How Mariah Carey and Michael Buble became the queen and king of Christmas
Jingle all the way
As a child, Christmas was always my favourite time of the year. I could always tell it was near when granny would turn on the radio and festive melodies would once again course through the air. Back then we did not have Spotify, much less the internet, so all we had to get us into a festive mood were those jolly radio tunes to ring in the season.
As the years went by, we continued to enjoy staples like Silent Night, Away In A Manger, The First Noel, Joy To The World, Jingle Bells, and Jose Feliciano’s classic Feliz Navidad, just to name a few. However, it was the emerging Christmas classics from Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Wham, NSYNC, Taylor Swift, Arianna Grande, and a host of other artists attempting to recreate them that made Christmas music into a modern-day phenomenon. While everyone wanted a piece of the musical Christmas pie, the reigning Queen and King of Christmas as we know it today are undoubtedly none other than Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé.
Mariah Carey: The reigning Queen of Christmas
An influential singer in popular music, Mariah Carey is an icon known for her five-octave vocal range and signature use of the ‘whistle register’—the highest register of the human voice. Earning the title of “Songbird Supreme” by Guinness World Records, her impactful merging of R&B, hip hop, and pop music throughout the ’90s ensured her rise to fame. Gaining worldwide success with her best-selling albums Music Box, Daydream, Butterfly, and Rainbow, she was awarded Artist of the Decade by Billboard and won a World Music Award for Best-Selling Pop Female Artist of the Millennium.
It is no wonder that her first holiday album—written and produced in 1994, titled Merry Christmas—acquired international success globally with 5.7 million copies sold in the US alone. The album featured cover versions of popular Christmas classics including original material written by the artist herself and American record producer-songwriter Walter Afanasieff, AKA Baby Love. In 2005, Merry Christmas was re-released as a special edition Dual Disc including two bonus tracks Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Carey then released a follow-up album titled Merry Christmas II You as a two-disc 25th anniversary deluxe edition in 2019 including a new track Sugar Plum Fairy Introlude. Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special (Apple TV+ Original Soundtrack) was released in 2010.
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Of course, the most outstanding installation from the Merry Christmas album is the up-tempo love song All I Want For Christmas Is You. Receiving critical acclaim and becoming a Christmas standard every December since, the 12 times platinum single is the best-selling holiday song ever recorded by a female artist. Music streaming has led to renewed success for the single, which now re-enters worldwide charts annually in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In December 2018, the song even broke Spotify’s record for the most streams in a single day with over 10.8 million streams. One of the best-selling digital singles of all time, it has sold 16 million copies worldwide.
Carey has since released three new versions of the song—All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah’s New Dance Mixes 2009) in 2009; Oh Santa! All I Want For Christmas Is You (Holiday Mash Up)” in 2010; and All I Want For Christmas Is You featuring The Piano Guys in 2019.
On November 18, 2021, it was ranked as the #1 Greatest Holiday 100 Song of All Time by Billboard. By January 2023, the song had topped the Billboard Holiday 100 chart for a record 57 cumulative weeks. No other song has spent more than two weeks at number one on the Holiday 100 since the chart’s launch in 2011. This year as well, the song was selected to enter the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. The holiday hit alone has earned Carey her title as the musical Queen of Christmas.
Mariah Carey remains one of the best-selling artists with more than 220 million records sold worldwide, holding the record for the most Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles by a solo artist, a female songwriter, and a female producer.
This season, Carey kicks off her Merry Christmas One and All Tour on November 15 in Highland, California. The 16-date journey will conclude at Madison Square Garden in mid-December and feature her performing a collection of holiday classics including, of course, her record-breaking mega-hit All I Want For Christmas Is You.
Michael Buble: The crooning King of Christmas
Releasing his first Christmas EP Let It Snow in November 2003 containing five Christmas chestnuts in pretty arrangements, Bublé crooned away with Sinatra-like renditions of White Christmas, Let It Snow, The Christmas Song, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and David Foster’s Grown-Up Christmas List—which became the most popular song on the recording.
Then in October 2011, Bublé released a Christmas-themed full length holiday album entitled Christmas which also included re-recorded songs from the Let It Snow EP. Backed by small ensembles and his big band and orchestra, the album is a warm and cosy arrangement of his Bing Crosby-meets-Dean Martin vocal style. Teaming up with several well-known artists to record duets, the repertoire of Christmas tunes includes White Christmas with country music singer Shania Twain based on an early arrangement by The Drifters, Jingle Bells with the Puppini Sisters based on the 1943 recording by Bing Crosby, and the Andrew Sisters, and Spanish Feliz Navidad with Latin star Thalia. Bublé also recorded a cover of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You and Blue Christmas, which was famously recorded by Elvis Presley, and before him, Doye O’Dell in 1948.
Christmas spent five weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 list in 2011 until early 2012, and has returned to the top 10 in every subsequent holiday season since. The album is Bublé’s most successful, with more than 16 million copies sold worldwide and 4 billion streams, making it one of the best-selling albums of the 21st century. It won a Juno Award, making it the first holiday album to win Album of the Year. Re-released in November 2012, Christmas contained four additional tracks, including a new recording of The Christmas Song.
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An NBC TV Special titled A Michael Bublé Christmas was aired in 2011 and viewed by more than 7 million people in the US. He went on to promote his album through other TV specials in Canada and the UK, featuring many special guests such as Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow. Another NBC Special titled Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays, which aired in December 2012 featuring Rod Stewart, Blake Shelton and Carly Rae Jepsen, garnered 5.6 million viewers in the US. In 2013, a third Christmas special aired, guest starring Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and none other than our favourite Sesame Street character, Cookie Monster!
In 2021, Bublé celebrated the Christmas album’s 10th Anniversary by releasing an extraordinary Super Deluxe Limited Edition Box Set. It is without a doubt that the commercial success of both his Christmas album and TV Specials catapulted his career from a modern-day crooner of classics to a musical Christmas connoisseur earning him the title of the King of Christmas. As the silky tunes of his Christmas music hits the charts once again, be sure to listen to these evergreen tunes on Spotify and you’ll soon be swept away by the magical sounds and musical stylings of Bublé’s swinging arrangements this yuletide season.
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