/How Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ Finally Hit No. 1

How Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ Finally Hit No. 1

That year, “All I Want for Christmas” was streamed only about 12.6 million times from early November through December, according to Nielsen. By 2016, that number was up to 61 million, and last year, it reached 185 million streams, reaching a new peak of No. 3 on Billboard as it frequently appeared near the top of Christmas playlists, from Spotify’s official Christmas Hits to endless user-generated versions.

Radio airplay has followed suit, with the song receiving about 42,000 spins last year, up from 24,000 spins in 2014. iHeartRadio, the largest radio broadcaster in the United States, said that since its release, “All I Want for Christmas” had reached an audience of about 1.8 billion on its stations.

“This is consistently the best-testing Christmas song for us,” said Tom Poleman, the company’s chief programming officer, “and as a result, one of our most-played Christmas songs at radio.” The track “fits sonically next to every contemporary artist, and it also crosses genres,” he explained, allowing it to be played on almost any format.

Like most Christmas miracles, the song’s genesis is both contentious and shrouded in mystery.

Carey, who does not acknowledge her age or the passage of time, joked that when she wrote the song, she was “in the womb, darling.” The truth is that her label at the time, Columbia Records, had the idea for a Christmas album and that she initially balked. Carey was a young artist coming off her third album, “Music Box,” a commercial smash, and holiday collections were then considered an afterthought, for over-the-hill acts.

“I’m not one to be giving all sorts of credit to record company executives,” Carey said, “but I do think it turned out to be a brilliant business move.”

ImageMariah Carey first released “Merry Christmas” in 1994.
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