Ranking Mariah Carey’s 43 Best Singles, In Honor Of Her 43rd Birthday

It’s the effervescent, tiara-obsessed Mariah Carey’s 43nd birthday! As I’ve claimed previously, Mariah is the best kind of crazy celebrity because she’s half-aware of her hilarious insanity: “This is a woman who loves winking decadence and snide one-liners as much as any drag queen, but because she’s such an unmistakable diva and Leona Helmsley-level snob, she’s oblivious to how ridiculous her attitudes and self-absorption sometimes are. That is a very exciting spectrum of nuttiness.” Yes, I just quoted myself. I speak the truth!

For Ms. Carey’s birthday, let’s count down her 43 greatest singles, OK? I’ve (regrettably) omitted remix cuts, but I’ll note here that the remixes of “We Belong Together,” “Dreamlover,” and “Heartbreaker” may be even better than the originas. Now, onward.


43. “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”

42. “Breakdown”

41. “Never Too Far”

40. “I Wanna Know What Love Is”

39. “Loverboy”

38. “Crybaby”

37. “Through the Rain”

36. “Thank God I Found You”

35. “I Know What You Want”  

34. “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)”

33. “Obsessed”

32. “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time”

31. “Bye Bye” 

30. “I Still Believe”

29. “Touch My Body” 

28. “Say Something”

27. “Butterfly”

26. “Anytime You Need a Friend”

25. “I Don’t Wanna Cry”

24. “Shake It Off”

23. “Santa Baby”

22. “Almost Home”

21. “One Sweet Day”

20. “Hero”

19. “Without You”

18. “We Belong Together”

17. “Forever”  

16. “Love Takes Time”

15. “It’s Like That”

14. “The Roof”

13. “Make It Happen” 

12. “Can’t Let Go”

11. “Someday”

10. “Honey”

Classically buoyant Mariah and her absolute best music video.

9. “Heartbreaker”

Cheeky, danceable, belt-y, and one of the few pop hits to successfully use the word “incessantly.”

8. “I’ll Be There”

Hard to believe there was a time when people wondered if Mariah was a studio puppet, but this live recording at MTV Unplugged put those rumors to rest for good.


7. “My All”

This is one of Mariah’s finest ballads as well as one of her most evocative, sensual, and (dare I say?) haunting performances. 


6. “Emotions”

Octave-jumping, jazz keyboard-y goodness. You have to get chills when she hits those unthinkable high notes.


5. “Vision of Love” 

The song that started it all — and the one that single-handedly earned Mariah the Best New Artist Grammy.


4. “Dreamlover”

This swooning moment of hip-hop/pop perfection strikes the perfect balance of every influence and style that Mariah ever sincerely cared about. 


3. “Fantasy”

You’ll rarely hear a more cleverly, pleasantly sampled riff than Mariah’s use of the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” here. This is pure ecstasy — a roller coaster ride with your freshly manicured hands in the air.


2. “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

It’s been a generation since “All I Want For Christmas Is You” hit, and it still stands as the definitive modern Christmas jam. It’s somehow a very emotional song while remaining the ultimate car-ride singalong. It might be the only reason I still like Christmas.


1. “Always Be My Baby”

THIS. This is everything Mariah is: soulful, vocally acrobatic, hip-hop-obsessed, slightly gospel, poppy, and longing. It is also distinctly Mariah; no one — not Whitney, not Patti, not even Aretha — could make this as joyful and addicting a hit.