by Austin Crann, Staff Writer
Now that it is once again the holiday season, we are treated to — or punished with — a wide array of Christmas music. This year, however, we also celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the best Christmas album of all time: Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas.” No holiday collection is complete without this gem.
“Merry Christmas” consists of Christmas standards, like “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” and three original holiday tunes written by Carey. All of the songs are sung by Mariah with laser-like precision, as she hits notes like no other singer can.
After the relatively somber opening of “Silent Night,” the record picks up with the crown jewel of the album, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Hands down, this song is the greatest Christmas song of all time. It is the only holiday song released in the past thirty years to become a true classic. Other artists since then have tried. Some are sweet. Others are tragic. They have all failed, simply because this song completely overpowers them.
The song perfectly encapsulates Christmas joy, from the tinkling sleigh bells to Mariah’s stunning vocal delivery. Its impact is profound: it has sold over 14 million copies worldwide, which makes it one of the best-selling songs of any genre ever. In the United States, it is the best-selling Christmas song of all time, having racked over 2.7 million downloads. I wouldn’t be surprised if it topped 3 million by the beginning of 2015.
Throughout the album, Mariah glides through a wide range of emotions. She brings solemn devoutness on tracks like “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night” and radiates utter, infectious joy on songs like the dance remix of “Joy to the World.” The peaks and valleys of emotion and energy result in tidal waves of sound, commanding the listeners’ attention with each new note. Listening to the album is practically a religious experience. She even finishes the set with a full-out gospel tune, “Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child.”
Carey, with “Merry Christmas,” basically ushered in the modern Christmas music age we live in today. This may seem shocking now, when every other pop star seems to be releasing holiday music, but in the mid-90s, Carey’s decision to release a Christmas album incited a lot of derision and skepticism. Contemporary Christmas music was considered to be a long-dead genre.
At the time, Carey was at the height of her career, in between blockbuster albums “Music Box” and “Daydream.” After its release, “Merry Christmas” only received mixed reviews. However, it peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, selling almost two million copies by the end of 1994. It has gone on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling Christmas album of all time.
The creative and commercial success of the album has been a career high for Mariah, who now claims the title “Queen of Christmas.” A testament to its magic, “Merry Christmas” incites as much Christmas joy now as it did when it hit shelves exactly twenty years ago.