Christmas songs: Jingle sells

As Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their Christmas classics, Gillian Orr wonders why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for nearly 20 years

In Nick Hornby's novel About a Boy, the protagonist, Will (played by Hugh Grant in the film version), enjoys a charmed life. He decorates his stylish pad with sleek Bang & Olufsen products, sports designer footwear, and takes a string of women out to fancy restaurants, all without ever having to do a day's work. How? He is the sole recipient of the royalties from a popular Christmas song that his late father had composed.

And it would appear that this type of existence is not as implausible as it sounds. This week, analysts using data from the Performing Rights Society (PRS) released a study in which they estimated how much cash your festive favourites have raked in so far this year. The results were astonishing.

In at No 1 was Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody", currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. Singer Noddy Holder can expect a Christmas gift to the tune of £512,000 for the 2013 period. If Holder has been receiving similar sums each year since the song's release, then it's all round to his for Christmas.

But don't expect to find Holder relaxing in an armchair, eggnog in hand, counting his riches; an interview request from The Independent was politely knocked back by his manager. "As you can imagine, he is booked solid at the moment," he said.

Other Christmas winners include The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" (£386,270 should keep Shane MacGowan in decent whiskey for the year ahead) and Mariah Carey, whose "All I Want for Christmas Is You" will bring in £347,615. (Although anyone who caught Carey's episode of MTV's Cribs would know that she probably spends more a year on bed sheets.) Along with Carey's, the other most recent song to feature in the top 10 was East 17's 1994 hit "Stay Another Day"; both songs are now almost 20 years old.

The best and worst Christmas songs

That we have seen no major additions to the Christmas musical canon in the interim was the subject of a much-shared article on Slate this week by Chris Klimek. "It's not that there are no more good Christmas songs coming out," he wrote. "It's that we as a culture have stopped embracing the ones that do come out. It's been 19 years since 'All I Want for Christmas Is You'. And that's really the last time a pop song has entered the public consciousness across genres and age groups."

Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Justin Bieber's recent efforts have all flopped. But decent new festive tracks are there if you know where to look; indie artists such as Low, Bright Eyes, Yo La Tengo and Sufjan Stevens have all made well-received contributions to the Christmas playlist over the past 15 years. Yet none has managed to go mainstream.

"I think it's because they don't have the audience," suggests Eve Barlow, the deputy editor of NME. "If they don't have the audience in every other month of the year, then – unless it's something that really goes viral – it's not going to form part of the canon. There are so many under-the-radar artists who write great Christmas songs that never really see the light of day beyond their fan bases. It's the bigger artists that need to step up and take the risk of actually writing a Christmas song that they think can contend with the classics."

And while there are songs that make a welcome return each December (increasingly they are being heard in November, too), it seems that there are just as many festive tunes we'd happily banish. This week, Cliff Richard's 1988 hit "Mistletoe and Wine" came top of a Costa Coffee poll to find Britain's most-hated Christmas song, and it has subsequently been banned in all 1,600 branches. One doubts that Sir Cliff will care too much, though. A PRS cheque for £98,408 (and counting) for 2013 royalties should alleviate that sting. µ

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week