MARFA-clouds-bg.svg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why 'All I Want for Christmas Is You' tops the charts every year (2022 included)

Mariah Carey, pictured performing at 2019 Billboard Music Awards, has topped the charts again with her signature Christmas hit.
Ethan Miller
/
Getty Images
Mariah Carey, pictured performing at 2019 Billboard Music Awards, has topped the charts again with her signature Christmas hit.

Updated December 14, 2022 at 12:16 PM ET

Mariah Carey is back on top again, with her holiday hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You" reaching the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart this week for the fourth year in a row.

This makes it the first song in history to have four separate runs at No. 1 on the chart, from 2019 to 2022.

The song was originally released on Carey's 1994 Christmas album, but streaming services, technological changes and general holiday cheer have helped make it a hallmark of the Yuletide season only in recent years (to the delight of Carey fans and dismay of inundated retail workers everywhere).

Carey broke from the mold by releasing original holiday music, since most artists at the time chose to cover Christmas standards, Gary Trust, Billboard's senior director of charts, told NPR last winter. And that gamble paid off (literally: The Economist reported in 2017 that Carey had earned over $60 million in royalties since its release).

"It sounds like what we've always traditionally thought a holiday song sounds like, with those jingle bells and just the fun, upbeat sound, but updated for the '90s and obviously Mariah's vocals," Trust said. "With different lyrics, I feel like this could be a hit any time of the year."

Listeners and fans have prolonged the song's popularity not only by playing it incessantly, but by making videos and memes about it every year (Carey herself partakes, including by famously announcing the start of the holiday season the moment Halloween ends).

Christmas has become part of Carey's identity to millions of people, he added, comparing her to "a modern-day Santa Claus."

"She makes it really personal, and it's just that connection back-and-forth," he said. "I think memes really work when there's that interaction, obviously. That's how they keep growing. So I think if she didn't have a sense of humor, maybe we wouldn't connect with her as much."

The song has long been popular, but started topping charts recently

The contemporary carol's rankings have also been helped by changes to Billboard's chart rules — specifically governing holiday music — over the last few decades.

"In short, 'All I Want for Christmas Is You' has long been a smash waiting for the metrics to catch up," Chris Molanphy wrote for Slate in 2019. "Separately this decade, Billboard rebooted its former Christmas minichart as the Holiday 100, and ever since its launch in 2011, the Holiday chart has basically been the Mariah chart."

The song reached the Hot 100's top 10 for the first time in Dec. 2017 and broke into the top five the following year. Its meteoric rise continued from there, as it's held the top spot on the holiday charts (for two to three weeks straight) every year since 2019.

The streak continues this year, marking the song's ninth total week in the top spot. It expands its record for a holiday song's most time at No. 1 (more than doubling the time that the previous leader, David Seville & The Chipmunks' "The Chipmunk Song," spent there in 1958 — the same year the Hot 100 launched).

Carey called the news "such an amazing surprise and an early Christmas gift" in a celebratory tweet.

Carey holds the (contested) Christmas crown

The song is ruling other Billboard charts this week too, including the U.K. Singles Chart and the Billboard Global 200.

Meanwhile, YouTube Music announced Tuesday that the song is No. 1 on the Top Songs U.S. chart and No. 2 on the Top Music Videos chart. And last week it also topped the global top songs on Spotify, where it hit 1 billion streams last December.

This latest milestone gives Carey a slew of additional bragging rights, if you run the numbers (which Billboard did).

It extends her record for the longest span of an artist ranking at No. 1 on the chart to 32 years, four months and three weeks (her debut single "Vision of Love'' first made its ascent in Aug. 1990).

And it gives her a record 88th week at No. 1 on the Hot 100, which is more than Rihanna or the Beatles can say.

While Carey clearly reigns supreme, just don't call her the Queen of Christmas. She lost her bid to trademark that title and other related terms last month, after it was challenged by a full-time Christmas singer.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.