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Ask Billboard: Mariah Carey’s Career Sales, Ariana Grande Fun Facts & More

Plus, start finalizing your year-end charts for the last mailbag of 2018.

Submit questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, tweet @gthot20. Also, interact via the Chart Beat Podcast‘s new listener hotline – 212-493-4021 – and you could hear your question played back and answered in an upcoming episode!

Hi Gary,

Can we please have an update of Mariah Carey‘s U.S. album sales?

Thank you,

Jamie Coogan
London, United Kingdom

Hi Jamie,

In honor of Friday’s arrival of Caution, let’s look at the U.S. sales, according to Nielsen Music, of all 20 of Carey’s Billboard 200 entries to date. (Note that her first LP debuted nearly a year before the advent of Nielsen data, and, regarding her more recent releases, that overall album sales continue to decline.)

Mariah Carey, 4.9 million (No. 1 Billboard 200 peak, for 11 weeks; 1990 debut); Emotions, 3.5 million (No. 4; 1991); MTV Unplugged EP, 2.8 million (No. 3; 1992); Music Box, 7.3 million (No. 1, eight weeks; 1993); Merry Christmas, 5.6 million (No. 3; 1994)

Daydream, 7.7 million (No. 1, six weeks; 1995); Butterfly, 3.8 million (No. 1, one week; 1997); # 1’s, 3.9 million (No. 4; 1998); Rainbow, 2.9 million (No. 2; 1999); Glitter, 661,000 (No. 7; 2001)

Greatest Hits, 1.23 million (No. 52; 2001); Charmbracelet, 1.17 million (No. 3; 2002); The Remixes, 289,000 (No. 26; 2003); The Emancipation of Mimi, 6.1 million (No. 1; two weeks, 2005); E=MC2, 1.3 million (No. 1, two weeks; 2008)

The Ballads, 395,000 (No. 10; 2009); Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, 555,000 (No. 3; 2009); Merry Christmas II You, 587,000 (No. 4; 2010); Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, 127,000 (No. 3; 2014); #1 to Infinity, 86,000 (No. 29; 2015)


Carey’s career U.S. album sales stand at 55.3 million (led by 1995’s Daydream, at 7.7 million), making her the best-selling female album artist, and fourth-best-selling album act overall, of the Nielsen Music era, since 1991. The three acts above her? Garth Brooks (72.3 million), The Beatles (69.3 million) and Metallica (56 million). Directly below Carey, Celine Dion rounds out the top five (53 million).

We’ll see if Caution can arrive as Carey’s 18th Billboard 200 top 10 … and her seventh No. 1? … on the chart dated Dec. 1. A week before that, Glitter is likely to return to the Soundtracks chart (dated Nov. 24), sparked by the power of the Lambily’s #JusticeforGlitter social media campaign.

Another Carey feat to anticipate: Caution‘s “With You” jumps 14-11 on the latest Adult Contemporary chart. If it can move up at least one more notch (either before or after the annual seasonal takeover of holiday music), Carey will collect her 23rd AC top 10. It would mark her first with an original, non-holiday song since “We Belong Together,” which hit No. 3 in 2005.

Carey, thus, could soon be unwrapping multiple chart presents just before Christmas. “People think I’m making this up, but this is actually true: I have real reindeer come to my house,” Carey said this week of her holiday habits. “I don’t play around.”



Hello Gary,

Wow about Ariana Grande‘s newest chart accomplishment, the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 debut of “Thank U, Next.” Two thoughts:

“U” turn: Grande scores a rare Hot 100 No. 1 featuring the word “U” in its title; and, it’s extra fun that it replaced a song with “You” in its title, Maroon 5‘s “Girls Like You,” featuring Cardi B. The last “U”-titled No. 1 led over a decade ago: T-Pain‘s “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” featuring Y-u-ng Joc. Oh, and, u know what song dethroned “Drank”? “Umbrella,” by Rihanna featuring JAY-Z.

And, happy “Thank U”-giving: In terms of timeliness of No. 1 song titles, in “Thank U, Next” we have a fitting Thanksgiving-time chart-topper. It’s akin to Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat” hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 just before Halloween 1990.

Pablo Nelson
Oakland, California

Hi Pablo,

Trevor Anderson and I covered other highlights of Grande’s big week on the Hot 100 on (#plug) this week’s Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, with one of the notable angles being Grande’s uncommon directness in the song, as she references former fiancé Pete Davidson, among others (after her song “Pete Davidson” spent a week at No. 99 in September).

That might wind up being a key part of the legacy of “Thank U, Next.” With pop culture more meta than in prior eras (last week’s Family Guy declared that one of the worst jobs is being a Family Guy writer!), perhaps we’ll look back at “Thank U, Next” as marking a turning point in pop music, if more artists going forward tell truly personal tales in their songs.


Hi Gary,

I was looking at the Radio Songs chart (dated Nov. 17) today and noticed that there are five bands (you know … guitar, bass, drums, vocals) in the top 10. And that includes the entire top three.

Counting them down:

No. 10, Imagine Dragons, “Natural”
No. 9, lovelytheband, “Broken” (which this week crowns the Adult Pop Songs chart)
No. 3, Bastille, “Happier” (with Marshmello)
No. 2, 5 Seconds of Summer, “Youngblood”
No. 1, Maroon 5, “Girls Like You” (feat. Cardi B)

Meanwhile, Panic! at the Disco ranks at No. 6 with “High Hopes,” although the act these days is technically a solo project, of Brendon Urie.

Five bands in the top 10 seems like a lot, right?


William Bhagat

Great observation, William. And, of those five bands in the top 10, the top two even have “5” in their names.

We’ve seen five bands (and six groups) in the Radio Songs top 10 before, although it’s rare. Going back just over 20 years, here’s how they stacked up on the Nov. 7, 1998-dated chart:

No. 10, matchbox twenty, “Real World”
No. 9, Third Eye Blind,” Jumper”
No. 7, Backstreet Boys (*vocal group), “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”
No. 4, Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
No. 2, Barenaked Ladies, “One Week”
No. 1, Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris”

Notably, No. 1 that week was what remains the longest-leading hit in the chart’s history: eventual 18-week No. 1 “Iris”; Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” is currently in second place at 16 weeks, tied with Carey’s “We Belong Together” and No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.”

What might be behind the current influx of bands at radio? Note that only two (the two “5”s of the bunch, Maroon 5 and 5SOS; might they ever collaborate as Maroon 5 Seconds of Summer?) are core pop groups; the other three are alternative. Still, Imagine Dragons, lovelytheband and Bastille all boast pop sensibilities, and if you’re going to cross from rock to pop in 2018, you’re going to need a glossy, mainstream sound.

We’re also now largely off-cycle from albums by some of the top solo males who are generally locks at radio, such as Drake, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber. Post Malone is the highest-charting solo male on Radio Songs this week, with “Better Now,” at No. 4.

The same for women. More Ariana Grande: She’s the only solo female in a lead role currently in the Radio Songs top 10, with “God Is a Woman” (No. 8). “She’s taking advantage of the fact that we don’t have Rihanna with hits right now. We don’t have Katy Perry,” WKSS (Kiss 95.7) Hartford, Connecticut, program director Jagger recently said (while praising the quality of Grande’s recent impressive output).

“She’s kind of taking that ball and running with it.”


It’s almost that most wonderful time of the year … for personal year-end charts! What were your favorite songs, albums, concerts and more of 2018? Send your own carefully curated lists to and, as always, we’ll celebrate the year in your favorite music in the upcoming year-end “Ask Billboard.”