Ask Billboard is updated every week. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to email@example.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
WHAT SONGS SHOULD'VE BEEN SINGLES?
This has bothered me for 17 years: why wasn't "When I Saw You" by Mariah Carey released as a single?
In 1995-96, Carey was at one of her (many) career peaks and this ballad could have easily been the fourth Hot 100 No. 1 from her album "Daydream." Columbia chose the admittedly beautiful '50s-styled "Forever" instead (although it didn't give that song a physical CD release).
"When," an ode to love at first sight, would've countered nicely to the themes of loss and longing featured on her other "Daydream"-era singles (i.e., "One Sweet Day"), not to mention its insanely hooky chorus where Carey belts out 16 bars of melisma - without ever taking a breath! (Maybe that's why she, as far I know, has never performed it live?)
Such a shame because this track should've been huge (and still could be a hit today).
West Hollywood, California
I like "When I Saw You," too, although I can't argue with Columbia having released "Forever." It was actually a bold choice, as not many songs on pop radio in recent decades sound like "Unchained Melody." The waltz rose to No. 9 on Pop Songs in summer 1996.
This e-mail, in fact, deserves its own countdown! Here are my picks for Carey's top five songs that should've been singles, guided by my radio background that taught me that a hook outweighs any other attributes a song may have. Had they been released, Carey might have already passed the Beatles (20) for most Hot 100 No. 1s. She currently has 18.
5, "Languishing (The Interlude)," from "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" (2009). Maybe if Carey had recorded the song in full and not just as a 2-minute, 33-second filler track, it would've been a stronger single candidate. Still, she packs the song's short length with a memorably catchy chorus.
4, "So Blessed," from "Emotions" (1991). A song similar in sound to "When I Saw You," as well as her debut single, "Vision of Love - which spent four weeks atop the Hot 100.
Tie 3, "Reflections (Care Enough)"/"Lead the Way," from "Glitter" (2001). Yes, I'm aware that "Glitter" is one of the most maligned movies in cinema history. Too bad, because I've always felt that its soundtrack contains two of her best ballads. "Lead" was co-written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, who teamed to pen her hits "Can't Let Go," "Hero" and "Anytime You Need a Friend" (plus the No. 1 song ahead on this ranking).
2, "Whenever You Call," from "Butterfly" (1997). It seemed that the ballad might finally become a single when Carey rerecorded it as a duet with Brian McKnight and revived it on her 1998 compilation "#1's." Although a video was filmed, the song never became a radio single.
1, "All I Ever Wanted," from "Music Box" (1993). Despite her catalog of monster hit singles, my two favorite songs of Carey's are the seasonal "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and this ballad (also co-written with Afanasieff). Who knows, had "All" become the fourth single from "Music Box" instead of the No. 12 Hot 100 hit "Anytime You Need a Friend," Carey might've extended her career-opening streak of top 10s to 12. Instead, her run halted at 11, still a Hot 100 record among new artists matched since by only one act, the singer that prompted this discussion when her streak stopped with the No. 29-peaking "Marry the Night": Lady Gaga.