holiday radio programming from Thanksgiving to Christmas and, accordingly, tops the specialty Billboard Holiday 100 chart – a seasonal ranking that includes only holiday-themed songs and runs through New Year’s week.
Carey’s tune has topped that chart nearly every year since the list’s inception eight holiday seasons ago.
But “All I Want” has never topped the all-inclusive Hot 100 – for which all songs are eligible, holiday or not, – since the song was first released in 1994.
And just like our topsy-turvy relationship with Mariah over the years, the reasons for its chart shortcomings are complicated.
First, for “All I Want’s” first four years, Billboard had a prohibitive rule in place that only allowed songs that were available commercially on their own as singles (either CD, cassette, or vinyl 45) to chart on the Hot 100. At the time, “All I Want” was available only as an album cut (remember, streaming and paid digital downloads weren’t a thing yet).
Then, after Billboard lifted that rule in 1998, older songs weren’t allowed to chart unless they were officially re-released (or being re-promoted) by the label, and they had sufficient sales and airplay points to enter the top half of the chart.
But now, because of a rule change seven years ago that allows older songs to re-enter the Hot 100 chart regardless of label-promotion status, provided they have enough points to rank above No. 50 and they’re gaining consistently in multiple metrics (e.g., streaming, sales or airplay), “All I Want” has made perennial returns to the list, gaining popularity each year and reaching the top ten for the first time in 2017.
Last Christmas season, the classic reached its highest peak yet as it climbed to No. 3 on the Hot 100 dated January 5, 2019, before making its annual post-holiday exit. It was the first holiday-themed song to reach the chart’s top five in 60 years and only the second to do so in Hot 100 history (David Seville’s “The Chipmunk Song” being the first in 1958).
This year, “All I Want” stands a better chance than ever to finally jingle its bells atop the Hot 100 tree due to a number of factors that have as much to do with circumstances surrounding the song as they do the song itself.
First of all, “All I Want for Christmas” turns 25 this year, and the celebrations have already begun. There’ve been anniversary commemorations, news coverage and social media posts that have further raised the ubiquitous song’s already-high profile.
In fact, never being one to miss such an opportunity, Ms. Carey started the ball rolling two weeks ago by posting previously unreleased footage of the making of the song’s original video. To her more than 20 million followers, she tweeted: “Kicking off the festivities with a brand new video cut for ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ (Unreleased Video Footage) hope you like it!!!”
That new video has given the timeless tune a jump on other Christmas fare (like it really needed it) and it was the impetus for the song’s pre-Thanksgiving chart début at No. 39 this week – its earliest entry yet.
Plus Mariah teamed up with Spotify for an “All I Want For Christmas Is You” enhanced album experience that compliments the newly released deluxe anniversary version of Merry Christmas, the album that originally contained the classic hit.
Then, to further raise her profile, just last week Mimi was named the top female in Billboard pop chart history to commemorate the magazine’s 125th anniversary.
In the corresponding ranking of Billboard’s 125 biggest-charting artists based on combined performance on the Hot 100 singles list and the Billboard 200 albums list, Mariah was ranked fourth overall behind the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elton John, and ahead of women like Madonna, Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston.
That has placed Ms. Carey in a good news cycle, one that contrasts with recent years where she was plagued by awkward performances, unflattering Internet memes and generally negative publicity about her personal life.
Finally, there’s the charts themselves and a quirk in this year’s calendar that will work in our Christmas Queen’s favor and may set up Carey’s “All I Want” for a No. 1 placement by year’s end.
Namely, Billboard uses a Friday-to-Thursday tracking week for sales and downloads (and an overlapping Monday-to-Sunday tracking for its radio airplay component). Information from all three metrics – streaming, downloads and radio play – are combined to determine the Hot 100 each week.
Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, pushing it deeper into Billboard’s tracking week than last year, which means that more pre-Christmas streaming and downloads of holiday songs in the lead-up to the actual holiday will factor into this year’s chart during the peak tracking week.
Similarly, there will be a less significant drop-off in post-holiday airplay than last year with only four days (vice five last year) falling after the holiday during that same week.
That, coupled with the lack of any real blockbuster competition this year (last year, Mimi competed with new product from Ariana Grande and Halsey), creates a stronger likelihood that “All I Want” could actually top the Hot 100 this season – perhaps on the chart dated January 4 or even before.
If it does, it would give Mariah that elusive 19th No. 1, moving her out of a tie with Diana Ross (whose eighteen include twelve with the Supremes plus six without), and one step closer to the Beatles who had twenty (their individual members obviously had more, with Paul McCartney – who had nine away from the group – having the most).
”All I Want For Christmas” has long been a modern-day holiday classic. No other holiday tune released in the past 25 years has been as popular or as successful. It has reportedly sold in the tens of millions and has netted $60M in revenue – more than any other Mariah song – since its release in 1994.
The fact that it hasn’t been No. 1 before is a mind-boggling anomaly owed to red tape and bureaucracy associated with Billboard’s earlier rules. In the eyes of Mariah and her fans, a No. 1 placement now would only be vindication – and confirmation of the tune’s rightful place in chart history.
To quote Mariah in her current hyping of the song and its various celebrations, “it’s never to early to celebrate Christmas.”
Indeed, that may be true. And while Mariah may not want “a lot” for Christmas, this holiday season may prove to be more bountiful for the elusive chanteuse and her perennial song nugget than any before.
We will soon see!
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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