All I Want For Christmas
Unpacking Mariah Carey’s zeitgeist-y holiday hit with a glass of egg nog and Leandra chasing me around, menorah in hand.
I’ve encountered exactly two moments in my life that have reaffirmed my faith in humanity, and both involved music. Once was on the 1 train going an embarrassing two stops from West 4th and Christopher to Varick and Canal. It was a grumpy, rainy Monday and my hair was not cooperating.
A man who got on at the same stop as I did walked to the center of the car and cleared his throat. For quotidian public transportation takers, this almost always elicits 1) rolling eyes from passengers and 2) a reason to turn up the volume on our iPods.
Instead, however, the man began singing “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. “Hey Jude,” he started softly. “Don’t be afraid,” he continued. And by the Canal Street stop, he hit the resounding “Naaa, na, na, na na na na, na na na na,” to which the entire car finished “He-ey Jude.” My entire week was made and I promised myself I’d write that story down at some point.
The second time, I was at a bar. It was the summer and about eight billion of my friends (I am very popular) had crammed into a space that should have legally only allowed 15 to 20 bodies. Everyone was hot and shouting about their empty glasses, revving up to fight in frustration but then, either by happy accident or a mid-July miracle, Mariah Carey’s unseasonal “All I Want for Christmas Is You” came on the loud speaker.
And you know what? The entire — ENTIRE — bar erupted into a sing along.
I swear this song could be the answer to world peace. Not since hopscotch or ice cream has something been able to so effortlessly transcend the bounds of gender, socioeconomics, religion and football rivalries as The holiday classic. Its opening notes tinkle and sparkle like elfin smiles, then crescendo as Saint Mariah’s alto joins the festive chorus.
One can’t help but snap in tandem with the beat, bob side to side and attempt to match her high pitched chord riffs and wailing mezzo. It’s physically impossible not to hold a fake microphone in one’s hand and wave the other to and fro, offering the “mic” (either invisible or in the form of a hairbrush or beer bottle) to your nearest neighbor, and I dare you not to point at your friends or strangers or bar tender each time Mariah declares that all she wants for Christmas is “you.” (“Oooh, baby!”)
That’s the other thing, too. We all know the lyrics. It’s a phenomenon that the words have become ingrained in our memories before we were even to realize it. It’s part of our blood; instinctual and intrinsic for the sake of not survival, but happiness. There’s only one line the general public tends to mumble over.
After “I don’t need to hang my stocking,” most forget that “here upon the fire place” comes next and uses it as an opportunity to ad lib or take a sip of egg nog. But that’s the beauty of the song, isn’t it? That since no one really has that part down, everyone remains in unison. See? World peace.
And it never gets old. The song could play on repeat five times, or interspersed throughout the night or, as in the aforementioned case, during off season. It’s universally assumed that no matter the circumstance, we love this song.
“I hate this song,” says no one ever. Except that contrarian who plays opposite for the sake of being a dickhead.
Mariah Carey’s career has seesawed but she’s never not been considered the reigning prima donna when it comes to audibly delightful vocal chords. In fact, it’s been rumored that when it rains, it’s because the sky has Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits on repeat, (probably with a little Whitney thrown in there, let’s be real).
But this song is her ultimate coup. A piece de resistance that will forever solidify her in a category among such vanguards as Mr. Michelangelo and his chapel, which, I suppose by osmosis, makes us her apostles of song, placed on this planet to exhault not her name or her most recent television appearance, but the general message of love that she’s taught us to sing.
I don’t want a lot for Christmas / There is just one thing I need / I don’t care about the presents / Underneath the Christmas tree / I just want you for my own / More than you could ever know / Make my wish come true / All I want for Christmas…..
Jk, it’s you.