It’s almost over: That ever-present, ever-looping Christmas song season.
We listen to the interminable cascade on store sound systems, the car radio and music-streaming services, but how much of it do we really like?
It’s a matter of personal taste. Some like the religious canon, others the classics written by Jewish songwriters in snowless Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. These days it may sound like Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey are slugging it out to replace Bing Crosby and Andy Williams at the top of the Christmas song list.
But when people get to register a preference, as they do on a streaming service such as Pandora, a different, and surprising, set of songs and performers emerges. Pandora parsed its data to see what were the most popular songs in each state.
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Pandora’s listeners are able to tap a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down icon for each song they stream. Pandora tracks that. It says, nationwide, among the most “thumbed-up” songs is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” though Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is No. 1. The state popularity list shows the most popular songs that deviate significantly from the national taste. So we get a list with more regional variation.
There are some caveats that make this slightly less than an all-time authoritative list. Pandora’s listeners, though they number 76 million worldwide, skew young. And in states where Pandora has fewer listeners, the results may be less representative.
Classics remain popular. The Temptations’ version of “Silent Night” tops the list in seven states, most of them Southern: Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The country singer Faith Hill’s “Where Are You Christmas” is among the top three songs in 14 states and tops the list in four: Iowa, South Dakota, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” from 1958, is the top choice in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington.
But Pandora says the song that is No. 1 in the most states is “Christmas Canon” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It’s most popular across a broad swath of Middle America: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The group’s “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” tops Wyoming’s and Colorado’s lists and is among the top three in six other states.
What about Bing Crosby and “Silent Night”? Barely registers. (The Drifters’ version is No. 1 in Illinois, however.) And “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” — which Rolling Stone magazine once said was the greatest Christmas song — is widely popular, but it is the Mariah Carey version, not the 1963 version by Darlene Love, that resonates — especially in Massachusetts and New Jersey, where it is No. 1. (It turns out that Massachusetts also ranked Love’s version as its No. 3 choice.)
Another Christmas classic update is broadly popular. Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel’s version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” aces out versions by Dean Martin, Michael Bublé, the gang from “Glee” and others. It’s No. 1 in Montana and is in the top three in five other states.
On the other hand, it’s not Madonna’s “Santa Baby” that is favored by Pandora listeners but the racier 1953 Eartha Kitt version. Californians and Texans ranked it as their No. 1 Christmas song.
The top song in New York is “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon.