Dec 1, 2023 - News

Brenda Lee's "Rockin'" eyes the top of Billboard chart

Brenda Lee performing.

Brenda Lee rockin' earlier this year. Photo: Allen Clark/NBC via Getty Images

Move over, Mariah.

  • Nashville's own Brenda Lee is vying to take her Christmas anthem to the top of the charts this year.

Driving the news: Lee's 1958 recording of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" has been a holiday classic for decades, and each season it has reliably climbed into the upper echelon of the Billboard charts. (It's currently at No. 8 on the Hot 100 and is expected to vault higher next week.)

  • Since 2019, though, it has peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, behind Mariah Carey's jolly juggernaut "All I Want for Christmas is You."
  • Billboard dubbed Lee's signature song "the perennial silver medalist of Yuletide pop."

Yes, but: Sixty-five years after she recorded it in a Nashville studio at age 13, Lee is a serious contender to claim the gold.

What she's saying: ​​"Now I gotta worry about Mariah," Lee quipped in a New York Times interview. "Get outta here, girl!"

  • Of course, the ever-lovable Little Miss Dynamite was quick to clarify she was joking.
  • "Oh, there's room for everybody. Her song's good, too. I love her singing."

State of play: Lee's label is marking the 65th anniversary of "Rockin'" with a renewed promotional push.

  • At 78, Lee filmed her first-ever music video, complete with cameos from Axios Nashville favorites Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood.
  • She released the new EP "A Rockin' Christmas with Brenda Lee," which includes a dreamy dance remix of the original track.
  • And she launched a new TikTok account where she shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes about her storied career.

Zoom in: Billboard reports Lee's song has "been building steam over the past half-decade."

  • Axios' David Lawler reports Lee has been lighting up the Spotify charts for some time. She has been #1 on Christmas Day each of the past three years, according to Spotify's daily list of the most-played songs in the U.S.
  • This year, Lee overtook Carey on Spotify's daily chart in mid-November.

Between the lines: Billboard's rankings involve multiple metrics, including radio plays and streaming data.

  • Carey's song leads in airplay, sales and on-demand U.S. streams, according to early data on next week's chart, per Billboard. But Lee is ahead in overall U.S. streams, and her streams are growing at a faster clip than Carey's.

Reality check: Lee is already a legend, no matter where she lands on the charts.

  • She was the first woman to be inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • At one point early in her career, The Beatles were her opening act.

What we're watching: Lee will perform next week on NBC's "Christmas at the Opry" special, airing at 7pm Dec. 7.

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