What Are the Biggest Christmas Songs Released This Century? ASCAP Has a List and Checked It Twice

If you’ve turned on an all-Christmas format and it sometimes seems like they stopped minting new holiday compositions some time well back into the previous century, that’s not quite true. ASCAP has the proof, in the form of a new chart calculating what the most popular Christmas songs are that have actually come out since the turn of the millennium.

The performing rights organization is calling its new chart “the Top 10 ASCAP New Classic Holiday Songs of 2021.” It is of course not a complete list of what’s popular under the 21st-century aegis, since it only includes numbers where at least one of the signatories is an ASCAP member; no all-BMI tunes are included. But it’s a pretty good indicator of what’s clicked in the genre post-Burl and even post-Mariah.

The list — and again, where there are multiple writers involved, only ASCAP-affiliated songsmiths have been credited:

  1. “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson and Greg Kurstin (2013)
  2. “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande, Savan Kotecha and Ilya Salmanzadeh (2013)
  3. “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber and Adam Messinger (2011)
  4. “Like It’s Christmas” by Gian Stone (2019)
  5. “Snowman” by Greg Kurstin and Sia (2017)
  6. “Christmas Isn’t Canceled (Just You)” by Kelly Clarkson and Jessi Collins (2021)
  7. “Believe” by Glen Ballard (2004)
  8. “Cozy Little Christmas” by Ferras Alqaisi, Katy Perry and Greg Wells (2018)
  9. “Favorite Time of Year” by Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey (2020)
  10. “Under the Mistletoe” by Kelly Clarkson (2020)

A few lessons to be drawn here: First, Clarkson may be a reigning queen or at least princess of contemporary Christmas music, since she has returned to the well in which fruitcakes are discarded more than once in the last decade, and returned with holiday music in 2013, 2020 and 2021 that makes up roughly a third of these picks.

Secondly, if you are looking for a collaborator for holiday music, producer-writer Greg Kurstin is a good go-to guy, since he scored with co-writes with both Clarkson and Sia. But then, he is already a go-to most artists would want for anything, if they could get him (see: Adele’s latest album).

Thirdly, why isn’t Sia’s “Everyday Is Christmas” album, clearly the best holiday LP of the last decade, represented by more than one song on this list? Sorry, that’s not a lesson, just a biased rhetorical question.

Since ASCAP represents only the writers and not the artists, the latter are not listed in their rankings, unless they are one and the same. But to make the references easier, in case these songs are not being constantly spun on your AC station of choice: the No. 4 track, “Like It’s Christmas,” is a Jonas Brothers cut; the No. 7 “Believe” was co-written by Glen Ballard for the “Polar Express” soundtrack; and the No. 9 “Favorite Time of Year” was recorded by Carrie Underwood last year.

ASCAP says the list was pulled together “based on an analysis of ASCAP streaming and terrestrial radio data for songs with a copyright date after 2001.”

Meanwhile, the PRO has not neglected its annual task of coming up with an overall list of most-played holiday fare for this year, most of which does of course date to the 20th century.

The Top 25 ASCAP Holiday Songs of 2021:

  1. “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish (1948)
  2. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (1945)
  3. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Johnny Marks (1962)
  4. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Meredith Willson (1951)
  5. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie (1934)
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe (1958)
  7. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks (1949)
  8. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Johnny Marks (1958)
  9. “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith (1934)
  10. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin (1944)
  11. “Last Christmas” by George Michael (1984)
  12. “Frosty the Snowman” by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins (1950)
  13. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Edward Pola and George Wyle (1963)
  14. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey (1994)
  15. “The Christmas Song” by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells (1946)
  16. “Jingle Bells” by James Lord Pierpont; Frank Sinatra version arranged by Gordon Jenkins (ASCAP, 1958)
  17. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Noel Regney and Gloria Shain (1962)
  18. “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin (1941)
  19. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)” by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman (1947)
  20. “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano (1970)
  21. “Silver Bells” by Raymond Evans and Jay Livingston (1950)
  22. “Santa Baby” by Joan Javits, Anthony Springer and Philip Springer (1953)
  23. “Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season” by Kay Tompson and Irving Berlin (1942)
  24. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram (1943)
  25. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney (1979)

The main lesson to be drawn here: It’s good to be a Johnny Marks descendent.

If anything seems peculiar here, it may be the relatively low ranking of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at No. 14, after it placed at No. 1 on last year’s list. Have we finally achieved “All I Want for Christmas Is You” burnout as a nation, at long last? It seems possible.

Last year’s No. 4, “Sleigh Ride,” moves up to the hot spot in this hit parade. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” also moves up a few spots, from No. 5 to No. 2. Are all these snow-related chestnuts at the top of the pile a result of wishful thinking during a drought?

Interestingly, not even one of the songs from the since-2001 top 10 makes the overall top 25. The newest song on the general list is Carey’s, from 1994. And then the newest one prior to that is Wham’s “Last Christmas,” from 1984. Take that, 21st century (and basically almost anything that came after the “Rudolph” special). America knows Santa-related holy scripture when it hears it.

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