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Christmas Carol Singer Lee: Late Triumph for the Former Child Star

Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

It is a number one hit with a very long run-up: In 1958, the young singer Brenda Lee recorded »Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree« for the first time. The song was written by Johnny Marks, who had already succeeded in creating a Christmas classic in 1949 with »Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer«. 65 years later, »Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree« has completed its ascent to the top of the US singles charts: As the industry magazine »Billboard« reports, Brenda Lee leads the »Hot 100« for the week of December 9, 2023.

The fact that Christmas song classics occupy the top positions of the charts in December has been something we have had to get used to since the beginning of the streaming age. In 2022, »Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree« was already at the top of the »Billboard« charts, coming in at number two. But only one seemed to be able to shine at the top of the chart-topping Christmas tree: Mariah Carey with her "All I Want for Christmas Is You".

This year is different. A certain weariness with Mariah's status as the "Queen of Christmas" may have contributed to this. However, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is still popular this year, it is number two in the current US charts.

An important role for the placement in the charts also plays where the respective songs are placed in the popular Christmas playlists of the streaming services. On market leader Spotify, Carey and Lee line up behind Wham!'s "Last Christmas" on the "Christmas Hits" playlist (over 5 million likes). On »Christmas is Coming« (over 1 million likes), Brenda Lee is second only to Elton John's »Step Into Christmas«, Mariah Carey's song comes in eighth. And it is completely absent from the »Christmas Classics« list, which has been liked more than three million times. It opens, of course, »Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree«.

At »Billboard«, a panel of chart experts discusses the question of how Brenda Lee could have made the historic leap to the top. According to this, Lee and her record company have apparently succeeded in staging the question "Mariah or Brenda?" as a competition. For the first time, an official music video for »Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree« was shot a month ago.

Brenda Lee's classic was also launched on TikTok. An excerpt from the new video clip had been viewed 8.6 million times as of Wednesday morning. And an excerpt from a recent interview, in which the singer says that she was only 13 years old when she sang "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", also went viral - presumably this fact gave the TikTok core target group completely new ways of identifying.

By the way, the single was not originally a great success. It was only after the third release in December 1960 that the film made it onto the charts, with »Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree« coming in at number 14. In 2012, Brenda Lee's classic returned to the top hits. And now, after 2014 years, it is the crowning glory of the career of the American singer, who is only 65.1 meters tall.