In order to find out what makes certain Christmas songs sound so comforting and cozy“, videographer Estelle Caswell of Vox spoke with journalist and professor Adam Ragusea about his wonderful musicological explanation of the now-classic Mariah Carey song “All I Want For Christmas” on Slate. What Ragusea discovered when comparing the aforementioned song with Darlene Love‘s “Christmas (Baby please come home)” and Bing Crosby‘s “White Christmas“, is that they all made use of major subdominant chords that “melt” into minors.
…the chord comes immediately after a major subdominant chord, giving the effect of a “bright” major subdominant that you might say “sighs” or “melts” into a “dark” minor subdominant spiked with a “spicy” extra tone (the added 6), before the songs settle back into their tonic, or “home,” chords. …I should say I’m talking here only about the song’s harmonic content. …It’s these Jazzy chords that give Mariah Carey’s song that kind of classic early 20th century Christmas Jazzy sound. And it’s just the most Christmassy sound in the world. I don’t know why.
— Adam Ragusea (@aragusea) December 21, 2016