The singer-actor talks about her new holiday special on Apple TV+, why the festive season resonates so much with her, and the legacy of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’
She is the undisputed queen of Christmas, and has been so — for 26 years and counting — ever since her fourth studio album Merry Christmas dropped in 1994, and ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ became one of the best-selling singles in history.
The holiday song is etched deep in global folklore today — it is impossible to imagine December without it — and Carey continues calling it “her gift to the world”.
This year, the singer-songwriter-actor is back with “another gift”, her Christmas special on Apple TV+. Titled Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special, the show features her and a starry line-up of her superstar friends: Tiffany Haddish, Billy Eichner, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri to mention a few.
The special will drop on the streaming platform on December 4, and will release along with the soundtrack single and music video for ‘Oh Santa!,’ co-written by and featuring Carey with Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson. This comes just months after the singer’s memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list in September.
The singer-actor also released her memoir earlier this year
All of which is to say that Carey, 50, has had a more productive holiday season than most, while also spending time with her nine-year-old twins, Monroe and Moroccan.
Talking to us on a Zoom call from her home in the US, Carey looks as resplendent as ever. It is around 3 am in the morning where she lives, and she is diva personified, complete with a therapy dog nestling on her glittery dress as she begins the interview. Excerpts from a conversation:
Would you say that your Magical Christmas Special is more anticipated than ever now because the world desperately needs a great holiday?
It’s been my biggest dream to be able to share this with the world. The goal was to just do the most festive special possible. Thankfully, we were able to finish this while going through COVID as we conceptualised it earlier. While working on it, we did a lot of exploring in my vault, and there is another Christmas song in there too, which will be a surprise for sometime later.
It has definitely been a nostalgic period for me. My memoir has taken me to a different place, as I went through that creative experience with my collaborator Michaela Angela Davis for over three years to finish it. It’s been fantastic seeing the response today, and now I’m waiting for a filmed version of it. I really hope the fans will enjoy my book and special for now.
What was the working process like, collaborating with the likes of Ariana Grande?
Ariana Grande, J-Hud (Jennifer Hudson) and I were so excited about coming together for ‘Oh Santa’. The song required more of me as a producer to structure it for three voices. Snoop (Dogg) came on board at the last minute and surprised me with what he did.
A still from the special
For me, personally, the greatest challenge right now is being open-minded and open to exploring all styles of music. All kinds of artistes reach out to me, and we have to get into that creative zone together. We can’t try too hard to make a hit; it has to happen organically.
Mariah Carey and Christmas have gone hand-in-hand over the past two decades — what does the festival mean to you, especially in 2020?
Well, I absolutely enjoy the over-the-top aspect of it! But you have to love the spirit of the holiday first; only then you get to experience it fully and have it resonate with you.
I know it will be different this year because of the pandemic. But I still look forward to sitting in bed, sipping on a hot chocolate and watching a Christmas movie surrounded by my close-knit family. I will miss being at shows, being around people of all ages, religions and races, kids with their parents.
I’m already missing the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the presents, et al. But like I say in my song, the lyrics literally go that I don’t care about my presents under the tree. It’s not only about the grandeur, it’s about the spirit.
Talking about ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’, the anthem celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. What is your perception of the song today?
I mention this in my book; when I first wrote All I Want for Christmas Is You, I wanted to “write a song that would make me feel like a carefree young girl at Christmas.”
Carey’s ‘All I Want for Chrismas is You’ celebrated its 25th anniversary last year
It’s been an interesting journey with it; the first Christmas song I ever wrote it. I’ve grown into falling in love with it more over the years. People really have connected with it in a way that I never expected.
Are your children as in love with Christmas as you are?
Well, they understand it’s a big holiday for their mom (laughs). I always try to make sure they have a blast; they have already given me their long list of presents for this year. We do everything from watch movies to listen to Christmas music; I’m hoping we don’t overdo it and run out of things to do at some point!
My favourite holiday memory with them is when I took them to Aspen to go sledding. They are in this festive red and green ensemble that covers their whole body, and look adorable. We have this amazing picture from that day and I love it!
Finally, what would you like to tell all the women who look up to you as an icon in the industry today?
The goal of writing my book was to emancipate my inner child, it was for that little girl who felt shy, scared and alone.
Don’t think of yourself as second best. Always believe that it’s possible. It was never only about me wanting to be famous or rich; it was always about believing in myself. You wouldn’t even have heard of me if I’d given up early on! We are all a work-in-progress, but we just have to be as strong as possible and we will make it.
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