"All I Want for Christmas Is You" is a song originally performed by American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey. It was released by Columbia Records in 1994 as the lead single from her fourth studio album, Merry Christmas. Carey co-wrote and co-produced the song with Walter Afanasieff. An uptempo love song, the instrumentation includes bell chimes and heavy back-up vocals, as well as use of synthesizers. The song's lyrics declare that the narrator does not care about Christmas presents or lights; all she wants for Christmas is to be with her lover.
Two music videos were commissioned for the song, both being filmed during the month of December 1993. The song's primary music video features grainy home-movie-style footage of Carey, her dogs and family during the holiday season, as well as Carey dressed in a Santa suit frolicking on a snowy mountainside. Carey's then-husband Tommy Mottola makes a cameo appearance as Santa Claus, bringing Carey a gift and leaving on a red sleigh. The second video was filmed in black and white format, and features Carey dressed in 1960s style in homage to The Ronettes, alongside back up singers and male dancers.
Critically, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" has been lauded, with The New Yorker calling it "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon". The song was commercially successful, reaching the No. 2 position on the singles charts of Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom, and the top 10 in several other countries. It became the nineteenth-best-selling digital single of the 20th century, the highest-charting entry by a female or holiday song on the list.The Daily Telegraph hailed "All I Want for Christmas Is You" as the most popular and most played Christmas song of the decade in the United Kingdom.Rolling Stone ranked it fourth on its Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs list, calling it a "holiday standard." With global sales of over 14 million copies, the song remains Carey's biggest international hit and one of the best-selling singles of all time.
After a string of commercially successful albums, Carey's label Columbia Records began considering the idea of the singer releasing a Christmas album. They felt that up until that point, Carey had been viewed as a pop singer. With the record, Columbia intended to broaden Carey's target market, and have her perceived more as an entertainer, not just a singer. Having been brought up as Christian and always celebrating Christmas, she agreed to create a holiday-themed album. With Walter Afanasieff, Carey co-wrote "All I Want for Christmas Is You" while recording the album in mid-1994. In an interview, Carey explained the inspiration behind the song:
I'm a very festive person and I love the holidays. I've sung Christmas songs since I was a little girl. I used to go Christmas caroling. When it came to the album, we had 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 time, no matter how good a new song is.
Ostensibly, the song was inspired by Carey's romantic sentiments toward her then-husband Tommy Mottola. After the album's release, many promotional singles were released; while other songs were sent to Christian airplay radio stations, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was sent to pop and Top 40 channels. Author Chris Nickson described the song as "fun and mellow", and he felt its uptempo beat contrasted with the album's strong religious theme, broadening the album's appeal to teenage audiences.
"All I Want for Christmas Is You" is an uptempo song, composed in a pop, soul, R&B, gospel, dance-pop and rhythmic adult contemporary style. Its lyrics declare that the singer does not care about Christmas presents or lights; all she wants for Christmas is to spend time with her lover. The song incorporates various instruments, including bell chimes, bass effect, and cowbells. The song layers background vocals throughout the chorus and sections of the bridge. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is set in common time and in the key of G major. Carey's vocal range in the song spans from the note of G3 to the high note of A5. Carey wrote the song's lyrics and melody, while Walter Afanasieff arranged and produced the track. Many of the instrumentals were synthetically created with computerized equipment. According to Roch Parisien from AllMusic, the song contains "The 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."
"All I Want for Christmas Is You" was well received by music critics. Parisien called the song "well-crafted", complimenting its instrumentation and melody. Steve Morse, editor of The Boston Globe, wrote that Carey sang with a lot of soul. According to Barry Schwarz from Stylus Magazine, "to say this song is an instant classic somehow doesn't capture its amazingicity; it's a modern standard: joyous, exhilarating, loud, with even a hint of longing." Schwartz praised the song's lyrics as well, describing them as "beautifully phrased," and calling Carey's voice "gorgeous" and "sincere." Kyle Anderson from MTV labeled the track "a majestic anthem full of chimes, sleigh bells, doo-wop flourishes, sweeping strings and one of the most dynamic and clean vocal performances of Carey's career". While reviewing the 2009 remix version, Becky Bain from Idolator called the song a "timeless classic" and wrote, "We love the original song to pieces—we blast it while decorating our Christmas tree and lighting our Menorah." In his review for Carey's Merry Christmas II You, Thomas Connor from the Chicago Sun-Times called the song "a simple, well-crafted chestnut and one of the last great additions to the Christmas pop canon". Shona Craven of Scotland's The Herald, said, "[it's] a song of optimism and joy that maybe, just maybe, hints at the real meaning of Christmas." Additionally, she felt the main reason it was so successful is the subject "you" in the lyrics, explaining, "Perhaps what makes the song such a huge hit is the fact that it's for absolutely everyone." Craven opened her review with a bold statement: "Bing Crosby may well be turning in his grave, but no child of the 1980s will be surprised to see Mariah Carey's sublime All I Want For Christmas Is You bounding up the charts after being named the nation's top festive song." In a 2006 retrospective look at Carey's career, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker said, the "charming" song was one of Carey's biggest accomplishments, calling it "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon". Dan Hancox, editor of The National, quoted and agreed with Jones' statement, calling the song "perfection". In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked "All I Want for Christmas Is You" fourth on its Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs list, calling it a "holiday standard."
Sales and impact
In the United Kingdom, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 5 during the week of December 10, 1994. The following week, the song peaked at No. 2, staying there for the final three weeks of December. As of December 5, 2010, it had spent fifty weeks on the UK Singles Chart, and it was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). It is Carey's best-selling single in the UK, with sales of 1 million units as of December 2013. In 2010, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was named the No. 1 holiday song of the decade in the United Kingdom. The song peaked at No. 2 on the Australian Singles Chart and was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), denoting shipments of over 70,000 units. During its sixth and seventh week on the 2009 singles chart, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" topped the Ultratop charts in Wallonia and Flanders. In Denmark, it peaked at No. 4, staying in the chart for sixteen weeks and being certified gold by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). "All I Want for Christmas Is You" became Carey's best-selling single in Japan. It was used as the theme song to the popular drama 29-sai no Christmas(29才のクリスマス?, lit. "Christmas in 29 Years, 29th Christmas"), and was titled Koibito-tachi no Christmas(恋人たちのクリスマス?, lit. "Lovers' Christmas"). It sold in excess of 1.1 million units in Japan, and became the best-selling Japanese single of 1994. Due to strong sales and airplay, the song re-charted in Japan in 2010, peaking at No. 6 on the Japan Hot 100. The single has been certified the Million award by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) on two different formats (compact disc and ringtone), in 1994 and 2008, respectively. With global sales of over 14 million copies, the song remains Carey's biggest hit globally one of the best-selling singles of all time.
In the USA, in the first week of January 1995, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" peaked at number six on the BillboardHot Adult Contemporary and at No. 12 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. The song placed on these two charts again in December 1995 and in December 1996. The song was ineligible for inclusion on the Billboard Hot 100 during its original release, because it was not released commercially as a single. This rule lapsed in 1998, however, allowing the song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at No. 83 in January 2000). The song topped the BillboardHot Digital Songs chart in December 2005, but it was unable to attain a new peak on the Billboard Hot 100 chart because it was considered a recurrent single and was thus ineligible for chart re-entry. Every December from 2005 to 2008, the song topped the BillboardHot 100 Re-currents chart. In 2012, after the recurrent rule was revised to allow all songs in the top 50 onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the single re-entered the chart at No. 29 and eventually attained a new peak of No. 21 on the week ending January 5, 2013. In December 2013, the song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 26. It has become the best-selling holiday ringtone, and it is the first holiday ringtone to be certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Additionally, of songs recorded before the year 2000, it is the nineteenth best-selling digital single and the best-selling digital single by a woman, and is also the overall best-selling holiday digital single. As of December 17, 2012, Nielsen SoundScan estimated total sales of the digital track at 2,311,000 downloads.
Remixes, Extra Festive, and Superfestive versions
When the song was first released as a single in 1994, no remixes were commissioned except the instrumental version. The instrumental version as well wasn't released on the single cover that year. Carey re-released the song commercially in Japan in 2000, with a new remix known as the So So Def remix. The remix contains new vocals and is played over a harder, more urban beat; it features raps by Jermaine Dupri and Bow Wow. The remix appears on Carey's compilation album Greatest Hits (2001) as a bonus track. In 2009, a remix produced by Carey and Low Sunday, called "Mariah's New Dance Mix", was released. The mix laid the original 1994 vocals over new electronic instrumentation. The remix garnered a positive response. MTV's Kyle Anderson wrote that "it's difficult to improve perfection," but that the remix "does dress up the song in a disco thump that should make your office Christmas party 28 percent funkier than it was last year."Idolator's Becky Bain praised the song's catchiness.
In 2010, Carey re-recorded the song for her thirteenth studio and second holiday album, Merry Christmas II You. Titled "All I Want for Christmas Is You (Extra Festive)", the new version featured re-recorded vocals, softer bell ringing and stronger drumming, and an orchestral introduction that replaced the a capella introduction. Steven J. Horowitz from Rap-Up wrote that the new version "sound[ed] just as enjoyable as it did in 1994." While the song was praised, it drew criticism for being too similar to the original. Thomas Connor from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that the new version "just seems to add a few brassy backup singers to the exact same arrangement." Caryn Ganz from Rolling Stone agreed, writing that it was "hard to figure out what's 'extra festive'" about the new version. Dan Hancox, editor of The National, also felt the new version was unnecessary.
In 2011, pop singer Justin Bieber also recorded a version of the song as a duet with Carey, titled "All I Want for Christmas Is You (Superfestive!)", on his holiday album, Under the Mistletoe. The accompanying music video for the duet was filmed in Macy's department store in New York, and features Bieber shopping with his friends whilst Carey poses on a staging area next to a Christmas tree and gifts. The two rejoice at the end by sitting in a sleigh with a crowd of young customers handing out gifts to everyone.
"I wanted to do something really special and traditional for the video. I already had the concept and idea, all I needed was a good director's lead. We kinda did this thing with Tommy as Santa Claus, and he spends pretty much the entire video with me in the snow. I really liked the way the video turned out. It was very cute and smooth, and I feel like it easily captured the song's soft and yearning message."
There are three music videos for "All I Want for Christmas Is You". The first, primary video was shot in the style of a home video; it was directed and filmed by Carey during the Christmas season of 1993. The video begins with Carey placing holiday ornaments on a Christmas tree and frolicking through the snowy mountainside. Outdoor scenes were shot at the Fairy Tale Forest in New Jersey, where Carey's then-husband Tommy Mottola made a cameo appearance as Santa Claus. It continues with scenes of Carey getting ready for her album cover photo shoot and spending time with her dog Jack. It concludes with Santa Claus leaving Carey with a bag of presents and waving goodbye. In the song's alternate video, inspired by The Ronettes, Carey dances in a 1960s-influenced studio surrounded by go–go dancers. For a 1960s look, the video was filmed in black and white, with Carey in white boots and teased up hair. This video was also directed by Carey. There are two edits to this version of the video.
Another video was created for the So So Def remix, but it does not feature Carey or the hip-hop musicians that perform in the song. Instead, the video is animated and based on a scene in the video from Carey's "Heartbreaker" (1999). It features cartoon cameo appearances by Carey, Jermaine Dupri, Bow Wow, Luis Miguel (Carey's boyfriend at the time), Carey's dog Jack, and Santa Claus. Kris Kringle is credited with directing the music video. Since 2009, the song has been included in a music video accompanying ESPN's (and their sister station, ABC) Christmas Day coverage of the NBA.
A pregnant Carey performing the 2010 version of the song live at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida on December 3, 2010
During the week of December 8, 2010, their cover of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" debuted at No. 9 on Billboards Holiday Songs chart.Michael Bublé included a cover of the song on his 2011 holiday album, Christmas.
In 2011, Justin Bieber included a version titled "All I Want for Christmas Is You (SuperFestive!)" (duet with Carey) in his album Under the Mistletoe. It was released as a single and charted in Norway reaching No. 2 in Christmas 2011.
Cimorelli covered this song for their second E.P. "The CimFam E.P." in December 2011.
Filipino singer Sitti Navarro released a Bossa nova inspired interpretation of the song on her 2008 Christmas album Ngayong Pasko. Filipino pop singer Christian Bautista also covered the song from his 2009 Christmas album, Wonderful Christmas.
Mexican cover group Vazquez Sounds released a cover video on YouTube on December 14, 2011.
On December 24, 2011, the Japanese band Tokyo Jihen performed a cover of the song live in their Discovery tour at Aomori, with vocals by Shiina Ringo and Ukigumo the performance was never included in any of their DVD.
South Korean girl group Girls' Generation performed the song as part of their Christmas special Girls' Generation’s Christmas Fairy Tale aired on December 24, 2011 on South Korean broadcaster MBC. They later performed this song again as a part of their Märchen Fantasy concert during SM Town Week on December 22, 2013.
Vancouver, BC - based Reid Jamison performed this tune during the Vinyl Café (CBC Radio Program) 2012 Christmas Concert Tour. It was recorded live for broadcast at the Paramount Theater in Seattle on December 14, 2012.
Japanese voice actress Ayahi Takagaki covered the song on her cover album, "melodia 2".
Member Park Bom of South Korean girl group 2NE1 and South Korean soloist Lee Hi performed the song as a new subunit, BH, and released the song digitally online on December 20, 2013 and pre-released on Samsung Music on December 17, 2013.
L.A. band Atomic Tom released a cover video on YouTube on December 18, 2013.