It’s a question as old as time (or, more accurately, as old as the mid-1990s): Which is the better Christmas song, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” or Wham!’s “Last Christmas”? Both tunes have become un-killable staples of holiday radio and playlists, and both have an uncanny knack for burrowing deep into your soul sometime around Thanksgiving and buzzing around there until New Year’s. And yeah, there’s that Paul McCartney Christmas song, too, but let’s not get crazy here.
So, which is better? Mariah Carey’s 1994 classic (Fun Fact: Carey and writing partner Walter Afanasieff wrote the song’s basic structure and melody in 15 minutes!), or Wham!’s 1984 classic (Fun Fact: George Michael wrote the song’s basic structure and melody while visiting his parents!) To find out, we conducted a highly informal and slapdash poll of Milwaukee musicians and other folks about town. Their answers are below:
Nick Lang (Buffalo Gospel)
“All I Want For Christmas.”
Mariah Carey no question. The second I hear it starting up I get this excited anticipation growing in my stomach because I’m about to bust out some full blown lip sync for your life in the faces of anyone in my general vicinity.
Andy Junk (Holy Shit!)
As evidenced by our punk band’s cover of the song last year, Mariah.
Luke Chappelle (Drugs Dragons)
Mariah Carey is a little more than half dead, so I’m going with Wham!
Erik Radloff (The Stellanovas)
Wham! for giving voice to the heartbreak that the holidays are for many people and for admitting that we are somewhat willing foolish participants in the myths. Also, the non rhyming choruses are refreshing and delightful.
John O’Grady (DJ Reno’s Soul)
“Last Christmas” by Wham! is my pick. It’s melancholy and warm at the same time. Michael’s vocals are sultry and smooth. Not a fan of all Christmas’ heaping playlist but this one is cool by me.
Dixie Jacobs (Body Futures)
WHAM > MARIAH. In most situations, but especially in this one. God I fucking hate that Mariah song. Syrupy nonsense in a sexy Mrs. Claus costume get the fuck outta here with that shit. That Mariah song is the Lifetime/Ion Christmas romance movie of the Christmas song cannon. Fuck it and its filmed-in-L.A.-in-July plasticity. Wham! is cool.
Jordan Davis (Space Raft)
Fuck Wham! Mariah…like a thousand times.
Jordan Davis (Space Raft)
No fuck that, MARIAH FOREVER.
Jordan Davis (Space Raft)
Wham! is just bad writing, Hearing anyone else do that song without the new wave production just sounds corny. I literally hate that song. Mariah honors everything great about Christmas music as created and defined by Phil Spector and the Ronettes, which is the only acceptable Christmas music.
Jordan Davis (Space Raft)
I feel very very strongly about this.
Isa Carini (Heavy Hand)
Mariah! She’s a delightfully entertaining shit show. I’d also rather live in that video’s world with random reindeer, snuggling with puppies, and wrestling with Santa in the snow.
John Dykstra (Midwest Death Rattle)
Mariah. Because of the cover she did on Fallon with kids and kid instruments. Without that it’s still Mariah but not by the current landslide margin.
Wham! for sure, but if I’m being honest here, the Jimmy Eat World cover is more near and dear, and did you know Hilary Duff and Crazy Frog also covered this song? That’s the real star power atop the Christmas tree.
Lauryl Sulfate (Lauryl Sulfate & Her Ladies Of Leisure)
“Last Christmas.” No disrespect to Mariah, she’s still a diva, but this is an easy call.
“Last Christmas” is just a better, cleaner song. It’s just a sad love song that just happens to take place over Christmas. It captures that sort of stressful vibe you get when you have a relationship that’s just not working, but it’s the holidays, so you’re almost stuck with it. They won’t break up with you even if they wanted to, because it’s the holidays, so then you spend the whole holiday feeling sort of bad and edged out and wishing that everything could feel better like it did in the beginning. Then, the next year, you’re just full of melancholy remembering that last year at this time, you were still together.
The Mariah song is just, like, a whole bunch of sleigh bells.
Chris Tishler (CHIEF, 5 Card Studs)
While the first hearings of holiday music usually instigates an eye twitch, once it’s worn off, I have to side with Wham! Holidays or not, I think that it’s just a damn good breakup song. Lyrically sad with a bit of spitefulness to it, which often gets glossed over in lieu of the melody, etc. which I dig. Damn great car dancing song, too.
Chuck Engel (Devils Teeth)
Nate Gray (Burgundy Ties)
Heather Lewin (Athas)
Chris Roberts (Heavy Hand)
Wham! all the way.
Scott Carey (Brat Sounds)
Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a charming song with an anti-capitalist message. She values love over commercialism. Many would say this is the true meaning of the holiday season. The arrangement under these heartfelt lyrics harkens back to Phil Spector’s Wall-Of-Sound style recordings. To me this seems like an effort to bring the listener back to a simpler time, further pushing the song’s earnest message. Looking at the song’s structure, the verses flow seamlessly into each chorus which ends with the song’s thesis statement. From a pop standpoint this is flawless songwriting.
“Last Christmas” is from the point of view of an obsessive, bitter incel. Someone who thinks they are owed something because they are “shy.” The singer expects you to empathize with them as they have been burned by an ex-lover. However, a closer examination of the song’s narrative will reveal that the singer is something closer to a stalker. “Once bitten, twice shy, I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye.” Has this dude even talked to the person he’s singing about?
“Tell me, baby, Do you recognize me? Well, it’s been a year. It doesn’t surprise me.” The object of the singer’s obsession doesn’t even remember him. In fact, the only evidence of actual contact between the two parties is a reference to a note he sent that literally just says “I love you.” So now we find our narrator at the same party a year later, just staring at his “crush” from across the room, seething, brooding, ruining the Christmas party.
Damian Strigens (Testa Rosa)
“Last Christmas” (Waldoch version).
Both are dreadful.
Anthony Weber (Heavy Hand)
Christmas music should be outlawed. Hail Satan.
Joseph Cannon (WORK)
Agree. I’m going with Satan on this one, too. BTW the best Christmas song of all time is “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause.”
• “Last Christmas” by Wham. I genuinely love Christmas music, but “Last Christmas” is this beautiful melancholy not quite Christmas Christmas song, and that makes it for me. I do like both, but the heavy synths and crappy drum machine add charm and put it over the top for the win.
• Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I love Mariah Carey. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has become a staple alongside all the other classics. Mariah forever, y’all.
• Wham. George Michael’s voice is exceptional and he helped shape the ’80s into the most unique decade of our times.
• There is no greater song for the holidays-nay, all the days-than “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah!
• Mariah Carey’s song is so elemental in its goodness, that it is often played un-ironically when all other Christmas songs have faded and the mere thought of Christmas music is baffling and repugnant. Meanwhile, you only hear “Last Christmas” when you forgot you had looked up Wham! on Spotify, and were accidentally playing their library on random. Great song, but not August great.
• Wham. Because someone needs to wipe that smug look off Mariah’s face and this article just might do it.