Has Anyone Released An Original Christmas Standard Since “All I Want For Christmas Is You”?
Now that we’ve reached Thanksgiving week, the annual influx of Christmas music that begins as a slow creep in October is about to go into overdrive. In recent years, this has meant a massive surge in streams for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Although a hit upon release in 1994, Carey’s holiday classic is arguably bigger now than ever. It reached #1 for the first time in 2019 and returned to the top of the singles chart last year. Improbably — especially for someone with 19 #1 hits — it has become arguably Carey’s signature song and is universally regarded as a modern Christmas standard.
But that “modern” distinction is growing less and less accurate with each passing yuletide. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” came out 27 years ago. There are children who’ve been born since then who can legally rent a car, who’ve started families of their own. Chronologically the song’s release is a lot closer to 1980s holiday staples like “Last Christmas” and “Wonderful Christmastime” than it is to the present. It might be the most recently released Christmas standard, but it’s hard to think of anything that happened during the first Clinton administration as recent anymore.
With that in mind, has anyone released a new Christmas standard since 1994? I’m not talking about a fresh recording of a pre-existing song, which rules out oft-circulated covers by key Christmas Industrial Complex players like Michael Bublé, Pentatonix, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I’m talking about an original song so unmistakably popular that we’ve collectively absorbed it into the unofficial Christmas canon — tunes everyone instinctively knows, that are simply in the air when the Christmas lights go up. Below, I consider some contenders for this “modern Christmas standard” designation with consideration of quality, ubiquity, and replication by other artists. Friends, the pickings are slim!
Ariana Grande – “Santa Tell Me” (2014)
Is it good? You’re goddamn right it’s good! “Santa Tell Me” is a pop-R&B gem that, like the rest of Grande’s Christmas & Chill EP, exists in the overlap between her usual aesthetic and a festive Christmas vibe. That hook burrows its way into your brain immediately, and it becomes a launchpad for some especially satisfying vocal theatrics.
Do people know it? Owing to its prominent placement on various streaming-service holiday playlists, I’m guessing more people internalize “Santa Tell Me” each year. But I’m not sure people know it know it the way they know, say, “Silver Bells.”
Have other artists covered it? There are “Santa Tell Me” covers by both Kidz Bop and Pentatonix (the grown-up Kidz Bop).
Is it a standard? Not yet, but give it a few more years and I bet it will be.
Faith Hill – “Where Are You Christmas?” (2000)
Is it good? Fun fact: This song, from the Jim Carrey Grinch movie, was cowritten by Mariah Carey, queen of Christmas. However, that does not stop it from being overwhelmingly saccharine even by the standards of holiday music. You have to be really going through it in order to connect with this schlock.
Do people know it? Yeah, I think it’s safe to say people know this.
Have other artists covered it? A quick YouTube search reveals covers by both Pentatonix and Voctave as well as Taylor Momsen, JoJo Siwa, and Angelica Hale. Wikipedia lists several more including Mannheim Steamroller and Nick Lachey.
Is it a standard? Regrettably, “Where Are You Christmas” is now a standard.
Taylor Swift – “Christmas Tree Farm” (2019)
Is it good? It’s not Taylor Swift’s best work, let’s just say that.
Do people know it? Beyond the Swifties — who admittedly account for a sizable percentage of the population — I don’t think people really know this one. Swift’s “Last Christmas” cover is a lot more culturally prominent at this point in time.
Have other artists covered it? So far, there are no “Christmas Tree Farm” covers of note.
Is it a standard? Nah.
*NSYNC – “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” (1998)
Is it good? It’s a wonderful feeling! Feel the love in the room from the floor to the ceiling!
Do people know it? I am biased here as an elder millennial who grew up with *NSYNC’s Home For Christmas album in my household, but anecdotally (and in case you haven’t noticed, all of these assessments are anecdotal) yes.
Have other artists covered it? There have been covers by Pentatonix (of course), David Archuleta, and Betty Who in the last few years.
Is it a standard? My coworkers have confirmed to me that it is universally known, and the recent uptick in covers suggests that it’s working its way into the canon. We have a standard, people!
Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe” (2011)
Is it good? It’s not good.
Do people know it? I am assuming people know it for the same reason people know the Ariana Grande song: It’s been on every pop-star-oriented holiday playlist for the past decade.
Have other artists covered it? The first noteworthy cover of “Mistletoe” emerged less than two weeks ago courtesy of the boyband Why Don’t We.
Is it a standard? The lack of covers so far suggests we can pretend for a while that it’s not going to become a standard eventually, even though it totally will.
Kristen Bell, Agatha Lee Monn & Katie Lopez – “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” (2014)
Is it good? Hell yeah it’s good! The Frozen soundtrack does not fuck around.
Do people know it? Let me cast a knowing glance at every parent and child in the developed world and declare: Oh yes, people know “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”
Have other artists covered it? Performers including Nashville favorite Mickey Guyton, Australian The Voice alum Fatai, and YouTuber Hannah Cho have published takes of this song.
Is it a standard? Here’s the thing: Every Disney soundtrack song becomes a standard, especially tunes from a soundtrack as beloved as Frozen. But “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” is not a Christmas standard because it is quite simply not a Christmas song. No matter how hard playlist curators and radio programmers try to shoehorn the Frozen soundtrack into the holiday music canon, it’s just not about Christmas at all. “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” is not even about holiday-adjacent weather patterns like “Let It Snow” or “Winter Wonderland.” It’s about watching your relationship with your older sister deteriorate for mysterious reasons that you don’t comprehend and finding yourself depressed and alone in the luxurious castle that has become your prison. So.
Kelly Clarkson – “Underneath The Tree” (2013)
Is it good? “Underneath The Tree” courses with Christmas jubilance. It overflows with merriment. It sweeps you away on a tidal wave of good cheer. It’s not “Since U Been Gone,” but yeah, it’s great.
Do people know it? Maybe not by name, but if you played it for them they would recognize it.
Have other artists covered it? It’s mostly confined to YouTube, but acts such as First To Eleven, Marina Morgan, and TrebleMakers A Cappella have recorded “Underneath The Tree.”
Is it a standard? It’s a bit too stiff and overblown to measure up to “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but “Underneath The Tree” may be the closest thing to emerge since. If it’s not a standard yet, it’s well on its way.
Pentatonix – “That’s Christmas To Me” (2014)
Is it good? As someone who has always been ambivalent about Pentatonix, I must admit “That’s Christmas To Me” effectively captures the wistful yuletide spirit.
Do people know it? I am pretty sure that anyone who listens to Christmas music by choice is familiar with this song, one of the few originals on the Pentatonix Christmas album of the same name.
Have other artists covered it? Tori Kelly, Nathan Carter, Siampuii Ralte, and many a cappella groups have taken a crack at this song. It also appeared on the soundtrack to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, the show that Olivia Rodrigo continues to be on despite her supernova-level pop stardom.
Is it a standard? It’s a standard — and in less than a decade, too. Those Pentatonix folks have the holidays on lock.
Taylor Swift dominates both of Billboard‘s major charts this week with an album of re-recorded decade-old songs. On the Billboard 200, Red (Taylor’s Version) debuts at #1 with a whopping 605,000 equivalent album units — per Billboard, the second-biggest debut of the year following Drake’s 613,000-strong debut for Certified Lover Boy. The new Red also posted the biggest pure sales week of 2021 with 369,000. With 114,000 in vinyl sales, she once again breaks the one-week vinyl sales records. And its 303.23 million on-demand track streams, good for 227,000 units, is the second-biggest streaming week for a woman behind Ariana Grande’s debut week for thank u, next in 2019.
Red (Taylor’s Version) is Swift’s 10th #1 album; she joins Barbra Streisand, who has 11, as the only women in the double digits, and ties with Kanye West, Drake, Eminem, and Elvis Presley. (The top of the list also includes the Beatles with 19, Jay-Z with 14, and Bruce Springsteen with 11.) With folklore, evermore, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), and now Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift has accumulated four #1 albums in 16 months, the shortest span in Billboard 200 history.
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s debut as Silk Sonic, An Evening With Silk Sonic, enters at #2 with 104,000 units and 42,000 in sales. Then comes a #3 debut for TWICE with Formula of Love: O+T=<3, which tallied 66,000 units including 58,000 in sales. After Summer Walker, Drake, Morgan Wallen, and Ed Sheeran comes a #8 debut for Jason Aldean’s Macon via 37,000 units and 19,000 in sales. Kanye West and Doja Cat round out the top 10.
Back to Taylor Swift: She scores her eighth #1 single on the Hot 100 with “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version),” about which we published a whole damn article today:
A week and a half ago, Taylor Swift released Red (Taylor’s Version), her re-recorded version of the album that she originally released in 2012. The album’s centerpiece is a new 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” Swift’s brilliantly bitter breakup album. Back in 2012, Swift did not release “All Too Well” as a single, though the song still made it to #80 on the Hot 100. In the years since, “All Too Well” has emerged as a fan favorite and a critical darling. Today, “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” debuts at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Swift’s eighth #1 hit.
The original “All Too Well” runs five and a half minutes. Billboard combined the stats for the newly recorded standard-length song, billed as “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version),” with the totals for the long version of the track, which technically has the parentheses-abusing title “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault).” Because the 10-minute version accounted for a larger percentage of the song’s activity last week — including 62% of streams and 78% of sales — “All Too Well” now stands as the longest #1 hit of all time, replacing Don McLean’s “American Pie.” At 10 minutes and 13 seconds, it’s about two minutes longer than McLean’s hit, which topped the Hot 100 in January of 1972. “American Pie” came this close to a 50-year run as the longest chart-topper in history.
Taylor Swift put a lot of muscle into promoting that 10-minute “All Too Well.” She directed a “short film” for the song, which stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. She performed all 10 minutes on Saturday Night Live. She recorded a different version live at Aaron Dessner’s studio. Evidently, it all paid off. The whole world now wants Jake Gyllenhaal to give Swift back her scarf.
“All Too Well” bumps Adele’s “Easy On Me” down to #2, the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” to #3, and Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s “Industry Baby” to #4. Silk Sonic’s “Smokin Out The Window” reaches a new #5 peak, while Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” fall to #6 and #7 respectively. Glass Animals reach a new #8 high point with “Heat Wave,” while Doja Cat’s “Need To Know” is at #9 and Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like” is at #10.
Adele – “To Be Loved”
Adele wailing away over a piano continues to be a winning formula.
Kaytranada – “Intimidated” (Feat. H.E.R.)
I share the widespread annoyance about H.E.R.’s over-representation at awards shows, but this here is an understated vibe.
Chloe Moriondo – “Dizzy” (Feat. Thomas Headon & Alfie Templeman)
I prefer the Chloe Moriondo songs that sound like girl in red over forgettable whistle-pop like this. And yes, I am willing to lowercase girl in red but not Chloe Moriondo because girl in red is a stage name — maybe arbitrary but these are my convictions.
Saweetie – “Icy Chain”
Not a bad hard-but-pop-leaning rap song, but I don’t understand why you need to work with Dr. Luke to get production like this.
Jennifer Lopez – “On My Way (Marry Me)”
I do not have high expectations for Jennifer Lopez music, but I didn’t realize she was capable of recording a song this bland.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello broke up. [E!]
- At last night’s AMAs, BTS won all three categories in which they were nominated, including Artist Of The Year. [Billboard]
- BTS also teased an Among Us collaboration. [Nintendo Life]
- Miles Teller responded to Taylor Swift fans who questioned his appearance in her “I Bet You Think About Me” video: “I am vaccinated and have been for a while. The only thing I’m anti is hate.” [TMZ]
- Drake pulled his track from the new French Montana album because he reportedly didn’t feel it was appropriate to put out music so close to the Astroworld tragedy. [TMZ]
- Drake reportedly spent $1M at a strip club the night after Astroworld. [HNHH]
- Ed Sheeran will perform in Pokémon Go today. [The Verge]
- Harry Styles announced his new beauty brand, Pleasing. [Dazed]
- Adele’s “I Drink Wine” was originally 15 minutes long. [Rolling Stone]
- Taylor Swift recorded a new orchestral version of “Christmas Tree Farm” for Amazon Music. [Twitter]
- Here’s the trailer for JLo and Owen Wilson’s new romcom Marry Me. [YouTube]
- The Hollywood Music In Media Awards revealed a clip of Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi’s upcoming theme song for Don’t Look Up. [Twitter]
- Cudi also hopped on a remix of WILLOW’s “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l.” [YouTube]
- Camilo and Juan Luis Guerra were the top winners at the Latin Grammy Awards, each taking home four trophies. [CNN]