Hot 100 Review: All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

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Okay, so apparently the claim that The Weeknd had returned to stardom was premature. He rose high at number one last week only to drop all the way to 17. That’s still in the Top 20, but that is a hard hit to take so soon into a songs lifespan.

Meanwhile, The Weeknd’s closest competitor, Post Malone’s Circles stayed consistent over the last few weeks. It did not claim the number one spot this week, and Heartless didn’t stay on top so I could cover it, no. At time of posting Christmas is coming in fast and cold (I want to say hot. I mean global warming is a thing. Losing the point here). With Christmas time means the ever-present return of everyone’s favorite song “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

It really feels like we as a society only likes Mariah Carey at Christmas. Can any of you name a time she had a big song on the radio (or VH1 for me). The last one with any real air play was back in 2008 with Touch My Body (just watched the video to be sure. 1: song holds up but is a little long. 2: oh my god that’s Jack McBrayer. That hysterical). She’s had many albums come out, but none of the singles broke into the public consciousness and embed itself there like today’s song.

Okay, enough preamble. The song itself is… infectious. It really does stay in your brain. I mean obviously, it’s a song from 1994 getting big active air play in 2019. It has survived so many pop phases and still stuck around. Why is that?

There are many reasons. The most central of them is that it’s 4 straight minutes of Christmas cheer injected into your ear veins (ear veins? Yeah we’ll keep that. We don’t have an editor here, no one can tell me I can’t. On a side note if you want to be an editor contact us). Every beat and cord resonates back to songs of Christmas pasts.

It puts you into the holiday mood immediately with the intro. The operatic singing, mix of resonant bells and jingle bells, and strong voice all feel cozy and welcoming. When it transitions to the first verse of the song its constant jingle bells, upbeat piano, drums, and base make the song feel gigantic and important. So much of the visualization in the song’s lyrics paints the perfect picture of Christmas (Eve)ning. This is all helped by Mariah Carey being an amazing vocalist. You can really feel how much she loves the holiday, and how much she wants you to enjoy it too.

Now, this is an obvious point because it is indeed a Christmas song, but boy, Mariah Carey really loves Christmas. That’s the reason you make an original song, because you love it, but man she loves it. She loves it in the very genuine. She knows the reason of the season and is expressing that from the snow-covered rooftops. She wants someone so badly that she does not care about any part of the holiday except spending it with a person you really care about. That is accomplished through the massive vocals making the song feel like an event. Both Mariah Carey and the song care about Christmas and they will make you care through its perfect production and mix.

All of this praise is great until I pull the rug away a bit and say that the song is kind of bare lyrically. It’s super catchy (the second I saw I’d have to write about this song it all came flooding back to me), but does not have a lot going on in it. This feels like a concession to the genre. Most Christmas song are like Christmas trees. They’re purposefully bare. They are made beautiful by the decorations put upon them. This song just doesn’t have a lot of branches and pines to start so it had to be over decorated to compete. This makes the songs theme repetitive, like all the presents are wrapped in the same paper. It is not subtle in any way, and that is why it works. It gives just enough detail to be malleable for everyone, but not enough to paint a full picture.

(Oddly enough, Baby it’s Cold Outside was one of the least bare songs lyrically, and one of my favorites. Now with its controversy it feels to like the song is forever tarnished, but lots of duet singers make it feel like more flirtatious where we know what will happen, but in a playful way.)

The video is an excuse for Mariah Carey to play in the snow with her dog and show off her tree and presents (wait she gave those up for you). It’s basically showing how she celebrates or wants to celebrate Christmas. Seems odd when the song gets the meaning and video doesn’t. But presenting a good ole California Christmas would not look good on video and set the tone for one of the most Christmasy songs ever.

So a couple paragraphs with no real ending, and just affirmations. I’d say to listen to the song, but you have already. It is on every playlist imaginable. It feels timeless and like it has always existed (So timeless I thought it was a cover done by some artist totally eclipsed by the gigantic success of Mariah Carey). It will continue to exist. It might be a bare tree, but it is decorated so well you can’t look away.

Hot 100 Review: Heartless by The Weeknd

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The Weeknd (yes autocorrect it is really spelled like that. Stop interrupting my flow) is a great artist. He is one of the few who seem to know how to use the “Sad Boy” rap beats in any meaningful way. He had a giant mainstream debut a couple years back and then just vanished, potentially only become a guest artist at best (Was Starboy really 2016!?). That seemed to be a premature thought. He’s come back swinging recently with two new songs, “Blinding Lights” and today’s song “Heartless.”

“Heartless,” to give the game away early, is real good, but takes a couple listens to really sink in.

It has this great beat and vibe to match with the theme of being, what it wants you to think is heartless. What should be a high tempo beat is washed out, steady, and droning. It makes the ideas of all the women, partying, drugs, and stardom you could want feel like a total waste and not what the narrator really wants.

The verses and chorus support this through and through. They are all ploying acts to try and convince himself that he enjoys his life of partying (and etc.) because he is indeed a heartless, bad person. He believes this is just who he is, can’t change, and won’t change. He is so adamant about it he says he’s a “low life for life” (cause he’s heartless). He even pretends to care so little that he feels entitled to being what every girl needs (just ignore the fact he’s trying to find a girl to fix him and therefore actually is the one in need in that scenario).

This facade the song puts up is interesting at first, and only gets better with a great payoff when the bridge hits near the end of the song. It cuts that droning beat and fills it with a steady hum. It is used as a moment of clarity when he (the narrator) is forced to realize the truth about who he is. His special person (significant other of some kind) returns to talk sense into him. It just breaks him because they won’t let him be that broken “heartless” person anymore. It’s openly questioned why they won’t let him be that way in the backing track. Only the stubbornness of the narrator comes in and says he’ll prove it with a “clear tone.” This coincides with the previously removed drone returning to act as proof. It then repeats the chorus to try to solidify his heartlessness in the end.

The video features The Weeknd and his friend (is that Young Metro Boom, the songs producer?) stumbling their way through Las Vegas trying being ballers. Instead they look completely wasted. They’re stumbling and can hardly stand.

It’s all visually stunning. Las Vegas is a great location to set this video and deal with the songs theme as it cuts between the dazzling exteriors and empty interior shots. It’s all pretty strong until he licks a frog (yeah I didn’t see it going there either). The frog licking makes him sober up (more by realizing he’s completely wasted over literally sobering him. That isn’t a bad idea to keep with the theme of the song. It just disrupts the beat, messes with the production, and makes it the least optimal way to enjoy the song in the end.

Overall the song is good stuff. It’s too bad “Blinding Lights” makes those ideas more prevalent, and has a great 80s synth-wave beat with more energy, and no mumble mouth. Yeah this song has a real mumble problem that made me turn to reading the lyrics while the song played to really get what it was saying.

That’s not to say this song is not good, but in comparing the two this one is weaker, and would most obviously be popular. It’s got that sad boy, drowned out beats that are just energetic enough to make it into a solid club jam. On the surface it’s all about having girls, taking drugs (what’s a Tesla Pill? Elon Musk, what are you doing now???), partying, being a star, and doing it all cause you don’t care. That’s where the zeitgeist is at right now, and this is one of the best versions of those types of songs. It’s also just good that our Starboy can earn it again (ohh I’m so clever. Too bad Earned it is probably his weakest song).