By Regina Sears
For many, the Holiday Season brings a certain warmth and joy that makes it possible to merrily finish off the year. While people melt into the festivity of Christmas, some decorate their tree, entangle every room with Christmas lights, sip from cups of hot chocolate or peppermint tea, and the focus of this article, hearken to Christmas music.
As of today, Christmas music is a mix of the classics and contemporary seasonal pop. Pre-1960 Christmas music consists of the classics most people know: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas“, “Jingle Bells“, “Winter Wonderland“, “Oh Christmas Tree“, “Frosty the Snowman“, “Let it Snow“—– the list will take forever to mention all the classics. These are the classics that are part of the most popular choices for Christmas choirs and the radio seasons during this time of year. Religious classics are much loved around Christmas time also, such as “Mary Did You Know”, “Joy to the World”, and much more.
However, since when did contemporary seasonal pop become part of the Christmas classics? One of the most successful Christmas songs, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has been dominating the top Billboard charts during the Holiday Season since the song’s release back in 1994. The iconic 13-note celesta opening has captured many people’s Christmas spirit from the mid-90’s until today. Despite the constant efforts made by modern pop singers, such as Justin Bieber’s 2011 “Mistletoe” or Ariana Grande’s 2014 “Christmas Kisses” Album, they are still not considered “classics” unlike Carey’s ongoing 30-year Christmas sensation.
So, what makes Mariah’s song so special? Despite the official release date for “All I Want For Christmas” being in 1994, the song contains elements of both classic and contemporary music. “All I Want From Christmas Is You” can simply be explained as a combination of popular Holiday song techniques. Tchaikovsky’s signature use of the celesta, a metallophone orchestral percussion instrument, in the Nutcracker’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” is implemented in the first five seconds of her song, creating the Christmas sound we know and love(?).
Adding to her ingenious replication of the sweet jingle, the beat of the song is based off of “Sleigh Ride” from Phil Spector’s hit 1963 album, “A Christmas Gift for You.” Along with the parody of the beat, Carey incorporates traditional Christmas instruments with modern techniques, like sleigh bells collaborated with quickly plays piano chords. Then, she fills her instrumental music with overlapped sessions of harmony.
Although “All I Want For Christmas” is frequently discussed for its mysterious popularity, it was actually based on musical techniques that incorporate techniques that embrace old and modern styles of music.