From its appearance in the iconic noughties, romcom Love Actually to the backdrop of countless Christmas ads, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has long been cemented in most people’s minds as a staple of the season. The song is such a holiday classic that we rarely stop to think about its story.
Of course, it all starts with the artist, and in this case, we have American singer, songwriter, actress, and all-around star Mariah Carey.
Born in New York, Carey Rose to fame during the ‘90s when her first five singles all reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, she then went on to have a successful film career alongside her career as a musician, appearing in a handful of Hollywood movies over the years, such as Glitter, The Star, and The Lego Batman Movie.
Writing A Christmas Hit
It all started when Carey and her management at Colombia Records decided to put together a Christmas Album. While there was some reluctance on the team due to worries that this might signal a downward turn in Carey’s popularity, Carey and her co-songwriter Walter Afanasieff began working on material anyway.
The album ultimately released was a mixture of new material and classic Christmas covers. So, on the one hand, you had classics like “O Holy Night” and “Santa Clause Is Comin’ To Town,” while at the same time, the album also featured three original songs: “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time),” “Jesus Born This Day,” and, of course, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
The track itself was written in something of a whirlwind. Written and recorded in August 1994, it was composed by Carey and Afanasieff in around 15 minutes. Carey recorded the vocals to which Afanasieff then spent a couple of months composing a full backing. Initially, he attempted to bring in a full orchestra but found that this didn’t suit the song’s tone. So ultimately, he took it in a much more digital direction, programming in all the instruments himself, an approach that was far less common in the ‘90s than it is now.
The Long Road To The Top
Suffice it to say that the audience’s reaction to the song was explosive. People loved it for its powerful and daring vocals and its catchy, upbeat melody. It was initially ineligible for the Billboard Hot 100 because it was never released as a single in a physical format, but it reached #6 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary chart.
From there, the song went through a couple of decades of chart controversy. Allowed in 1998 (when the ruling about physical formats was finally relaxed), the song could not peak any higher than its 2000 score due to being a “recurrent single.” However, in 2012 the ruling on recurrent singles was also relaxed, leading to the song finally breaking through into the top thirty (in 2013), top ten (in 2017), and finally hitting the number one spot on the 21st of December 2019.
Although it took a long time to gain its rightful place atop the Christmas charts, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has always been a beloved Christmas track. Ever since Christmas 1994, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has been an inescapable part of the season, and it doubtless will be for many years.