Mariah Carey responds to 'All I Want for Christmas' co-writer's assertion
Mariah Carey is denying statements by music producer Walter Afanasieff, co-writer of "All I Want for Christmas Is You," that the Long Island born-and-raised singer has been saying she "basically" wrote the perennial hit as a child on an inexpensive electronic piano keyboard.
"Mariah has always credited Walter (as she does with all of her collaborators) and the story has been told multiple times," one of her representatives told Newsday in an email Tuesday. "She was not a child when the song was written."
Carey, 53, did tell Billboard magazine in December 2017, "I am proud of this song that I wrote basically as a kid on my little Casio keyboard." She told Entertainment Weekly two years later, minus the Casio claim, that she wrote most of the song herself: "I wrote the beginning and the middle on the keyboard in a little house in Upstate New York, in a room by myself.” When she brought that to Afanasieff, "I had already written most of the song, and we worked on the bridge and produced it together."
Afanasieff, 64 — whose extensive body of work as a producer includes Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme from 'Titanic')," which won a Record of the Year Grammy, and who additionally has won a Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Grammy — last week on the podcast "Hot Takes & Deep Dives" disputed her recollection.
He and Carey had long been, he said, “both on the same exact page of how we wrote ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You.' There was never any … alternate story, alternate universe, alternate reality until probably 10 years ago when she started to sort of, like, hint at the fact that, ‘Oh, yeah, 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? So it just kind of sort of developed in her mind."
He noted, "She doesn’t play anything — she doesn’t play keyboard or piano. … 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."
Both agree the song began life in a house in upstate New York that Carey and her then-husband, music mogul Tommy Mottola, were renting one summer. "We were tasked with the writing of three songs," said Afanasieff, who would stay there with them. "We were going to do a Christmas album, but we weren't going to write the whole Christmas album."
One song was a romantic number, "Miss You Most at Christmas." The second, "Jesus, Born on This Day," was religious. The third would be "a fun, up-tempo, kind of a cool nondenominational" song. "It wasn’t like, 'Well, I'm only there for two because she already wrote the third as a little girl on a Casio keyboard with one finger.'"
The Huntington-born Carey "help[ed] in the creation of the melodies," Afanasieff said, while he did "all of the music and the chords and everything. … She would do all the lyrics." Of the actual mechanics, he said, "I started playing sort of a boogie-woogie, kind of a rock" bass line on a piano "and it was like a game of Ping-Pong. I’d hit the ball to her, she hits it back to me," with lyrics, which were not completed at that session but over time, he said.
In a 1994 interview snippet posted by VH1 on Instagram Christmas Day, five-time Grammy winner Carey takes credit for the melody, which "just came into my head" one night at that update home, "and I just went in and I had a little keyboard set up there and I just kind of finished the lyrics, and the melody just came pretty quickly."