Mariah Carey is being sued for $20 million (£16 million) for allegedly infringing on the copyright to her famous song All I Want for Christmas Is You.
The case names both the singer and her co-writer Walter Afanasieff, who is being sued by songwriter Andy Stone.
Carey launched the song as part of her album Merry Christmas in 1994, and it has since become one of the most well-known holiday hits.
Stone alleges he co-wrote the song in 1989 and has never given permission for it to be used in legal filings filed in the US district court for the eastern district of Louisiana.
According to the documents obtained by PA Media, Carey and her collaborators “engaged in a campaign” to infringe on Stone’s copyright for the song “knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally.”
They also claim the defendants engaged in “unjust enrichment” via “unauthorized appropriation of plaintiff’s work and the goodwill connected with it.”
Merry Christmas was published on November 1, 1994, by Columbia Records and went on to become the best-selling Christmas album in the United States, selling over 15 million copies worldwide.
All I Want for Christmas Is You original 1994
Following the success of her 1993 album Music Box, Carey and her Columbia Records management team — which included Carey’s then-husband, Tommy Mottola, president of Sony Music Entertainment — began preparing new projects. The band considered creating a Christmas album, but decided against it because such albums are often issued near the end of an artist’s career. Walter Afanasieff, Carey’s songwriting collaborator of four years, said: “There weren’t many performers who released Christmas albums back then. It wasn’t a well-known science back then, and no one was writing fresh, major Christmas tunes. So we were planning to release it as a regular, ‘Hey, you know, we’re putting out a Christmas album,’ kind of thing. It’s not a huge deal.'”
Carey and Afanasieff began creating and composing songs for Merry Christmas in mid-1994 after Mottola persisted. Carey put up Christmas decorations in the house she lived with Mottola so she could get into the holiday spirit and make her performance more authentic. That August, Carey and Afanasieff recorded “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which took them 15 minutes to write and compose.
Carey was “adamant” in her direction for the song, and Afanasieff acknowledged that he was bewildered and “blanched” as to where she wanted to take the melody and vocal scales at first. Afanasieff explained the type of interaction he and Carey had in the studio and as composers in an interview with Billboard:
“It was always the same sort of system with us. We would write the nucleus of the song, the melody primary music, and then some of the words were there as we finished writing it. I started playing some rock ‘n’ roll piano and started boogie woogie-ing my left hand, and that inspired Mariah to come up with the melodic [Sings.] ‘I don’t want a lot for Christmas.’ And then we started singing and playing around with this rock ‘n’ roll boogie song, which immediately came out to be the nucleus of what would end up being ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You.’ That one went very quickly: It was an easier song to write than some of the other ones. It was very formulaic, not a lot of chord changes. I tried to make it a little more unique, putting in some special chords that you really don’t hear a lot of, which made it unique and special.
Then for the next week or two Mariah would call me and say, ‘What do you think about this bit?’ We would talk a little bit until she got the lyrics all nicely coordinated and done. And then we just waited until the sessions began, which were in the summer of ’94 where we got together in New York and started recording. And that’s when we first hear her at the microphone singing, and the rest is history.”
Afanasieff flew back to California, where he finished the song’s programming and production. Originally, he had a live band play the drums and other instruments with the thought of giving it a more raw and affective sound. He was unhappy with the results of the recording and subsequently scrapped the effort and used his original, personal arrangement and programmed all the instruments heard on the song (with the exception of the background vocals) including the piano, effects, drums and triangle. While Carey continued writing material in her rented home in The Hamptons, Afanasieff completed the song’s programming and awaited to rendezvous with her a final time in order to layer and harmonize the background vocals.
In touching on several aspects of what excited her to record and release her Christmas album, Carey went into detail on what writing and recording the song and album meant for her, pointing out, “I’m a very festive person and I love the holidays. I’ve sung Christmas songs since I was a little girl. I used to go Christmas caroling. When it came to the album, we had to have a nice balance between standard Christian hymns and fun songs. It was definitely a priority for me to write at least a few new songs, but for the most part people really want to hear the standards at Christmas time, no matter how good a new song is.”