Music researchers at British music label Ostereo did a thorough analysis and crunched the data to determine the perfect formula for a holiday hit song. The experts looked at every chart-topping Christmas song of the last 50 years to see what they all had in common and determined some integral qualities among them.
According to The Independent, the experts determined that the best formula for reaching the top of the charts on Christmas Day was as follows:
- It needs to have a duration of 3:57
- In the key of G major
- With a tempo of 114 beats-per-minute
- And be performed by a 27-year-old solo artist
Other key qualities that were not prevalent enough to become part of the formula was that the majority of the songs were ballads, nearly half of the songs were cover versions, and nearly all of them were about something besides Christmas.
“I think we’re a long way from an algorithmically-generated Christmas number one,” said Howard Murphy, founder of Ostereo. “But certain characteristics do make a song more likely to resonate with audiences at Christmas.”
After applying the formula to the 50 songs included in the studies, the researchers determined that the Pet Shop Boys’ 1988 cover of Elvis Presley’s “Always On My Mind” was the quintessential Christmas chart-topper.
The Pet Shop Boys’ version was the exact suggested length and time and was close to the required tempo at 125 bpm. However, the song was performed by a duo with an average age nearing 32 on Christmas Day of 1988.
“Mary’s Boy” by Boney M was also considered for the top spot, as it was closer to the exact tempo at 113 bpm while spanning a duration of 4:02. The F key of the song, however, is two semitones below G, making “Always On My Mind” the winner.
Murphy acknowledged that the formula can only take a song so far.
“You can’t turn an average song into a hit at any time of year – never mind Christmas – so adding sleigh bells to a Christmas song won’t make a difference if the song isn’t already great, but certain characteristics do make a song more likely to resonate with audiences at Christmas,” he said. “Clever instrumentation can enhance the festive feel of the song. For example, without the church bells at the end, East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ is still a great song, but it’s not a Christmas song.”
Bookmakers at Betway have their money on Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” to remain atop the charts on Christmas this year, according to NME. Last year, Ed Sheeran topped the Christmas Day chart with a cover of his own song, “Perfect”.