Is there a secret formula for predicting the next UK Christmas number 1?

What makes Mull of Kintyre (1977) the perfect accompaniment to present wrapping? Why do we still assemble the Christmas tree with Slade every December, nearly 50 years after its release? And what does it take for future tracks to achieve the same dizzying heights of Christmas playlist past?

To these questions, we look towards cold, hard Christmas magic.

By aggregating everything from festive themes to song length to soundscapes, we have calculated exactly what makes the ultimate UK Christmas no.1 using an Examined Music And Sentiment Score (or X-MAS Score).

Using data from past UK Christmas no.1s (1952 onwards), we’ve identified which festive tracks yield top tier Christmas magic – and what that can tell us about this year’s Christmas no.1 candidates.

All time songs with the best X-MAS Score

  1. Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984/89) – Band Aid
  2. Skyscraper (2013) – Sam Bailey
  3. Merry Xmas Everybody (1973) – Slade

All time songs with the worst X-MAS Score

  1. Earth Song (1995) – Michael Jackson
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody (1975/91) – Queen
  3. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (2012) – The Justice Collective

We’ve also applied the X-MAS Score method to the songs hoping to be 2020 Christmas number 1*. The closer to zero, the better the score.

Here’s what our calculation has predicted for this year’s line-up:

Christmas no.1s predictor for 2020 (according to X-MAS Score)

TitleArtistX-MAS
This ChristmasJess Glynn13.14
Baby It's Cold OutsideGemma Collins and Darren Day14.00
Christmas Eve (Soul Purpose)Blossoms28.89
Tis The Damn SeasonTaylor Swift37.69
Last ChristmasWham!38.18
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like ChristmasMichael Buble49.23
All You're Dreaming OfLiam Gallagher53.83
All I Want For Christmas Is YouMariah Carey80.00
Oh, Santa!Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande & Jennifer Hudson178.89
Can't Stop ChristmasRobbie Williams216.00

 

Songs that are 3 minutes 43 seconds fit the festive bill perfectly…

Band Aid’s 1984 ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ is the only Xmas no.1 to achieve this golden number.

A gentle 111 bpm complements Christmas dinner like cranberry sauce and stuffing…

Jimmy Osmond achieved this mellifluous magic with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool (1972), although it wasn’t enough to earn him an all-time top tier X-MAS Score.

And if you’re going to opt for a title, it should be 4 words and 16 letters long…

The only track to score A* from all-time Xmas no.1s was Dave Edmunds ‘I Hear You Knocking’ (1970)

Don’t worry too much about Christmas references…

A staggering 87% of Christmas no.1s don’t even mention Christmas in their titles or lyrics!

But love is a perennially popular theme…

Around 15% of Christmas no.1s feature love themes – and the titles are even more popular (37%) when they mention pronouns for their loved ones, too.

Keep your ears open for the sound of bells…

Nearly half (46%) of Xmas no.1s feature the brassy tintinnabulation of Church bells in their songs.

And choirs…

Some 32% couple their enlightening crescendos with a choir. Add a charity to the credits (+12%) and you could be tuning into Christmas gold!

 

The Index concludes that the perfect Christmas song is a combination of the following factors:

  • Duration: 3 minutes 43 seconds
  • BPM: 111
  • Words in title: 4
  • Letters in title: 16
  • References Christmas in title: No
  • References love in title: No (optional)
  • Pronouns included in title: Yes
  • Bells included in song: Yes
  • Choir included in song: No (optional)
  • Charity single: No (optional)
  • Artist type: Solo
  • From: UK London

*Note: Not all of the singles have been released with notable exceptions including the ICU Liberty Singers, Justin Bieber’s NHS inspired single, and LadBaby.