Merry Christmas is Mariah Carey's fourth studio and first Christmas album that was released on October 28, 1994 by Columbia Records.
- Silent Night 3:41
- All I Want For Christmas Is You 4:01
- O Holy Night 4:27
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) 2:35
- Miss You Most (At Christmas Time) 4:33
- Joy To The World 4:20
- Jesus Born On This Day 3:43
- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town 3:24
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Gloria (In Excelsis Deo) 3:01
- Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child 4:29
- God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen 1:18
Mariah Carey has expressed her belief in God and her connection between music and spirituality, and felt the album was finally a way to portray her mysticism into music.
After the success of Carey's previous effort, "Music Box", there was speculation of a new project in the works; however, it was not until October 1994 (only one month before the album's release) that Billboard announced Carey would be releasing a holiday album for the Christmas season.
Initially, critics were shocked; they did not know how Carey would fare as an entertainer, as she had previously only been viewed as a pop star. Nevertheless, she continued working on, and promoting the album in high spirits, confident in her work.
The idea proved to be wise, earning Carey recognition in various markets including Christian radio and contemporary R&B stations, as well as extended her fame in Japan, where the album experienced much of its success.
Throughout the album's development, Carey worked extensively with Walter Afanasieff, with whom she collaborated extensively on "Emotions" and "Music Box." Together, they wrote all three of the album's original songs, as well as producing most of the traditional tracks.
"All I Want for Christmas Is You" (the album's debut single) was written by Carey and Afanasieff, which was sent to top-40 and adult contemporary stations, with the video having been filmed the year before.
Another track they wrote, "Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)", was sent to R&B stations, with "Jesus Born on This Day" (another original song) being sent to Christian and gospel radio stations around the world
Additionally, Carey recorded a cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love, as well as classics such as "Silent Night", "O Holy Night" and "Joy to the World".
The latter song, which was used as a promotional single, was remixed several times and sent to various clubs; adding to the album's range of listeners.
Record producer and composer, Loris Holland, co-produced some of the albums gospel flavored tracks, including "Silent Night", where he arranged the backing vocals and synthesizers.
Carey's rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", was deemed as "one of the more playful tracks on the album", alongside "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
"Merry Christmas" boasted a variety of musical arrangements, sounds and genres.
Carey's goal was to provide an album that would have a "Christmas feel", providing a mixture of soulful tracks, as well as fun and joyous holiday treats.
The song "Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child", produced by Carey, Afannasief, and Holland, was described as an arrangement of a traditional gospel standard that "really took flight".
The song was recorded in a church, with many live back-up singers and children playing tambourines and other melodious instruments. The goal was to produce a "real church flavored song", in which Loris Holland played the keyboards and allowed Carey's voice to "cut loose".
According to Chris Nickson, Carey's love of gospel music came through on the track, writing, "[she] led the band without pushing herself forward, letting the song develop and work out, trading lines with the chorus until, after the crescendo, the musicians moved into a fast double time to the end."
"All I Want for Christmas Is You" was described as an "up-tempo love song, one that could have easily been written for Tommy Mottola".
"Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)", another one of the album's original tracks, was very different from its whimsical predecessor.
The song was described as a "sad ballad", in line with many of Carey's previous hit singles. It featured a synthesized orchestra, including keyboard notes courtesy of Afanasieff, during which Carey would sing to her "long-gone lover, crystallizing the way that Christmas brought memories of the past into focus."
According to Nickson, it was "Jesus Born on This Day", that was the most impressive original track on the album. It was described as a "full-blown production number", which again featured synthesized orchestra, as well as a live children's choir.
The song's tune was described as "solemn and hymn-like, but the arrangement, oddly, made it less religious and rather more glitzy, behind the lyrics that overtly praise Jesus."
"Merry Christmas" debuted at #30 on the Billboard 200 with 45,000 copies sold during its first week. In its fifth week, the album peaked at #3 on the chart with sales of 208,000 copies, but experienced its highest sales during its sixth week (when it peaked at #6) with another 500,000 copies sold.
The album was the second-best selling holiday album that year with a total of 1,859,000 copies sold and remained in the top 20 for 8 weeks and on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.
In January of 2003, the album was certified 5x platinum by the RIAA for a shipment of 5 million copies in the United States. As of December 2018, it has sold 5.6 million copies in the United States.
"Merry Christmas" has sold 15 million copies worldwide, and is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.
In the Los Angeles Times, Chris Willman wrote that Carey "attempts her share of girl-group pop amid the quasi-gospel melisma, though still not evidencing as much personality as talent in either style".
New York Times journalist Jon Pareles was more critical in his review, writing: "Regardless of backup, Ms. Carey oversings, glutting songs with her vocal tics—like sliding down from the note above the melody note—and turning expressions of devotion into narcissistic displays."
Chris Dickinson from the Chicago Tribune called Carey a "trilling songbird" and "over-the-top irritant" throughout the album, particularly on "All I Want for Christmas Is You", where she "sounds like a bush-league Petula Clark." The newspaper later named it the seventh worst Christmas album ever.
J. D. Considine was more enthusiastic in The Baltimore Sun. In his opinion, Merry Christmas "may look like just another attempt to cash in on Christmas cheer, but is actually the work of someone who genuinely loves this music".
Considine said while Carey's gospel and soul-inflected vocal exercises worked well with the traditional songs, "the album's real strength is the conviction she brings to otherwise corny fare like 'Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town', while the way she augments 'Joy to the World' with a bit of the Three Dog Night hit is pure genius."
Steve Morse from The Boston Globe argued that it was perhaps Carey's best record, on which she abandoned the overly polished sound of her previous albums and "cut loose with unbridled soul."
In a retrospective review, Barry Schwartz of Stylus Magazine believed that the album may have been "the definitive Mariah Carey album", finding Carey at "her absolute creative and commercial peak, her voice still a marvel, her songs and performances still undeniably brilliant".
AllMusic editor Roch Parisien deemed "All I Want for Christmas Is You" the record's highlight while lamenting Carey's "high opera" pretensions on "O Holy Night" and her dance/club rendition of "Joy to the World."