What do Bruce Springsteen, Wham!, Louis Armstrong and Mariah Carey have in common? They all have huge Christmas hits. They might have been released decades ago but almost everyone can sing along to them. You might hate them, you might even love them but not knowing them is not an option. During the end of November and the whole month of December those songs are a constant. We hear them on the radio, in every shop, even in the office or at school. There’s no way of escaping them.
Christmas, once a religious holiday, is now the embodiment of our capitalist society. In every city small and big there are Christmas markets, the endless amounts of money people spend on gifts, the huge amount of food on every table on 25 December are examples of how commercial this holiday has become. So why should the music industry be any different?
According to a 2017 report of The Economist, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ has earned $60 million in royalties since its original release in 1994. No wonder that so many musicians have a go at a Christmas song or album. Artists like Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond don’t even celebrate the holiday but have made several albums to grab their share of the commercial feast. Can you blame them? Almost none of these artists have the kindred spirit of the holiday season in mind while recording these songs.
Christmas albums are a great marketing tool. Taylor Swift released a Christmas EP in 2007, a year after her debut album. Swift, being the supporting act of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at that time, hit the jackpot with that album. It fast became Number One in the holiday charts and even made it to Number 20 on the Billboard Top 200. She soon became America’s Sweetheart and although many have forgotten that she released that EP, there’s no doubt that The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection contributed to the popstar’s career. Another great example is Michael Bublé. His album Christmas didn’t make him a popstar but made him the prince of Christmas. Nowadays, people associate him with this time of year and sure enough, his new album Love was released on 16 November.
The perception of Christmas songs as innocent and fun isn’t wrong, but their success does make one wonder how our world has turned out to be this way. Every aspect in our life is a scheme in the capitalist way of living. Our consumerism will not be stopped any time soon. The question is: do we want it to remain this way or is there a revolution about to happen in the near-future?
The Five Highest-Grossing Christmas Records (source: capitalfm.com)
1. Slade: ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ £500,000/yr
2. The Pogues ft. Kirsty McColl: ‘Fairytale Of New York’ £400,000/yr
3. Mariah Carey: ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ £376,000/yr
4. Bing Crosby: ‘White Christmas’ £328,000/yr
5. Wham!: ‘Last Christmas’ £300,000/yr