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Number 1's (Mariah Carey album)

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The correct title of this article is #1's (Mariah Carey album). The substitution or omission of the # is because of technical restrictions.
Mariah Number 1's.png
Compilation album by Mariah Carey
Released November 17, 1998[1]
Recorded 1988–1998
Length 73:13
Label Columbia
Producer Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff, Babyface, Sean Combs, Jermaine Dupri, Dave Hall, C+C Music Factory, Ben Margulies
Mariah Carey chronology
Singles from #1's
  1. "Sweetheart"
    Released: October 6, 1998
  2. "When You Believe"
    Released: November 2, 1998
  3. "I Still Believe"
    Released: February 8, 1999

#1's is the first compilation album by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey, released by Columbia Records on November 17, 1998. The album contained Carey's then thirteen number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as four new songs. In Japan, #1's also included her popular single "All I Want for Christmas Is You", which remained Carey's biggest selling single there. Though showing the characteristics of a regular greatest hits album, Carey expressed a dislike for the track listing, which she called a large collection of her most commercial singles. Carey felt that if #1's was a traditional greatest hits album, then it would include other songs that did not reach number one, but were far more important in her career. She has regularly voiced her frustration with the song choices on the album, expressing her disappointment with the omission of her "favorite songs".

Upon release, reviews for the album were mixed, with criticism directed towards both the new material and the decision to include only Carey's number one hits in the United States. While receiving tepid reviews from music critics, the album became a large commercial success throughout the world. It debuted at number four on Billboard 200, number one in Japan, and in the top-ten throughout almost every major music market around the globe. #1's was certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of five million copies throughout the United States. Aside from the US, the album experienced its strongest sales in Japan, where the album sold 3,250,000 copies in the first three months after its release. The album was certified the triple-million award, and currently remains the best-selling album of all-time in Japan by a non-Asian artist. In Europe, #1's was certified double-platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), denoting shipments of two million copies throughout the continent.

Three singles were released from the album. Serving as the album's lead single was "Sweetheart" featuring Jermaine Dupri. The song performed weakly on the charts, peaking within the top-twenty only in Germany and Switzerland. The follow-up single, "When You Believe", a duet with Whitney Houston, charted well throughout the world. In the US, the song performed moderately, peaking at number fifteen. In Europe however, the song reached the top-two in Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland and the top-five in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. "When You Believe" was featured in the The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, and received the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Sales of #1's were much higher than expected. On May 15, 2015, Carey released #1 to Infinity, an updated version of #1's with all 18 number-ones, which coincides with her residency show in Las Vegas, Mariah Carey Number 1's.[2]

Background and album title[edit]

During mid-1998, after the release of her seventh studio album, Butterfly (1997), the previous September, Carey was in the midst of developing a film and soundtrack project titled All That Glitters.[3] Midway through the project, All That Glitters fell into developmental hell, causing Carey to pause the entire production.[3] During this period, Carey considered embarking on a tour to support Butterfly, which was continuing to sell strongly.[3] However, executives at Sony Music, the parent company of Carey's label Columbia, wanted her to prepare a greatest hits collection in time for the commercially favorable holiday season.[4] Carey, not having time to record a studio album, agreed. However, they disagreed as to what content and singles should constitute the album.[4] Sony wanted to release an album that featured her US number one singles, void of any new material. Carey on the other hand, felt that a greatest hits album should reflect on her most personal and favorite songs, not her most commercial.[4] To accompany her thirteen number ones, Carey recorded four new songs. She felt that not including any new material would result in cheating her fans, therefore including some new material as well.[4] While compromised, Carey often expressed distaste towards the album's song selection, expressing her disappointment in the omission of her "favorite songs".

Everyone swung it like I didn't want to put something out because I wouldn't accept less than a No. 1 Pop Single. That's not even true. Like I didn't want to "break a streak." My streak was broken a long time ago. I don't even have a streak. I had five number ones, then I had records that didn't go to number one. Whatever. I wanted to put out "Breakdown" with Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony. That was a no-brainer. Release it. I'll always be upset "Breakdown" never got its shot.

—Carey, on her disappointment in the singles chosen, during an interview with Vibe.[5]

For this reason, Sony titled the album #1's, as Carey felt the need to express the album's true content, a collection of her number one hits.[4] Carey has frequently cited "Underneath the Stars" (1996) and "Breakdown" (1998) as examples of songs she was unsuccessful in releasing.[5] In the album's liner notes, Carey wrote that she was releasing a collection of her number one singles as a "thank you" and a tribute to her fans, and explained that someday she would release a true greatest hits album containing songs that were not released as singles, as well as singles that did not reach number one. In December 2001, Columbia released the album Greatest Hits, which featured Carey's number one singles alongside songs she said "needed to be really heard", such as "Underneath the Stars" and "Forever".[6] In an interview with MTV, Carey made the following statement regarding the album: "There's a lot of songs that I'm happy are gonna see the light of day. I think people are going to like this Greatest Hits because there are songs on it that were not necessarily singles."[6]

Writing and composition[edit]

The first of Carey's number ones to be featured on the album was "Vision of Love". It was Carey's first single and was the song that propelled her into the music scene. The song received acclaim, and was credited with influencing and popularizing the use of melisma throughout the 1990s.[7][8] Three other songs were included from her self-titled debut album, of them were "Love Takes Time", "Someday" and "I Don't Wanna Cry". The fifth single featured on the album was "Emotions", the lead single from the album of the same name. Because of the album's strict array of chart topping singles, none of the other singles on Emotions made the track listing. Another song that was featured on #1's was Carey's version of The Jackson 5 classic, "I'll Be There", which was the lead single from her live album, MTV Unplugged. The singles from Carey's 1993 release Music Box, made an appearance on the album as well. "Dreamlover", the seventh number one from the album, was the lead single from Music Box. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks and was described as a "slight piece of pop fluff", representing a more commercial side to Carey than the "more ambitious", "Vision of Love".[9] The song was the start of a vocal maturity for Carey, and was considered a notable song in her career.[10] The second single from Music Box, "Hero", also made the album's final cut. According to author Chris Nickson, Hero was one of Carey's "most inspirational ballads".[10] The album's third single, Carey's cover of Harry Nielsen's "Without You" failed to make the US album version, however, due to the song's popularity in Europe, it was included in the album's international edition.

"All I Want for Christmas Is You", the lead single from Carey's holiday album Merry Christmas also made the international track listing. The song became one of the best-selling singles by a non–Asian female, and the best-selling Japanese single of 1994, selling 1.1 million copies.[11] Additionally, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was called "one of the essential musical hallmarks of the holiday season", and is the only holiday song and ringtone to reach multi-platinum status in the US.[12] Occupying three of the thirteen number ones on the album were the singles from Carey's 1995 release, Daydream. The album's lead single "Fantasy", was featured on #1's. However, it was the song's official remix, which featured rap verses from Ol' Dirty Bastard, which made the album cut. This was a personal decision made by Carey, as it was of her preference.[3] The second song from Daydream to be featured on the album was "One Sweet Day", Carey's duet with Boyz II Men. The song topped the Hot 100 for an unprecedented sixteen weeks, and holds the record for longest running number one song in Hot 100 history.[13] The third and final song from the album, "Always Be My Baby", spent two weeks atop the charts in the US, therefore earning a place on the album as well.

Carey's most recent studio effort at the time, Butterfly, also yielded two number one songs. The album's lead single, "Honey", was a career-transitional song for Carey, which introduced her as an hip hop soul artist, as well as featured extended rap verses throughout the song.[14] While very different than anything Carey had ever recorded, the track was described as "street Hip-Hop music, with a booming bass."[14] The second song from Butterfly, "My All", spent one week atop the charts. Carey described the song as "[having] a lush sound and intense styling."[15] Solely written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, "My All" featured guitar arpeggios, which were synthetically created with the clever use of sampling and playing keyboard notes. As a result, the song was well-received, being called a "slinky, slow jam R&B sound, that fit Mariah like a glove."[14]

New material[edit]

Since Carey intended #1's to serve as a sign of gratitude to her fans, the album contained four new songs not previously included on her albums. The first was a cover of Rainy Davis' "Sweetheart" (1987) performed as a duet with co-producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri. Dupri had worked with Carey in the past, contributing to her album Daydream, and co-produced several hip-hop remixes of her songs.[3] Carey said of the inspiration for its recording, "I was thinking of the old songs I used to listen to when I was in school. It's a really cute record. Young girls'll like it the way I liked it when I was growing up."[5] Another new song featured on #1's was "When You Believe", which Carey said was included because she felt it was "a miracle" that she and Houston collaborated on a record.[4] During the development of All That Glitters, Carey had been introduced to DreamWorks producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who asked her if she would record the song "When You Believe" for the soundtrack to the animated film The Prince of Egypt.[16] Carey and Houston were shown the film separately, and both became very enthusiastic about participating in the project.[16] In an interview with MTV, Carey made the following statement regarding "When You Believe" and working with Whitney Houston:

"It's sort of a message song. It's what 'Prince of Egypt' is about, Moses. If we were ever going to come together on any kind of record, this is definitely the right one, and really the coolest thing to me is that after all of the drama and everybody making it like we had a rivalry, she was just really cool and we had a really good time in the studio. We had fun. And so, if nothing else, it was a good experience... and diva-ism, whatever."[16]

The song was co-written by Stephen Schwartz and Babyface, who also produced the song.[15] Carey had previously collaborated with Babyface on her albums, Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995). Babyface expressed how he went through more than one version of the song and described its production as a beautiful movie ballad, something different than he, Carey or Houston ever recorded.[5] In an interview with Vibe, Carey said that she "liked [the song] the way it was."[5] She had characterised it as "a very big ballad but in an inspirational way" and denied speculation that there had been past rivalry or animosity between her and Houston prior to its recording: "I never even really talked to her until this. We never had any issues between us. The media and everybody made it an issue."[5]

Mariah and I got along very great. We had never talked and never sang together before. We just had a chance for camaraderie, singer-to-singer, artist-to-artist, that kind of thing. We just laughed and talked and laughed and talked and sang in between that ... It's good to know that two ladies of soul can still be friends."

—Houston, on her friendship and working with Mariah Carey.[17]

Carey co-wrote and co-produced the song "Whenever You Call" with longtime collaborator Walter Afanasieff for her album, Butterfly. However, in order to change the song's tempo and format, Carey decided to re-do the song as a duet with Brian McKnight, because she felt it was one of the best songs on Butterfly.[15] Carey had also expressed how McKnight's vocals added a great deal to the song, describing the project as "perfecting the song".[15] McKnight shared similar sentiments, saying, "It was amazing to go into the studio with someone who's so successful, and has that kind of track record. Mariah is someone who could ask anyone in the world to sing with her, and they called me. The album contains a duet with Whitney Houston ... it's just been great company to be in."[18]

One of the songs Carey recorded specifically for #1's was a cover of Brenda K. Starr's "I Still Believe" (1988) co-produced by Stevie J and Mike Mason. During the late 1980s Starr helped Carey secure a record contract while she worked as Starr's backup singer.[19] In the album's liner notes, Carey wrote that the purpose of the song was solely paying tribute to her. According to Carey, the song "reminds me of the fact that not long ago I was a teenage girl with nothing to my name but a demo tape, my voice, and my ability to write songs. Brenda K. Starr treated me like a 'star' and gave me a shot."[20] Another song Carey and Stevie J co-produced was a cover of, "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" (1975) by Diana Ross. The latter song was the third non-original song on the album, and experienced a limited release throughout few countries in Europe.[21] During a press release for the album, it was reported that an exclusive live version of "Hero" would be included.[17] However, the idea fell through and was never released.[22]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[23]
Robert Christgau (choice cut)[24]
Entertainment Weekly B−[25]
NME (1/10)[26]

The album received generally mixed reviews from music critics. #1's was awarded four and a half out of five stars from Heather Phares of Allmusic. Phares complimented the album's content, feeling the song selection was too commercial, but very strong.[23] Additionally, Phares wrote "Her career has been an extraordinary succession of number ones and record-breaking firsts in the music world, her entire album catalog has achieved RIAA multi-platinum status."[23] Phares also commented on the accompanying DVD, writing, "Interviews and interactive menus make #1s a better-than-average DVD video collection and one that will doubtlessly please Carey's legions of fans."[23] Mark Bautz, an editor from Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B-. Bautz felt that Carey's primary limitation was "wan, homogeneous songs" and that "hearing them months apart on the radio makes them passable, but strung together on #1s they're like a mile-long elevator ride." While criticizing the album for its song selection and content, he complimented the songs "My All" and the remix for "Fantasy", writing, "that said, though, Fantasy (with O.D.B.) and My All stand up as two of the best pop tunes of the '90s."[25] The album received a scathing review from Britain's NME magazine, with its critic writing:

"I fear Mariah Carey. Superficially, she might seem like a purveyor of saccharine bilge like 'Hero' ... But that's bullshit. You don't sell 90 million records unless you reserve that fluffybunny stuff for your sucker fans ... you gotta be cold-eyed, hard-boiled and have balls of steel ... She'll do whatever it takes. And her most fiendish weapon is the duet. If the MOR market needs servicing, she'll duet with Luther or Whitney ... If her contemporary edge needs sharpening, she'll hang with the Wu-Tang Clan ... If you're big in the R&B charts, like Brian McKnight, she'll be in there ... like a heat-seeking parasite. She don't give a fuck. She destroys competition by sucking them dry and spitting them out."[26]

In a review for Carey's 2001 album, Greatest Hits, Sal Cinquemani of Slant felt the album was solely a string of Carey's most commercial and popular hits, however, not her best. Cinquemani complimented Greatest Hits and wrote, "It seems like only yesterday that we were served with the self-congratulatory #1s, a collection of Carey's record-breaking string of chart-toppers, but the 27-track Greatest Hits is the singer's first proper hits compilation."[27] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau gave the album a "choice cut" rating, indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money; Some (choice cut)s are arbitrarily personal, others inescapably social."[24][28]

Chart performance[edit]

A 30-second sample of the song, featuring the gospel-inspired background vocals and last bridge.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

As executives at Columbia had done during the album's development, Eric Boehlert of Rolling Stone noted the importance of the release date of #1's and other albums on sale during the same period: "Artists who make a habit of hitting it big during the holiday shopping season are wise indeed, as sales traditionally skyrocket. This year is no exception."[20] Journalist and author Marc Shapiro, in his biography of Carey, attributed the album's high sales to the presence of new songs, writing:

"The consensus among the music press was that Mariah's insistence on including the new material made all the difference in increasing sales figures more than expected. Including some new with the old in a greatest-hits package had been tried from time to time by other artists with varying degrees of success, but with the triumph of #1's, it would become a regular element in nearly all future greatest-hits albums. As such packages go, #1's was a solid retrospective of Mariah's chart hits, but because these songs were oversaturating the radio, including a favorite nonhit album track or two might have made a nice change. The new songs were a definite bones even though none ever really rose to the spectacular level of her best ... they added up to a nice touch but little more."[20]

#1's was released in the same week as several other albums by high-profile musicians such as Garth Brooks, Jewel, Method Man, Ice Cube and Whitney Houston. MTV News called November 17 "what is shaping up to be the music industry's Super Tuesday ... most onlookers know that first week sales aren't everything, but they will also tell you that they are pretty darn important."[29] #1's entered the U.S. Billboard 200 at number four, with 221,000 copies sold in its first week.[9] In its sixth week of release (ending January 2) the album's weekly sales peaked at 360,000 copies. It remained in the top twenty for thirteen weeks and on the chart for sixty-two weeks (making two re-entries).[9] In Canada, #1's was certified triple-platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), denoting shipments of 300,000 copies.[30]

In Europe, the album experienced success, peaking within the top-ten in almost every major music market. By 2003, the album received a double-platinum certification by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), denoting shipments of two million copies throughout Europe.[31] In France, #1's was certified double-platinum, with estimated sales of 732,400 copies.[32] The album received a platinum certification in Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, where it shipped 600,000 copies.[33] #1's received a gold certification in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Aside from its success in Europe, the album experienced its highest sales in Japan (after the US), where it sold 3,250,000 copies in the first three months after its release.[34] In Japan, #1's remains the best-selling album in Japan by a non-Asian artist and is certified the triple-Million award.[34][35] The album was certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of five million copies throughout the United States.[36] According to Nielsen SoundScan, #1's has sold 3,798,000 copies in the US.[37][38]


Carey at the Edwards Air Force Base during the making of the "I Still Believe" music video on December, 1998.

"Sweetheart" was released as the album's lead single. In the US, due to the song's low radio airplay, "Sweetheart" only reached number twenty-five on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles.[20] Internationally, the song performed better, peaking within the top twenty in Germany and Switzerland. "When You Believe", the album's second single, was promoted as the first single from both The Prince of Egypt: Original Soundtrack and Houston's My Love Is Your Love. It was given a wider release than "Sweetheart" and achieved worldwide success. The song peaked within the top two in Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, and in the top five in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom.[39] In the UK, "When You Believe" became one of Carey's biggest successes, selling 260,000 units.[40] Despite reaching high positions around the globe, "When You Believe" performed moderately in the US, where it peaked at number fifteen.[39] Serving as the album's third single, "I Still Believe" performed stronger in the US than the album's previous singles, peaking at number four. The song was certified platinum in the United States, however performing weakly in other territories. "I Still Believe" performed well in Spain, where it peaked at number seven, and in Canada, where the song reached the top-ten.

"Whenever You Call" was considered for release as a single in mid-1999, but its promotion was cancelled due to the impending release of "Heartbreaker", the lead single from Carey's following album Rainbow.[20] "Do You Know Where You're Going To" was issued as a promotional single in Brazil and some parts of Europe during June.[9] The song performed weakly around the world, not charting in any major music market. In December 1999, Columbia released the video/DVD #1's, which contained music videos and recordings of live performances for the number one singles featured on #1's, as well as "Heartbreaker", which had gone to number one during that time.[9]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 1998, Carey received the World Music Awards for becoming the "World's Best Selling Recording Artist of the 1990s" as well as the award for "World's Best Selling R&B Artist".[41][42] Carey received the 1998 Billboard Music Award for Artist of the Decade.[43] At the 1999 BMI Music Awards, Carey took home the coveted Songwriter of the Year award.[43] "When You Believe" was nominated at the 2000 Grammy Awards for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Duo or Group.[43] Additionally, the song won the award for Best Original Song at the 71st annual Academy Awards.[44] After the album's release, Carey won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award in the category of Favorite Female Artist, and Entertainer of the Year at the Soul Train Music Awards.[43] #1's won a 1999 Japan Gold Disc Award for International Pop Album of the Year.[45]

Track listing[edit]

American edition
No. Title Lyrics Music Production Length
1. "Sweetheart" (featuring JD) (Previously unreleased, 1998)
  • Davis
  • Warner
2. "When You Believe" (with Whitney Houston) (from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, 1998)) Schwartz Babyface 4:36
3. "Whenever You Call" (with Brian McKnight) (Previously unreleased) Carey
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
4. "My All" (from Butterfly, 1997) Carey
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
5. "Honey" (from Butterfly) Carey
6. "Always Be My Baby" (from Daydream, 1995) Carey
  • Carey
  • Dupri
  • Seal (co.)
7. "One Sweet Day" (with Boyz II Men) (from Daydream)
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
8. "Fantasy" (featuring O.D.B.) (from Daydream)
  • Carey
  • Hall
  • Combs (remix)
9. "Hero" (from Music Box, 1993) Carey
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
10. "Dreamlover" (from Music Box) Carey
  • Carey
  • Hall
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Hall (co.)
11. "I'll Be There" (featuring Trey Lorenz) (from MTV Unplugged, 1992)
  • Davis
  • Gordy
  • Hutch
  • West
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
12. "Emotions" (from Emotions, 1991) Carey
  • Cole
  • Clivillés
  • Carey
13. "I Don't Wanna Cry" (from Mariah Carey, 1990)
  • Carey
  • Walden
Walden 4:49
14. "Someday" (from Mariah Carey)
  • Carey
  • Margulies
Ric Wake 4:08
15. "Love Takes Time" (from Mariah Carey)
  • Carey
  • Margulies
  • Carey
  • Margulies
Afanasieff 3:49
16. "Vision of Love" (from Mariah Carey)
  • Carey
  • Margulies
  • Carey
  • Margulies
17. "I Still Believe" (Previously unreleased)
  • Armato
  • Cantarelli
  • Jordan
  • Mike Mason
  • Carey

Album credits[edit]



Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[92] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[93] Platinum 50,000*
Brazil (ABPD)[94] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[95] 3× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[96] 2× Platinum 732,400[97]
Germany (BVMI)[98] Gold 250,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[99] 3× Million 3,250,000[34]
Netherlands (NVPI)[100] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[101] 2× Platinum 30,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[102] Gold 25,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[103] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[104] Platinum 80,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[105] Platinum 50,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[106] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[107] 5× Platinum 3,798,000[38]
Europe (IFPI)[108] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


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