All I Want For Christmas Is You: History, How Much Mariah Carey Makes Every Year, And More

 Maria didn't want to record the song

There aren't many artists who had a better year than Mariah Carey. Following the success of the previous year's Music Box, she was named top female solo artist by Billboard, after which she released one of the few original Christmas classics since the '60s.

It's safe to say that Carey was unstoppable in the early '90s, but couldn't deliver a hit Christmas song. At the time, listeners weren't knocking down record labels' doors for new Christmas tunes. Still, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" found an audience in 1994, and that was just the beginning. Over the course of the next 25 years, the single became more popular due to smart placement in films and continued seasonal radio play. The song has gone platinum multiple times, been covered by artists all over the music industry, and has even inspired goats to make the best cheese of their lives. This is the incredible story of "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

As with all Campbellian hero tales, Mariah Carey did not want to accept her call to greatness. When she heard that her label wanted her to record a Christmas album, she declined. At the time, no one was recording Christmas albums unless they were over the art hill. Her then-husband and head of Sony Records, Tommy Mottola, had to convince her to record the album.

He wrote the song on a dinky little keyboard

Speaking about the song with Good Morning America in 2023, Carey explained that she wrote the song on a small Casio keyboard while thinking about the true meaning of Christmas:

I was working on it alone... 
on this little Casio keyboard and 
writing words and thinking, '
What do I think about at Christmas? 
What do I like? What do I want?
 'What do I dream?' And it started from there.

The song was created quickly

All of Mariah Carey's wishes for Christmas had to end with this song. He and co-writer Walter Afanasieff spent about 15 minutes performing the song in Carey's home studio in August 1994. Afanasieff said of his time at the studio:

A Christmas tree and lights were
brought into the studio to get us
in the mood. At one point there
was talk of bringing some ice,
but thank God,we didn't 
go with that.

After getting the song down on paper, Carey and Afanasieff recorded it by themselves without a band, and composed all the music on studio computers.

This track was inspired by Phil Spector's Christmas album

One of the reasons "All I Want for Christmas Is You" became an instant classic is that it doesn't sound like it belongs to any specific era. In '94, Carey was the queen of ballad-heavy, pop R&B, but her Christmas single was reminiscent of '60s girl groups like The Ronettes, something audiences didn't expect in the era of Boyz II Men and Soundgarden. Was. Carey and Afanasieff were inspired by Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, so when Afanasieff sat down at the piano, he began playing as if he were part of Spector's band. He told Billboard:

I started playing some rock 'n' 
roll piano and started playing boogie 
woogie with my left hand. And 
that inspired Mariah to come up 
with the sweet song [sings], 'I don't 
want much for Christmas.' And then 
we started singing and playing this 
rock 'n' roll boogie song, which 
immediately became the center of
'All I Want for Christmas Is You'.

No one thought the song would be such a hit

At the time, the songwriters had no idea that their slapdash song would hit the charts, especially not for two decades. Afanasieff said:

[When the song was released],
Christmas music and Christmas albums
 by artists were not as big a deal 
as they are today. At that time, you 
didn't have a lot of artists with 
Christmas albums; At that time it
 was not a known science at all, 
and there was no one who created 
new, big Christmas songs. So 
we were just going to release it like 
every day, 'Hey, you know, we're 
putting out a Christmas album. No 
big deal.' To think of it as a 
Single going to No. 1
 that would lead
 to an album... we had no idea.

The beating that keeps on giving

Would we still be talking about this song if it weren't so freaking good? It is not that if a song is bad then it remains for decades, but still it is shocking how that song remains a banger year after year. As popular as it was at the time of its debut, it actually did not reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 until 2019, 25 years after its release. Every December, the song slowly returns to the charts, earning over half a million dollars between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. Regarding the song's enduring success, Afanasieff says:

I've been lucky enough to write 
several hits with Mariah Carey like '
Hero' and 'One Sweet Day', but '
All I Want for Christmas Is You' 
is tops. I never thought this would
be something we'd still be talking 
about 20 years later, but I'm glad
 we are. It certainly helped feed and
 clothe my three children.

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