’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Fantasy”

The ninety-third No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. This upbeat single was the ninth of Carey’s 18 chart-toppers, and the lead off Carey’s fourth non-holiday studio album, Daydream. “Fantasy” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 1, becoming the second single in history to do so, just four weeks after Michael Jackson was the first with “You Are Not Alone.” Logging eight weeks at the apex, “Fantasy” turned out to be the longest-running No. 1 song of the year, if you don’t count “One Sweet Day,” which began its record-breaking 16-week run in December 1995. “Fantasy” was a hit across formats, performing well on the Dance, R&B/Hip-Hop, Adult Contemporary and Top 40 charts.

“Fantasy” closely resembles “Dreamlover,” the lead single off Carey’s third album, Music Box, in its tempo (101-102 BPM), theme (longing for a surreal/imagined love), use of sampling, and simple two-chord structure. Hip-Hop scholars credit “Fantasy” for breaking ground by featuring rap verses by Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard in its remix. The pairing of glamorous songbirds with gritty rappers would become trite in the years to come, but it was novel in 1995. The remix gained some play on MTV, and it appears instead of the original on both of Carey’s #1’s greatest hits compilations, but the original is the one with which most people are familiar.

Let’s revisit “Fantasy”:

There’s a lot of joy in this recording, if not a lot of innovation. With the bed of the song so simple, seesawing back and forth between G and Em from start to finish, there’s not much to maintain any interest other than the melody, lyrics and Carey’s performance, all of which are commendable — not transcendent, but good enough. The video is a happy romp through Rye Playland near Long Island, where Carey grew up. It was the first video Carey directed.

Coming off the tremendous success of Music Box, Carey had everyone waiting with bated breath for Daydream. With the help of “Fantasy” as a strong first single, Daydream went on to sell almost as much as Music Box.

Does it hold up? Of the dozens of tracks in Carey’s impressive catalog of hit singles, her No. 1 hits have endured especially well because they’ve been repeatedly categorically separated from the pack due to her record-breaking accumulation of them, 18 in all as of this writing. She’s parlayed this record (for a female artist) into two compilation albums as well as a Vegas residency, where she performed her chart-toppers in order, and nothing more. Among those No. 1 hits, we’d say “Fantasy” is probably in the middle of the pack in terms of its endurance. It’s not thought of as Classic Mariah a laVision Of Love,” “Hero” or “We Belong Together,” but it’s more widely remembered and appreciated than some of her other No. 1 hits like “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” “Thank God I Found You” and “Don’t Forget About Us.”

Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks


Mariah Carey
8 weeks at No. 1, starting Sept. 30, 1995
Preceded by: “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Coolio f/ L.V.
Followed by: “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” Whitney Houston

’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?


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