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

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own