“I don’t want a lot this Christmas…” Come on, sing it. You know all the words. You know you do. That song is almost 20 years old now (whoa) and it’s basically the last behemoth Christmas song out there, which is weird in and of itself (how could a major holiday, known for music, go two decades without another earworm jam? Maybe next year we need to get Pharrell on the Christmas bandwagon). It was co-written by Mariah Carey (logical) and Walter Afanasieff, who has written and composed for some of the most-successful, yet most loudly-mocked, artists in recent history. If you scroll through the discography, you’ll see that he’s produced and composed for Kenny G, Michael Bolton (Afanasieff was a producer on Time, Love and Tenderness, which produced four top-40 hits), NKOTB, and Celine Dion. In fact, Afanasieff has one “Record of the Year” Grammy, and it’s for this song, which he also worked on:
Let that sink in for a second. The same guy is behind “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Music is a crazy world. He’s also recently worked with Josh Groban, Vanessa Hudgens, Nick Lachey and others. Despite being all about earworm songs, the man isn’t afraid to flame the industry either. Check out this interview:
The entire conglomerate of all of these influences – from technology to media involvement to TV to Internet and social media – everything has conjured up a demise of the integrity and bravery that existed before. Music industry people do not take chances anymore. They default daily to whatever is the flavor of the month as determined by the media, and the social media machine. It doesn’t matter what the talent level is of the artist, or even whether any real talent is present or not.
When I read that, I wondered if maybe he was firing a shot across the bow at Dr. Luke, who was profiled in The New Yorker (that’s the link right there) and keeps mentioning his artists’ Twitter follower counts. It appears Afanasieff and Dr. Luke are tied at six for “most consecutive years producing a No. 1 hit.”
(Those two did work together on Spirit, probably the best of the Leona Lewis albums.)
Both the Dion song and the Carey song are best-selling singles of all-time; Afanasieff clearly isn’t worried about his next meal or anything. Its chart performances are insane; right now it’s No. 1 on the iTunes holiday chart, despite being released 20 or so years ago. Because the song is so big, it’s been covered and remixed about a half-a-zillion times, from everyone from Shania Twain and John Mayer (logical) to My Chemical Romance (perhaps less logical). Justin Bieber appeared on the track with Mariah in 2011; the meaning somewhat changed from that point, and now seemed to be a song where “all I want” was the acquisition of stuff you can get at a mall.
(The view count numbers on these embeds is insane, by the way; I don’t think I’ve seen anything less than 20 million+.)
Here’s a version of My Chemical Romance doing it, FYI. It’s not bad.
(That had significantly less than 20 million views.)
If you’d like to see Afanasieff in his younger days — with a very old-school Randy Jackson — check this out:
“All I Want For Christmas Is You” is basically the Christmas song of the past two decades (despite debuting in the 80s on the charts). More power to Carey and Afanasieff. But honestly, between the consistent radio airplay of that song and the fact that cable will air Titanic a lot during the holidays (long run time and people are generally at work less, plus Leo’s got Wolf of Wall Street coming out so some Leo-marathons might do nice business for a place like TNT), I’ll probably want to throttle Afanasieff by the end of these holidays. Doesn’t mean the jam isn’t insane earworm though; in the last two decades, or maybe even three, the only two songs I think most of modern America could sing and get most of the words right are “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and this jam:
That’s cultural cache, and that’s respect. Now maybe produce a little less with Kenny G. (Just kidding.)