“‘ All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey may be 26 years old, but it remains an essential Christmas song. In fact, it could even be bigger than ever. In December 2019, on the 25th anniversary of the song, for example, it finally won first place on the Billboard Hot 100.
By 2020, the song is likely to experience another great accolade. On December 4, the song should reach number one in the British single charts. The only competition is Ariana Grande, who was born the year before “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was released. This would be Carey’s third number one in the country and her first since her cover of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” with the Irish boyband Westlife in 2000.
These are, of course, by far not the only recordings the song has made. Carey has claimed that this song alone has earned her $60 million in royalties, and with over 16 million copies sold, it is the best-selling Christmas single by a female artist.
Some people would argue that it is the biggest and most listened to Christmas song ever. Although “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby has sold the most physical copies – 50 million, which officially makes it the best-selling song of all time – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” far surpasses it in a world of digital downloads, YouTube renditions and streams. For example, the song’s four most-watched YouTube videos have a combined 900 million views.
But why did “All I Want For Christmas Is You” beat rivals like “White Christmas”, “Last Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” (and other songs not entitled “[x]Christmas”)? In part, it’s because it rode one of the most powerful waves of nostalgia of the Internet ’90s.
For most of us, the idea of what a perfect Christmas looks like crystallizes at some point in our childhood. So it’s worth noting that “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is Spotify’s most-played Christmas song – and that, as Statista’s infographics show, the majority of Spotify users are between 25 and 34 years old. In other words: Users who either grew up with the song or had parents who grew up with the song.
The song also has a number of other advantages in the modern music landscape. For example, of the top 10 singles on the Billboard Holiday 100 (where the song is now number one), it is one of only two songs with a music video, making it a more popular YouTube selection.
Compare this to the song that is currently number 2 in this ranking, Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. The four most popular versions of this song (for which there is no music video) on YouTube have a total of about 90 million hits, ten times less than “All I Want For Christmas”.
What Mariah Carey also owes to the historical artists associated with the Christmas shortage is a strong following in the social media, and Carey has been involved with Christmas like no other artist on Twitter and Instagram.
For example, the artist is behind what has become known to her fans as “Not Yet Season. During this time, Carey responds to fans by asking if it’s time to stream her songs in October and November with “not yet…”.
In 2019, Carey then finished “Not Yet Season” with an Instagram sketch in which she changed from a Halloween costume to her full Christmas dress at midnight on November 1 following a Santa’s call – a sketch she re-enacted in 2020.
The fact that Carey associates herself with Christmas on Twitter probably gives her an advantage over other social media savvy living artists with Christmas carols in the Christmas charts, such as Kelly Clarkson (whose “Underneath the Tree” is number 11 on the Holiday 100) and Ariana Grande (number 21 with “Santa Tell Me”).
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In 2019, for example, she used the word “Christmas” 41 times in tweets, compared to Clarkson’s five and Grande seven. Even Michael Buble, the male artist who is probably the king of Carey’s role as Queen of Christmas, only got nine mentions.
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Then, of course, there is the song itself, of whose catchiness thousands of words have already been written. For example, the co-author of the song said to ASCAP: “The oversimplified melody made it easily palatable to the whole world: ‘Oh, I can’t get that out of my head!
Meanwhile, songwriting professor Ben Camp said in a vice article: “Not only is the sound of the instrument [the introductory chime]safe and warm, but the melody it plays is safe.
“It outlines the tonic chord – musically speaking, the keynote of the song. Then we hear exactly the same melody, which tells us that we are comfortably at home again. But this time it is Mariah’s sweet voice, which she sings behind her with church bells and rousing strings.
But Nielsen music analyst Dave Bakula summed it up best when he told The New York Times: “There are the classics – the standards that everyone grew up with – and then there are the reinterpretations or new originals. Mariah lives in this sweet spot of both”.
Not bad for a song that Carey said she wrote in an hour while watching the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life.