Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is, hands down, one of the most successful holiday songs of all time. Originally released in 1994, Carey’s upbeat pop track dominates the musical charts every Christmas; its various covers fill America’s radio stations and malls; it’s one of the rare modern songs to break its way into the traditional Christmas music canon, powered by its simple love story, ear-worm melody, and Carey’s undeniable voice.
Now, though, Carey is being sued over the song, with CNN reporting that musician Andy Stone—or, as we will exclusively be referring to him for the rest of this article, Vince Vance, of Vince Vance and the Valiants—has accused Carey, co-writer Walter Afanassief, and Sony Music Entertainment of copyright infringement and misappropriation for stealing his own song…’s title.
A caveat: We generally try, when reporting on cases like this, not to comment too heavily on the quality of the arguments being made. There is, after all, a whole cottage industry of legal professionals and consultants whose job is digging in deep and assessing merits of the ways the creative process can overflow into outright infringement; it’s a complicated area with an enormous amount of possible nuance, and multi-million-dollar stakes.
That being said: It’s damn hard to remember the last time a legal claim of this type got a bigger, more bemused “Yeah, really?” from us on initial read. To be clear, Vince Vance doesn’t think Carey stole his song’s lyrics, or a lick of its melody: Just its title—and, we guess, the basic concept of missing someone at Christmastime. Vance is right that his song—one of only two Valiants songs that ever charted, along with “Barbara Ann” parody “Bomb Iran”—predates Carey’s by about five years, and you can certainly hear a few minor similarities between Carey’s vocals and the ones being performed by Valiants member Lisa Burgess Stewart on the song.
But Vince Vance’s assertion that Carey and Sony exploited his “popularity and unique style” to propel the latter version of “All I Want” up the charts just seems absurd. (A secondary argument, that the later song basically destroyed any potential popularity the earlier track might have some day picked up, sounds a bit more compelling, admittedly.) But the basic point remains: Mariah Carey probably could have called that song damn near anything and still come away with a hit.
There’s also no explanation for why Vince Vance is bringing this lawsuit in 2022; his lawyers apparently contacted the defendants in 2021, but couldn’t come to an agreement. Vince Vance is apparently seeking $20 million with the suit.