25 Years of ‘Merry Christmas’

25 Years of ‘Merry Christmas’

In the fall of 1994, Mariah Carey released her first holiday album, Merry Christmas. It was an unexpected move for a young and relatively new artist, especially one as successful as Mariah was. In just four years, she had sold over 75 million albums and earned eight No. 1 hits, and at that time, only one of her 12 singles had failed to crack the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In short, she was a beast and showed no signs of slowing down.

As with almost everything she has ever done, Merry Christmas was met with mixed reviews, but real ones know not to trust a critic. Mariah’s take on the traditional carols like “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night” are among the best you will ever hear, as are her covers of modern classics like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” However, it is her original Christmas chunes that really stand out.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think “Jesus Born on This Day” was written in the 1400s, but it was actually written by Mariah and her writing partner at the time, Walter Alfanasieff. And then there’s “Miss You (Most at Christmas Time),” a ballad good enough for consumption all year long.

And last but not the least, the juggernaut: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (a.k.a. Mariah’s 401k plan). The song, whose lyrics Mariah wrote in 15 minutes, sounds like a cover of something from the ’60s, and that is perhaps what makes it feel so timeless. As of 2019, it has become the quintessential Christmas song, which is remarkable, considering that we already had a long-established canon of holiday hits.

Following its initial release, “All I Want” didn’t chart for many years because Hot 100 rules at the time required a physical single issuance to qualify. However, the song was popular on the radio, and would become even more popular over the years, thanks in part to a feature in the 2003 romantic comedy, Love Actually.

Between the constant airplay, covers by other artists, and use in movies and commercials, “All I Want” is now unavoidable. And this past week, a whole 25 years after its release, the song has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time, becoming Mariah Carey’s 19th No. 1 hit — extending her record among solo acts, bringing her within reach of the Beatles’ 20, and setting a variety of new records.

For a woman who has been through hell many times over and whose new music is wholly ignored, this is a hell of a victory and a testament to the fact that you can’t keep a good woman down.

To mark the song’s 25th anniversary, Mariah released a new video for “All I Want” this past Friday, and it is surprisingly good — music videos have not been her strong suit in recent years. Watch the new clip below.

In the two days since the video dropped, it has been watched over 8.5 million times on YouTube alone, which guarantees that “All I Want” will be spending a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the 25 years since its release, “All I Want” has made over $60 million dollars in royalties and keeps coming back for the bag year after year. It is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving — to us, the music fans, but especially to Mariah and her bank account.

Merry Christmas has sold over 16 million copies and is the highest-selling holiday album of all time. Every other holiday album ever since has basically tried to recreate its magic, and largely to no avail. The album is truly in a league of its own.

As with every other album retrospective, a favorite must be named, and you know what? I’m really happy for “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and I’ma let it finish, but “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)” is actually the best song on Merry Christmas (and the best holiday song Mariah ever made). If you haven’t heard this one before, thank me later.

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