When it was released in 1994, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” didn’t make much of a splash. Yet 25 years later, it reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 all-genre chart, the first Christmas tune to do so in 60 years. James Jurgensen of The Wall Street Journal explains how that happened in a story that mixes the rise of streaming, the “network effect” and Mariah Carey's canny choice to embrace and expand her franchise as “Queen of Christmas” into the digital world.
Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” seems tailor-made to succeed in the online holiday music ecosystem.
If you can’t say “All I Want for Christmas” without adding “Is You,” Mariah Carey’s beloved Christmas standard already forms part of your holiday. The song doesn’t evoke or reflect a particular era, but its jazzy, gymnastic vocals, cheery tune, holiday sounds and 60’s production style make it feel like a classic. It fits right in with all sorts of holiday tunes, from pop novelties and rock-and-roll to standards, lending itself well to being included everywhere from holiday parties to algorithmically generated streaming playlists.
Given the social media “network effect,” the more people who share the tune seasonally, the exponentially more popular it becomes. Carey super-fans, known as “Lambs,” actively promoted streaming and purchasing “All I Want for Christmas,” and their efforts contributed to its number one position on Billboard’s 2019 “Hot 100” ...