Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” Cowriter Disputes Story Of Song’s Creation
The cowriter and coproducer on Mariah Carey’s much-loved Xmas song “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is refuting Carey’s claim that she wrote the song as a kid. For context, Walter Afanasieff collaborated with Carey on her first six studio albums and has won two Grammys: one in 1999 for Record Of The Year (for producing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”), and in 2000 he won Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical. Anyway, recently Afanasieff went on the Hot Takes & Deep Dives With Jess Rothschild podcast, where he claimed that Carey had invented an “alternate story” around how “All I Want For Christmas Is You” came about.
“When she started to hint at the fact that, ‘Oh, I wrote that song when I was a little girl!’ But why weren’t you saying that for 12 or 13 or 15 years prior to that?,” Afanasieff said. “So it just sort of developed in her mind. She doesn’t play anything. She doesn’t play keyboard or piano. She doesn’t understand music, she doesn’t know chord changes and music theory or anything like that. She doesn’t know a diminished chord from a minor seventh chord to a major seventh chord.
“So to claim that she wrote a very complicated chord-structured song with her finger on a Casio keyboard when she was a little girl, it’s kind of a tall tale.”
Earlier this month Stereogum broke down the chord structure and compositional elements of the Christmas standard (which has hit #1 in the last four Decembers) in our In Theory column.
On the pocast Afanasieff went on to say how he and Carey came up with the song while working on music for her 1994 Christmas album. “We were holed up in this beautiful home that they were renting, and it was the summertime and there was a piano,” he said. “So the writing of ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is, I started playing a boogie-woogie, kind of a rock. Mariah chimed in and started singing ‘I don’t want a lot for Christmas.’”
He added: “So on and on, and it was like a game of ping-pong. I’d hit the ball to her, she hits it back to me.”
In 2017, Carey told Billboard that she came up with the song when she was a kid. “I am proud of this song that I wrote basically as a kid on my little Casio keyboard,” she said. Carey also told a different version of events in her 2019 documentary Mariah Carey is Christmas: The Story of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You, where she implied that she’d started the song on her own before “getting in the studio” with Afanasieff.