Joy to the World

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Joy to the World
GenreChristmas carol
TextIsaac Watts
Based onPsalms 98:4
Meter8.6.8.6 (C.M.)
Melody"Antioch" by George Frideric Handel, arranged by Lowell Mason

"Joy to the World" is a popular Christmas carol[1] with words by Isaac Watts. The words of the hymn are based on Psalm 98, Psalm 96 (verses 11 and 12) and Genesis Chapter 3 (verses 17 and 18). As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.[1]



The words of the hymn are by English writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98, 96:11–12 and Genesis 3:17–18. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts' collection The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. The paraphrase is Watts' Christological interpretation. Consequently, he does not emphasize with equal weight the various themes of Psalm 98. In first and second stanzas, Watts writes of heaven and earth rejoicing at the coming of the King. An interlude that depends more on Watts' interpretation than the psalm text, stanza three speaks of Christ's blessings extending victoriously over the realm of sin. The cheerful repetition of the non-psalm phrase "far as the curse is found" has caused this stanza to be omitted from some hymnals. But the line makes joyful sense when understood from the New Testament eyes through which Watts interprets the psalm. Stanza four celebrates Christ's rule over the nations."[2] The nations are called to celebrate because God's faithfulness to the house of Israel has brought salvation to the world.[3]


Watts's 1719 preface says the verses "are fitted to the Tunes of the Old PSALM-BOOK" and includes the instruction "sing all entitled COMMON METER".[4] In the late 18th century, "Joy to the World" was printed with music several times, but the tunes were unrelated to the one commonly used today.[5]

The tune usually used today is from an 1848 edition by Lowell Mason for The National Psalmist (Boston, 1848).[6] Mason was by that time an accomplished and well-known composer and arranger, having composed tunes such as "Bethany", which was used for the hymn Nearer My God to Thee. Mason's 1848 publication of the current tune was the fourth version to have been published. The first, published in his 1836 book Occasional Psalm and Hymn Tunes, featured the present day tune (in a different arrangement) with the present-day lyrics; the first such publication to do so. The name of this tune was given as "Antioch", and was attributed as being "From Handel".[7] A very similar arrangement of the tune to today's arrangement, and also with the present-day lyrics, was published in Mason's 1839 book The Modern Psalmist. It was also titled "Antioch" and attributed to Handel.[8]

Musically, the first four notes of "Joy to the World" are the same as the first four in the chorus "Lift up your heads" from Handel's Messiah (premiered 1742), and, in the third line, the same as found in another Messiah piece: the arioso, "Comfort ye". Consequently, and with Mason's attribution to Handel, there has long been speculation over how much a part Handel's Messiah had in "Joy to the World".[9] It is known Mason was a great admirer and scholar of Handel's music, and had in fact became president of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society in 1827[10] and was also an editor for them.[11] However, resemblances between Messiah and "Joy to the World", have been dismissed as 'chance resemblance' by Handel scholars today.[12]

Moreover, several tunes have been found from the early 1830s closely resembling that of "Antioch", the earliest of which was published in 1832 under the title "Comfort" (possibly as a nod to Handel's "Comfort ye").[13] This would make it at least four years older than Mason's first publication of "Antioch". Other publications from the early 1830s further suggest the tune may have been around for some time before Mason published his arrangement. Thomas Hawkes published the "Comfort" tune in 1833 in his Collection of Tunes. In it, the attribution was given simply as "Author Unknown", suggesting it may have been older.[14][15] A 1986 article by John Wilson also showed "Antioch"'s close resemblance to an 1833 publication of "Comfort" and its associated Wesley hymn "O Joyful Sound".[16]

A version by the Trinity Choir was very popular in 1911.[17] As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.[1]


The text appears thus in The Psalms of David: imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and apply'd to the Christian State and Worship (London 1719):[18]

Psalm XCVIII. Second Part.
The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom

Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

In the Latter-day Saint hymnal, the refrain in the first verse is "And Saints and Angels Sing" (see Joy to the World (Phelps)).

Mariah Carey version[edit]

"Joy to the World"
Single by Mariah Carey
from the album Merry Christmas
Released27 November 1995
Mariah Carey singles chronology
"One Sweet Day"
"Joy to the World"
"Open Arms"

Mariah Carey co-produced her cover of the song with Walter Afanasieff for her fourth album Merry Christmas. It interpolates Hoyt Axton's rendition of "Joy to the World". It was originally released as a promotional single in mid-November 1994 and an EP with commissioned remixes by David Morales was released the following year.[19] The song was later released on 27 November 1995 in Australia as the third single from the album.[20] Eventually, it peaked at number 33 in the aforementioned country.

Remixes and rerecordings[edit]

Several remixes were commissioned for the single, all of them by David Morales. In 2016, Carey rerecorded the song and shot a music video that featured James "Big Jim" Wright playing the piano, Carey's background singers and a choir as part of her "Christmas Gifts" digital campaign.

Live performances[edit]

"Joy to the World" was performed twice in 1994: it was included on the setlist of Carey's benefit concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on 10 December 1994,[21] and was performed via satellite in New York City for TN Argentina on 10 December 1994.[22] It was later performed on BET's Christmas Remembrances Special in December 2001,[23] on the setlist for the second North American leg of Carey's Charmbracelet World Tour,[24] alongside several other Christmas songs such as "All I Want for Christmas Is You", "Silent Night" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", at the 2004 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade,[25] on Carey's 2010 Christmas special "Merry Christmas to You"[26] to promote her second Christmas album, and at the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting in 2013.[27] The song was also included on the setlist of Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You: A Night of Joy & Festivity" concert residency and tour and on Carey's "Merriest Christmas" Netflix special in 2015.[28]

Music videos[edit]

The single's music video is a live performance of the song by Carey at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The music video for the remix version consists of rare and unreleased personal footage of Carey walking around New York City and Europe wearing several outfits and includes several Christmas themed decorations.[29]

Both videos were made available to the public on the bonus DVD on the 2005 reissue of Carey's Merry Christmas album.

A third music video was shot in 2016 on the set of the movie The Keys of Christmas, where Carey was a main character. The video features James "Big Jim" Wright playing the piano, Carey's background singers and a choir.

Track listings and formats[edit]

  • Promo CD single
  1. "Joy to the World" (LP Version)
  2. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix Edit)
  • Promo 12" vinyl
  1. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix)
  2. "Joy to the World" (Flava Mix)
  3. "Joy to the World" (Club Mix)
  4. "Joy to the World" (Crash Dub Crash)
  5. "Joy to the World" (LP Version)
  • CD/cassette maxi-single
  1. "Joy to the World" (LP Version)
  2. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix)
  3. "Joy to the World" (Flava Mix)
  4. "Joy to the World" (Club Mix)
  5. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
  • All I Want for Christmas Is You / Joy to the World EP
  1. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
  2. "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (So So Def Remix)
  3. "Joy to the World"
  4. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix Edit)


Chart (1995) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[30] 33


  1. ^ Joy to the world! the Lord is come! at
  2. ^ Joy to the World!, Worship Leader magazine (, 18 July 2011)
  3. ^ Watts 1719, p. xxxii. it is not clear whether "Old Psalm-book" means Playford's 1677 publication or some other.
  4. ^ For example to the tune WARSAW in Samuel Holyoke's Harmonia Americana, 1791 (page 87)
  5. ^ Celebrate, Rejoice and Sing: Christmas Music in America, Roger L. Hall, PineTree Press, 2003, p 8; see also > for usage of ANTIOCH and other tunes.
  6. ^ Mason, Lowell. Occasional Psalm and Hymn Tunes, 1836, p. 70.,
  7. ^ Mason, Lowell. The Modern Psalmist, 1839, p. 144.,
  8. ^ Keyte and Parrott, eds., The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)
  9. ^ Pemberton, CA (1971), Lowell Mason: His life and work (doctoral dissertation), ProQuest Dissertations & Theses 7128272
  10. ^ Mason, Lowell. The Modern Psalmist, 1839, p. 144.,
  11. ^ The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia, Annette Landgraf, David Vickers, Cambridge University Press, 26 November 2009. "Joy to the World" entry by Nicholas Temperley
  12. ^ Charles Rider, Psalmodia Britannica, vol. 4 (ca. 1831), no. 87, p. 949
  13. ^ Thomas Hawkes, Collection of Tunes (Watchet: Thomas Whitehorn, 1833)
  14. ^ Fenner, Chris. "Joy to the World with ANTIOCH (COMFORT)"., 2019,
  15. ^ The Origins of the Tune "Antioch", Bulletin No. 166 of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland; a summary is given in The Oxford Book of Carols 1994, p.273
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 422. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  17. ^ The Psalms of David : imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and apply'd to the Christian State and Worship (London 1719)
  18. ^ "Joy to the World (Re-Mixes by David Morales) by Mariah Carey". Genius. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  19. ^ The ARIA Report. 302. ARIA. 26 November 1995. p. 20.
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  29. ^ " – Mariah CareyJoy to the World". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 14 November 2020.

External links[edit]