This Motown-flavored song has a simple message: Mariah Carey is not concerned about all the paraphernalia of Christmas - she just wants to be with her man.
This was co-written and co-produced by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, who started off as Whitney Houston's arranger and has co-produced and co-written many of Carey's hits, including "One Sweet Day" and "Hero." He also won a 1999 Grammy award for co-producing Celene Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."
Carey and Afanasieff wrote it in the summer of 1994, with him coming up with musical ideas on a piano while she developed the melody and lyrics. They set out to write an uptempo Christmas track in the style of Phil Spector's girl group productions of the '60s (Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" comes to mind). They achieved their goal, creating a very fun and memorable song, although Afanasieff worried it was too basic.
He told ASCAP in 2014: "It's a very simple arrangement. In fact, it's so simple that at the time I thought it was overly simple and I really didn't like it. Music people know: 'bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah'... it's almost a practice interval. So, keeping that tradition and then the oversimplified melody I guess made it so easily palatable for the whole world to go, 'Oh, I can't get that out of my head.'"
In terms of airplay (at least in America), this is by far the most successful Christmas song written after 1963, when Bing Crosby recorded "Do You Hear What I Hear?." The most popular holiday songs on American radio were all written between 1934-1963, with "Sleigh Ride" (1948), usually the most-played.
"All I Want For Christmas Is You" was not released as a commercial single, serving instead to drive sales of Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas album. On airplay, the song made #12 US in 1994 when it was first issued to radio stations as a promotional single. It returned to the Airplay chart at #35 each of the next two years, establishing a place on holiday playlists. By 1999, the Hot 100 no longer stipulated that a song had to be sold as a single to be eligible, and with airplay now a factor, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" made the chart at #83.
In 2010, the song found a new audience when a version by Big Time Rush (as "All I Want For Christmas") made #124. In 2011, it nicked the charts with recordings by Justin Bieber & Mariah (#86), Michael Bublé (#99), and the Glee Cast (#118). There is one modern Christmas song that has beat this one for US chart position: Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" made #11 in 2011.
In the UK, the chart positions are even more impressive. It was prevented from being the 1994 Christmas #1 by "Stay Another Day" by East 17. Thanks to downloads (our friends in the UK tend to buy a lot of music around Christmas), the song made #4 in 2007, #12 in 2008, #18 in 2009 and #22 in 2010. We can't declare it the most successful UK Christmas song of the modern era because "Do They Know It's Christmas?" has made #1 in some form three times since 1984.
In December 2006 this became the first ringtone to achieve a RIAA Gold certification for sales of over 500,000. The next year, the ringtone was certified Platinum for a million, then Double Platinum for 2 million in 2009.
The ringtone far outsold sales of the single, which wasn't issued until it was available digitally on iTunes and other services in 2003. The digital single was certified Gold in 2005.
Vince Vance & the Valiants released a completely different song called "All I Want For Christmas Is You" in 1989. That one, which was written by Troy Powers and Andy Stone, has a similar sentiment, but more of a country vibe. It made a few appearances on the Country chart around Christmas time in the '90s.
Carey hits a lot of Christmas clichés in the lyric, including mistletoe, Santa, reindeer and the North Pole, but she found some fresh powder. The song's co-writer Walter Afanasieff explained: "She created a lyric that probably, to this day, is the only uptempo Christmas love song. I think people like this positive love song because it's interchangeable: Anybody can sing it to anybody. It's about everybody, and it can only mean one thing from father to child or mother to child or wife to husband. It's just, 'All I Want For Christmas Is You.'"
The music video, shot to look like a home movie, shows Carey cavorting with Santa in the snow. It was directed by Diane Martel, who also did Carey's "Dreamlover" video and later directed the Robin Thicke video for "Blurred Lines."
Speaking with PopSugar in 2017, Carey recalled how the wintry video caused damage to her locks. "I was actually in the snow, that's not something that was created," she said. "It was freezing in that one-piece ensemble, [my] hair was frozen – and I remember it like it was yesterday."
Most of the music on this track was programmed on a computer by Walter Afanasieff, who handled the bass, drums, keyboard, and assorted festive sound effects, like the jingling bells. Dann Huff added guitar, and Carey was backed on vocals by Melonie Daniels and the sisters Kelly and Shanrae Price. The backup singers all had a gospel background.
Carey was married to Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola when this was released. In his book Hitmaker, Mottola claims that she initially balked at doing a Christmas album, since she thought it would damage her hip-hop credibility. When she saw the now-famous cover with her dressed in Santawear, she said, "What are you trying to do, turn me into Connie Francis?"
This became Carey's first chart-topper in Japan, where it sold over a million units.
Justin Bieber recorded a cover of this song for his 2011 Under the Mistletoe album. He originally cut the song in a lower range, before Carey suggested that they record it as a duet, with the Canadian teen star reverting his vocals to her original key. However, Bieber's voice broke just before he hit the studio, which made it the hardest track on the album for him to record. "Yes, that was high," the Biebster told Billboard magazine. "But I grinded it out and we got it down."
The video for this duet shows Mariah in a skimpy Santa outfit showing off how well she recovered her form after having twins. The clip, chock full of product placement, shows Beiber and Carey in a department store setting, although most of the shots have them appearing separately. Carey is very particular about how she appears on screen, and if you look carefully, you'll see that her shots have a different video treatment than Bieber's. Mariah prefers a look created by shooting at double speed and then slowing it down in post production, generating a nice film effect. This means she has to sing at double speed, and also might explain why in the shots at the end, we don't see Justin doing any "singing."
A cover by child star Olivia Olsen was used at the climax of the 2003 holiday feel-good film Love Actually.
The Merry Christmas album sold 3 million copies by the end of 1994, and another million by the end of 1996, in large part because you had to buy it to get the song. It was certified at 5 million in 2003, the same year the song was first sold as a digital single. This makes it one of the best-selling Christmas albums ever released, and along with offerings by Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand that have also cleared 5 million, one of the biggest by a female artist. The top-selling Christmas album of all time is Elvis' Christmas Album, with over 10 million.
A children's picture book inspired by and featuring all the lyrics of this song was published on November 10, 2015. The All I Want For Christmas Is You book recounts the story of a Mariah-esque little girl, whose greatest Christmas wish is for a new puppy.
In 2017, an animated film based on the song was also released.
An English farmer named Angus Wielkopolski discovered that goats produce more milk listening to this tune than any other song. The discovery was made at St. Helen's farm near York where staff listen to music while they milk the cows. They found that the goats produced up to half a pint more when Carey's famous Christmas track was played. We hope they don't play Herman's Hermit's "No Milk Today" for the goats!
In March 2015, Mariah Carey became the first rider on James Corden's Carpool Karaoke. The bit became wildly popular, and in December, Carey returned to sing "All I Want For Christmas Is You," but interspersed with footage of Carpool Karaoke guests singing along, including Lady Gaga, Elton John, Nick Jonas (St. Nick?), Adele, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Chris Martin and Gwen Stefani. With about 30 million views on YouTube, it sent the song once again into the Hot 100, this time placing it at #11, topping its original placement of #12 in 1994.
The conservative magazine The Weekly Standard devoted the cover story of their December 21, 2015 issue to "The debasement of Christmas songs," with this track cited as a prime offender. "'All I Want' is a bit of musical misdirection, a love song swaddled in Christmas clothes (velvet miniskirt, Santa cap)," Andrew Ferguson wrote. "The seasonal references to reindeer and snow and Santa and Christmas trees are used as a means to convey the singer's earthier, and less Christmassy, need for a hunk-a hunk-a burning love."
"All I Want For Christmas Is You" amassed 10.82 million streams on Spotify on December 24, 2018, breaking the single-day record for streams in the platform. The record had previously been held by XXXTentacion's "Sad!," which had 10.4 million streams on the day after the rapper's passing.
Camille from Toronto, OhAhhh...Mariah, Mariah. I did not know until this month, December 2018, that she wrote lyrics. The song became an instant classic and everyone is familiar with the flirty & fun photo of her in the Santa garb on her album cover. To top it all off, she and Merry Christmas share the same initials.
Coy from Palestine, TxI agree with James, this song was ripped off. It is a very close copy of the song by Vince Vance and Valiants which came out in 1992. Carey and a big corporation (Sony) ripped off the title and even some of the words are similar. The song by Vince Vance and sung by Lisa Layne is a better Christmas song.
Ce from Miami, Flthe vince vance song is horrible.i like the one by mariah carey much better!
Carrie from Roanoke, VaThe Vince Vance song is nice, but wanting a significant other for Christmas isn't really an original idea, so Carey didn't "steal" the song. There are plenty of songs out there with the same title.
James from Ft. Worth Tx., TxMariah Carey is a rip off. This title and song was released in 1992 by Vince Vance and The Valiants and sung by the incredible Lisa Layne. Written by Andy Stone and Troy Powers of Dallas Tx. Its a damn shame that Ms. Carey was able to use the same words as a title for her song. Her lyrics are different. The Vince Vance song is my preference.
Louise from Newcastle, United KingdomAww, this is one of my favourite christmas songs. People tend to download it in their thousands in December.