christmas music

Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album Is the Only Thing That Will Never Suck

Photo: Columbia Records

Some people say life is short, but actually, life is long. There’s so much time to become interested in something, then eventually grow to hate it. This is how we distract ourselves from the inevitability of death and the inevitability that we will die while watching Instagram Stories. For example, remember Pokémon Go? For another example, remember when we decided it was nice to wear skirts over jeans? When I was 13, I had a poster of Fred Durst taped to the ceiling over my bed. And if something doesn’t eventually bore or repulse you, it is doomed to disappoint you. See: Louis C.K., hoverboards, democracy.

The only thing that stands the test of time is Mariah Carey’s Christmas album, Merry Christmas. I mean it. The ONLY thing. And I’m not just talking about “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which has proven its cultural dominance by earning Mariah $60 million in royalties over the years and being the only song played at CVS. I’m talking about the deep cuts, too — the five songs exclusively about Jesus being born, the “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (Anniversary Mix).” It is impossible to get tired of this album; listening to this album is never a disappointing choice. As an experiment, try listening to it for the rest of your life, and you’ll see what I mean.

Mariah Carey released Merry Christmas, her fourth studio album and first Christmas album, on November 1, 1994. She was 24 years old, and on the album cover, she wore a full Santa bodysuit, kneeling into a pile of snow in a way that suggested the suit was, improbably, 100 percent waterproof. Somewhere in suburban Illinois, my mom heard a clarion call, which sounded like Mariah screaming, “Glo-oooo–ooooo-oooooria!!!!!!” Over the next decade, my mother would play this album roughly five thousand times, in the process indoctrinating her oldest child (me) — a Jewess merely six years away from incorporating Mariah Carey into her Bat Mitzvah theme — into the cult of Merry Christmas.

It’s now been 24 years since the album’s initial release, which means that since my mom’s unwitting hypnosis via whistle tone, an entire Mariah Carey could have been born, grown up, recorded Merry Christmas, then waltzed outside in a bodysuit to fall into a pile of snow on purpose. Over that time period, the album has sold more than 15 million copies around the world to become the best-selling Christmas album of all time, plus deeply inspired Justin Bieber. Personally, I have listened to this album so often that I have learned all of the words, then forgotten every single one of them because they began to sound like nothing. Despite being an idiot who has subscriptions to Tidal, Apple Music, and Spotify (please … let me live my streaming ho life), I purchased Merry Christmas on vinyl last month. My point is, I am a Merry Christmas psychopath who comes from a long line (the longest possible line, if you think about it) of original Merry Christmas psychopaths. And my nearly two decades of research have led me to conclude that it is the only thing that will never let me down.

No matter how many times you listen to Merry Christmas, you will always be stunned by the number of syllables that Mariah Carey is able to give to previously small words. Her vocals are spectacular, of course, but her lung capacity is disturbing. In “Gloria (In Excelsis Deo),” Mariah gives the word “Bethlehem” nine syllables, the word “deo” eight syllables, and the word “newborn” five syllables. On “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” she gives the word “town” 10 syllables (11 if you count the “woo!” at the end of the word). “Get” gets seven syllables in “Miss You Most (at Christmastime).” Mariah sings the word “Jesus” upwards of 40 times on this album. And guess what? It never stops sounding great!

“Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)” has aged particularly well. Recently, a friend of mine tried to floss to this song. It worked. If you can find a better emo Christmas anthem than “Miss You Most” — “Everybody’s smiling / The whole world is rejoicing / And everyone’s embracing / Except for you and I” — you haven’t truly suffered. And if you are not inspired to give birth to a religious figurehead in a pile of hay after listening to “Jesus Born on This Day,” that’s fine, but please make yourself available to babysit mine.

In the years since Mariah personally gave birth to Jesus, the Pop Star Christmas Album has become near-ubiquitous, which means you might be reading this and asking yourself, “Isn’t Michael Bublé’s Christmas album just as important and good? What about Ariana Grande’s Christmas and Chill? Or the Pentaton — .” Don’t you dare talk to me about the Pentatonix right now, first of all. Second of all, I do like Christmas and Chill, thank you for reminding me. But I still consider every single pop star Christmas album an unmitigated failure next to Mariah’s. This is because every other pop star has tried to make Christmas sexual. Bublé and Grande are out here trying to convince you to fuck after Christmas dinner! You’re very full!

Christmas is not about sex, and Mariah knows that. Christmas is about forgetting you have a body. Christmas is about forgetting you and everyone you love will die, and that the trees we’re chopping down and stuffing with lights will soon cease to exist, and that one day we will all be beheading our family members during the great water wars. Christmas is about life in the sense that it’s not about actual life, but a fake and temporary life where drinking thick, aged milk filled with alcohol is acceptable. Christmas is about claiming all you want for Christmas is a person, when really you want a sweatshirt featuring a picture of Ariana Grande fingering the planet. Christmas is about zipping yourself into a full-body suit and kneeling in the snow, smiling, even though you’re fucking freezing, because how is that suit waterproof when it also looks very fluffy?

Merry Christmas understands that Christmas is patently absurd, a sexless fantasia, a brief and fleeting annual moment where cold weather is good, begging people to come home is not thirsty, and a Jewish woman can write an entire essay about music based on Jesus. Christmas turns us all temporarily insane. And viewed through a certain lens, Merry Christmas is also insane — it contains at least three songs about the exact same night, and at one point informs us we will be in trouble with an imaginary man if we cry. But Merry Christmas looks upon us without judgment. It does not mind if we floss to its Latin, or if Justin Bieber gently bastardizes its main track. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and takes nothing in return, except for $60 million.

Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album Is Perfect