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All I Want for Christmas co-writer speaks out over Mariah Carey’s ‘tall tale’

‘She doesn’t know chord changes and music theory or anything like that,’ the music producer claimed about Carey

Amber Raiken
New York
Saturday 24 December 2022 08:09 GMT
Related: How Mariah Carey Makes Makes Millions Every Christmas

The co-writer behind Mariah Carey’s festive hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” has claimed her story about the song is a “tall tale”.

Producer Walter Afanasieff discussed the beloved holiday tune during Thursday’s (22 December) episode of the Hot Takes & Deep Dives podcast.

Speaking to host Jess Rothschild, Afanasieff claimed that he and Carey were “on the same page” about how to write the song. However, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that an “alternate story” was shared about the songwriting process.

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

Over the years, Carey has claimed to have come up with the concept of the song when she was a child. She told Billboard in 2017 that she created it “as a kid” while sitting at her “little Casio keyboard”.

During his conversation with Rothschild, Afanasieff shut down Carey’s narrative and claimed that 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,” he claimed. “She doesn’t know a diminished chord from a minor seventh chord to a major seventh chord.”

He went on to criticise the singer’s remarks about creating the song as a child, especially given the different chord changes that the tune has.

“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,” Afanasieff continued. “It’s a difficult song.”

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The music producer then shared his version of how the song was written and how they came up with the tune while making three songs for her Christmas album, Merry Christmas. He said that while she managed the melodies and lyrics, he was in charge of “all of the music and the chords”.

“So the writing of ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is, I started playing a boogie-woogie, kind of a rock,”’ he continued, as he mimicked sounds of the baseline. He also claimed that this baseline gave her the idea to sing the note of the line: “I don’t want a lot for Christmas.”

“So on and on,” he added. “And it was like a game of pingpong. I’d hit the ball to her, she hit it back to me.” He emphasised how complicated some of these chord changes were, before doubling down on his claim that “a little girl” wouldn’t be able to do them on her “Casio piano”.

Although Afanasieff and Carey have gone their separate ways, they worked together on a few of the performer’s other albums, including Emotions and Music Box.

A representative for Carey told The Independent that Carey has credited Afanasieff for the song and has told the story behind it “multiple times”. They also said that Carey “was not a child when the song was written”.

In 2019, Carey shared her in-depth story about how she created the hit Christmas song.

“I just sat down, decorated a little tree and put on It’s A Wonderful Life and tried to get into that mood,” she explained during an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Then I sat in this small room with a keyboard and started doing little melodies and stuff. I was going over all the things I think about at Christmas time that make me happy and how to turn it around and make it into a love song.”

Earlier this year, songwriter Andy Stone sued Afanasieff and Carey for $20m. He claimed in his lawsuit that “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was taken from a song of the same name he co-wrote for Vince Vance & the Valiants in 1989. Stone dropped the charges in November.

The Independent has contacted a represntative for Afanasieff for comment.

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