The Gifts That Keep on Giving: Biggest Radio and Album Hits of the Holidays

James Devaney/FilmMagic
Mariah Carey, decked out in red, sings with Santa Claus at NBC's Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center on November 27, 2012 in New York City.

From Burl Ives to 'N Sync, some of the biggest hits of recent memory.

They are the gifts that keep on giving for the artists that record them, the labels that release them and the radio stations and streaming services that play them. The first chart is the top 25 Christmas songs that dominated the radio from Nov. 27, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013, according to Nielsen BDS, and the chart below that is the 25 best-selling holiday albums since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

NOTEWORTHY ON THE RADIO TOP 25

No. 1 -- "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Brenda Lee: This 1958 hit, sung by a 13-year-old Lee, wasn’t songwriter Johnny Marks’ only indelible contribution to the holiday season. He also wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the songs for the classic 1964 Rankin-Bass stop-motion TV special of the same name. “Rockin’” plays when Rudolph meets his new reindeer friend, Fireball.

No. 10 -- "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," John Lennon: Originally intended as a Vietnam War protest song, this 1971 single was produced by Phil Spector and features Yoko Ono and the Harlem Community Choir. Lennon was the first of his former Beatles bandmates to release an original Christmas song.

No. 23 -- "Jingle Bell Rock," Hall & Oates: Hall & Oates’ faithful cover of Bobby Helms’ 1957 classic naturally featured Daryl Hall singing lead, but fans who bought the original 45 single got the rock-duo equivalent of Boxing Day on the B-side: the same track, but with John Oates handling the vocals.

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NOTEWORTHY ON THE TOP 25 ALBUMS

No. 3 -- Merry Christmas, Mariah Carey: Carey didn’t just create a contemporary standard with the hit holiday single off this 1994 album, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” The track is also the best-selling holiday ringtone. In 2012, the RIAA announced it was the first seasonal ringtone to go double platinum -- more than 2 million downloads.

No. 13 -- My Christmas, Andrea Bocelli: This 2009 classical crossover album -- Bocelli’s first holiday record -- was produced by David Foster and features duets with Reba McEntire, Mary J. Blige and The Muppets.

No. 17 -- Beyond the Season, Garth Brooks: This 1992 chart monster shows Brooks’ knack for crowd-pleasing chemistry. He mixed “White Christmas” with Nashville chestnuts such as Buck Owens’ “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” and reverent, traditional carols including “The Friendly Beasts.”

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This article first appeared in the Nov. 29th issue of Billboard.


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