Mariah Carey - Cold Play - Ariana Grande - Wham!

Christmas: Most played songs on the radio in 2020

Trending Christmas songs’ airplay count raised by 57% compared to last year as listeners turns to traditional hits to lessen the effects of the pandemic.

It’s that time of the year again, and as usual, the Holiday season is taking over our lives. From decorations to the excitement towards the celebrations, as December enters, the collective mood is entirely about the holidays. But what does this festive mood feel like in the midst of 2020 uncertainty?

With the pandemic and all the other crises the world experienced throughout this year, it is no surprise that more than one wondered about how we will be even able to enjoy the holidays. However, there is an excitement about the festivities that seems to be getting stronger; at least that’s what it looks like in the music field.

Overview most played songs

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey

We recently looked into our data from the past November and discovered quite an encouraging scenario going on on the radio. The listening habits remain loyal to the beloved holidays, specifically to Christmas, as an attempt to go back to a sense of normality. So here it goes, a quick overview of the most played Christmas songs during November and the evolution of its airplay compared to the same month last year.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, “Christmas Lights” by Coldplay, “Last Christmas” by Wham!, and “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande are four of the most played Christmas hits of these times. These four songs, which have set up as Christmas anthems, are now more in vogue than ever before. Our data shows a noticeable increase in the number of plays on the radio during November 2020 when compared to the same month in 2019. The overall airplay count raised by  57%, a great growth which has been influenced by the uncertainty of these times.

Wham! and Mariah Carey dominate


As for "Last Christmas" by Wham! and “All I want for Christmas is you” by Mariah Carey, these two presented the smallest growth from one year to another, yet these two also present the highest number of radio plays among the four selected songs. But let’s roll. The airplay of “Christmas lights” by Coldplay has seen the biggest growth, it increased by 112% from 2019 to 2020, from 3,424 radio airplays to 7,249. Next up is “Santa tell me” by Ariana Grande which increased radio plays by 93%.

Following the ranking of airplay growth, “All I want for Christmas is you”. The airplay of this song increased by 58%, it went up from 21,675 plays to 34,274 radio plays. And last but not least, “Last Christmas” by Wham! This song reached 30,800 radio plays during November 2020, it increased by 42% compared to November 2019 when it got 21,661 plays.


This tendency coincides with people getting into the Christmas spirit earlier than ever. After what has been a year to forget for pretty much the whole world, people are willing to experience the holidays as a time to take a break, to bring stability back, and to strengthen family ties- to the extent possible. As for music, it has demonstrated since the very beginning of the pandemic that it is one of the favorite getaway sources for people to express their feelings, and during the holidays it looks like this trend is nowhere close to being over.

Top two German cities

Christmas Market Striezelmarkt in Dresden, Germany
Christmas Market Striezelmarkt in Dresden, Germany.

When zooming in to a more local level, two of the cities which had the biggest increase in the percentage of plays of the selected Christmas songs are both located in Germany: Leipzig and Augsburg. Last month the German president announced the closure of one of the most rooted traditions in the country, the Christmas street markets. Nevertheless, these two cities played them the most.

Unfortunately, this year people will not be able to buy Christmas presents and decorations from these street markets, they won’t enjoy the famous hot wine known as glühwein nor even be able to try the wide variety of sausages that they offer. This, of course, has had an impact on the German population and reflected on listening to Christmas songs more often than ever. In Leipzig the airplay has risen by 39000% during November, followed by a 35000% in Augsburg.

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande

But the impact of the holidays combined with the pandemic crisis has not only fallen on Christmas music and its airplay. Online content platforms like Netflix and Disney Plus have started to offer Christmas-related production early this year compared to 2019, right after Halloween. New movies like “Holidate”, “Operation Christmas Drop”, “Christmas on the Square” and “The Christmas Chronicles 2” were uploaded to these platforms right away. Furthermore, companies selling Christmas trees and decorations have also announced record sales during November, according to an article published by The Guardian.

Undoubtedly it’s going to be difficult to fully enjoy the holidays this year, but on the other hand, we’ve seen that the world has found in music a good source of energy to cheer everyone up. As for the radio, our data demonstrates the power this channel still owns and accurately represents its relevancy as well as the emotional connection it offers as part of its value. This speaks volumes for the power of music: capable of helping everyone to restore normality even at the most challenging times.


Back at it again, check out last year's analysis: read article.

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