Today families will start to pull out Christmas music from wherever it had been gathering dust over the last 11 months. At my parent’s house, we used to dust off old records and later CD’s and play them all day (to my annoyance). Back then it seemed that old Christmas records from Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Elvis and Nat King Cole were what my family preferred to hear. It was as if no one bothered to by new Christmas music out of some nod to tradition. Nowadays YouTube and Pandora streams seem to be the format of choice. In addition to offering an endless array of choices, it frees you from the task of flipping over or changing media.
Despite all the options available we seem to gravitate to one particular CD from Mariah Carey. Merry Christmas was actually the first and last Christmas CD I had ever bought. It set the standard for all Christmas albums to come after. Merry Christmas has become the best selling Christmas album ever and instantly endured families the world over to Mariah Carey, even if they were not fans of her usual glass breaking vocal antics.
In a time when everyone seems to have a Christmas album and the ideal happy peachy music has given way to hip sarcasm and sadness (Mark Kozelek’s Sings Christmas Carols) or over wrought emotional drama (Mary J. Blige’s A Mary Christmas), its refreshing to know that Mariah Carey’s traditional take on Christmas pop still outsells them all.
The album was a mix of traditional and new songs and was all over the place in its scope. Club remixes of “Joy to the World”, were promoted along gospel radio bound tracks like “Jesus Born on This Day”. Merry Christmas however is best known for its hit “All I Want for Christmas is You”. Carey who was in the early part of her accention to stardom, could really do no wrong with this album. Her vocal abilities were at their early peak and she was able to brand all the material (new and old) with her distinctive vocal style.
Today Merry Christmas has sold more than 15 million copies. Despite having another Christmas album around 2010, the first one was the charm as it still outsells her contemporaries. Much of its appeal comes from Carey’s amazing voice and her ability to appeal to multiple audiences in a lighthearted way.
The over commercialization of Christmas has opened up the season for various genre types that exploit anti holiday sediments. The indie, man rock and rap holiday albums available today are not likely to be sought after 20 years from now. Even if you hate the selling and buying frenzy that is the modern Christmas holiday, the sounds of Merry Christmas is bound to warm even the most cold hearted scrooge, at least until the album starts to gather dust for the next 11 months.