I am woefully beset by grinches. The Christmas spirit doesn’t reach far within the lands of Everything Is Noise, and I have known if ever since I started here. As much as I get everyone’s criticisms of this particular time of year – the rampant consumerism, the hypocritical ‘love and peace’ vibes from people who are usually all about the opposite, and so on and so forth. I see it all, and I too wish it were different. But when I see the snow, the lights, the decorations, and the scents of my favorite holiday, I can’t help but feel the magic, regardless of its drawbacks.
Christmas has been a big, joyful part of my life pretty much since the beginning. And a certain woman, who released a certain album, has had a hand in that, also pretty much since the beginning. I’m talking, of course, about the ageless and unpredicatable Ms. Mariah Carey and her Merry Christmas LP, which came out in 1994 – the year of my birth.
Now picture me this, if you will indulge me for a moment: you’ve just had a wonderful Christmas dinner, and the anticipation begins to rise. Then, you hear a little bell, and the first notes of Carey’s rendition of the beloved carol “Silent Night” begin to play out as you walk into the living room. Your presents lie under the illuminated Christmas tree, the smell of cookies is in the air, and a heavenly voice sings to you – how could you not feel the magic? How could you not believe there’s a little more to these few days of December than the eye could see? Even to this day, although we’re pretty much all grown up by now, this little tradition of ours has survived.
Of course we all know “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, the ubiquitous song Carey penned with Walter ‘Baby Love‘ Afanasieff, but it’s only one of 10 gorgeous pieces on this album. We’re treated to a delectable mix of traditionals, modern classics, and freshly written hits, all delivered in Carey’s early ’90s amalgam of r’n’b, soul, and gospel. From contemplative tones to upbeat numbers, every possible mood of a Christmas day is reflected on Merry Christmas, and Carey herself performs at her absolute best.
For me personally, being the former church kid I am, her interpretations of traditionals such as the aforementioned “Silent Night”, “O Holy Night”, “Joy To The World”, or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” / “Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)” hit the hardest, although her own song “Jesus Born On This Day” always registered in the same category. It felt like a traditional as well, which is one hell of a compliment.
Her covers of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” are an absolute delight as well – how could they not be with a voice like that? You can’t forget the instrumentalists and back-up singers, though; everyone brought their A++ game for these recording sessions. In my opinion, Merry Christmas is where Carey showed off her gospel chops the most, which makes it even more special, atmospherically and musically. Her ’94 performance at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York perfectly underlines my statement – this context is where the voice I’ve loved for virtually my whole life shines the brightest.
You see, then, that this is the first record I’ve ever loved front to back, and I hope that it will continue to be in my heart for the rest of my life. That it’s also the most musically relevant Christmas record ever made is only the cherry on top. Now, as I bring this piece to a close to let my dear friend Dan have his say, I would like to wish all of you a merry Christmas, and happy holidays to everyone who doesn’t celebrate. Let’s be good to one another, not only on these three days but on every single day we are alive, and let’s keep the little sparks of magic alive throughout the years. They are what makes Christmas so special, but they can illuminate even the most mundane moments if we open our hearts for them. Lastly, thank you for your continued support for what we do at Everything Is Noise – it’s the greatest gift you could ever give to us.
I can really only talk about one song on this album. I know it was released when I was a kid, and I also know it’s an entire album with 9 more songs, but what does that matter? “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is the only song everyone knows. I’ve grown up with this song. I know every single word of this song, it doesn’t matter if I like it or not (I do, helplessly), and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not. We all know the words, we all know the melody, the memes haunt our feeds like clockwork. It’s ubiquitous, timeless, and effective.
Christmas came early this year for our family through insistence we commence celebration on November 1. This song, but sadly not this version, has been blasting daily in our household, demanding holiday cheer out of each and everyone of us for 45 days.
It worked. We’re all ecstatic, we’re all ready. The tree is lit, it’s done been lit. The stockings are hanging, we got lights, we got tinsel (the good cousin of the evil glitter), we got garland, we got presents wrapped, and joy is in abundance.
It’s astounding how mystical this song is. I don’t understand why it’s this effective, or how. It’s both rooted in traditional Christmas understandings, but can win anyone over (if you let it). It’s gone from a sweet addition into a pop powerhouse’s catalog to a monster smash that destroys charts every December and launches a 3-decade diva into everyone’s consciousness.
Even our youngest, who was born in the ‘10s, knows and loves this song. And that’s not even from any effort of our own.
My partner and I wholly avoided this song. They usually tend to listen to classy classic pop gems from Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, with myself usually absolutely avoiding Christmas music entirely, only to choose more lo-fi christmas beats, or something you’d hear in a hip Christmas party scene from a boring-ass movie. I tend to just not like this music, aside from particular quirky hits. So, without any influence or guidance from either of their parents, our youngest identified, researched, discovered, and dove right into listening, and listening and listening and listening to this singular track, declaring this being the only worthy Christmas song (with some room for this gem).
Maybe it was suppression, maybe I was fighting my genetic adoration for this song, but all that energy was wasted, because somehow this song, like a candy cane striped peppermint anaconda, wrapped itself around me and squeezed me into submission. I’m helplessly in love with this song. It’s the most powerful song in the world, and although she can’t rightfully claim her throne as the true Queen of Christmas, we all know she’s the Queen of Christmas in our hearts, even if we’ll never be as zealous as this fellow comrade.
If and when the War on Christmas escalates, and the lines are drawn by two sides: the Christians vs. the Mariah Carens, I hope to see you all on the front lines with me. We’ll fight for the queen, declare who is the real reason for the season, and make sure she gets what she wants for Christmas forever.