It is the morning after Halloween, and you just made your way to your local supermarket after a long night of indulging in various sweets. As per usual this time of year, you are greeted by cheerful Christmas music once the doors slide open. The positive holiday tunes permeate through the building, spreading optimistic lyrics like “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The seasonal section of the store is already embellished with Christmas décor, replacing the spooky products that stocked those same shelves just hours prior. As you make the trek to the freezer section to grab some milk, you hear it over the loudspeaker: the xylophone. That brain-rattling instrument chimes that familiar opener that you heard at the same establishment at the same time last year … and the year after that … and the year after that.
Suddenly, the ear-splitting banging of the mallets is replaced by the soft, angelic voice of Mariah Carey. You have heard that she “doesn’t want a lot for Christmas” — but that is okay. Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” has been severely overplayed during the Christmas season since the song’s 1994 release, but that does not make the track inherently terrible.
Ever since downloading Instagram four years ago, I have seen memes of Mariah Carey’s joyous Christmas carol spread around the platform the day after Halloween annually. Accounts on the social media site have distributed memes about the song’s repetitive use in retail stores during the holiday season, or how it is coming to plague our ears once more. This year, I have noticed a new crop of images emerge, this time showing Carey frozen in a block of cracked ice with the caption “she’s defrosting” emblazoned on top. However, these memes imply that Carey has only attained critical fame for her 1994 Merry Christmas album, when she has smashed many records and has garnered immense success from her other works.
Carey is considered one of the most celebrated female singer-songwriters of all time. She holds the record as the songwriter with the most weeks spent at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Chart, amassing a combined 77 weeks. Four singles from Carey’s self-named 1990 debut album were recognized by this honor, putting the then 21-year-old in an exclusive group of songwriters to have had four or more songs from one album inserted at the top position on the Billboard Hot 100. Four years prior, when Carey was only 17, she released her debut single, “Visions of Love,” becoming her first No. 1 hit single and launching the young artist straight to fame.
Carey has received numerous awards for her songwriting throughout her career, including winning the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Icon Award for Songwriting in 2012 and amassing 34 BMI Pop Music Awards for 21 different singles. Carey has also been nominated as a writer for Song of the Year twice at the prestigious GRAMMY Awards for her startup song “Vision of Love” and for “We Belong Together.” In 2018, the “Songbird Supreme” was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the name-sake song of the movie, The Star and in 2019 won the illustrious Ivor Novello Award for songwriting.
As established, Carey has had a career worth remembering for more than just her 1994 Christmas album. Carey has cemented a legacy stretching decades as a top performer in the singer-songwriter sphere, winning numerous awards and having nearly 20 of her singles reach the top of the Billboard charts. Despite her unrivaled success, she is not talked about for these accolades, but for an overplayed Christmas song.
That is a shame, because Carey is such a talented singer-songwriter. Carey has proven that she can hit notes of dramatically different pitches, digging deep to harmonize the lowest of low notes and the highest of high notes. She has demonstrated her vocal aptitude from the start with “Vision of Love,” where she managed to whistle a brilliantly loud note towards the end of the piece. Her 1991 hit “Emotions” is also an excellent showcase of Carey’s talents, with many artists trying — and failing — to reach the obscenely high notes that Carey whistled perfectly. Upon listening to this single for the first time, I thought the sections Carey magnificently played at such a ridiculously high octave at the beginning of the main melody were some autotune trick, but no — that was her real voice. Hitting notes at such a high octave is practically unheard of, with it being speculated that only legendary artist Prince was able to vocalize pitches even higher than that. To further put into perspective the absurdity of Mariah Carey’s singing ability, she can hit whistle notes all the way to C8, which is at the same vocal range as a bat’s screech!
As much as I would like to discuss more about Carey’s preposterous vocal range, let us return our attention to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” From what I can recall as I slid through pages of ice-cold Carey posts earlier this season, it has appeared that some have concluded that the overplayed nature of Carey’s holiday blast indicates that the song is of inadequate quality. However, I believe that while she does deserve credit for her other works and that her cover of the Christmas song has been played to death, it is still a great and catchy song. So catchy, in fact, that I listened to on repeat while writing this article like a mad man.
Like I said in the beginning, the xylophone that leads off the single is a tad annoying — but it mainly comes off that way for me because I am not a fan of the instrument. However, when Carey’s soprano voice jumps in, I completely gloss over the use of the irksome percussion instrument. Carey’s voice is so agile and light, providing an airy ambience to the start of the piece. The arrival of a cheerfully performed piano marks a tempo change staying at this new accelerative pace. The piano delivers one final exhilarating trill of festive notes before heading to the sidelines, marking the return of a much more upbeat Mariah Carey. The song is now less of an a cappella than it was in the beginning, adding a sleighbell and a tambourine to depict a snowy holiday environment. Backing vocalists imitate the festivity of Christmas carols who knock from door-to-door to wish neighbors a “Merry Christmas,” creating an inviting atmosphere to Carey’s cheerful piece. The single continues its merry ways all the way to its conclusion when, as expected, Carey hits a beautiful high note that makes the listener feel warm and cozy.
Barring from the bizarre inclusion of the xylophone, everything about Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is so energetic and lovely, I genuinely feel so at peace after listening to it. Do I believe it is the best song ever? No, but I do not think it deserves the hate it receives online just because of how overplayed it is over the holidays. The song follows Carey’s style of performance, which I think really benefits the piece. Other musicians have tried to cover the song over the years with much less success, and it is because they are not Mariah Carey. There are reasons why you do not hear My Chemical Romance’s parody of the song and that is because they fail to evoke the same overly cheerful and jubilant feelings Carey achieved in her version. Moral of the story? Stop hating on Mariah Carey!