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Merry Christmas (Mariah Carey album)

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Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas Mariah Carey.png
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 28, 1994 (1994-10-28)
RecordedDecember 1993 – August 1994
StudioThe Hit Factory, New York City
GenreChristmas
Length39:31
LabelColumbia
Producer
Mariah Carey chronology
Music Box
(1993)
Merry Christmas
(1994)
Daydream
(1995)
Singles from Merry Christmas
  1. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
    Released: October 28, 1994
  2. "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)"
    Released: November 1994
  3. "Joy to the World"
    Released: November 27, 1995

Merry Christmas is the first Christmas album, and the fourth studio album, by American singer-songwriter and producer Mariah Carey. Released by Columbia Records on October 28, 1994, at the peak of the initial stretch of Carey's career, between Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995), the album features cover versions of popular Christmas tunes and original material. Carey worked with Walter Afanasieff, with whom she wrote all of the original tracks, as well as producing Carey's interpretations of the covered material. Three singles were released from the album, of which "All I Want for Christmas Is You" went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time and the best-selling holiday ringtone in the United States.

Critical response to the album's contemporary holiday theme was mixed. Some music critics complimented the "gospel and soul-inflected" vocals and even called it "Carey's best record" to date. Re-released on multiple occasions in various formats since its debut, the album has sold 5.7 million copies in the United States as of December 2019 and has been certified eight-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[1] Internationally, it reached number one in Japan, Latvia and Lithuania; as well as the top-ten in 16 other countries, including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

On November 1, 2019, a new two-disc edition was released featuring live renditions, newer songs like "Oh Santa!" and "The Star", and numerous remixes in commemoration of the album's twenty-fifth anniversary.

Merry Christmas has sold 15 million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time.[2]

Background[edit]

Carey has expressed her belief in God and her connection between music and spirituality, and felt the album was finally a way to portray her mysticism into music.[3] After the success of Carey's previous effort, Music Box, there was speculation of a new project in the works; however it was not until October 1994, only one month before the album's release, that Billboard announced Carey would be releasing a holiday album for the Christmas season.[4] Initially, critics were shocked; they did not know how Carey would fare as an entertainer, as she had previously only been viewed as a pop star.[3] Nevertheless, Carey, unaffected by the speculation, continued working on, and promoting the album in high spirits, confident in her work.[3] The idea proved to be wise, earning Carey recognition in various markets including Christian radio and contemporary R&B stations, as well as extended her fame in Japan, where the album experienced much of its success.[3]

Conception and composition[edit]

Throughout the album's development, Carey worked extensively with Walter Afanasieff, with whom she collaborated extensively on Emotions (1991) and Music Box (1993).[3] Together, they wrote all three of the album's original songs, as well as producing most of the traditional tracks at The Hit Factory, in New York.[3]

Merry Christmas boasted a variety of musical arrangements, sounds and genres. Carey's goal was to provide an album that would have a "Christmas feel", providing a mixture of soulful tracks, as well as fun and joyous holiday treats.[3] The song "Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child", produced by Carey, Afannasief, and Holland, was described as an arrangement of a traditional gospel standard that "really took flight". The song was recorded in a church, with many live back-up singers and children playing tambourines and other melodious instruments.[4] The goal was to produce a "real church flavored song", in which Loris Holland played the keyboards and allowed Carey's voice to "cut loose".[4] According to Chris Nickson, Carey's love of gospel music came through on the track, writing, "[she] led the band without pushing herself forward, letting the song develop and work out, trading lines with the chorus until, after the crescendo, the musicians moved into a fast double time to the end."[4]

"You have to have a nice balance between standard Christian hymns and fun songs. It was definitely a priority for me to write at least a few new songs, but for the most part people really want to hear the standards at Christmas, no matter how good a new song is."

—Carey, describing Merry Christmas during an interview with CD Review[4]

"All I Want for Christmas Is You", the album's lead single, was described as an "up-tempo love song, one that could have easily been written for Tommy Mottola".[4] "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)", another one of the album's original tracks, was very different from its whimsical predecessor. The song was described as a "sad ballad", in line with many of Carey's previous hit singles.[4] The song featured a synthesized orchestra, including keyboard notes courtesy of Afanasieff, during which Carey would sing to her "long-gone lover, crystallizing the way that Christmas brought memories of the past into focus."[4] According to Nickson, it was "Jesus Born on This Day", that was the most impressive original track on the album. It was described as a "full-blown production number", which again featured synthesized orchestra, as well as a live children's choir.[4] The song's tune was described as "solemn and hymn-like, but the arrangement, oddly, made it less religious and rather more glitzy, behind the lyrics that overtly praised Jesus."[4]

In addition, Carey recorded a cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love, as well as classics such as "Silent Night", "O Holy Night" and "Joy to the World".[4] The latter song, which was used as a promotional single, was remixed several times and sent to various clubs; adding to the album's range of listeners.[4] Record producer and composer, Loris Holland, co-produced some of the albums gospel flavored tracks, including "Silent Night", where he arranged the backing vocals and synthesizers.[4] Carey's rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", was deemed as "one of the more playful tracks on the album", alongside "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[5]
Entertainment WeeklyC[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music2/5 stars[7]
Los Angeles Times2/4 stars[8]
Pitchfork7.3/10[9]
Q3/5 stars[10]

In the Los Angeles Times, Chris Willman wrote that Carey "attempts her share of girl-group pop amid the quasi-gospel melisma, though still not evidencing as much personality as talent in either style".[8] The New York Times journalist Jon Pareles was more critical in his review. "Regardless of backup, Ms. Carey oversings, glutting songs with her vocal tics—like sliding down from the note above the melody note—and turning expressions of devotion into narcissistic displays."[11] Chris Dickinson from the Chicago Tribune called the singer a "trilling songbird" and "over-the-top irritant" throughout the album, particularly on "All I Want for Christmas Is You", where she "sounds like a bush-league Petula Clark".[12] The newspaper later named it the seventh worst Christmas album ever.[13]

J. D. Considine was more enthusiastic in The Baltimore Sun. In his opinion, Merry Christmas "may look like just another attempt to cash in on Christmas cheer, but is actually the work of someone who genuinely loves this music". Considine said while Carey's gospel and soul-inflected vocal exercises worked well with the traditional songs, "the album's real strength is the conviction she brings to otherwise corny fare like 'Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town', while the way she augments 'Joy to the World' with a bit of the Three Dog Night hit is pure genius."[14] Steve Morse from The Boston Globe argued that it was perhaps Carey's best record, on which she abandoned the overly polished sound of her previous albums and "cut loose with unbridled soul".[15]

In a retrospective review, Barry Schwartz of Stylus Magazine believed Merry Christmas may have been "the definitive Mariah Carey album", finding the singer at "her absolute creative and commercial peak, her voice still a marvel, her songs and performances still undeniably brilliant".[16] AllMusic editor Roch Parisien deemed "All I Want for Christmas Is You" the record's highlight while lamenting Carey's "high opera" pretensions on "O Holy Night" and her dance/club rendition of "Joy to the World".[5]

Commercial performance[edit]

A woman wearing a long white dress. She has long golden hair and is holding a sparkling microphone. She is standing on a large red stage, surrounded by dancers in Santa Claus outfit and generally festive attire.
Carey performing "All I Want for Christmas Is You" at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony near the White House on December 6, 2013

United States[edit]

Merry Christmas was released on November 1, 1994, in the United States and debuted at number thirty on the US Billboard 200 with 45,000 copies sold in its first week.[3][17] In its fifth week, the album peaked at number three, with sales of 208,000 copies, but experienced its highest sales in its sixth week (when it was at number six), with another 500,000 copies sold. The album was the second best-selling holiday album that year with a total of 1,859,000 copies sold.[18] It remained in the top twenty for eight weeks and on the Billboard 200 for thirteen weeks, reentering the chart three times; peaking at number 149 the first time, 115 the second and at 61 the third (it has spent a total of 100 weeks on the chart).[19] On December 14, 2020, Merry Christmas was certified eight-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of eight million copies in the US.[1] As of December 2019, the album has sold 5.7 million copies in the US[20] and is one of the best-selling holiday albums in the United States.

Japan, Europe and Australia[edit]

In Japan, Merry Christmas reached number one there, becoming Carey's first number-one album in the country. The album experienced its highest sales in Japan, where it sold 2.8 million copies and became the fourth best-selling album by a non-Asian solo artist.[21][22][23]

In Europe, Merry Christmas experienced success, reaching number one in Latvia and Lithuania; number two in Sweden and the Netherlands; number four in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland; and number five in Estonia; as well as the top-ten in Finland, Italy, Portugal and the European Top 100 Albums. On the UK Albums chart, it peaked at number 32 and was certified Platinum. To date, Merry Christmas was certified three-times Platinum in Denmark and Norway, both by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. It was also certified Platinum in Italy and the Netherlands; and Gold in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

In Australia, the album peaked at number two, and was certified six-times Platinum, denoting shipments of 420,000 copies and finishing 11th on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) 1994 End of Year Chart.[24][25]

Worldwide[edit]

Merry Christmas has sold 15 million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time.[2][26][27]

Singles[edit]

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" was released as the album's lead single on October 28, 1994.[28] It was written by Carey and Afanasieff, and was sent to top-forty and adult contemporary stations, with the video having been filmed the year before.[3] It is Carey's biggest international hit, breaking several records and topping the charts in twenty-six countries, including the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles chart, becoming the best-selling Christmas single by a female artist and one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling over 17 million copies worldwide.

"Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)" (also written by Carey and Afanasieff), was released as the album's second single on November 15, 1994 and sent to R&B radio stations.[3][29]

"Jesus Born on This Day", another original song, was sent to Christian and gospel radio stations in 1994 as the first promotional single.[3][29]

Originally released as the second promotional single in 1994,[3][29] "Joy to the World" was later commercially released as the album's third single in Australia on November 27, 1995.[30]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are produced by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey, except where noted.

No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Silent Night"Franz Xaver Gruber3:39
2."All I Want for Christmas Is You" 4:01
3."O Holy Night"Adolphe Adam 4:27
4."Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" 2:33
5."Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)"
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
 4:32
6."Joy to the World"
 4:18
7."Jesus Born on This Day"
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
 3:41
8."Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" 3:24
9."Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" / "Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)"First title: Cummings after Mendelssohn / Second title: Traditional
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
  • Holland[a]
2:59
10."Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child"Traditional
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
  • Holland[a]
4:26
Total length:38:00
International edition / 2005 reissue / Deluxe Anniversary edition (disc one) bonus track[31][32][33]
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
11."God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"Traditional1:19
Total length:39:19
2005 reissue bonus track
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
12."Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" (Anniversary Mix)
  • Coots
  • Gillespie
2:45
Total length:42:04
2005 reissue bonus DVD
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" (Anniversary Mix)
  • Coots
  • Gillespie
 
2."All I Want for Christmas Is You"
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
 
3."Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)"
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
 
4."All I Want for Christmas Is You" (J.D. Remix Animated)
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
 
5."Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix Video)
  • Traditional
  • Axton
 
6."O Holy Night"Adolphe Adam 
7."All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Black & White Video Version)
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
 
8."Joy to the World" (Live at St. John the Divine)
  • Traditional
  • Axton
 
Deluxe Anniversary edition (disc two)[32][33]
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Sugar Plum Fairy Introlude"
  • Traditional
0:44
2."All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Live at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
5:06
3."Silent Night" (Live at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine)3:44
4."Joy to the World" (Live at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
  • Traditional
5:40
5."Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" / "Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)" (Live at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
  • Traditional
3:03
6."Jesus Born on This Day" (Live at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
3:46
7."Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (Live at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
  • Traditional
3:27
8."Oh Santa!" (from Merry Christmas II You, 2010)
  • Mariah Carey
  • Jermaine Dupri
  • Bryan-Michael Cox
3:31
9."Christmas Time Is in the Air Again" (from Merry Christmas II You, 2010)
  • Carey
  • Marc Shaiman
3:02
10."When Christmas Comes" (with John Legend) (from Merry Christmas II You, 2010)
  • Carey
  • James Poyser
4:46
11."The Star"
  • Carey
  • Shaiman
4:01
12."Lil Snowman"
  • Carey
  • Mason Jr.
  • Brodie
  • Marks
3:19
13."Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (Anniversary Mix)
  • J. Fred Coots
2:46
14."All I Want for Christmas Is You" (So So Def Remix) (featuring Jermaine Dupri & Bow Wow)
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Baker
  • Robie
  • Bambaataa
  • Allen
  • Williams
  • Huetter
  • Schultz
3:44
15."All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Mariah's New Dance Mix Extended 2009)
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
6:42
16."Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix)
  • Traditional
8:00
17."Joy to the World" (Flava Mix)
  • Traditional
7:06
18."Sugar Plum Fairy Introlude" (Acapella)
  • Traditional
0:41
Total length:73:07
Japanese edition bonus track
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
19."All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
4:55
Total length:78:02

Notes

Sample credits

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from AllMusic.[34]

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[93] 6× Platinum 420,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[94] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[96] Platinum 200,000[95]
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[97] 3× Platinum 60,000double-dagger
Germany (BVMI)[98] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[99] Platinum 50,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[100] 2× Million 2,800,000[23][22]
Netherlands (NVPI)[101] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[102]
Deluxe Anniversary Edition
Gold 7,500^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[103] 2× Platinum 30,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[104] 3× Platinum 60,000*
Singapore (RIAS)[105] Platinum 10,000 
South Korea 468,438[106]
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[107] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[109] Platinum 320,000[108]
United States (RIAA)[1] 8× Platinum 8,000,000double-dagger
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[110] Platinum 1,000,000*
Worldwide 15,000,000[2]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Version Distributor(s) Ref.
Europe October 28, 1994 CD International Columbia [111]
Japan October 29, 1994 SMEJ [112]
United States November 1, 1994 Standard Columbia [113]
Australia November 7, 1994 International Columbia [114]
Japan November 27, 2002 SMEJ [115]
November 3, 2004 [116]
United States October 25, 2005 International + bonus track Columbia [117]
Japan November 30, 2005
SMEJ [118]
Europe November 3, 2008
  • CD
International Sony BMG [111][119]
United States October 23, 2015
[120]
Europe [111]
Various November 1, 2019 Deluxe Anniversary Edition
[121]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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References[edit]