The holiday season brings many enduring traditions, but one that’s pretty much impossible to ignore is the (depending on how you look at it) onslaught or blessing of constant Christmas and snow tunes!
And these days, while there are plenty of folks who’ll be firing up the record player or smartphone to share their personal collections, one of the most popular ways to listen to holiday tunes is on Spotify, which helpfully shared its top 25 most-streamed holiday songs of all time with TODAY.
“What strikes me most about the list is it shows how much listeners still love the classics year after year, but are also embracing the newer music that comes along,” Shanon Cook, Spotify head of global culture and trends communication, wrote in an email. “There aren’t too many music categories where you’ll see both Ariana Grande and Elvis Presley among the top spots.”
Still, while artists regularly release new holiday fare each year, much of the top 25 is full of classic hits, including some whose versions date back to the mid-20th century. Says Cook, “A successful holiday song is one that evokes some sort of atmosphere, whether it’s comfort, coziness, the thrill of being reunited with family and friends, or longing to see someone you love.”
So cozy on up to the one you love and get ready for these songs to fill both home and heart with the joy of the season!
1. Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Co-written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff and recorded by Carey in 1994, the song has charted every holiday season since its original release. The celebrity-packed video was released last year in time for the song’s 25th anniversary.
2. Wham! “Last Christmas”
The song was written by George Michael and performed by Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in 1984, and the band donated all royalties to help alleviate the Ethiopian famine in Africa. Cook knows that while it’s “not the cheeriest of songs,” they’ve counted around 100 covers of the classic since, well, last Christmas, and there are around 1,200 interpretations of the track on the service.
3. Ariana Grande, “Santa Tell Me”
Grande, who co-wrote the song with Savan Kotecha and Ilya, first performed it in 2014 on “A Very Grammy Christmas Special” concert in Los Angeles, which aired on CBS.
4. Michael Bublé, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas”
Streamers just love their Bublé, whose music has a big, orchestral, retro feel. This is the first of three songs by the performer, with this tune coming from his 2011 “Christmas” album.
5. Justin Bieber, “Mistletoe”
Featured on the former teen dream’s 2011 album “Under the Mistletoe,” the song just missed the Top 10 in the U.S. but did quite well elsewhere in the world.
6. Andy Williams, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
The song was first recorded by Andy Williams in 1963.
7. Brenda Lee, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
Rock ‘n’ roll was still a new genre in 1958, which made the notion of rockin’ around that old tree fairly inventive. By 2008, the song’s 50th anniversary, it had sold over 25 million copies.
8. Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock”
Released in 1967, the song made early references to rock ‘n’ roll, which was still a new form in that era, and references other popular songs like “Rock Around the Clock.”
9. Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984)
The song was recorded in a single day in 1984 by a supergroup of (largely) British musicians to raise money for famine relief; it sold over 1 million copies in its first week of release.
10. Frank Sinatra (feat. B. Swanson Quartet), “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
The song, penned during a heat wave, hit No. 1 in 1946 with a recording by Vaughn Monroe.
11. John Lennon & Yoko Ono, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
The melody for this anti-war holiday classic from 1971 is based on an 18th century ballad about a racehorse named Skewball.
12. Bing Crosby, John Scott Trotter & His Orchestra, Ken Darby Singers, “White Christmas”
Originally performed in 1941 on Bing Crosby’s NBC show “The Kraft Music Hall,” the song went on to sell over 100 million copies, and has an opening verse rarely heard that refers to being in the Beverly Hills, California, sun.
13. José Feliciano, “Feliz Navidad”
Sung partially in Spanish, Feliciano’s 1970 hit didn’t hit the Billboard charts until over two decades after it was released, hitting No. 70 in 1998. In 2017 it reentered the charts, landing at No. 44.
14. Michael Bublé, “Holly Jolly Christmas”
One of the best-known renditions of this song is Burl Ives’ contribution from the 1964 Christmas special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” That shows up on the list at No. 22, but Bublé made the classic his own in 2014.
15. Chris Rea, “Driving Home for Christmas”
Orchestral, jovial and old-fashioned, Rea’s 1986 song regularly makes the top 40 in the U.K., where it’s considered one of the top holiday singles of all time. It appeared on the musician’s album “New Light Through Old Windows.”
16. Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)”
Also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or “Merry Christmas to You,” Bob Wells and Mel Tormé wrote the song in 1945 during a hot summer spell, and the Nat King Cole Trio first recorded it in 1946.
17. Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime”
The former Beatle recorded this holiday single entirely on his own and released it in 1979.
18. Sam Smith, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
The song first appeared in “Meet Me in St. Louis” in 1944, with Judy Garland singing; Frank Sinatra also recorded a version with some changes in 1957. Smith tackled it in 2014.
19. Elvis Presley, “Blue Christmas”
Several artists recorded the song by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson from 1948 to 1956, but it was Elvis Presley’s crooning that turned it into a classic in 1957.
20. Kelly Clarkson, “Underneath the Tree”
Written and performed by “American Idol” winner Clarkson, “Tree” appeared on her first Christmas album, “Wrapped in Red,” from 2013.
21. Coldplay, “Christmas Lights”
While still writing the song in December 2008, singer Chris Martin played part of it during a “60 Minutes” interview. The tune was released officially through the band’s website in 2010; a 10th anniversary version of the tune is expected to be out on Dec. 4.
22. Burl Ives, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”
Ives wasn’t the first to record the song; that honor went to The Quinto Sisters in 1964.
23. Shakin’ Stevens, “Merry Christmas Everyone”
Like Rea, Michael Barratt, aka “Shakin’ Stevens,” is better known across the pond than in the U.S., but that hasn’t kept fans from keeping the veteran singer’s 1985 holiday paean in the charts. It was initially to be released in 1984, but Stevens’ record label didn’t want to compete with Band-Aid’s charity single (see above).
24. Michael Bublé, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
Though the song reaches back to 1934 and has been covered by everyone from Bing Crosby to Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, this version from 2011 pumps up the big band and jazzy flair.
25. The Ronettes, “Sleigh Ride”
The classic snow tune debuted as an orchestral tune in 1949, then had lyrics added in 1950, but it was the Ronettes who made it a big hit, starting in 1963. It regularly charts in the Top 10 and was the group’s second-highest chart hit after “Be My Baby.”
Can’t get enough about holiday hits? Then be sure to check out the latest episode of the Spotify podcast, which features Dolly Parton, called “Holiday Music: It’s (Already) Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas.”