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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
October 25, 2005 (DualDisc)
November 14, 2006 (w bonus track)
October 23, 2015 (LP)
Recorded December 1993 – August 1994
Studio
Genre
Length 39:31
Label Columbia
Producer
Mariah Carey chronology
Music Box
(1993)Music Box1993
Merry Christmas
(1994)
Daydream
(1995)Daydream1995
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]
  3. "O Holy Night"
    Released: November 1996[2]

Merry Christmas is the first Christmas album, and the fourth studio album, by American singer and songwriter 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". 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.

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 "All I Want for Christmas Is You", which became the best-selling holiday ringtone in the US.[3] The album has sold 5.5 million copies in the United States as of December 2015 according to Nielsen SoundScan, and has been certified quintuple Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It has sold 15 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.[4]

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.[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]

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]

Composition[edit]

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]
Entertainment Weekly C[7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 2/5 stars[8]
Los Angeles Times 2/4 stars[9]
Q 3/5 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".[9] 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" pretentions on "O Holy Night" and her dance/club rendition of "Joy to the World".[6]

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

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.[17] It remained in the top twenty for eight weeks and on the Billboard 200 for 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 fifty-five 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.[18] As of December 2015, the album has sold 5,500,000 copies in the US[4] 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 six-times Platinum, denoting shipments of 420,000 copies and finishing 11th on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) 1994 End of Year Chart.[19][20]

Outside the United States, the album experienced its highest sales in Japan, where it sold 2.5 million copies and became the fourth best-selling album by a non-Asian solo artist.[21][22] Additionally, the album's lead single "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was certified the "Million" award,[22][23] 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.[24] Merry Christmas has sold 15 million copies worldwide, and is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Film adaptation[edit]

On March 21, 2017, Carey announced via her Twitter account that a film based on All I Want for Christmas Is You is being developed.[31] 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."[32]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Silent Night" Franz Xaver Gruber 3:39
2. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
4:01
3. "O Holy Night" Adolphe Adam
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
4:27
4. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
2:33
5. "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)"
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
4:32
6. "Joy to the World"
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
4:18
7. "Jesus Born on This Day"
  • Carey
  • Afanasieff
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
3:41
8. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"
  • Afanasieff
  • Carey
3:24
9. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" / "Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)" 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

Notes

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from AllMusic.[33]

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[78] 6× Platinum 420,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[79] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[80] Platinum 200,000[81]
Germany (BVMI)[82] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[83] Platinum 100,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[84] 2× Million 2,500,000[22]
Netherlands (NVPI)[85] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[86] 2× Platinum 30,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[87] Platinum 50,000*
South Korea 468,438[88]
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[89] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[90] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[18] 5× Platinum 5,500,000[4]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[91] Platinum 1,000,000*
Worldwide 15,000,000[25]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nickson 1998, p. 133
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References[edit]