Although Mariah Carey achieved No.1-of-the-year status in 2005 with "We Belong Together," none of her record-setting 14 chart-toppers during the 1990s ruled any of those years, based on the original tallies. Ironically, it's a '90s song that didn't even chart on the Hot 100 during its release that makes Carey the star atop the tree on 1995's revised list.
Not a commercial single when it came out as part of Carey's Merry Christmas collection in 1994, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was at the time ineligible to chart per Hot 100 rules, yet it reached No. 12 on Radio Songs. The digital era's biggest-selling holiday song, at 2.8 million and counting, it has more than made up for lost time, having appeared on the Hot 100 during each of the past three holiday seasons, reaching a No. 21 peak in December 2012.
How has the much-covered song The New Yorker called "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon" landed Carey on the Mt. Rushmore of holiday hitmakers, next to the likes of Bing Crosby ("White Christmas") and Nat King Cole ("The Christmas Song")?
"Mariah's easy-to-sing and fun-to-listen-to song came at a time when modern Christmas music was downright depressing," says Rick Hall, program director of New York Christian adult contemporary station WAWZ (Star 99.1), which currently features the track. "Mariah gave radio and retailers something new to play that wasn't Wham!'s 'Last Christmas' or Band Aid's 'Do they Know It's Christmas?'"
Credit also "All I Want for Christmas Is You" for its multigenerational appeal. "A mom, her daughter and her daughter's daughter can all like the song," WIXX Green Bay, Wis. mainstream top 40 music director Otis Day says. "That's a Christmas miracle."
Does the song's success suggest that any of today's hottest acts could follow suit and deliver a modern Christmas classic? "That's the power of a talented pop artist with mass appeal like Mariah," Hall says. "If history is to repeat itself, perhaps in fifteen or twenty years, we'll be discussing the success of a Taylor Swift or Adele Christmas record."