Many things stand out when the Christmas season begins. Santa Claus starts hanging out at the mall, your neighbor’s houses are covered in lights, and people are driving home with Christmas trees strapped to the roof of their car. What stands out above all, however, is most likely the music playing all around you. Whether you’re in your car, walking around the grocery store, or even sitting around at home, you’re bound to hear “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey playing in the background.
Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit was nominated for two awards, a World Music Award for World’s Best Song and a World Music Award for Best Video. And according to Billboard, her Christmas carol currently leads all three of the Holiday 100’s component charts: Holiday Airplay, Holiday Streaming Songs, and Holiday Digital Song Sales. Evidently, this song is one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time. This leads us to the question of why it is so popular?
To begin with, the song is reminiscent of classic Christmas songs like “Christmas” (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love. In fact, some would say it sounds like Carey was trying to imitate the styles from Phil Spector’s album “A Christmas Gift For You.” According to Adam Ragusa, “All I Want for Christmas” is diminished chords, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” does more than subtly evoke memories of Judy Garland and Nat King Cole’s Christmas gone by. It sounds more like it could have been written in that era.”
Next, Carey’s song is structured differently from most modern music. If you look at modern music, in general, you’ll usually only find three or four chords in each song. However, Carey uses thirteen chords throughout “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” The thirteen chords that Carey uses throughout her song come from a prominent time for Jazz. According to Kelsey McKinney from Vox, “this makes the song sound much, much older than it actually is. Thus, it subconsciously influences you into thinking you’re listening to a Christmas standard.”
Lastly, Mariah Carey has a lot of vocal range. According to Classic Fm, Carey’s voice ranges five octaves, from the second G sharp below middle C to the fourth G sharp above middle C. And for perspective, your average human being only has a range of about two octaves.
How many times have you heard Carey’s classic this Christmas season?