This year’s Christmas is set to look rather different, with smaller gatherings, shuttered high streets and lower-stakes seasonal ads. New data, however, shows that it is unlikely to sound any different, with British listeners turning to beloved Christmas hits earlier than ever to invoke a sense of normality and cheer at the end of a chaotic year.
Midweek data from the Official Charts Company shows that sales and streams of Christmas classics are up more than 50% compared with the equivalent week in 2019. Five times as many Christmas songs are set to enter this week’s Top 100 singles chart than in the same period last year, and 10 times as many as in 2018.
Mariah Carey’s iconic All I Want for Christmas Is You is set to be the first track to re-enter the Top 40 on Friday, currently sitting at No 31 midweek. Ever since downloads were introduced to the charts in 2005 (followed by streams in 2014), the 1994 classic has made a seasonal reappearance in the Top 40. Last year it claimed the US No 1 spot for the first time.
OCC chief executive Martin Talbot said: “After what has been a year to forget for the vast majority of us, it also seems to be the year when Christmas is starting earlier than ever – with Christmas songs surging stronger and earlier than we’ve ever seen in the past. This says volumes for the power of song – and Christmas songs in particular – to raise our spirits at even the most challenging of times.”
The early uptick in Christmas listening mirrors wider nationwide trends, with many people putting up their Christmas decorations early. A campaign started in Nottingham, Light Up Locally, urged people to illuminate their communities early to boost mental health.
Spotify has also reported an increase in Christmas song listening figures, with the 10 most popular festive songs on the service seeing an average 25% increase in listenership in October 2020 compared to previous years.
Despite modern Christmas singles by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber featuring in the service’s global top five Christmas songs, it is more traditional festive hits that are proliferating in the UK singles charts. Midweek figures show Wham!’s Last Christmas at No 46, the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York at 59, Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone at 68 and a newly released Bieber cover of Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree at 69.
This year’s official Christmas No 1 will be announced on Christmas Day on BBC Radio 1. A number of contenders have already been released, by artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Meghan Trainor, Beverly Knight, Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus, Ava Max, Jonas Brothers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tegan and Sara, Liam Payne, Goo Goo Dolls, Gwen Stefani, Carrie Underwood and Jamie Cullum.
Last year’s Christmas No 1 was the second in a row for LadBaby, AKA Mark and Roxanne Hoyle, whose sausage roll-themed Christmas song parodies have raised thousands of pounds for the Trussell Trust, a charity supporting UK food banks. They are expected to release a new single this year: if it reaches No 1, they will match the Spice Girls’ record for three consecutive Christmas No 1s.