It’s become a favorite holiday activity of mine since Billboard began counting streaming and downloads when compiling its Hot 100 — watching performers who recorded their songs in the 1960s, the 1950s and even the 1940s knock the current hipsters aside with what has become their annual Christmas season ascension up the charts.
First, an update from last week. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” shot up 15 slots over the past week to land this week at the No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 — with 12 more days to go until Christmas!
Carey’s 1994 recording is designated No. 3 with a green arrow pointed upward to show it’s climbing the charts. The recording above hers — Post Malone’s “Circles — is at No. 2, with a red arrow pointing downward to show it’s dropping. Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” will likely rise even higher on the next edition of the Hot 100. (Ahead of them both at No. 1 is The Weekend with “Heartless.”)
That’s just the Hot 100. When it comes to the charts for Billboard’s most-streamed songs in the nation for the week, Carey’s already at No. 1.
Carey’s not the only female vocalist to blast back from the past in the top ten on this week’s Billboard Hot 100 songs.
Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is in at No. 8 after shooting up an impressive 21 chart positions in a week’s time to zip past the current offerings by Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.
Lee was only 13 when she recorded the song in 1958. It didn’t become a hit until two years later, when it rose to the No. 14 position 59 years ago, on Dec. 12, 1960. That remained the highest showing ever for Lee’s classic — which has been featured in movies such as “Home Alone” — until 2018, when it hit No. 9 on the charts.
With that showing already surpassed with this week’s chart, it, like Carey’s song, seems likely to become an even bigger hit next week. By the way, the musician who plays the rockin’ saxophone solo on the record is no other than Boots Randolph, who would later have a huge hit of his own with “Yakety Sax.”
This week’s Top 100 really starts to get fun with “that ol’ balladeer Burl Ives — who rocketed up an amazing 30 chart positions, moving “A Holly Jolly Christmas” to No. 18. That pushed him past such current luminaries as Travis Scott, who is at No. 20 with “Highest in the Room.”
Another seasonal evergreen, the original Bobby Helms version of “Jingle Bell Rock,” moved up 24 spots over the past week, to land at the No. 23 chart position. He’s right behind Lizzo, who’s at No. 23 with “Truth Hurts.”
Moving in at No. 24 is crooner Andy Williams with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Also in the top 30 is the 1980s duo Wham! at No. 27 with “Last Christmas, “ followed at No. 28 by Dean Martin’s “frightful” weather report on “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.”
Remember, these are not the holiday music charts, but are the Top 100 Billboard Songs for the week — period. Because of the streaming and downloading today, it’s possible for these artists to have their songs become hits yet again, even without being rereleased by the original record labels.
Speaking of artists associated with songs, Nat King Cole re-enters at No. 33 with “The Christmas Song” for those who like chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at their toes.
And Jose Feliciano returns to wish you a “Merry Christmas” with “Feliz Navidad” at No. 39.
Closing in on the Top 40 are The Ronettes, who jingle back on the charts at No. 43 with “Sleigh Ride.”
The most famous singing cowboy of all (sorry, Roy Rogers), Gene Autry, is reining in at No. 44 as his original version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” re-enters the charts.
Andy Williams has another entry with a twofer, “Happy Holidays / The Holiday Season” at No. 47. He’s followed by Autry galloping back with a song he wrote: “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” at No. 48 — sliding in front of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber who are at No. 50 with “I Don’t Care.”
At least one new Christmas recording has made the Top 100 — “Like It’s Christmas” by The Jonas Brothers is a new entry at No. 72 on the charts. We’ll have to wait a few more seasons to see if it’s going to become a perennial holiday favorite.
One more thing: Kanye West’s “Follow God” is still on the charts at No. 91 after peaking at No. 7 in the Top Ten a few weeks ago. It’s not a Christmas song — but you get the idea.
The classic Christmas artists are competing against new releases by Maroon 5, Shawn Mandes, Drake, Lil Nas X featuring Bill Ray Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Luke Combs and others, to name a few.
What strikes me is almost every one of these songs by the classic artists, have been recorded by other artists countless times. (Well, I’m sure BMI and ASCAP keep up with them, but you know what I mean).
Even though they have been redone in other versions by rockers, rappers and country singers, along with rhythm and blues, soul and jazz artists galore, — with many of the newer versions trying to update the songs — almost every one of the Christmas classics climbing the charts today is a recording by the original artist, or at least the artist most associated with the original song. Probably the only exception is The Ronettes’ version of “Sleigh Ride,” which is also a well-known instrumental. But like just about everything else The Ronettes did, their version is unique.
With these classic Christmas songs hitting the Top 100 Charts for the current week in 2019, it shows one thing, for sure.
Through several generations now, American music fans know the real deal when they hear it.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org