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How did Mariah Carey follow up the then-longest-leading No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100’s history, “One Sweet Day,” with Boyz II Men?

Only with another No. 1.

Twenty-five years ago, on the Hot 100 dated May 4, 1996, Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” ascended from No. 2 to No. 1, bringing her back to the summit after “Day” had reigned for a then-unprecedented 16 weeks beginning in December 1995. (To date, no song by a woman has spent more time at No. 1, while the overall record now belongs to Lil Nas X’s 19-week 2019 smash “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.)

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“Day” followed the first single from Carey’s 1995 album Daydream, “Fantasy,” which ruled the Hot 100 for eight weeks starting that September. As “Baby” added a second total week on top, Carey ran up a run of 26 weeks at No. 1 with songs from Daydream, still the record for an album by a woman. In 2018, Drake set the current mark among all artists, with three leaders from Scorpion dominating for a combined 29 weeks.

“Baby” also became Carey’s 11th Hot 100 No. 1, tying her at the time with Whitney Houston and Madonna for the most among women. When “Honey,” from 1997’s Butterfly, soared in atop the chart dated Sept. 13, 1997, Carey claimed the mark among women all to herself, which she’s yet to relinquish. She now sports 19 No. 1s, having earned her latest, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (originally released the year before “Baby”), in 2019. Only The Beatles boast more No. 1s overall (20), while Carey now outpaces Rihanna (14), Madonna (12) and Houston (11) among solo women.

Mirroring the essence of its title, in 2018, Billboard’s editorial staff placed “Baby” atop the list of Carey’s 100 greatest songs, while this March she unveiled a reinterpreted version for HBO Max’s The Runaway Bunny. To date in the U.S., according to MRC Data, the original has sold 1.2 million downloads and drawn 432 million streams and 6.5 billion in total radio audience reach.

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