For an artist who has produced 18 number one singles in the US – that’s six more than Madonna – it’s a statistical oddity that Mariah Carey is best known for a song that has never made the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100.
Her first five singles – Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, Someday, I Don’t Wanna Cry and Emotions – all shot to number one in the US, showcasing her incredible five-octave range. In the UK shehas clocked up 24 top ten entries and topped the charts with a pair of ballad covers – Badfinger’s classic Without You and, with Westlife, Phil Collins’ Against All Odds.
However, All I Want for Christmas is You remains her most commercially successful single. With sales of over 14 million units (1.2 million and counting in the UK) it is ranked as the 11th best-selling song of all time and has generated an estimated $50m in royalties.
And deservedly so. All I Want is that rarest of beasts: a modern, unashamedly seasonal track – sleigh bells can be heard prominently throughout the song – that keeps just the right side of schmaltzy sentimentality and is held up universally as a Christmas standard. It captures a spirit of innocence that makes the song seem much older than it actually is. And it’s one of a tiny number of Christmas songs released in the last 25 years that I can bear to listen to.
Even more remarkably, the song was one of two enduring seasonal classics that hogged the top of the UK charts in December 1994. Only East 17’s Stay Another Day prevented Carey from grabbing the coveted Christmas number one spot. Not a bad year!
The song has been covered many times, from Michael Bublé to Lady Antebellum and including a duet with Justin Bieber, which reached the giddy heights of 148 in the UK charts. Don’t bother looking it up on YouTube – it’s truly awful. Instead, bask in the unadulterated cheeriness of the original and keep counting down the days until the fat fella in the red suit comes calling.