This time yearly, enduring favorites by Mariah Carey, Brenda Lee and Bobby Helms rise to the highest of the Billboard Scorching 100 as Individuals flip to vacation streaming playlists and Christmas-focused radio stations. Nevertheless, these evergreens, celebrating the most important Christian vacation of the 12 months, are extra secular than in years previous.
It was that modern takes on conventional songs in regards to the start of Christ — “Little Drummer Boy,” “Pleasure to the World,” “Silent Evening” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” — had been among the many hottest vacation songs. Listeners loved Nat King Cole’s “O Come All Ye Trustworthy” as a lot as his model of “Deck the Halls.” Kenny Rogers had a well-liked tackle “Mary, Did You Know?,” first recorded in 1991 by Michael English of the Christian group the Gaither Vocal Band. Martina McBride’s rendition of “O Holy Evening,” a Christmas carol from the 1840s, was among the many high 100 vacation songs.
In 2022, as streaming playlists drive listening, the highest 100 vacation songs usually tend to conjure photographs of Santa, sleigh bells and chilly climate than a child Jesus and the Virgin Mary. By Dec. 8, spiritual music had solely a 4.4% share of the highest 100 vacation songs’ whole consumption — tied with 2021 for the bottom since 2010, in keeping with a Billboard evaluation of Luminate information. The highest spiritual tune for the reason that first week of November, “O Come All Ye Trustworthy” by Nat King Cole, ranks solely No. 50, the bottom for a No. 1. spiritual tune since 2010. “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix ranks a mere No. 68 and Rogers’ model of the tune has fallen to No. 255.
When it comes to market share, spiritual vacation songs peaked in 2015 with 18.2% of the highest 100 vacation tracks’ whole consumption, which measures digital downloads and streaming. Vocal group Pentatonix owned six of the 13 spiritual songs within the high 100 vacation tracks, together with No. 3 (“Mary, Did You Know?”), No. 25 (“Little Drummer Boy”) and No. 30 (“White Winter Hymnal”). The mixed consumption of two variations of “Mary, Did You Know?” by Jordan Smith (No. 2) and Pentatonix (No. 3) that 12 months was 17% better than that of the No. 1 recording, Mariah Carey’s “All I Need for Christmas Is You.”
Spiritual songs captured essentially the most variety of spots within the high 100 in 2013, with 14 of the highest vacation songs for the ultimate two months of the 12 months being spiritual in nature. There have been two variations of “The Little Drummer Boy,” by Pentatonix (No. 3) and Harry Simeone Chorale (No. 74). Recordings of “Silent Evening” by Kelly Clarkson (No. 21) and The Temptations (No. 44) had been common on the time. There have been 4 variations of “O Holy Evening” within the high 100: Celine Dion (No. 48), Mariah Carey (No. 77), Martina McBride (No. 96) and Pentatonix (No. 97). And Amy Grant’s authentic tune “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Music)” ranked No. 82.
To categorize vacation music as secular or spiritual, Billboard thought of every observe’s lyrical content material. Spiritual songs comprise references to Biblical characters (e.g., Jesus, God or the Virgin Mary) or Christian themes (the nativity scene). Billboard counted Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukuh Music” as spiritual for its references to Judaism. A tune like “Hallelujah,” written by Leonard Cohen and coated numerous instances by the likes of Pentatonix and Carrie Underwood, has a religious-sounding title however is classed as secular.
How vacation music is consumed — like all music — has modified through the years. From 2015, when spiritual vacation music reached its peak market share, to 2022, downloads’ contribution to whole consumption of the highest 100 vacation songs dropped from 49% to only 1.4%. This 12 months, quite a few spiritual songs, together with For King & Nation’s “Little Drummer Boy” and Lauren Daigle’s “Gentle of the World,” have comparatively sturdy obtain gross sales however too few streams to make the highest 100.
Radio stations favor a distinct slate of non secular vacation songs than streaming platforms, reminiscent of variations of the 1962 tune “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood and Whitney Houston that fall outdoors of the highest 100 vacation streaming recordings. Conventional songs like “God Relaxation Ye Merry Gents,” recorded by the likes of Barenaked Girls and Mannheim Steamroller, persistently carry out effectively at U.S. radio. “Songs like ‘O Holy Evening,’ ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ and ‘The First Noel’ nonetheless take a look at equally effectively for us,” says Tom Poleman, chief programming officer for iHeartMedia, in an electronic mail to Billboard.
However the information present U.S. radio airplay of vacation music has additionally turn into extra secular lately. In November and December of 2015, there have been 16 spiritual songs within the high 100 vacation recordings as measured by spins. The highest spiritual recording, “The Little Drummer Boy” by Harry Simeone Chorale, ranked No. 25 and was intently adopted by two variations of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Houston and Bing Crosby at No. 33 and No. 34, respectively. Rogers’ and Pentatonix’s covers of “Mary, Did You Know?” additionally ranked within the high 100.
This 12 months, by means of Dec. 8, there have been solely 6 spiritual songs within the high 100, and the highest observe, “The Little Drummer Boy” by Harry Simeone Chorale, had fallen to No. 72. Christian artist Amy Grant nonetheless makes the highest 100, however her variations of “Winter Wonderland,” “It’s the Most Fantastic Time of the 12 months,” “Sleigh Experience” and “Rockin’ Across the Christmas Tree” have carried out higher than her high spiritual tune, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
The ultimate rankings may have extra spiritual songs come Christmas, nevertheless. Radio stations are inclined to play religious-themed songs extra usually as Christmas nears, says Sean Ross, writer of the Ross on Radio publication. That may imply tracks reminiscent of “The First Noel” by Andy Williams and “Pleasure to the World” by Nat King Cole, each high 100 tracks in 2021, may get extra performs and rise by means of the ranks within the coming week.