In your-favs-could-never-and-I’ll-be-watching-them-try-forever news, Mariah Carey has hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her 25-years-old holiday chestnut “All I Want for Christmas Is You” for the first time, according to Billboard. (Last year, it peaked at No. 3.) It becomes Carey’s 19th No. 1, the most for any solo artist and puts her within striking distance of the Beatles’s 20 No. 1s on the U.S. chart.
To understand why this is momentous, beyond the novelty of a No. 1 song that’s been around for a quarter-century or the hardest proof yet of unassailability of the enduring popularity of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” you must acknowledge the huge role chart stats have played Carey’s legacy. Throughout the ’90s, Carey released album after album, scoring No. 1 after No. 1. She hasn’t hit the summit position on the Hot 100 since 2008 with “Touch My Body.” Her first Vegas show, No. 1s, was organized around her chart-toppers. The peaking of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” constitutes yet another comeback for an artist who has been counted out repeatedly in the press. After the commercial underperformance of 2001's Glitter and 2002's Charmbracelet, Carey roared back onto the airwaves with material from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi, which spawned the biggest chart hit of her career (at that point), “We Belong Together.” Carey’s currently making a mint on her Christmas side hustle. On Sunday, she played to a sold-out audience at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I caught her the week before in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to an ecstatic crowd (it helped that Carey sounded sensational). She’s filling stadiums singing these Christmas songs—not bad for someone who after a bad performance of this very song a few years ago was declared unable to sing anymore.
The position of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” owes to shifting Billboard chart rules, which now allow a “recurrent” single to chart in the Hot 100 if it has significant cultural penetration. Additionally, streaming, which now weighs heavily in the chart’s criteria, accounts for the bulk of its ranking points. Billboard reports that “All I Want for Christmas Is You” rose “30 percent to 45.6 million U.S. streams in the week ending Dec. 12, according to Nielsen Music.” It is also the rare No. 1 for a woman in her 40s, or perhaps 50s (which is even rarer). (Carey’s birthday has been reported as occurring in 1969 or 1970—sources vary according to Wikipedia.)
The rise to cultural dominance has been long and strong—the first year it was out, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” peaked at No. 12 on the airplay chart (because it was unavailable commercially, the single was not eligible to chart on the Hot 100 back in 1994). A recent Amazon mini-documentary about the making of the song and its legacy credited its inclusion in Love Actually as crucial to its enduring popularity.
Mariah Carey, Queen of Christmas, queen of Billboard No. 1's. She is exactly where she belongs.