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Merry Christmas (Mariah Carey album)

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Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas Mariah Carey.png
Studio album by Mariah Carey
Released November 1, 1994
Recorded December 1993 – August 1994, at Sony Studios and The Hit Factory (New York City, NY)[1]
Length 39:31
Label Columbia
Mariah Carey chronology
Music Box
Merry Christmas
Singles from Merry Christmas
  1. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
    Released: November 1, 1994
  2. "Joy to the World"
    Released: November 1994[1]

Merry Christmas is the first Christmas album, and the fourth studio album, by American singer, Mariah Carey. Released by Columbia Records on November 1, 1994, 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. The album contains a contemporary holiday theme, and featured "authentic, gospel flavored background vocals".

The album features instrumentation from keyboards, bass guitars, drums, percussion and heavy backing vocals. After its release, the album received generally positive reviews and became a worldwide success. Critics praised Carey's uplifting and flavored vocals, as well as her skilled songwriting alongside Afanasieff. Singles were released from the album, being sent to different radio stations for promotional purposes.

Merry Christmas was released at the peak of the initial stretch of Carey's career, between Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995). The album produced the worldwide classic single, "All I Want for Christmas Is You", which became the best-selling holiday ringtone in the US.[2] The album has sold 5,370,000 copies in the United States as of November 2014 according to Nielsen SoundScan,[3] and has been certified five-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of five million copies in the United States.[4] In Japan, Merry Christmas has sold 2,500,000 copies and is the third best-selling album of all time by a non-Asian artist, behind Carey's other release #1's (1998) and Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard. Merry Christmas has sold 15 million copies worldwide and is one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time.[3]


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.[1] 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.[5] 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.[1] Nevertheless, Carey, unaffected by the speculation, continued working on, and promoting the album in high spirits, confident in her work.[1] 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.[1]

Writing and development[edit]

The lead single from the album, the song became a holiday classic and has achieved many awards and accolades.

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Throughout the album's development, Carey worked extensively with Walter Afanasieff, with whom she collaborated extensively on Emotions (1991) and Music Box (1993).[1] Together, they wrote all three of the album's original songs, as well as producing most of the traditional tracks.[1] "All I Want for Christmas Is You", the album's debut single, was written by Carey and Afanasieff, which was sent to top-forty and adult contemporary stations, with the video having been filmed the year before.[1] Another track they wrote, "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)", was sent to R&B stations, with "Jesus Born on This Day", another original song, being sent to Christian and gospel radio stations around the world.[1]

Additionally, 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".[5] 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.[5] 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.[5] 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)".[5]


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.[1] The song "Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child", was described as an original track 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.[5] The goal was to produce a "real church flavored song", in which Afanasieff played the keyboards and allowed Carey's voice to "cut loose".[5] 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."[5]

"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[5]

The album's lead track, "All I Want for Christmas Is You", was described as an "up-tempo love song, one that could have easily been written for Tommy Mottola."[5] Another one of the album's original tracks was, "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)", which 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.[5] 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."[5] 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.[5] 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."[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[6]
The Baltimore Sun (favorable)[7]
The Boston Globe (favorable)[8]
Entertainment Weekly C[9]
The New York Times (mixed)[10]
Stylus Magazine (favorable)[11]

The album garnered generally positive reviews from music critics. Barry Schwartz, editor of Stylus Magazine, gave the album a very positive review, praising Carey's vocals, the album's authenticity and songwriting.[11] Aside from the album, Schwartz lauded "All I Want for Christmas Is You": "To say this song is an instant classic somehow doesn't capture its amazingicity; it's a modern standard: joyous, exhilarating, and loud, with even a hint of longing (ooh longing!). She sings, 'I don't want a lot for Christmas / I won't even wish for snow,' such a beautiful phrase delivered with full sincerity over rolling pianos, spine-squashing tympanis, philharmonic strings, and a quasi-wall of sound—and Mariah's gorgeous voice bursts through it all. Rats, why haven't I been celebrating Christmas?!"[11] J.D. Considine from The Baltimore Sun said that the album "may look like just another attempt to cash in on Christmas cheer, but is actually the work of someone who genuinely loves this music. Granted, Carey's gospel inclinations come through a lot stronger than might be expected on traditional tunes like 'Silent Night', but that hardly diminishes the effect of her performance; in fact, her soulful ornamentation adds oomph to the reading of 'O Holy Night'. But 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."[7]

The album received a less enthusiastic review from Roch Parisien of AllMusic, who praised "All I Want for Christmas Is You", writing, "On the positive side, her co-penned (one of three) 'All I Want for Christmas Is You' is a well-crafted Phil Spector tribute, with Beach Boys-style harmonies, jangling bells, and a sleigh-ride pace, injecting one of the few bits of exuberant fun in this otherwise vanilla set." However, he was more critical of Carey's take on "O Holy Night" and "Joy to the World", writing, "Pretensions to high opera on 'O Holy Night' and a horrid dance club take on 'Joy to the World'."[6] Steve Morse from The Boston Globe commented "Her early albums were often polished to a fault, but she cuts loose with unbridled soul on the new Christmas disc. Oddly enough, it may be her best album. She blends original songs (such as 'All I Want for Christmas Is You', which debuted in video form on MTV [at the time]) with traditional carols ('Silent Night' and 'Joy to the World') and even Phil Spector's Yuletide classic, 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'."[8] Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote "There are gospelly versions of familiar carols like 'Silent Night', dramatic ballads like her own 'Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)', and uptempo imitations, with chimes, of Phil Spector's 1963 Christmas album, like 'Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town'. 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."[10]

Chart performance[edit]

A woman wearing a long black gown. She has long golden hair and is holding a sparkling microphone. She is standing on a large red stage, surrounded by dancers in white attire. Additional background scenery include the audience and three background singers wearing white ensembles and standing on a large platform.
A pregnant Carey performing "All I Want for Christmas Is You" live at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida on December 3, 2010

Merry Christmas debuted at number thirty on the US Billboard 200 with 45,000 copies sold in its first week.[1] 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.[12] It remained in the top twenty for eight weeks and on the Billboard 200 for just thirteen weeks, re-entering 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 twenty-seven weeks on the chart). On January 30, 2003, Merry Christmas was certified five-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of five million copies in the US.[4] As of November 2014, the album has sold 5,370,000 copies in the US[3] and is one of the best-selling holiday albums in the United States. In Europe, Merry Christmas experienced success, being certified gold in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom. In Australia, the album was certified five-times platinum, denoting shipments of 350,000 copies and finishing 11th on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) 1994 End of Year Chart.[13]

Outside the United States, the album experienced its highest sales in Japan, where it sold 2.5 million copies and became the third best-selling album by a non-Asian artist.[14] [15] Additionally, the album's lead single "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was certified the "Million" award,[15][16] The single achieved similar success around the world, where it reached the top-five position in most countries, as well as re-entering many times throughout the years. In the US, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is one of the few songs in recent years to be considered a classic and is the only holiday song and ringtone to reach multi-platinum status in the US.[17] Merry Christmas has sold 15 million copies worldwide, and is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

Film adaptation[edit]

Carey is currently developing a musical film based on Merry Christmas. The plot revolves around a small town—perhaps not unlike Carey's hometown of Huntington, New York—where a ruthless developer wants to turn the land into a large shopping plaza. "Mariah doesn't want to let that happen," says her producing partner Benny Medina. "Her character uses song and love to keep the Christmas spirit alive."

According to Carey, the script will be written by High School Musical writer Peter Barsocchini, but is still in its early stages of production. However, Carey gave Daily News a few more details regarding the project, saying, "Since I recorded the Christmas album, I've always wanted to make a movie to go with it, something that people could watch and hear and enjoy every year. I'm into it. I'm all about the holiday season."[24]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Silent Night"   Franz Xaver Gruber 3:41
2. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"  
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
3. "O Holy Night"   Adolphe Adam
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
4. "Christmas"  
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
5. "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)"  
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
6. "Joy to the World"   Isaac Watts
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
7. "Jesus Born on This Day"  
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
8. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"  
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
9. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" / "Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)"   Charles Wesley/Felix Mendelssohn adapted by William H. Cummings / Traditional
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
  • Holland (co.)
10. "Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child"   Traditional
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
  • Holland (co.)
Total length:
International bonus track
No. Title Length
11. "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"   1:18
2005 DualDisc Bonus Tracks
No. Title Length
12. "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" (Anniversary Mix) 2:35

Album credits[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]


For information about singles from this album, see Mariah Carey singles discography.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nickson 1998, p. 133
  2. ^ "Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' Is World's First Double Platinum Holiday Ringtone". Legacy Recordings. PR Newswire. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
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  4. ^ a b "RIAA – Gold & Platinum Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Nickson 1998, p. 134
  6. ^ a b Parisien, Roch. "Merry Christmas -Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  7. ^ a b Considine, J.D. (1994-12-11). "In the days before Christmas, seasonal CDs come into play". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  8. ^ a b Morse, Steve (1994-12-04). "Carey marks the season with music, good works". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  9. ^ Browne, David (1994-11-18). "Music Reviews: Winter Holiday Albums". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
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  18. ^ a b Thompson, Tom (2008-04-19). "Let the Yuel Duel Begin". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
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