Mariah Carey talks ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ and the greatest holiday songs of all time

Lyndsey Parker and Kylie Mar
Check out Pandora's Top Holiday Hits playlist to listen to the music of the moment.
Check out Pandora's Top Holiday Hits playlist to listen to the music of the moment.

When revelers put together party playlists of modern-day holiday tunes, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which just turned 25, usually tops that list. It’s the best-selling holiday single of all time according to Nielsen, and there’s no doubt that it ranks among the best modern holiday songs ever — right up there with Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” the Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “Little Drummer Boy,” the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick,” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis.” But what is Carey’s all-time favorite holiday tune?

“‘The Christmas Song,’ by Nat King Cole,” the diva reveals to Yahoo Entertainment. And while Carey is famous for singing holiday songs — her 1994 album Merry Christmas was just reissued as a Deluxe Anniversary Edition, and she’s currently on a Christmas concert tour — she says Cole’s classic is one she “wouldn't even want to touch. … I don't want to ever do my own rendition of it, because I love it so much and I know nobody can do a better version.”

What do YOU think is the best holiday song of all time? Rank them on our naughty-and-nice list below!

“All I Want for Christmas Is You,” on the other hand, has been covered by dozen of artists — Cee Lo Green (Carey’s personal favorite version), Michael Bublé, Fifth Harmony, Ingrid Michaelson, even My Chemical Romance — and the festive hit also inspired an animated film. On the surface, it seems like upbeat, feel-good fare; however, Vice once declared “All I Want for Christmas Is You” the saddest Christmas song ever. Carey, who’s currently writing her dishy autobiography (“You’re not ready!”), confesses that the song was partially inspired by her childhood hardships.

Reminiscing about writing the song, Carey says, “I just started thinking about, what are my favorite Christmas things? What did I love? What are the things I wished I could have had as a kid for Christmas? My Christmases weren't great as a little kid. My mom really tried, but there were some other forces that just weren't great. And so we dealt with it, but I was just like, how do I do this?”

Carey always loved the holiday season when she was a little, even when times were tough, and she brought that determined attitude to the songwriting process. ‘I wasn't trying to accentuate that when I wrote it. I just wanted to make it a festive moment. I wanted to make everybody just be like, ‘It's Christmas. I’m going to be happy.’ I think what I did as a kid is I pushed through the sadness and was like, ‘We're going to be festive. If nobody else is going to be festive, I'm going to be festive.’ And I loved it just so much, and I still do, to this day. If anybody ruins my Christmas, I will never forgive them, ever! ... You just can't let them stop you. You can't let anyone take your joy.”

Speaking of joy, another Carey classic that has unexpectedly gotten a churchy, Christmas-appropriate makeover, much to Carey’s delight, is the 1997 ballad “My All,” which Kanye West’s choir recently performed at one of his Sunday Service events. Carey was “moved to tears” when she heard it, tweeting her excitement.

“It's incredible. Listening to the version of ‘My All’ was so moving, I cried,” she says. “Because as a secular artist, I'm not a gospel artist, but I so revere gospel artists. When I heard the song and the way that they turned it around and made it so beautiful. With that moment, when I realized the fact of what they did. They took it and turned it into a spiritual moment. I'm so thankful because I feel like all songs that come like that are a gift from God. They're a gift. To me, that's still one of my best songs ever. The fact that they turned it and made it into a gospel song... it's a huge compliment.”

Is ”All I Want for Christmas Is You” your favorite holiday song? Rank your favorites in the poll above, and check out Pandora’s holiday playlist below.

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