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Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' By The Numbers: How Much Does She Make?

1990s | December 17, 2020

Mariah Carey performs "All I Want For Christmas is You" during "The Late Late Show with James Corden." (Getty Images)

Love it or hate it, the 1994 smash holiday hit "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey is here to stay. In December 2020, it once again reached the number-one position on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart and garnered over 800 million streams on Spotify. For some, it's a treasured part of the Christmas season, while others loathe its ubiquity, but there is no denying it's a catchy and timeless tune that will probably outlive us all. So what's the story behind one of the most popular songs of the modern age?

What Christmas Means To Mariah Carey

It all begins with Mariah Carey, who was born in Huntington, New York in either 1969 or 1970 (somehow, she's managed to keep the exact year a secret despite being one of the most famous women in the music industry). Her parents were an interracial couple, and the racism of the time proved difficult for the Carey family to overcome. Her mother had been disowned by her family for the marriage, and the neighbors in Huntington didn't prove very supportive, either, going so far as to set the family car on fire and even poisoning their dog on one outrageous occasion. The marriage didn't survive, and Carey has been open throughout her career about her struggles navigating the world as a biracial person.  

Mariah Carey exiting the Shepherd's Bush Theatre after promoting her single "Vision of Love" on The Wogin Show in 1990. (Redhoopoe/Wikimedia Commons)

And yet, the young Miss Carey soldiered on. She began pursuing her music career in high school and got her first job in the industry as a background singer for Brenda K. Starr, granting her access to a party thrown by CBS executives where she got her demo tape into the hands of Tommy Mottola of Columbia Records. He fell in love with her voice (and her as well), quickly signed her, and she soon became famous for her soulful sound and the five-octave vocal range that makes her voice one of the most technically impressive ever recorded.

Although it's not a perfect science, she's estimated to have either the second- or third-greatest range in the world, after Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses and possibly Mike Patton of Faith No More. However, what truly sets her apart is her ability to hit the exceptionally high G7 note, which sounds like a bird's whistle. By the time her 1994 holiday album, Merry Christmas, hit the airwaves, Carey already had three wildly successful albums under her belt: Mariah Carey, Emotions, and Music Box. 

Christmas tree with red Christmas bauble and Christmas candles at Christmas 2013. (indeedous/Wikimedia Commons)

Christmas Magic

The hit single "All I Want For Christmas Is You" was written in 1993 by Carey and music producer Walter Afanasieff, famous for producing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." According to Afanasieff, the heart of the song only took around 15 minutes to write, followed by a few weeks of tweaking and editing. Carey says she was inspired by the R&B of the 1960s, specifically Phil Spector's Wall of Sound formula. Even though the song was recorded in August, Carey reportedly decorated the studio with Christmas ornaments to get into the holiday spirit before she laid down her vocals. While Carey was pleased with the song, Afanasieff was actually underwhelmed and didn't think it would be the main focus of the album. 

Whatever magic Carey was trying to conjure with the album worked, and "All I Want For Christmas Is You" became an instant classic, rivaling in popularity established Christmas legends like Bing Crosby and Andy Williams. The song could soon be heard everywhere, from cars to malls to restaurants. To this day, it's Carey's most internationally successful song, repeatedly hitting the charts in countries as far away from the American music industry as Japan.

A Christmas-themed wax statue of Carey at Madame Tussauds San Francisco, reflecting Carey's status as a Christmas icon. (Loco Steve/Wikimedia Commons)

Queen Of Christmas

As the song continued to top the charts decades after its initial release, Carey gained the affectionate moniker "Queen of Christmas" and enthusiastically plays into the nickname, often posting videos about her love of all things Christmas on social media. She's the only artist in history to hit the top of the charts in four different decades, in large part thanks to the popularity of "All I Want For Christmas Is You." She's filmed four different music videos for the song, the most recent of which premiered in 2019, and she's estimated to have earned over $60 million dollars from the single alone. 

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you, yeah
I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
And I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
You, baby
Oh, I won't ask for much this Christmas
I won't even wish for snow
And I'm just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mistletoe
I won't make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won't even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeer click
'Cause I just want you here tonight
Holding on to me so tight
What more can I do?
Baby, all I want for Christmas is you
You, baby
Oh, all the lights are shining so brightly everywhere
And the sound of children's laughter fills the air
And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing
Santa, won't you bring me the one I really need?
Won't you please bring my baby to me?
Oh, I don't want a lot for Christmas
This is all I'm asking for
I just wanna see my baby
Standing right outside my door
Oh, I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
Baby, all I want for Christmas... is you
You, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby

Tags: 1990s | Christmas | music

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