Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Clash of Christmas titans: Who owns the season?

Published:Saturday | December 7, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ reigns supreme as the undefeated Christmas song.

Deck the halls with constant airplay, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-they’re-back. We all know that the festive season doesn’t officially start until certain evergreen bad boys start popping up, but this year, we decided to crank up our analysis and establish two things: (1) which song reigns supreme and (2) when the season officially starts. Ready to place your bets?

To the delight of retail workers everywhere, the holiday season is almost in full swing – lavish Christmas trees, reindeer roof ornaments, the whole shebang. And let’s not forget the music. The aforementioned retail workers would probably swear on their life that there are about five tracks out there, tops, endlessly looping away. The reality, of course, is very different.

Let it snow, let it snow, make it rain

Some estimates claim that there are more than one million Christmas songs out there. Reigning over such ‘classics’ as Death Row Records’ Christmas on Death Row or Sir Christopher Lee’s A Heavy Metal Christmas is Bing Crosby. Not only is Crosby’s White Christmas reportedly included in over 2,000 different albums on Spotify (OK, wow?), it also holds the Guinness World Record as the bestselling single of all time. Not ‘Christmas single’. Single-single. Yes, one of the world’s biggest holidays is also an opportunity to earn big bucks as the 10 top-earning Christmas songs are said to bring in between US$125,000 and US$1.3 million each year in royalties alone. Many artistes are therefore eager to dip their cookies into Santa’s milk glass, but so far, only a select few have managed a smash hit that prolongs the holiday magic for years to come.

In our analysis, we focused on two of those heavy hitters. Yep, you guessed it: Wham’s Last Christmas and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You.

As Ruby Rose puts it: it’s not Christmas until Mariah says so.

Jingle bells, Mariah sells

Empires may rise and fall, stars fade away and the oceans vanish, yet this iconic song duo will persist on our seasonal playlists until the end of time itself. Just this October, the All I Want for Christmas Is You digital single was certified six times multi-platinum, meaning that it has already sold at least 12 million copies in the United States. Add to that the millions of ringtone downloads, zillions of YouTube views, and a reported US$500,000 in song revenue each year, and, well, it becomes clear that Mariah practically owns Christmas and can indeed dictate the holiday season if she so pleases. And here’s a fun fact about Last Christmas: it remains the highest-selling UK single not to top the chart. You read that right: one of the most famous songs on the planet never officially landed UK No.1, so put that in your motivational fact book and enjoy it.

OK, now that we’ve covered the fun stuff, let’s see what the data has to say about the second part of our premise: when does the seasonal clash of these titans officially begin?

To thousands of people who listened to Christmas songs this July: is everything OK?

Looking at the data, a pattern is obvious. So intriguing, in fact, you might just want to knit it into an office-contest-award-winning ugly Christmas sweater. Both in 2017 and 2018, both songs obviously peaked on Christmas Day, with Mariah played around eight million times, beating Wham! by a good million. Their combined views just broke the one billion mark this season, which gives you another good(-ish) excuse to pop the bottle of bubbly early on Christmas morning.

Both songs apparently tend to be included in festive playlists a good month before Christmas and remain in our collective ear canal until mid-January. Data shows that in 2017, both songs broke one million daily views on November 20. In 2018, Last Christmas broke the one-million barrier sooner, on November 18, and All I Want for Christmas Is You even sooner, on November 10. If we apply this trend to 2019 and count in the fact that Ms Carey also very publicly dropped her Deluxe Anniversary Edition and Tour in November, we can declare that the 2019 Christmas song season officially opened on November 1.