(December 29, 2020). The latest Billboard Hot 100 chart is decorated with a record number of holiday tunes in the top ten, which reflects the growing streaming popularity of such songs with each passing year, as well as a quirk of the calendar this year.
A record-high nine(!) yuletide holiday tunes infuse the top ten of the Hot 100 dated January 2 – officially the first chart of 2021 – based on streaming and sales activity through Christmas Eve and radio play through Sunday, December 26, both reflecting the Friday-Thursday and Monday-Sunday tracking periods used, respectively, for those metrics in calculating the weekly Billboard charts.
The chart is led, of course, by Mariah Carey’s No. 1 perennial “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which, with this week’s crowning, officially becomes the longest-running No. 1 Christmas tune in Hot 100 history at five non-consecutive weeks – surpassing the four weeks that the chart’s only other No. 1 Christmas-related tune spent there in 1958/59 (“The Chipmunk Song” by The Chipmunks with David Seville).
But it’s the other holiday hits that help make this week’s top ten even more historic in nature.
Of the remaining eight holiday songs in the top ten, six are by artists who are now deceased, including two who died on Christmas Day: pop icon George Michael (2016) and legendary crooner Dean Martin (1995).
Michael returns via his Wham! classic “Last Christmas,” which enters the top ten for the first time since its 1984 release by moving 14-9. Its only Wham!’s seventh top ten, which included its first three – all No. 1s – plus two No. 3 songs and a No. 10 hit before the duo of Michael and Andrew Ridgeley broke up in 1986.
In Memorium: The blog ranks George Michael’s 20 best NON-hits!
Dean Martin moves 11-8 with “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” making it his first top ten in 55 years (since “I Will” hit No. 10 in 1965) and, surprisingly, only his fourth overall. His biggest was the No. 1 hit, “Everybody Loves Somebody” in August 1964.
The other four deceased artists include Bobby Helms (who died in 1997), Burl Ives (1995), Andy Williams (2012), and Chuck Berry (2017).
Helms returns to No. 3 with “Jingle Bell Rock,” a song that could arguably be considered the third-most popular holiday song in modern times, as it perennially ranks just behind Carey’s “All I Want” and Brenda Lee’s first runner-up “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” which returns to its No. 2 peak of last season.
The same might be said of Ives and the No. 4 position, where his “A Holly Jolly Christmas” returns for the second-consecutive year. Ives, who by the way shares a birthday with yours truly, is the artist with the earliest birthday among those in the top ten. He would have been 111 years old on June 14, 2020.
The late Andy Williams, who like Dean Martin was considered one of the premier crooners of the pre-Beatles 1960s, is at No. 5 with “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” That marks the song’s highest rank to date and gives Williams the Hot 100 chart record for longest gap between top-five hits at 57 years, seven months and three weeks between “Cant Get Used To Losing You” – a No. 2 in April 1963 – and “Wonderful,” a song he ironically recorded the same year.
And finally, the late Chuck Berry moves into the top ten with “Run Rudolph Run,” a song that, with its 29-10 move this week, breaks the record for longest time between its first appearance on the chart and its first top-10 ranking. It first appeared on the chart dated December 15, 1958, giving it a span of 62 years and two weeks between its initial debut and its current top-10 status.
“Rudolph” is also Berry’s first top-10 hit since his 1972 novelty No. 1 “My Ding-a-Ling,” itself interestingly only the rock-and-roll legend’s second Hot 100 top ten (after 1964’s “No Particular Place To Go”).
DJROBBLOG pays tribute: Chuck Berry was a pioneer among rock-and-roll pioneers.
That leaves Carey (at No. 1), Lee (at No. 2) and Jose Feliciano (whose “Feliz Navidad” sits at its new high of No. 6) as the only artists who are still around to reap the benefits of their top-10 holiday cheer this season. Lee is the oldest of the three at 76 years old, followed by Feliciano (75) and Carey (50 or 51, depending upon the source).
The factors that conspired to create this historic top-10 were palpable. Christmas Eve fell on the last day (Thursday) of the tracking week for downloads and streaming data. This year, holiday tunes posted record-breaking, single-day streams on December 24 – many above 10 million for that day alone.
And with Billboard using a skewed tracking week for radio airplay data – one that goes from Monday to Sunday – all of these songs’ Christmas Day radio spins were included, along with any recurrent play on Saturday, December 26.
The last time Christmas fell on a Friday – in 2015 – streaming’s contribution to the chart wasn’t nearly as high as it is today. And these holiday tunes weren’t nearly as popular with streaming consumers.
Only four holiday tunes dotted the entire Hot 100 in the 2015/16 period that corresponded with this week’s chart, with Carey’s “All I Want” at No. 11. The other three were Brenda Lee’s “Christmas Tree” at No. 30, Nat King Cole’s nugget “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” at No. 38, and Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” at No. 47.
Next year, Christmas falls on a Saturday, which will push Christmas Eve streaming into the first day of a new tracking week, with a significant drop-off in streaming numbers for the remainder of that week, making for a split-week scenario that could make things interesting. The next time Christmas falls on a Friday is in 2026, which – barring any significant changes in how Billboard calculates the Hot 100 – will be the next true comparable season to this year’s, chartwise.
As for the lone non-holiday song in this week’s top ten, it’s the former No. 1 tune “Mood” by 24kGoldn featuring Iann Dior, at No. 7. With no other non-holiday songs posing any serious threat, “Mood” stands a good chance of making a fourth return trip to No. 1 on next week’s chart. That would make it only the second song ever to move in and out of the No. 1 position four different times (Drake’s “Nice For What” did it in 2018).
And last week’s No. 1 – Taylor Swift’s “willow” – takes a record-setting plunge to No. 38, worse than the previous low point established by 6ix9ine’s “Trollz,” which made a 33-notch drop from No. 1 just last spring. Taylor’s nosedive had a lot to do with the holiday-song infusion and the more telling story of that song’s endurance will be its chart progression over the next few weeks when all the Christmas songs are gone (there were a record-setting 37 holiday tunes on this week’s Hot 100, 23 of which ranked above “willow”).
There’s an outside chance that Mariah Carey could one-up Swift next week and fall from No. 1 to an even lower position than “willow” did this week. Last year, Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” became the first record to fall completely off the chart from No. 1, owing to Christmas falling on a Wednesday that year and holiday-song streaming essentially stopping altogether by the time the next tracking week began that Friday.
With this year’s Christmas Day streaming activity being factored into next week’s chart, the one day’s data alone may be just high enough to keep Carey’s nugget on the chart (above the No. 50-required threshold for oldies), but just low enough to prevent it from ranking higher than the No. 38 ranking Swift’s “willow” did this week.
We shall see.
Well, that wraps up this year’s morbidly festive yuletide chart festivities! Seems fitting for a year like 2020, doesn’t it?
Here’s to a great 2021!
Happy New Year to all!
DJRob is a freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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