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Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" Hits No. 1 25 Years After Its Initial Release
While the holiday marketing phrase "the gift that keeps on giving" has been around since at least the 1920s, the musical embodiment of this seasonal sentiment can be traced directly back to Oct. 28, 1994, when Mariah Carey released her iconic multi-platinum Merry Christmas album containing her inescapable holiday hit, "All I Want For Christmas Is You." However, instead of being a static nostalgic touchstone that harkens listeners back to a flannel-clad, Clinton-era Christmas of the ‘90s, Carey's ubiquitous yuletide love song has managed to continually build upon its own escalating legacy of pop culture domination season after season, resulting in this year's recently announced crowning achievement – for the first time in its 25-year existence, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" has hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This newest (and perhaps most impressive) accolade awarded to "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is actually Carey's nineteenth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that finds her leaving a second-spot tie with Elvis Presley to stand alone as being only one chart-topping single away from tying the Beatles at 20 No. 1 singles. To be clear, this is not the Billboard Holiday 100 chart (though "All I Want For Christmas Is You" has also sat atop that separate chart for 37 weeks since it was first created in 2011), but rather the actual Billboard Hot 100, where the 25-year-old Christmas classic beat out current non-holiday songs from The Weeknd, Post Malone, Lewis Capaldi, Lizzo and more.
As monumental as that milestone may be on its own, it turns out it's not even the only honor Carey's smash hit achieved this year. Just last month, Guinness World Records certified "All I Want For Christmas Is You" with three new world records that will appear in the 2020 Guinness Book of World Records: Highest-Charting Holiday (Christmas/New Year) Song On The Hot 100 By A Solo Artist, Most Streamed Track On Spotify In 24 Hours (by a female-identifying artist), and Most Weeks In The UK Singles Top 10 Chart For A Christmas Song.
Joining this year's assortment of accolades is another sonic souvenir to Carey's fans – a double-disc Deluxe Anniversary Edition of Merry Christmas that features the original 1994 album (including the international edition bonus track "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen") and a bonus disc of 18 Christmas-themed songs, remixes, and live tracks culled from various holiday seasons across her career. Additionally, Carey is offering a few different versions of the "All I Want For Christmas Is You" single across multiple mediums – including CD, cassingle, and vinyl (in both 7" and 12" versions).
This new reissue of Merry Christmas is a nice reminder of Carey's superstar talents, relentless creative work ethic, and hard-earned staying power. While she famously didn't want to record a Christmas album at first – thinking it was too early in her career to attempt such a legacy artist move – she completely dove headfirst into the deep end once she decided to commit. She meticulously combed through the Christmas canon to find just the right mix of sacred and secular classics to put her own spin on, outfitted the recording studio with Christmas decorations, co-produced the album, and even co-wrote a trio of new songs – "All I Want For Christmas Is You," "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)," and "Jesus Born on This Day" – with Walter Afanasieff, her longtime creative partner at the time who ended up co-writing over 20 songs with Carey, including some of her other massive number one hits like "Hero" and "One Sweet Day" with Boyz II Men.
While Carey's Merry Christmas has undoubtedly provided an omnipresent holiday soundtrack for the last two-and-a-half decades, the star of this year's reissue are the six live tracks from her Dec. 8, 1994 benefit concert at New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Notable at the time for being the first time Carey performed these songs from her recently released Merry Christmas album in front of an audience, now listening to these previously unreleased tracks provides a charming snapshot into Carey's early pre-pop diva career when her R&B and gospel roots oftentimes outshined her meticulously-crafted pop sheen.
While she unquestionably showcased her radio-ready talents right out of the gate, these St. John the Divine live versions of songs like "Silent Night," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Joy to The World" find Carey, her background singers, and a spirited choir (on the latter two) literally and figuratively taking the audience to church with their flawless melodic interplay, nuanced improvisations, and stirring vocal runs.
Even the live version of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" that opens the St. John the Divine performance finds Carey absolutely nailing the polished sections of the (then) new radio single, while still having some fun with the improvised vocal ad-libs that drive the outro vamp. Hearing this version 25 years after it was first performed not only reminds listeners of the proficient-yet-playful vocal theatrics of Carey's early work, but it also proves to be a really nice companion version to the original that offers a fresh take on the beloved classic. No matter if you've heard "All I Want For Christmas Is You" a thousand times or more, there's something energetically crisp about this early live version that makes it feel like you're hearing it for the first time.
It's hard to remember that with only three albums and a stellar live EP under her belt in 1994, many people (including Carey herself) were shocked to hear that she would be releasing a Christmas album. Even with the early successes of her multi-platinum self-titled debut album, her first four singles hitting No. 1, "Hero" becoming her signature song, and her mesmerizing performance on MTV Unplugged silencing her "studio creation" critics, Carey was still very much in the "proving ground" portion of her career at the time that Merry Christmas was released. However, as the last 25 years of merriment and milestones for "All I Want For Christmas Is You" has proven, Carey was right about the fact that recording a Christmas album was something that a more accomplished legacy artist would do – she just wasn't aware that she had already started to establish herself as one of the greats so early in her game-changing (and still ongoing!) career.