While there haven’t been many recent Christmas tunes that have captured the imagination the same way classics like “Silent Night,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” have, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a rare exception.
Released in 1994’s lead single from Carey’s third album Merry Christmas, the track is unusual for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s an indefatigably upbeat number instead of the kind of sober ballad that typically dominates the season. And it incorporates sounds like synthesizers and layered backup vocals that are traditionally found in Christmas music.
However, despite its quirks, “All I Want for Christmas is You” is just so irresistibly fun and heartfelt that it has quickly become a holiday standard. As a testament to the song’s enduring popularity, here are the five best covers of “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
One cool thing about cover songs as they allow artists from one genre to tackle a song that’s way out of their usual wheelhouse, both musically and lyrically. For instance, as My Chemical Romance is a post-hardcore band with a heavy emo influence, they don’t have much in common with Mariah Carey sonically. And while Gerard Way and company changed a great deal about the song for their 2009 cover of “All I Want for Christmas is You,” they did it justice by keeping its core of palpable yearning wholly intact.
4. John Mayer
Although singer-songwriter John Mayer has a fairly stolid image, he can be profoundly soulful when he wants to be. The greatest example of that quality is probably the epically funky guitar solo he contributed to Frank Ocean “Pyramids.” The second greatest example of his soulfulness is his stunning 2008 live cover of “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
It’s possible that one of the main reasons for “All I Want for Christmas is You” enduring popularity is its remarkably elastic orchestration. With their 2010 cover, Lady Antebellum stripped the song of its synthetic elements, slowed it way down and added some lightly twangy guitars. As such, it should sound completely different but it’s still instantly recognizable as the Mariah Carey hit.
Another cover version that shows off the adaptability of the song, Straight No Chaser’s take on “All I Want for Christmas is You” sounds almost unrecognizable at first. The song’s opening 30 seconds make it sound like some kind of gorgeous hymn. But once the tune’s signature synthetic drum kicks in, the a cappella group takes it back into familiar territory before moving it into a delightfully bluesy new direction.
1. Olivia Olson
Given the indelible position it occupied in modern pop culture, Olivia Olson’s cover of “All I Want for Christmas is You” is the most memorable and best cover of the beloved holiday track. This is due to the fact that then 10-year-old Olson sings a pitch-perfect rendition of the song in the cinematic new holiday classic “Love Actually.” Her take on “All I Want” is the kind of musical performance can warm even the coldest heart.