Should Have Been Bigger: Mariah Carey’s “Oh Santa”
In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.
Mariah Carey is the undisputed Queen of Christmas. Her euphoric “All I Want For Christmas Is You” remains the defining festive anthem of every pop playlist around the holidays. With 5.5 million copies sold, her 1994 LP Merry Christmas is the best-selling holiday album of all time. Mimi likely hoped to recapture the magic with the release of her second seasonal album, Merry Christmas II You, in 2010. She kick-started the promotional campaign with an equally promising standard, “Oh Santa,” another hopeful bop. Sadly, it did not exactly recreate the landslide success of her first outing.
Produced by Mariah, Jermaine Dupri, and Bryan-Michael Cox, the single featured a heartfelt request to Santa. Opening with a schoolyard-inspired chant, the hitmaker proclaims that there is only one thing on her wish list this year. “Santa, if you get this letter won’t you help me out,” she pleads over a chorus of church bells. “I know you’re kinda busy with your elves right now, and I don’t know how you do the things you do while I sleep on Christmas. But it’s amazing, and I bet that you could bring me back my baby.”
Armed with a buoyant production, the festive release paid tribute to her earlier successes without directly replicating them. Making clever use of ringing bells and a sing-along chorus, Mimi seemed destined for another massive hit.
The joyful bop received a throwback music video. Directed by Ethan Lader, the ’60s-themed affair opens with a gratuitous plug for her Lollipop Bling fragrance collection with Elizabeth Arden and sees the Elusive Chanteuse starring in a “Mariah Carey Christmas Spectacular” variety show. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce the incredible, the incomparable Miss Mariah Carey,” a host announces before she takes the stage in a fitted red dress. Joined by a slew of performers including Santa himself, she brings the lively track to life with an impassioned performance.
Upon its release, “Oh Santa” enjoyed a record-breaking run on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart. After debuting just outside the top 10, it soared to the top spot the following week. This marked the quickest ascent in the chart’s history. Despite this and rave reviews from critics, the single was largely overlooked on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at the very bottom of the chart in January of 2011 and rapidly fell off.
It also failed to find sustained love outside America. “Oh Santa” charted in Japan, South Korea and Canada, but it failed to recreate the meteoric success of her earlier material. As “All I Want For Christmas Is You” enjoys a new peak on the Billboard Hot 100 this year, her other holiday material needs a little love. Join us in revisiting Mimi’s underrated holiday bop below!