Christmas music comprises a variety of genres of music normally performed or heard around the Christmas season. Music associated with Christmas may be purely instrumental, or in the case of many carols or songs may employ lyrics whose subject matter ranges from the nativity of Jesus Christ, to gift-giving and merrymaking, to cultural figures such as Santa Claus, among other topics. Performances of Christmas music at public concerts, in churches, at shopping malls, on city streets, and in private gatherings is an integral staple of the Christmas holiday in many cultures across the world.
Music associated with Christmas is thought to have its origins in 4th century Rome, in Latin hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium. By the 13th century, under the influence of Francis of Assisi, the tradition of popular Christmas songs in regional native languages developed. Christmas carols in the English language first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, an English chaplain, who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailers' who would travel from house to house. In the 16th century, various Christmas carols still sung to this day, including "The 12 Days of Christmas", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", and "O Christmas Tree", first emerged.
The Victorian Era saw a surge of Christmas carols associated with a renewed admiration of the holiday, including "Silent Night", "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and "O Holy Night". The first Christmas songs associated with Saint Nicholas or other gift-bringers also came during 19th century, including "Up on the Housetop" and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas". Many older Christmas hymns were also translated or had lyrics added to them during this period, particularly in 1871 when John Stainer published a widely influential collection entitled "Christmas Carols New & Old". Few notable carols were produced from the beginning of the 20th century until the Great Depression era of the 1930s, when a stream of songs of often American origin were published, most of which did not explicitly reference the Christian nature of the holiday, but rather the more secular traditional Western themes and customs associated with Christmas. These included songs aimed at children such as "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer", as well as sentimental ballad-type songs performed by famous crooners of the era, such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "White Christmas", the latter of which remains the best-selling single of all time as of 2017.
Popular Christmas music produced from after World War II until the present day has generally remained thematically, lyrically, and instrumentally similar to the songs produced in the early 20th century. Since the dawn of the rock era in the mid-1950s, much of the Christmas music produced for popular audiences has had explicitly romantic overtones, only using Christmas as a setting. Exceptions such as "The Christmas Shoes" (2000) have re-introduced Christian themes as complementary to the secular Western themes, and a plethora of traditional carol cover versions by various artists have explored virtually all music genres.
Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1969 or 1970) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. In 1990, she rose to fame with the release of "Vision of Love" from her eponymous debut album. The album produced four chart-topping singles in the US and began what would become a string of commercially successful albums which solidified the singer as Columbia Records' highest selling act. Carey and Boyz II Men spent a record sixteen weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995–1996 with "One Sweet Day," which became the longest-running number-one song in US chart history. Following a contentious divorce from Sony Music head Tommy Mottola, Carey adopted a new image and traversed towards hip hop with the release of Butterfly (1997). In 1998, she was honored as the world's best-selling recording artist of the 1990s at the World Music Awards and subsequently named the best-selling female artist of the millennium in 2000.
Carey parted with Columbia in 2000, and signed a record-breaking $100 million recording contract with Virgin Records America. In the weeks prior to the release of her film Glitter and its accompanying soundtrack in 2001, she suffered a physical and emotional breakdown and was hospitalized for severe exhaustion. The project was poorly received and led to a general decline in the singer's career. Carey's recording contract was bought out for $50 million by Virgin and she signed a multi-million dollar deal with Island Records the following year. After a relatively unsuccessful period, she returned to the top of music charts with The Emancipation of Mimi (2005). The album became the best-selling album in the US and the second-best-seller worldwide in 2005 and produced "We Belong Together," which became her most successful single of the 2000s, and was later named "Song of the Decade" by Billboard. Carey once again ventured into film with a well-received supporting role in Precious (2009), and was awarded the "Breakthrough Performance Award" at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Throughout her career, Carey has sold more than 200 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. According to the RIAA, she is the third-best-selling female artist in the United States, with 63.5 million certified albums. With the release of "Touch My Body" (2008), Carey gained her 18th number-one single in the United States, more than any other solo artist. In 2012, the singer was ranked second on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Women in Music." Aside from her commercial accomplishments, Carey has won 5 Grammy Awards, 19 World Music Awards, 11 American Music Awards, and 14 Billboard Music Awards and has been consistently credited with inspiring a generation of singers. Referred to as the "songbird supreme" by the Guinness World Records, she has a five-octave vocal range, power, melismatic style and signature use of the whistle register.