2012's most popular holiday music

New data reveals that when it comes to holiday music, all we want for Christmas is Mariah Carey


Apparently, most people's idea of good holiday music doesn't involve a triangle

flickr/Myrna Litt

When it comes to Christmas music, my tastes run pretty traditional. I like the classics and my favorite recordings are jazz, swing or big band-ish versions, and the traditional crooners. I don’t mind some other genres, either, but I’ll generally take Ella Fitzgerald’s, Frank Sinatra’s or Bing Crosby’s versions of White Christmas over anyone else’s.

Apparently, though, I’m in the minority, at least based on recent data on holiday music listening released by Neilsen. According to their findings, which are based on digital downloads in 2012, people’s preferences for holiday music break down by genre as follows:

  1. Pop/Rock - 32% 
  2. Other - 20% 
  3. Jazz - 13%
  4. Country - 12% 
  5. Classical - 10%
  6. Soundtrack - 6%
  7. R&B - 5%


I find this list troubling. Pop/Rock holiday songs are the most favorite? I love rock music, and a decent amount of pop, but this is kind of disappointing. Bob Dylan is fine with me just about any time - just so long as it isn’t him singing I’ll Be Home for Christmas while I’m sipping eggnog. I also love the Beatles, more than any other group, but their Christmas songs weren’t exactly on par with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And don’t get me started on Lady Gaga.

What, I wonder, are the genres that are driving the 20% of downloads categorized as Other. Easy listening? Hip hop? Celtic? Techno? Latin? Comedy

R&B versions of holiday songs all work for me, now and again, but country just isn’t my thing, ever. I do enjoy a number of  Christmas movie soundtracks, though.

Neilsen also reported that the most streamed holiday song is Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You at 662,000 streams. Really? She’s an excellent singer and I like this song but as the number one streamed holiday song? I’m a little surprised by that. I’d much prefer it be Ertha Kitt doing Santa Baby. Now we’re talking.

The number one most played holiday song on broadcast radio is Bobby Helms’ Jingle Bell Rock, with 12,000 spins. OK, not too exciting either, but it’s better than the Muppets' version, which my kids’ loved for years and still puts my nerves on edge. I’m no fan of any holiday song that gets little kids who are already revved up for Santa’s arrival for the whole month of December even more revved up. For my kids it was the audio equivalent of giving them a bar of chocolate and a venti peppermint mocha frappuccino blended beverage - right before bed in Christmas Eve.

However, it’s all still an improvement over the (seemingly) most played song during my childhood, which involved Grandma and a reindeer. Ugh.

What are your most or least favorite holiday songs? Let’s hear them in the comments.

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