No matter where you go this season, you won’t be able escape Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit, "All I Want For Christmas Is You." It may seem like a silly Christmas song, but she's made it the gift that keeps on giving. She owns the Christmas season. And that’s not something just any musician can say.
Christmas music is actually a hard market to dominate. Think of all the artists who put out Christmas albums. Very few of those songs, if any, go on to be Christmas standards. But "All I Want For Christmas" is one of the only songs written in the last 20 years to become part of the Christmas cannon.
It’s the most downloaded Christmas song of all time, and the most popular Christmas song of all time on Spotify. It is the first holiday ringtone to go double-platinum. (Text MARIAH1 to 66555 to get it.) It’s Mariah’s biggest international success and the 11th best selling single of all time. As of this year, The Economist estimates the song has earned over $60 million in royalties since its 1994 release.
The success of "All I Want For Christmas" isn’t surprising. Mariah was the biggest-selling female artist of the nineties. She’s written, or co-written, more of her no. 1 hits than any other female composer. She’s also produced more no 1 songs than any other woman.
Why is this so badass? As Luke Dubois, a composer and NYU professor, states, “the record industry, historically, was working off the backs of a lot of people who weren’t getting paid as much as they were due. And that includes women and artists of colour. Mariah Carey managed to succeed despite a system that disincentivises artists of colour and women ... The reason why it’s significant for Carey is that she wrote the song, so co-produced the song and she’s the performer of record. She’s getting a much larger royalty off that song as a result."
So can we just give some props to Mariah? She gave us an amazing song, navigated an exploitive system, broke through centuries of Christmas music to give us a new R+B-inspired standard, and she’s making bank. That's the kind of win we can all celebrate, every Christmas.