Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Her New Christmas Special

In the latest holiday-themed edition of his ‘At Home With’ conversations, Zane Lowe is joined by Mariah Carey who discusses her star-studded Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV+, collaborating with Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson on “Oh, Santa”, writing the holidays classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, her love for Billy Eichner, her infamous unreleased alternative album, the power of writing her bestselling memoir, her connection to the late Whitney Houston, the gift of songwriting, what Christmas means to her, and more.

Listen to Mariah’s hand-chosen At Home With Playlist on Apple Music HERE

Watch Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV+ HERE

Video | Mariah Carey: Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV+ and ‘The Meaning of Mariah Carey’

Credit: Zane Lowe on Apple Music.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Partnering With Apple For Her New Christmas Special…
Yeah, it’s been intense. And when we first talked about doing this special, it was last year, prior to COVID, and it was February and we were all so excited and like, oh, we’re going to make it huge and great and everything. And then the world… So luckily, Apple has been the most incredible partner ever, and we’ve just been able to really get creative. Luckily, this was already slated prior to everything, and everybody just kind of jumped in and said, “We’re not letting them ruin Christmas. It will not be foiled.”

I’ve always wanted to do a special, like basically Live from the North Pole, which is what we’re going to feel with this special, I hope. It’s what I felt while filming it. And Done  + Dusted, the producers that I’ve worked with and collaborated with, really got that vision. And I just always want to do something special for Christmas, and I usually do live shows. And last year, when “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” right before it went to number one on the Hot 100, Billboard Hot 100… Yeah, no, it was an amazing moment. And I remember being there, and I talk about it in my memoir, where it was like everybody was there celebrating, singing back to me, all different races of people. You could see just all different ages and different people just celebrating and really feeling the holiday spirit. And I love doing that, doing my concerts all around the world, but obviously this year we can’t, and we’re not encouraging gatherings and definitely not doing that. But I feel like people can gather around the TV with their friends and family, or just not gather around, but people can watch it simultaneously, kind of hang out, do whatever they’re going to do, Zoom, FaceTime, whatever, just enjoy the moments together, because it’s really designed to make people feel good this year, and forever, hopefully.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Writing “All I Want For Christmas Is You”…
I’ve reinterpreted this song a lot of times and started writing it on a junky, little keyboard, whatever. And I’m not a good player, but I know what I hear. And then I usually have somebody great translate that for me into the chords. But I’m hearing the chords as I hear the melody. So I started that one, and I’ll just always have the recollection of writing it. And it’s my first Christmas song that I ever wrote. And then I was just like, “What do I really, really want to hear at Christmas? What do I want to talk about? But how do I make it all-encompassing in terms of the love aspect of it?” And I think that, you know what, I’m not saying it’s the world’s greatest thing, but it makes me happy. And it’s made a lot of other people happy. And when I see people dancing in the streets to the song and having these big, huge festivals, and they’re playing it, it’s what holidays mean to me. It’s the memories. It’s being around the people. It’s the song that takes you through the memories that you can create your own new memories from.

For me… Christmas music is timeless and should be timeless. And if it strikes a chord with people, that’s the goal. And so I have so many memories attached to the song, but people come to me and tell me about their memories. And that’s what means the most.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About The Meaning of Christmas To Her…
For me, it’s the birth of Christ. It’s the actual meaning of the holiday, but it’s the meaning of love. And it’s the meaning of I like to feel at peace. I don’t often feel at peace. At Christmas, sometimes I’ll just be by myself, steal a moment, and just be in the room, look at the tree, listen to the music. And there I am.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Collaborating with Billy Eichner…
Billy Eichner was the most fun moment, I have to say. Not to play favorites, but I just mean a lot of our scenes actually didn’t end up in there. I’m hoping maybe we have some outtakes, and I just love him. We did an episode of Billy on the Street together last year, one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. His personality is so just raucous and kind of out there, but he’s also subtle, and his humor is…But I live for that, because when I’m on stage, my thing is not, I’m not a dancer, I’m not a this, I don’t do all the choreography, but I talk to the audience and relate to the audience as if they’re having a one-on-one experience with me. And I feel like his ability to sort of be in the moment, improvising, saying whatever, I love to play off of somebody like that. And he’s a rare bird in that way. It’s a rare quality that he has. And I really, really, really enjoy him. And I’m so happy he was able to do it.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Her Unreleased Alternative Album…
I don’t even have a copy, but I did the artwork myself. It’s been so long and I never talked about it with anybody. I actually just found the version with my vocals, but I need to find the board mixes from back then.Only my closest friends and the people that I actually made the album with knew about it. One of the people that was so cool to me, before I ever had a deal or ever had any of that stuff, Clarissa, came in, and because I got kind of in trouble for making this album, the alternative album, because back then everything was super controlled by the powers that be. And I never really was like, “Oh, we’re going to release it.” But then I was like, I should release it. I should do it under an alias. And then let people discover it and whatever, but that got squashed.

First of all, it was fun. Second of all, in terms of writing, it was the complete antithesis of what my, like “One Sweet Day” and “Fantasy,” I love these songs, all those songs, and then the deeper cuts and stuff. But that was literally, I would sit down and just write anything that came to my mind, five minutes, say to the guitar player, can you play [guitar sounds]? Can you play this? And they would play that. And then we would just do it, and I was in character, and then we did it. And then I was saying, the woman Clarissa, who was a dear friend and really helped me out when I was first starting out, I said, can you come in, once they were like, you can’t do this, the label and whatever, once the label tried to control me, as they tend to do, or always did with me, then I was like, “Come in and just sing on top of what I did,” and we collaborated with it.

But I was so married to what I had done, even though it was like a fun escape and it was all jokes, but then again, at the end of the day, once I live with it and listen to it, I was like, this is freeing and empowering, and I’m living for the moment. So I just kind of kept it to myself. I had done the album art. I did the whole thing. I’ve never even talked about this.It was just fun. And honestly, it was so necessary. I think I sort of survived through that, and I literally made a whole album and just kept it to myself.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Working With Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson on “Oh, Santa”…
Well originally, Oh, Santa, a song I collaborated on with Jermaine Dupri and Brian-Michael Cox, two of my favorite people to write with, and I went to Jermaine and I was like, ” I want to do a fun, uptempo Christmas song. I want it to be like [clapping beat] that’s a beat. That’s how we work. We took it from there. I did a layered vocal arrangement, which is why I thought when we had the whole chance with Ari and with Jennifer Hudson, I was like, “Let’s do a girl’s group, like a Supremes vibe,” because that’s what I was thinking when I did it originally because it’s a classic type sounding record. That’s like an “All I Want for Christmas Is You” vibe. That was the original “Santa.” When the opportunity presented itself to work with Arianna and with Jennifer Hudson, and I have to think as a producer because vocal producing is really one of my favorite things, and I think one of the things that I’m best at, particularly with layering, and background vocals, and s tuff like that, just how we’re going to do it and what’s the layering… and it was the one song that was like, “We can have fun with it,” because it was never super serious or whatever. It’s fun. It’s festive. To me, those are the best type of Christmas songs, when you don’t have to think so much about it, even though I have songs like that, it’s when you can be free. I feel like the featured moments here were really fun because you hear J Hud, you know it’s her. You hear Ariana, you’re like, “Oh wow, that sounds so great,” a new interpretation of that moment. Then I’m there as the one that wrote the song and put the whole thing together. It’s fun. There’s the chant. There’s a whole thing. I think kids are going to like it, who maybe never got a chance to hear it before. I’m excited.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About The Power of Her Memoir…
I think people have read this book and found a different understanding because it’s really been a difficult road just with all the issues I grew up with and talk about in great detail in the book. It was interesting because a lot of the issues are about race and identity and just the struggle of the ambiguousness of being black and biracial yet still to this day are like, “We don’t know. Is she black? Is she white? Is she Hispanic? What is she?” And that was always a question, “What are you?” And it’s like, “What are you?” I’m a person, but that’s not the way the world is. And so I know that writing this book, it was very emancipating.

So releasing all of that with this book was really healing, very healing and my collaborator and I, Michaela Angela Davis, I knew I love her. She’s brilliant. And we really worked hard on every single part of it in the same process. And I told her this was the best creative processes that I’ve ever had. And she’s like, “I won’t tell Jermaine.” No, but it’s true because it was a three year thing. But even before that, I had offers to do the book and I wanted to collaborate with her. And then people were like, “No, we just want to hear specifically from you.” I’m like, “But I think this is going to be the best way because I love collaborating.” Particularly when I’m coming to the table with, “These are my stories, these are my lyrics, let’s present it this way. Let’s figure it out. 

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Her Connection to Whitney Houston…
She started before I started. She inspired everybody, myself included, obviously. And I like a lot of the deeper cuts that not everybody knows, like the song she did with Kashif and the stuff that people will be like, “What? I don’t know that.” But “Thinking About You” and those songs, that’s when I first heard her, before she was even that big. So obviously, she was inspiring to me and to us all.

What brought us together, I think, well, first of all, the corporate entities that wanted that duet to happen got involved, made it happen. I would have preferred to have written the song “When You Believe,” yeah, but at that point it was, and no offense to anybody, but that male-dominated structure. And I didn’t even have anybody on my team that was like, “No, Mariah’s got this.” It was me against a whole team of super powerful men.

And then we did our thing, and thankfully the song won an Academy Award, and it was this whole thing. And I talk about it in the book, but she and I, I think the best thing about it, when we got through all of the other stuff, was the fun, the sense of humor. And when we weren’t in front of the camera, that was the best. And we have some great times with the “try it on me,” with the VMAs and ripping off the brown dresses, the Vera Wang dresses, and those little moments.

But it was the moments behind the scenes and in the trailer and when we were not around other people, where we would say stuff. And for me, it was all good. But I mean, I know it’s the camps, the different people that are around people that create this kind of thing. And I know she was fun. That’s what I’m saying. She was real. And people, I think the average person, they had their perceptions, but she was the truth.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music Why Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” Is Christmas To Her…
I mean, look, I think it depends on the way we reflect. If we’re at the end of the year and that’s what somebody is thinking about, like they’ve gone through a whole year and where  are they at and whatever. And especially in this past year but I just refuse to allow myself to not enjoy the holidays because I love everything about the holidays. I know people get sad during the holidays, “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. I understand why you would feel maybe a bit melancholy with that song. It’s so beautiful. The arrangement is so lush, the production, his voice. It really is Christmas to me. There have been so many other renditions of that song, but for me, I love that one. And I always, always will. Sometimes when there’s a classic, you just don’t need to mess with it. And I don’t get sad when I hear it. It’s like I’m getting goosebumps thinking of it now. That’s how real the whole Christmas thing is to me.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About Fame…
Well, I think this industry, maybe not so much now because of social media and because people can speak up for themselves via social media, but before, and I write about this in the book, when people were coming after you or stalking you or hunting you in the press, in the media, you’re kind of screwed because a scandal went on for months. Now, it’s like, oh, this happened. Okay, what’s tomorrow’s thing? I think it’s easier, but I do think the coping mechanism situation comes from the fact that this is not normal, being under the scrutiny of constant focus and attention and making it all about you, it is a thing where then, when you come down from it, you really, really, really do need a support system. Because nobody else, unless they become you, even if they think they’re your best friend, and they totally get you, and they understand your music, and they understand the things about you that people don’t understand, they will never know what it’s like to be in your skin. And that’s why people are gone too soon because it just gets excruciating.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music Why The Studio Is Like Church For Her…
I was in the studio working on something all day, and then came here, and stuff like that, but I love that. That’s like church to me. That’s the creative environment in which I thrive. The other stuff is great, and it’s fun, and it’s fabulous, and it’s glamorous, but creating, and working, and producing in the studio is everything. I would be happy being in the studio forever, or just at least spending a few months out of the year. Certain albums I’ve done, whether it’s the Rainbow album, or Emancipation of Mimi, a lot of them, I went to Capri and lived at the studio in a little apartment that I made for myself right off the live room. I would just sleep until I was ready vocally, and then go and record. That was some of the best stuff I’ve ever done.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About George Michael…
I loved George, growing up. I loved Wham! And I loved the album, Faith. To me, that was a perfect album. I live with it. From high school to living as a kid in the city, struggling and looking at it and watching his videos and what he did, how he presented himself, and how he was multi-format, and I really believe he loved R&B music and that he was a brilliant producer and songwriter. And he really created so many classics, “Father Figure,” “I Want Your Sex,” all those great songs, “One More Try,” which I actually did a remake of.

Before he passed away, we had a dinner. We had a lot of things in common. We had a lot discussions. But anyway, cut to I remade “One More Try.” And he was still living, and he wrote me something about how much he loved it. And I had hoped that he and I would be able to actually perform it together live, somewhere, but it didn’t happen. So God bless him and… And then he passed away on Christmas. And that affected me in a really intense way. But we have his music, and I think the fact that “Last Christmas” is such a timeless, timeless classic.

Mariah Carey Tells Apple Music About The Gift of Songwriting…
I mean, every song that I do I feel is a gift. If I’m writing, it comes from another place. That is the gift. The greatest gift, to me, is being able to be a songwriter and hear music and then articulate it, write it down, sing it, hear the chords. And I love collaborating, as we said, but I am at the place where I’m like, “Wow, this is something I did.” 




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