Pop Life

Notice: Mariah Carey Still Has More No. 1 Singles Than Elvis

Four years ago this week, Mariah Carey made music history by scoring the 18th No. 1 single of her career. Think about that for a second: If you're reading this, Mariah Carey has recorded more No. 1 singles than women you've had sex with (a lot more). What makes the feat even more incredible is that she beat the record for a solo artist set by a true pop music titan -- the King of rock and roll himself, Elvis Presley.

Well, probably, anyway. Elvis recorded a bunch of early singles before the Billboard "Hot 100" era, and most of them were double-sided 45s that contained two smash hits.

Some hardcore fans argue hard that Elvis only had 14 No. 1s, some say 17 and some say 18, depending on the friendless loser you're arguing with. Simply put, it was a different time, one that's hard to compare to Mariah's heyday.

Still, though: 18. That ain't bad. As far as the Associated Press was concerned, the Diva took down the King. Or did she?

Is there really any non-hilarious comparison to be made between the careers of these two top hitmakers? In 1956, Elvis drastically changed the course of popular culture all over the world. In 1994, Mariah drastically changed her hairstyle. Can it be seriously argued that Ms. Mimi is the bigger, better chart-topper?

Let's find out, shall we? We won't try to match up every hit each artist had -- that would be stupid, and we ain't got that kind of time. Instead, let's just compare the highlights to find out which hitmaker really reigns supreme.

Their First Time -- "Vision of Love" vs. "Heartbreak Hotel": A comparison between the two artists' first No. 1 hits is pretty much a slam-dunk win for the King. Not that "Vision of Love" was a bad introduction for Mariah, mind -- a smash-hit chart-topper on your first try out of the gate is pretty awesome. "Vision" featured everything that people love about her: A smooth R&B beat, her inhuman range and spandex clothes in the video.

But come on. Without "Heartbreak Hotel," "Vision of Love" would have never existed and Mariah would have never made it out of church. Singers are still getting laid by covering this song more than 50 years after it hit No. 1. "Heartbreak Hotel" sits at the head table at reunions of classic rock and roll records, and it's as well-known in Shanghai, China, as Memphis, Tennessee. Tally one for the King, and let's move on.

Score: Mariah 0, Elvis 1

The Comebacks -- "We Belong Together" vs. "Suspicious Minds": This matchup is more interesting. Both artists' careers stretch over decades, and they weren't always on top. In 2005, Mariah looked like she might be done after her movie megaflop Glitter and a bout of debilitating "exhaustion." Behind the Music was licking its chops.

But psyche! "We Belong Together" became her first No. 1 single in five years and spent 14 weeks at the top of the chart, netting her two Grammys. It was one of the biggest smashes of her career, a great song featuring superlative emoting that's ideal for singing along to on the radio.

"Suspicious Minds" was... a good Elvis song. Sure, it was a major milestone in his career. It was his first No. 1 in seven years, sealing his comeback from Hollywood hell. But it only spent one lousy week at the top of the charts, and it's got none of the paradigm-shifting spark of his early tunes. I'm giving this one to Mariah.

Score: Mariah 1, Elvis 1

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith