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12.22.08

Ave Mariah

Oh, come let us adore the greatest Christmas song of all time.

If I have to hear the “pa-ra-buh-bum” of “Little Drummer Boy” one more time I’m going to pop an extra Lexapro. And don’t get me started on “Carol of the Bells.” It always makes me feel like someone is about to jump off a roof. And that someone is me.

There is one song, however, I never get sick of this time of year, my ray of light in the wintery soundscape. I’m talking about “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I’m talking about one of the greatest Christmas songs ever. I’m talking about a song written by—written by!—Mariah Carey.

There’s a less frequently played collection of songs on a more taboo fourth topic: wanting to get laid on Christmas. Um…this is my category.

It’s easy for highbrow minded music lovers to overlook Mariah’s genius. After all, geniuses don’t usually put pictures of themselves with a rainbow spray painted across their tits on the covers of their albums. But even if you hate pop music, and Mariah’s in particular, you have to give it up for this song. Even the New Yorker did (and there is no higher highbrow endorsement), referring to “All I Want” in their 2006 profile of Carey as “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon.”

Musically, what’s most amazing about it is how much it sounded like a classic Christmas song from the get-go. Released in 1994, many people assumed it was a cover. Surely this can’t be a Mariah original? It sounds so incredibly familiar, so nostalgic, from the first chimes to the swell of the Spector-ish wall of sound, all the way to Mariah’s last, pleading “You-ooooooo!” where she takes the song home with one of her patented dolphin-level octaves.

And then there are the lyrics. Most Christmas songs are about one of three things: Jesus, weather, or gifts. But there’s a less frequently played collection of songs on a more taboo fourth topic: wanting to get laid on Christmas. Um…this is my category. And apparently it’s Mariah’s.

Even though she’s got a rep as a bling-loving diva who is rarely seen in public without wearing at least one wardrobe element that once lived and breathed, Mariah herself belts, “I don’t care about the presents” “Santa Claus won’t make me happy” and swears she “won’t even wish for snow,” because her one real wish is to be with her lover.

With all economic indicators looking positively Grinchy at the moment, this is a zeitgeist-appropriate, anti-materialism song. “All I want for Christmas is you/you baby.” Sounds reasonable. The song is yearnful without being mournful; upbeat without being saccharine; and underneath shimmering layers of jingle bells, piano, and chorus, Mariah keeps it deceptively sincere.

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My attachment to the song became especially pronounced last Christmas, when I had my first love-at-first-sight experience. He was from out of town, and there were about three weeks from the time we first met to when he would be leaving to go back home. We started spending ridiculous amounts of time together. Brunch would become a movie; a movie would lead to dinner. Afterwards we’d have tea and play Scrabble, and then I’d go home, filled with butterflies. We were just friends, but I was absolutely smitten.

With only a few days till Christmas and his imminent departure, I was overwhelmed by how singularly the sparkling beauty of the city during the holidays seemed to echo how alive I felt. I could think about nothing but him, so in between our rendezvous, I would walk around downtown with my iPod, smelling the fresh pine of the Christmas tree stands, and listening to this song over and over, hoping the magic of Mariah on endless repeat would somehow will him into my arms.

I don’t know if she got what she wanted for Christmas. But I did.

Jessi Klein is a writer and comedian who has frequently appeared on Comedy Central, CNN, VH1, and the Today show. She is currently writing a screenplay for Universal Studios, as well as occasionally drawing animals for her best friend’s letterpress card company. She also likes to think she has value as a human being aside from her numerous credits in the entertainment industry.