It’s not even Halloween yet, but Mariah Carey is already ushering in Christmas. The pop songbird and Island Def Jam chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid turned Allen Room at Lincoln Center in New York City into a winter wonderland to host a festive listening session for Merry Christmas II You, the follow-up to her 1994 best-selling Christmas album.
Munching on candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses and sipping Mariah’s own Angel Champagne, guests including Gayle King, singer Trey Lorenz, and “Extra” correspondent A.J. Calloway shuffled from the reception room to the soundstage, where Reid took the podium situated on a stage decorated with white pine trees, giant ornaments, and silver boxes of presents.
“It’s challenging. It’s Christmas in October, I know,” joked Reid before introducing the album. “Mariah started making this album in June after three years of asking.”
While Reid emceed the playback by introducing every other song, Mimi made a surprise appearance before the end of the album, bringing her hubbie Nick Cannon up on stage to help her share in the moment.
“For me, Christmas began in spring or summer. And basically, our house in L.A., Nick was very cool to deal with it,” she explained. “It was decorated kind of like this but with a little bit of reds and blues and greens and stuff, all since the summer. So I’ve been in the spirit, and this is a very creative moment for me personally and just to be working on this particular album right now has been exceptionally special for me.”
After thanking collaborators Randy Jackson, Jermaine Dupri, and Broadway composer Marc Shaiman, Mimi left the stage, leaving listeners with a few songs to close out the evening. Rap-Up.com is giving you a peek at 11 songs before the wrapping comes off on November 2.
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Intro)”
Chiming bells introduce the album, setting the tone with a lush orchestral background that segues into the following track.
Many in attendance had already heard the ebullient sleigh bell-driven single, so they enjoyed the track while watching projected images showing Mariah with her dogs in front of snowmen, skiing with her husband, and sleeping by the fireside.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem / Little Drummer Boy (Medley)”
The instruments are thick on this traditional jazzy number. Mariah pulls back on her vocals, allowing her voice to flutter over rolling percussion, dulcet flutes, and swelling strings. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mimi track without some bold singing near the end, but it finishes on a softer, heartwarming note.
“The First Noel / Born Is the King (Interlude)”
A smoky piano introduces this bare ballad where Mariah flexes her vocal chops with her signature buttery trills. Strings join in after the first verse and chorus, culminating in a grandiose finish.
“When Christmas Comes”
The most contemporary R&B song on the album, this begins with a crackly brass section, playing like classic soul. “Because this Christmastime/ Get together, it’s gonna be so nice/ Better than ever/ And boy, you’re the one that I’ll treasure/ I can’t wait to unwrap your love/ When Christmas comes,” sings Mimi before the song ends with a brief segue into “Jingle Bells.”
“Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) / Housetop Celebration”
Sampling Chic’s “Good Times,” this ’80s hip-hop-inspired cut updates the seasonal standard with a pounding backbeat, heavily influenced by the classic So So Def sound.
“Charlie Brown Christmas”
The classic piano instrumental fits snugly on the album, melding into “Christmas Time Is Here” from the classic TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The song slows to a seasonal, languid pace, heavy on the piano.
“O Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus” feat. Patricia Carey
“This next number is very special because it features a lady that I would probably say is the most responsible for her gene pool spilling over into Mariah,” said Reid, introducing the song. “It’s her mother Patricia Carey, who’s singing a song with Mariah.”
The gospel-heavy tune sees Mariah taking the first verse, while her operatic mother assumes second verse duties. Mimi comes in right at the end of her mom’s portion with a shrieking falsetto, closing out the song with an intergenerational duet.
“To be able to include my mother and work with her, that was really special,” Mariah later added.
“O Holy Night” (Live from WPC in South Central Los Angeles)
Recorded live at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in South Central Los Angeles, this gospel recording features a full band and backing chorus as Mariah nails the vocals. “It’s really amazing, I’m so happy she included that on this recording,” shared Reid.
“All I Want for Christmas Is You (Extra Festive)”
With a new orchestral introduction, this American classic features newly recorded vocals from Mariah as well as a beefier backing chorus, fresh ad-libs, and an extended outro, sounding just as enjoyable as it did in 1994.
“It’s a little known fact that she was one of the greatest writers of our time,” said Reid of Mariah. “That song, which she wrote, is the most successful holiday song written and released in the modern era—and she wrote it. That’s just phenomenal. We know a lot of songwriters. How many of them can say they truly wrote a standard? A true standard?”
Mariah later shared that she bugged composer Marc Shaiman about redoing the song’s intro by calling him with ideas at 6 a.m. “I would call him and I was like, ‘All I Want for Christmas’ needs a new intro,” she said. “No, I didn’t leave that off this album, if there are any real fans out there, but that one is remade and the intro is so good.”
“Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem)”
–Steven J. HorowitzTweet
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