Christmas Beef: “All I Want For Christmas Is You” Co-Writer Calls out Mariah Carey

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Christmas beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

It’s also the subject of the latest headline to come from Mariah Carey’s uber-holiday-hit song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

In a new twist, the co-writer of the song disputes Carey’s origin story about the track. Carey says she wrote the song as a kid. But co-writer Walter Afanasieff says otherwise.

Afanasieff, who worked with Carey on her first six studio records and is a multi-time Grammy Award-winner (neither with Carey), went on the Hot Takes & Deep Dives With Jess Rothschild podcast and talked about the song and Carey, saying she had created an “alternate story” about the famous song’s beginnings.

“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? So it just sort of developed in her mind,” said Afanasieff on the podcast. “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.”

He continued, “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.”

Carey’s song has again hit No. 1 this year. And her earnings from the track are remarkable.

“We were holed up in this beautiful home that they were renting, and it was the summertime and there was a piano, Afanasieff continued. “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.”

Five years ago in 2017, Carey told Billboard she came up with the idea for the song when she was much younger. She said, “I am proud of this song that I wrote basically as a kid on my little Casio keyboard.”

In 2019, in the documentary Mariah Carey is Christmas: The Story of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You, she inferred that she’d begun the song prior to “getting in the studio” with Afanasieff.

Photo by Gotham/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Santa Babies: 10 Musicians With Christmas Birthdays

The Unsung Boogie-Woogie Christmas Queens: The Andrews Sisters