My memories of year-ends are always featured with Christmas carols. Street stalls selling illegally copied cassette tapes, stationary stores selling tiny Christmas cards and a large department store at the intersection all had a speaker sitting in front of them. Some of the songs played out were Silent night holy night, Jingle bells and Joy to the world. But they played less conventional songs as well such as White winter by Mr. 2 and Winter alone by Kang Susie. Those songs rang out and echoed through snowy streets. This is my memory of carols.
Christmas carols had its golden age in Korea in the 1980s. Comedian Shim Hyeong-rae sold more than 500,000 carol albums. Popular comedy shows competed against each other featuring carols. “Srirang couple carol” by Kim Mi-hwa and Kim Han-kuk and “Nero 25th hour” by Choi Yang-rak and Lim Mi-suk combined Christmas and comedy acoustically.
The history of Christmas carols began in the 4th-century Rome. Various carols were composed in the era of classical music. Churches needed songs to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. After the modern era, American composer James Pierpont’s Jingle bells ruled the realm of Christmas carols for more than a century. Carols rang out at homes, offices and even in snowy battlefields.
And finally, a game changer arrived. American singer Mariah Carey released a carol album “Merry Christmas” on November 1, 1994, which rewrote the history of carols. She sold more than 15 million copies of her album world-wide. It is the best-selling carol album in human history. “All I Want for Christmas is You” was the biggest hit among all her songs. The song co-produced by Carey and Walter Afanasieff beat carols sung for centuries and became a generic trademark for carols.
Some say that they cannot feel the year-end atmosphere anymore. It is because carols are not played on the streets anymore. The rapid adoption of personal stereos in the 1990s, MP3 formats, online file sharing music streaming services in the 2000s personalized listening to music. Some even say they need bean sprouts (wireless earphones) more than a wallet when they leave their home. Songs are not played out in the streets.
A domestic mobile carrier decided to provide small businesses free carol streaming for a month by working with music streaming service providers. It will provide Bluetooth speakers to small stores in Myeong-dong and operate carol trucks around downtown Seoul.
“All I Want for Christmas is You” topped the billboard single chart for the first time in 25 years. This song has been broadening its realm every year. A 2003 British romantic comedy film “Love Actually” made the song more popular. It appeared again on the chart in December every year. It ranked 9th in the billboard single in December 2017. It was the most played song on Spotify on last Christmas eve. It was played 10.8 million times for 24 hours.
Mariah Carey was in the prime of her career in the winter of 1994. “Hero” in her 1993 album “Music Box” was a great hit. She decided to produce three new songs herself rather than using her hit song again. One of them was “All I Want for Christmas is You.” The era of Carey is gone, but the era of carols is here to stay. It is the season in which our wishes come true.