18 Mariah Carey Songs That Deserved To Reach Number One, In Celebration Of ‘#1 To Infinity’
“Butterfly” — Butterfly (1997)
From Mimi’s elegant bangs on the single cover to the much-copied video, “Butterfly” was destined for chart domination — until label politics and archaic chart rules spoiled the party. This is a perfect pop ballad, and exactly the kind of music fans wanted and expected from the legendary diva at the time.
“The Roof” — Butterfly (1997)
Another modern classic that suffered from Mariah’s late-’90s beef with Sony Records. While the 45-year-old’s move towards an edgier R&B sound momentarily confused her fan base, “The Roof” was good enough to transcend genre barriers.
“When You Believe” — #1s (1998)
Arguably the two greatest voices of all time dueling on a (nuclear) power ballad. And it stalled at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’m still angry.
“Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)” — Rainbow (1999)
A double A-Side with the irritating “Crybaby,” “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)” had the misfortune of dropping during the early ’00s lull in her popularity. At any other time in her career, Mimi would have had a monster hit on her hands with this spirit-reviving ballad. Instead, she had to settle with a then-embarrassing number 28 hit.
“Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” — Glitter (2001)
One day I’ll write a thesis on why Glitter is Mariah’s most underrated LP, but until then you’ll just have to take my word on it being an extremely fun and adventurous collection of ’80s-inspired originals and cover versions. A slick interpretation of Cherrelle’s 1984 hit, “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” sounded like a surefire smash — that is before the movie bombed and the general public lost interest in its soundtrack.
“Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” — Charmbracelet (2002)
I wish I liked Charmbracelet more. I’ll never understand why the golden-voiced songstress spent an entire album whispering, but “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” is one of the better tracks from the generally underwhelming opus. It particularly comes alive (vocally) towards the end and even has a random guitar solo. Radio might have played along if it was released as the album’s lead single instead of “Through The Rain.”
“I Know What You Want” — Busta Rhyme’s It Ain’t Safe No More (2003)
Mimi’s transition from balladeer to flawless urban diva was complete when she hopped on Busta Rhyme’s “I Know What You Want” and landed a massive crossover hit. It climbed all the way to number three on the Billboard Hot 100, but deserved to go even higher. At least, in my (completely biased) book.