Christmas Songbook Day 9: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

The OG version. Keep your Biebers away from this song.

Yep, we’re doing this.

So I’m pretty sure I remember exactly where I was when I first heard this song. It was November/December 1994. I was sleeping over at a friend’s house. In the morning, over breakfast, I listened to his younger sister and her best friend (whom I would later have a bit of a crush on) obsessing over Mariah Carey’s new Christmas album. I was admittedly more intrigued by the album artwork, because I was a 14-year-old boy in need of sanctification.

Over that Christmas and the next, every time I heard this song, I would think about that girl (the sister’s friend) whom I grew to admire from a distance and only got the courage to ask out once (to Homecoming–about a day after someone else asked her out). I will admit, to my great embarrassment, that no small amount of overwrought poetry was written in her honor.

The lyrics of this song are saccharine-sweet, pure teenage exuberance — essentially, I don’t want presents or treats or toys, I just want you, you would make my Christmas wish come true, oh baby baby baby. (I guess it makes sense that Justin Bieber eventually intruded into this song.)

I can imagine that Mariah Carey eventually got tired of singing this song for 30 years. (Or maybe not. Let’s be real, the royalties off this track alone have probably set her up for life financially.) I doubt anyone (Carey included) anticipated that it would become a cultural touchstone during the Christmas season, both deeply loved and also much maligned.

Personally, I don’t get why the track inspires the vitriol it sometimes does. Of course, it’s cheesy; so is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” and you don’t see people freak out when Little Michael and his brothers start belting that out.

Maybe I’m just prone to enjoy cheesy music more than the average person. The whole “Whampocalypse” thing makes me chuckle, too, because “Last Christmas” is obviously silly and shallow but I’m not going to get mad about it. (There are only a few Christmas songs that really get under my skin; and yes, Michael, I am going to address that particular one before the month’s out.)

So hey, if you love the Mariah Carey track, or if you hate it, you have to at least acknowledge that it’s super catchy, it’s easily singable, and it’s got a degree of timeless wholesomeness that has kept it around for the last 3 decades.

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Since you know how much I adore unique covers, I’ll leave you with two for this song.

The first, by (4thDaveBlog favorite) Alex Melton, plays up the overwrought emotion with an emo-pop-punk take on the track:

And the second, from the criminally under-appreciated Jamie Cullum, brings a jazzy playfulness to the song that I really love:

2 thoughts on “Christmas Songbook Day 9: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

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