Merry Christmas, Mariah Carey’s hugely-successful holiday album, 23 years after its initial release

Merry Christmas, Mariah's Carey's famous holiday record remains unmatched in terms of popularity, 23 years after its release.

Merry Christmas, Mariah’s Carey’s famous holiday record remains unmatched in terms of popularity, 23 years after its release.

By: Patrick Coveny, Editor

Mariah Carey has crowned herself the Queen of Christmas. By no means does any other pop diva, by her definition, live up to this self-given title. Assuredly, every December- like clockwork- her holiday songs regain their place on the Itunes charts. 24-hour Christmas stations replay her festively-hit high notes over and over again. Sure, we all annually catch the ear-worm that is All I Want For Christmas from her Merry Christmas Album, but is Carey’s Christmas caroling as great as she claims for spreading the holiday cheer?  

Columbia Records first released Merry Christmas, Carey’s fourth studio album and first-holiday record over twenty years ago, in 1994. The ten-track collection pulls out all the stops and includes timeless staples such as Silent Night and Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. What separates the songstress’ renditions from the thousands before she is obviously her impeccable vocal range. Times have changed for the performer, yes, but not too long ago Carey’s voice was powerfully pristine. No one in the music industry could compare to the strength and magnitude of her infectious sound.

Flash forward 23 years and Carey has utterly lost that ability to affect her audience. At 47 years of age, Mariah is no spring chicken. Auto-tuned shrieks on a string of underwhelming, attempted hits are now replacing her once incredible voice. One-too-many diva-licious moments have been published in just about every national tabloid. Mariah’s World, a gossipy reality show featuring the star was canceled after one unsuccessful season. Infamously, her reputation plunged after a cringe-worthy stunt pulled during a New Year’s Eve performance in Times Square. All in all, in 2017, Mariah Carey is at times a difficult star to be a fan of.  How can we reconcile these two vastly different public figures, and still enjoy her talent of yesterday?

It may be hard to respect the work of an artist who can be pretty outwardly disrespectful. In this case, it must be done, Carey must be given credit for well… reinventing Christmas music. Before her 1994 recording, a holiday record by a mainstream star would be seen almost as an industry faux pas. Christmas tunes were strictly for old-time crooners like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Merry Christmas successfully hybridized popular music and holiday hymns. Because of All I Want For Christmas, it is now in vogue for established musicians to release original yuletide ballads.

And most importantly, the quality of pop-Christmas music has changed since the album’s release. Say whatever you will about the celebrity behind the voice- talent doesn’t lie. The vocal harmonies on Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), for example, far exceed any of the versions predating it. Merry Christmas isn’t afraid to bring its songstress’ biggest vocal weaponry, delivering songs that remain rooted in Carey’s famed whistle register. This proved to all artists that it is possible to infuse respectable music-making into overdone, holiday jams.

So this year, forget the direct-to-video animated film based on All I Want For Christmas, as well as the holiday concert series Carey will embark on. The Queen of Christmas sure does well marketing herself, and milking the heck out of a twenty-year-old song- but that is not the point! The true success, I’d like to believe, behind the ultra-successful holiday album, is a pure artistic gift. The least we can do is appreciate the voice that… once was, this holiday season. 

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