While the music industry is preparing for holiday hibernation, holiday music is doing quite the opposite—at least in English-speaking countries. To help make sense of the global Holiday music ecosystem, we break down 2022's biggest Holiday songs in the world and how things differ from country to country.
The Top Holiday Songs in the World
Starting with our Tracks list, we can filter all 80M+ tracks down to just Holiday tracks, delivering a list of roughly 422K. In other words, not very many, relative to the total track population. Sorting that list according to the most Spotify streams unsurprisingly puts Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," with 1.34B streams, in the No. 1 spot. No. 2 is Wham!'s "Last Christmas," at 1.05B Spotify streams, and No. 3 is Ariana Grande's "Santa Tell Me," which has 777M Spotify streams to date.
On YouTube, the story is a bit different, as Mariah Carey falls behind Wham!'s 750M views with just 529M views. However, sorting according to the most TikTok posts brings Mariah Carey back up to the top with 14.4M posts, while Sia holds the No. 5 spot with 1.84M TikTok posts using her track "Snowman."
So, in terms of tracks released in the last 50 years, it seems that Mariah Carey, Wham!, Sia, and Ariana Grande hold the top spots for Superstar and Legendary artists capitalizing on the Holiday music consumption cycle.
The Top Holiday Songs in Each Country
To zero in on Holiday music listening from a geographic perspective, we've taken a look at this season's top songs on Chartmetric's Spotify and Apple charts. In the United States, it's no surprise that several of the holiday season's recurring hits find themselves in the Top 10. However, Holiday music's biggest competitor this year comes from SZA's album SOS. Released Dec. 9, the project made a huge interruption on the Billboard charts amidst 2022's holiday surge, while its lead single, "Kill Bill," has maintained its place at No. 1 on both platforms. For Apple Music, a platform typically dominated by Hip-Hop and R&B music fans, it appears the album's popularity has allowed only Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" to find a spot in the Top 10 for Holiday music.
In other English-speaking markets, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, there appears to be significantly less interruption from SOS, as well as a greater impact from non-U.S. artists. Songs like Elton John's "Step Into Christmas," Leona Lewis' "One More Sleep," and Shakin' Stevens' "Merry Christmas Everyone" demonstrate that there are still some market-specific variations at the top.
In part due to commercialization, Christmas is largely a secular holiday these days, but its early widespread adoption was no doubt a result of the spread of Christianity. Despite most Holiday music celebrating Christmas traditions as a result, for some of the countries most dominated by Christian religions there's virtually no trace of Holiday music in the Top 10 of their respective Spotify charts. In the case of Mexico, Nigeria, and Italy, for instance, it appears that the Holiday music bug hasn't caught on in quite the same way as it has in the Anglo world.
Interestingly, more secular countries like Sweden and Norway seem more inclined to participate in the Holiday music fervor, with a mix of English, Swedish, and Norwegian Holiday music tracks filling the Top 10 of each country's Spotify charts. However, it's worth noting that streaming saturation is also highest in these countries, raising the question of whether Scandinavian countries have always had a proclivity for Holiday music consumption or whether the growth of streaming has also resulted in a growth of Holiday music popularity.
The Meaning of Holiday Music
Looking at only the Holiday music that's topping the streaming charts might tell us what the top Holiday songs in the world—and in each country—are, but it doesn't necessarily tell us the state of Holiday music as a whole. It's possible, with the increasing globalization of music and the continued proliferation of streaming throughout the world, that the Holiday music cycle as the Western world knows it will become a more global phenomenon.
However, every culture has its own version of Holiday music, whether it's the type of music that's consumed, the mediums for listening, and/or the time of the year. What we think of as Holiday music may evolve in a number of ways we don't expect, but for now, Mariah Carey is still the Queen of Christmas.