Nov 21, 2023 - Business

Move over, Mariah: "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is top holiday hit

🎄Select Christmas songs on the Spotify Top 50
Data: Chartmetric; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Mariah Carey might not be the queen of the holiday charts after all.

The big picture: Carey's ubiquitous "All I Want for Christmas is You" is only the second most-played Christmas hit, according to Spotify, trailing Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

The big picture: This is something of a seasonal showdown.

  • When "All I Want for Christmas is You" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in 2019, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" peaked at #2.
  • Carey repeated the climb to #1 the next year, with Lee right behind her in second. Then it happened again in 2021. And 2022.

This Christmas might belong to Lee.

  • A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Lee was just 13 when she recorded the Christmas classic in 1958.
  • Now 78, she dances along in a new video released this year to celebrate the song's 65th anniversary.

Between the lines: Billboard's rankings involve multiple metrics, including radio plays and streaming data. The latest chart is led by Taylor Swift and doesn't include any Christmas songs.

Yes, but: At least on Spotify, it's Lee who has been lighting up the charts.

  • "Rockin' Around" currently sits at #7 on Spotify's daily list of the most-played songs in the U.S., ahead of "All I Want" at #12.
  • On Christmas Day for each of the last three years, on Spotify at least, more Americans have listened to Lee describing "everyone dancing merrily in the new old-fashioned way" than Carey declaring what she really wants for Christmas.

By the numbers: Carey held Spotify's top spot on Christmas in 2017, 2018 and 2019 — with "Rockin' Around" just behind — and also hit #1 for a few days in 2020. But "All I Want for Christmas" peaked at #2 in 2021 and #3 in 2022, according to data from Chartmetric.

  • Lee has now been #1 on Christmas in each of the past three years, holding down the top spot for two straight weeks in December, 2021 and four days last year.

Zoom out: To the chagrin of the "not until after Thanksgiving" crowd, Spotify's top-50 list is already heavy on holiday hits.

  • Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" (#16), Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" (#20), Wham's "Last Christmas" (# 25), Dean Martin's "Let it Snow" (#40) and Michael Bublé's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" (#41) all cracked the top 50 as of Monday.
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