Mariah Carey, the Queen of Christmas
Every year, since 1994, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" reminds us who's the Queen of Christmas
Writing a hit song can be hard. Writing a Christmas hit song can be impossible.
However, in my opinion, there’s only one woman in this world who’s done both and her name is Mariah Carey.
Every year, since 1994, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” reminds us who’s the Queen of Christmas, the genius who makes us sing with the heart full of joy wherever we are: because you know that when that song starts playing, you just can’t stop singing and it’s like you’re possessed by an alien force (I also had to take a break just right now to dance for a moment near my desk).
If the question is: How she did it?
Then, the answer is that we don’t know the answer.
In 1994, Carey’s music label Columbia Records saw the idea of a Christmas album as an opportunity to expand her audience, even if her third album, Music Box, had great success. Carey was reluctant but she agreed and wrote “Merry Christmas” album with Walter Afanasieff: it features cover versions of 8 popular Christmas songs and two original tracks, “Jesus Born on This Day” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.
The album was critically acclaimed and became the second best-selling holiday album of the year. Of the two original songs, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was the hit: it’s one of the 15 best-selling singles of all time, reaching the top of the holiday charts. This week the song rises on the Hot 100 singles chart once again, earning Carey about $60 million dollars in royalties to date.
Maybe this lasting success has a million reasons or none of them.
The song’s success can be attributed to the Key of G Major that makes us feel happy, peaceful and satisfied. And the cowbells work just the same, exploding before the second verse and bringing us in the Christmas Spirit. This song makes us “feel at home” just because Mariah is one of us, a romantic girl just wanted his boyfriend for Christmas. It’s not a triumph of banality but the exaltation of purest feelings.
And is that not the key to success of a pop song?
Musicologist Nate Sloan said that the song became a holiday hit because of its unusual and playful structure without a real chorus: the first verse, he explains “is a nice trick. But it might not be so effective if the chordal structure of the song wasn’t supporting this idea of building to a reveal”. This leaves us in suspension: so, we’re waiting to know what Mariah wants for Christmas and, finally, she reveals “You” with her soulful vocal accompanied by joyful cowbells and the sweetest melody of all.
“You” is Tommy Mottola, the CEO of Sony and Carey’s then-husband: he also makes a cameo appearance as Santa Claus in the amazing music video of the song, features 90s diy footage of Carey during the holiday season.
Compared to other holiday songs, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has the power to drag us into the real Christmas Spirit, full of joy and levity: no sadness, no melancholy, no gift or family anxiety.
Since 1994, every Christmas, she rules the world with this song: