News broke late Dec. 25 that Michael had passed away earlier that day, although the song likely would have debuted regardless of the announcement, as the Jan. 7-dated chart encompasses sales and streaming data for the week ending Dec. 22 and airplay for the week ending Dec. 25.
“Last Christmas” ranks at No. 45 on the Radio Songs chart (26 million airplay audience impressions, up 28 percent, according to Nielsen Music), while drawing 5 million U.S. streams (up 12 percent) and selling 10,000 downloads (up 19 percent). On the Holiday 100 chart, the song climbs 11-10; it reached a No. 5 high in December 2014. It also claims the No. 10 spot on Billboard‘s ranking of the top hits in the Holiday 100’s history.
As for why “Last Christmas” didn’t chart on the Hot 100 when it was first released in 1984? It was not then released as a commercial single in the U.S., and per chart rules at the time, was, thus, ineligible for the Hot 100 (although it was released elsewhere in the world and charted in other countries). In the digital era, the track was made available for purchase as a download; it was finally released as a physical single in the U.S. on the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day in 2014 as a 12-inch vinyl single (in red and green) in honor of its 30th anniversary.
(Notably, even if “Last Christmas” had been a commercially-available single in the U.S. upon its original release, it likely wouldn’t have hit the Hot 100. As chart historian Joel Whitburn notes in his book Christmas in the Charts, “From 1963 through 1972, and from 1983 through 1985 [with minimal exceptions], Billboard published a seasonal Christmas Singles chart and did not chart Christmas singles on the Hot 100.”)
Per current Hot 100 rules (in place in recent years), older songs can rank in the top 50 if experiencing significant multi-metric resurgences, with select holiday songs annually benefiting from that qualifier.
Until the latest Hot 100, two versions of “Last Christmas” had charted: the Glee Cast’s cover, which reached No. 63 in 2009, and Ariana Grande‘s (No. 96, 2013).
Wham! (Michael and Andrew Ridgeley) adds its ninth Hot 100 hit and first in more than 30 years. Its last entry also reached No. 50: “Where Did Your Heart Go?,” in November 1986. “Last Christmas” marks Michael’s first entry as an artist (with Wham! or solo) since Sept. 14, 1996, when “Fastlove,” his 20th solo Hot 100 appearance (and 16th solo top 10) ranked at No. 100 after reaching No. 8. (As a writer, prior to the chart runs of “Last Christmas” by the Glee Cast, Grande and Wham!, Michael had last hit the Hot 100 via Seether’s amped-up cover of Wham!’s “Careless Whisper,” which climbed to No. 63 in 2009. A year earlier, Carrie Underwood’s cover of Michael’s “Praying for Time” hit No. 27.)
Meanwhile, other carols climb on the new Jan. 7-dated Hot 100, led by Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which lifts 20-16 with the chart’s top Airplay Gainer award (46 million, up 28 percent). The song, first released in 1994 (as a promotional, not commercially-available single), peaked at No. 11 a year ago. It remains at No. 1 on the Holiday 100.
Pentatonix‘s cover of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” surges 45-23 on the Hot 100, reaching a new high. It’s the second-highest-charting version of the 1984 ballad, after Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris’ take, featuring Charlie Sexton, reached No. 13 in 2010. (Cohen’s “Hallelujah” made its first appearance on the Hot 100 dated Dec. 3, at No. 59, following his Nov. 7 death.) Pentatonix’s version is from the vocal quintet’s new holiday album, A Pentatonix Christmas, which hits No. 1 on the Jan. 7 Billboard 200.
Brenda Lee‘s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” rises 48-27 on the Hot 100 (having peaked at No. 14 in 1960), while Bobby Helms‘ “Jingle Bell Rock” hits a new best rank, pushing 46-29; it had reached No. 35 in both 1958 and again two weeks ago.
In addition to Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” three other seasonal chestnuts appear on the Hot 100 for the first time: Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” (No. 44), Burl Ives‘ “A Holly Jolly Christmas” (No. 46) and Andy Williams‘ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (No. 48).
All charts will update on Billboard.com tomorrow (Dec. 28).
Additional reporting by Alex Vitoulis