On this date 25 years ago, June 2, 1990, Mariah Carey began her incomparable Billboard chart career.
"Retro-flavored pop/R&B ballad has all the elements necessary to propel newcomer to diva status: infectious melodies, lush instrumentation and a vocal performance brimming with unbridled power and confidence."
That's how Billboard praised Mariah Carey's debut single, "Vision of Love," as a "new and noteworthy" pick in the magazine's May 26, 1990 review of the song.
Even despite such lofty early approval, few could've predicted just how legendary a career Carey would forge on Billboard charts. Highlights include the most Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s by a solo artist (18), the most weeks at No. 1 of any act (79) and the chart's longest-running No. 1 of all-time, "One Sweet Day," with Boyz II Men (16 weeks).
Twenty-five years ago today, as predicted, Carey began her ascent to diva status: in the Billboard issue dated June 2, 1990, "Vision" entered three charts: the Hot 100, at No. 73, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (No. 85) and Adult Contemporary (No. 38). Her smoky introductory single, unlike any at a time when pop radio was powered by dance-oriented pop, new jack swing and big-hair ballads, would top all three tallies.
On the 25th anniversary of Carey's maiden Billboard chart voyages – and, as she continues to add to her chart legacy, with her new single, "Infinity" (which she performed in a medley with "Vision" at the Billboard Music Awards May 17), crowning the Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 upon the arrival of its new video – Billboard looks back at her 25 biggest Hot 100 hits, counted down from No. 25 to a place she's known more than any other solo act on the ranking: No. 1.
Mariah Carey's 25 Biggest Billboard Hits is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart. The ranking is based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 having the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 proportionately less. Due to various changes in chart rules and methodology through the years, songs have had reigns at No. 1 and on the chart of varying average lengths. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from all years, time frames were weighted to account for the differences in song turnover rates.
No. 7 peak, 2009
The song became Carey's 27th, and most recent, Hot 100 top 10, tied for the fifth-best sum in the chart's history.
24, Make It Happen
No. 5, 1992
Its disco beat and upbeat title contrast with a vulnerable reflection of Carey's life prior to her chart breakthrough: "Not more than three short years ago / I was abandoned and alone / Without a penny to my name / So very young and so afraid."
23, I Still Believe
No. 4, 1999
Carey sang backup on Brenda K. Starr's original version, which hit No. 13 in 1988. Eleven years, and Carey's superstardom, later, Carey's cover rose nine notches higher.
22, Endless Love (with Luther Vandross)
No. 2, 1994
Among Carey's legendary duet partners over the years: in addition to Vandross, Brian McKnight, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men (coming up later in the countdown …)
21, Touch My Body
No. 1 (two weeks), 2008
Carey's 18th, and most recent, No. 1. Among all acts, only the Beatles, with 20, boast more.
20, Heartbreaker (feat. Jay-Z)
No. 1 (two weeks), 1999
This 1999 hit granted Carey more history: she became the first, and remains the only, artist to spend time at No. 1 in every year of a decade (1990-99). (She extended her run to 2000, via "Thank God I Found You," featuring Joe and 98 Degrees.)
19, I'll Be There
No. 1 (two weeks), 1992
The Jackson 5 first took the song to No. 1 in 1970 – the year that Carey was born.
18, Don't Forget About Us
No. 1 (two weeks), 2005-06
Carey's 17th No. 1 was added on to her 2005 album The Emancipation of Mimi, which was reissued later that year.
No. 1 (three weeks), 1997
Its video serves as a not-so-subtle mirror of her marriage to Sony exec Tommy Mottola, and subsequent separation. It's from the album that also alludes to her then-sense of renewal, Butterfly.
16, Can't Let Go
No. 2, 1992
Carey's first song to miss the Hot 100's summit after a record-breaking five career-opening No. 1s (see No. 6, below), it soared to a still-impressive No. 2 peak.
15, I Know What You Want (with Busta Rhymes, feat. the Flipmode Squad)
No. 3, 2003
The track marks Rhymes' highest rank as a lead artist, tied with an earlier collab with a superstar female: "What's It Gonna Be?!," with Janet Jackson.
14, My All
No. 1 (one week), 1998
Carey was inspired to co-write the ballad, and employ its Latin sonic elements, after visiting Puerto Rico.
13, Without You/Never Forget You
No. 3, 1994
Despite her pop/R&B base, Carey has covered rock-based tunes, from Nilsson's "Without You" to Journey's "Open Arms" and even Def Leppard's "Bringin' On the Heartbreak."
12, Shake It Off
No. 2, 2005
Before Taylor Swift's song of the same name, Carey's peaked at No. 2 for six weeks (a year prior to Swift's chart arrival).
11, I Don't Wanna Cry
No. 1 (two weeks), 1991
All four singles from Carey's self-titled debut album topped the Hot 100, with this heartfelt ballad wrapping the set's perfect run.
10, Always Be My Baby
No. 1 (two weeks), 1996
The majority of scenes from the song's video were filmed at The Fresh Air Fund's Camp Mariah, named after Carey in honor of her contributions.
No. 1 (four weeks), 1993-94
The inspirational song hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 dated Dec. 25, 1993. A year later, her 1994 holiday classic "All I Want for Christmas Is You" would begin soundtracking the most wonderful day of the year.
No. 1 (two weeks), 1991
After two career-starting ballads, Carey proved her way with club material, too, as this hit became her third Hot 100 No. 1.
No. 1 (eight weeks), 1993
The first single from every proper studio album that Carey released in the '90s topped the Hot 100. This breezy smash became the third of her six lead-single leaders in the decade.
No. 1 (three weeks), 1991
Another history-maker for Carey: the lead track from her second album of the same name became her record fifth Hot 100 No. 1 from the start of her career. She bested the Jackson 5, who'd begun with four No. 1s in 1970 (capped by Carey's future No. 1 "I'll Be There"; see No. 19, above).
No. 1 (eight weeks), 1995
Carey's most hip-hop-leaning hit to that point, it samples Tom Tom Club's early '80s gem "Genius of Love." Additional chart history: It became the first song by a female artist ever to debut atop the Hot 100.
4, Vision of Love
No. 1 (four weeks), 1990
'With an ideal slow-dancing tempo, it still managed to swing," wrote Carey biographer Chris Nickson. And, "on the final chorus, her voice [flies] toward those trademark high notes. ['Vision'] was the perfect introduction to her voice."
3, Love Takes Time
No. 1 (three weeks), 1990
Carey's second No. 1 was considered so vital by Columbia Records that it was added to her debut album after the set had been mastered. "[On] some of the original copies of the record, they didn't have time to print the name of the song," co-writer Ben Margulies remembers. "So, the song's on there, but it doesn't say that it's on there. It was actually strong enough to stop the pressing."
2, One Sweet Day (with Boyz II Men)
No. 1 (16 weeks), 1995-96
A record most recently challenged by Mark Ronson's 14-week No. 1 "Uptown Funk!," featuring Bruno Mars, but yet toppled: with 16 weeks on top, "One Sweet Day" remains the longest-leading Hot 100 No. 1 in the chart's 56-year history.
1, We Belong Together
No. 1 (14 weeks), 2005
Fifteen years into her career, Carey scored her biggest hit, which spent the most time in the Hot 100's top 10 (23 weeks) and top 40 (35) of any in her catalog. While its lyrics relay her yearning for a faraway love, "We Belong Together" also describes the combo of Carey and her fans, as well as, for 25 years, Carey and the upper echelons of Billboard charts.