Mariah Carey’s Lambs want that 20th No. 1, but her 19th keeps getting in the way; here are ways to change that…

(December 15, 2020).  It’s Christmastime again and it’s official: Mariah Carey, reigning Queen of Holiday Cheer and Merriment, has the No. 1 song in the USA with her evergreen “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

The perennial holiday fave moves 2-1 on the newest Billboard Hot 100 chart (dated December 19), making it Mariah’s 20th trip to the top of the Hot 100 in her 30-plus years of charting.

Mariah Carey is back at the top with “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

It’s her 20th trip to the top, albeit a repeat of her 19th, as “All I Want For Christmas” first topped the list in December 2019.  The latest ascension is even quicker than the last, as “All I Want” reaches No. 1 in just four chart weeks this season – moving 29-14-2-1 before the holiday it celebrates even arrives. 

Every autumn, as Thanksgiving becomes a memory and now even sometimes before then, Mariah kicks off a media blitz that reminds us who owns the forthcoming Christmas holiday season, and her preeminence is often centered around the juggernaut that is “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the 26-year-old anthem that is as familiar to us now as Mom’s sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving.

The last two years her savvy marketing has paid off handsomely.  

In 2019, much of her promotion of “All I Want For Christmas” centered on the song’s 25th anniversary, with it having first been released on her 1994 album Merry Christmas.  And for the first time last December, the song reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 – owing to a nearly eight-year-old change in chart rules that allows older songs to chart as long as they have enough activity to place in the top half of the 100-position list and are showing sustained growth in the chart’s key metrics: radio play, downloads and streaming.  

Prior to 2012, “All I Want For Christmas” was ineligible to chart for two key reasons: the lack of commercial single availability before 1998, and its old-song ineligibility based on chart rules before 2012. 

Since 2012, the song has made its annual trek up the charts, with each recent year marking a higher peak than the previous.  During the 2016 holiday season, the song peaked at No. 16; in 2017, it reached the top ten for the first time – peaking at No. 9.  In 2018, “All I Want” reached No. 3, and last year it finally reached the pinnacle.

The song and Mariah’s Christmastime popularity have clearly increased with each year, so chart rules alone are not the reason for its current front-runner status. 

This year, the unofficial Queen of Christmas began spreading good tidings with a November 2 “It’s Time” Instagram campaign, letting her minions know it was ok to start celebrating Christmas early.  She then debuted her “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special” on AppleTV+ on December 4 with an accompanying new album to boot!  

Both the Instagram promo and the TV special culminated with “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – with the critically acclaimed TV special featuring an updated version that also appears on the accompanying new album. 

The journey to No. 1 for “All I Want For Christmas” this year was predictable and swift, and it’s likely to become an annual event as there doesn’t seem to be a realistic challenge to its annual dominance of our hearts and the charts.  The runner-up the past couple years is an even older Christmas standard by Brenda Lee – her 1958 classic “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” – which peaked at No. 2 last season and is poised to do the same next week (it’s at No. 3 on the current chart). 

And the Christmas song domination in general has come earlier this year, with five holiday songs already placed in the Hot 100’s top ten – matching last season’s high mark, which didn’t occur until the chart dated January 4, the chart reflecting the last week of Christmas activity in 2019. 

By that time this season, with yuletide sentiment seemingly even higher in a year marked by sadness and isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, there could be as many as seven or eight Christmas songs occupying top ten slots before the holiday’s end, all led of course by Mariah’s juggernaut.

Which brings us back to the only downside to all this: Mimi’s Lambs – long hoping for Mariah to get that 20th No. 1 – will have to keep waiting.  Repeat runs at No. 1 by her 19th chart-topper don’t add to her No. 1 total, although they do pad the total number of weeks she’s spent at the top, which now sits at a record-extending 83 weeks (across all 19 No. 1s), and counting.

Mariah’s history: The mini-stories behind each of her 19 No. 1 hits.

But “All I Want For Christmas” is still her 19th No. 1 by virtue of that chart-topping run of a year ago when it moved her within one of the first-place Beatles.  The Fab Four famously set the all-time standard with 20 No. 1 hits between 1964 and 1970, a record that’s held for fifty years and counting.

More importantly, the Beatles had 20 No. 1 occurrences with 20 different No. 1 songs.  None of their chart-toppers were the result of the same song repeating at No. 1 in two (or more) separate chart runs.  The only one of their hits that ascended to No. 1 twice – 1965’s “We Can Work It Out” – did so in the same chart run, with that classic moving in and out and back into the No. 1 spot twice in a four-week span.

Imagine being Mariah Carey years from now – say in 2025 – by which time it’s very feasible that “All I Want For Christmas” will have spent seven consecutive Christmases topping the Hot 100.  

While any other artist would kill for that type of stat line, our dual crown-wearing Queen of Christmas and Queen of the Charts might find it frustrating sitting within one No. 1 hit of the Beatles and knowing that her best chance of returning to the top each year is the recurring placement of that 19th No. 1 on repeat.

That would be like winning a big marathon race every year only to find that you’re actually experiencing Groundhog Day…in December.  

Yes, Mariah gets paid nicely with each annual return of “All I Want,” but someone as Billboard chart savvy as she is certainly mindful of her runner-up status to the Beatles and would like nothing more than to tie and ultimately surpass the Fab Four in one of the longest standing chart records in pop music history.  

Plus there must be a certain dissatisfaction in having your most recent chart-topper be a song you recorded three decades ago.  

But that doesn’t have to be the case.  Oh, sure, it’s a foregone conclusion that “All I Want For Christmas” will be a perennial No. 1 hit for years to come.  But it doesn’t have to be Mimi’s last. 

There are a few ways that our yuletide chanteuse, who turned 50 (or 51) last March, could get that elusive 20th No. 1 and, as a result, tie the Beatles, thus making her faithful Lambs eternally happy.

For starters, she could continue capitalizing on her growing Christmas popularity by releasing a new holiday classic, or more heavily promoting one of her recordings of an old(er) holiday standard.  She has recorded several Christmas albums over the years, so there are plenty of candidates from which to choose.  A hot video featuring newer stars joining Mariah would help the cause.

Mariah’s latest single, “Oh Santa!” featuring Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson

Speaking of newer stars, Mariah teamed with singers Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson on a remake of her 2010 Christmas song, “Oh Santa!,” but that tune hasn’t yet taken off, placing this week at No. 76 on the Hot 100.  

There’s still hope for the song as Rome wasn’t built in a day.  After all, it took 25 years for the stars to align to get “All I Want” to reach the top.  But the fact that “Oh Santa!” is an older Mariah song on which guests are featured likely doesn’t help its case, because it’s still seen as an old Mariah Carey song – just with a couple of guests on it – and one not much different from the original. 

Which brings me to another way in which Mariah could get that elusive 20th No. 1 – a last resort for someone of Mimi’s proud stature: become a “featured” guest on someone else’s song.  

Mariah Carey is the lead artist on all nineteen of her No. 1s, and any collaborators either had equal billing (Boyz II Men) or were featured guests themselves (Jay-Z, Ol’ Dirty Bastard).  She’s never had to rely on being a featured guest on someone else’s hit to pad her No. 1 total – as many of today’s artists have.

Maybe it’s time she does.  

Clearly there’s no shame in having a “featuring” credit in this day and age, and Billboard historians count all songs the same when it comes to those chart milestones, “featured” artist or not.  There’s no doubt Mariah’s publicists would capitalize on any No. 1 song “featuring Mariah Carey” as being her 20th record-tying chart-topping single.  Her Lambs would surely agree. 

If all the above fails, there’s still one more thing Mimi can do to improve her chances of having a different song top the Hot 100 in future years: officially retire “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

She could begin a future Christmas season by announcing the retirement of “All I Want For Christmas” and launch a campaign around a whole new song.  After all, who would be more qualified than the Queen of Christmas herself to give her minions permission to jump off the “All I Want” gravy train and onto another of her songs.

That may sound ludicrous and unthinkable, but then, just a few years ago, so did the prospect of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” becoming her 19th No. 1 single…and it happening over and over and over again for years to come.

Regarding that last idea, two old phrases come to mind, with each portending a different outcome.

One is “cutting off your nose to spite your face,” which Mariah is unlikely to do by retiring “All I Want.”  It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and Mariah will continue to milk that cash cow for as long as she can.

The other is “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” which means that 20th No. 1 will continue to elude her as long as the 19th keeps getting in the way.

And it’s that latter scenario that seems the most likely for now.

Mariah Carey

DJRob 

DJRob is a freelance blogger from Chicago 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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