“Mariah Carey, two of your first three albums, Mariah Carey and Music Box, topped the Billboard 200 for a combined 19 weeks, and your ‘disappointing’ second album, Emotions, still went multi-platinum. What’s next?”
“I’m going to release a Christmas album!”
It’s still a little crazy, over 20 years later, that at the top of her powers, after five consecutive number-one hits, followed by “I’ll Be There,” “Dreamlover,” and “Hero” also hitting #1 on the Hot 100, Mariah Carey made a Christmas album. The spiritual gamble paid off: Merry Christmas, released on Nov. 1, 1994, has sold over five million copies in the U.S. and it’s the fourth highest-selling album of all-time by a non-Asian solo artist in Japan. Plus, it gave us “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” the only pseudo-contemporary song in the Christmas canon. It goes Bing Crosby, “Jingle Bells” dogs, and Mariah Carey.
Merry Christmas producer and “All I Want for Christmas Is You” co-writer Walter Afanasieff told Billboard that he had no idea the single would become such a classic. “Back then, you didn’t have a lot of artists with Christmas albums; it wasn’t a known science at all back then, and there was nobody who did new, big Christmas songs,” he said. “To think of it as a single that’s going to number one, that’s going to drive an album. We didn’t have an inkling of that… That’s what made it such a modern phenomenon.”
It’s true: the holiday season doesn’t begin until I hear “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in a CVS, and then every grocery store until January. It’s even earlier for some.