‘fairytale of new york’ the most played christmas track of the 21st century

The most played Christmas track of the 21st Century is based on PPL data, compiled from exclusive music usage and airplay information from radio stations and television channels as well as public performance locations such as pubs, clubs, bars, jukeboxes, and shops all across the UK, showcasing the music that soundtracks our lives. The programme will be broadcast on Christmas Day (2-5pm) on BBC Radio 2 and will be available post broadcast via BBC Sounds.

Winter wonderlands

The 1980s stands out as the decade which produced the most Christmas hits, with twelve 80s tracks in the Top 40, followed by the 70s with eight tracks. The 2000s featured the least, with only three tracks from that decade making the chart. Looking at specific years, 1984 and 1963 were full of the Christmas spirit, both producing four of the most played Top 40:


  • ‘Last Christmas’ – Wham!
  • ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – Band Aid
  • ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’ – Queen
  • ‘The Power Of Love’ – Frankie Goes To Hollywood


  • ‘Sleigh Ride’ – The Ronettes
  • ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ – Andy Williams
  • ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ – The Crystals
  • ‘Winter Wonderland’ – Darlene Love

Harsh winters

Despite the continued popularity of these tracks, only seven of the most played Top 40 have been Christmas no.1s. Indeed, three did not make it into the Official Charts Top 40 upon initial release, the most notable being fifth-placed Chris Rea.

Christmas no.1s

  • ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ – Slade
  • ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ – Shakin’ Stevens
  • ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – Band Aid
  • ‘Stay Another Day’ – East 17
  • ‘Lonely This Christmas’ – Mud
  • ‘2 Become 1’ – Spice Girls
  • ‘Mistletoe And Wine’ – Cliff Richard

Steve Lillywhite CBE, producer of ‘Fairytale Of New York’, said:

“The term timeless classic is reserved for very few records and by definition, you need time to have passed to define this. I am very happy to have produced this timeless classic, although it’s tinged with sadness as Kirsty is no longer with us, but what a way to remember her every Christmas.”

Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer at PPL, said:

“During times of uncertainty and change the music we know and love can provide comfort and support, through good memories as well as hope for the future. It is no surprise then that Christmas music has been broadcast and played earlier than ever this year, providing relief during the pandemic. This is a testament to the performers and recording companies who created it, and PPL is proud to support them via our royalty payments.

Thank you to BBC Radio 2 for helping us celebrate these brilliant tracks and we wish our performer and recording company members, our licensees and all music fans a Merry Christmas and a brighter 2021.”

A full list of the Top 40 is below:

  1. ‘Fairytale Of New York’ – The Pogues Feat. Kirsty MacColl
  2. ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ – Mariah Carey
  3. ‘Last Christmas’ – Wham!
  4. ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ – Wizzard
  5. ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ – Chris Rea
  6. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ – Slade
  7. ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ – Shakin’ Stevens
  8. ‘Step Into Christmas’ – Elton John
  9. ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – Band Aid
  10. ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ – John & Yoko And The Plastic Ono Band With The Harlem Community Choir
  11. ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ – Paul McCartney
  12. ‘Stop The Cavalry’ – Jona Lewie
  13. ‘Stay Another Day’ – East 17
  14. ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ – Greg Lake
  15. ‘Christmas Wrapping’ – The Waitresses
  16. ‘2000 Miles’ – The Pretenders
  17. ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’ – Queen
  18. ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ – Brenda Lee
  19. ‘Sleigh Ride’ – The Ronettes
  20. ‘The Power Of Love’ – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
  21. ‘Warm This Winter’ – Gabriella Cilmi
  22. ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ – Andy Williams
  23. ‘One More Sleep’ – Leona Lewis
  24. ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ – The Darkness
  25. ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ – Lily Allen
  26. ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ – Dean Martin
  27. ‘A Winter’s Tale’ – David Essex
  28. ‘Lonely This Christmas’ – Mud
  29. ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ – Chris De Burgh
  30. ‘Underneath The Tree’ – Kelly Clarkson
  31. ‘Santa Baby’ – Kylie Minogue
  32. ‘Christmas Lights’ – Coldplay
  33. ‘The Power Of Love’ – Gabrielle Aplin
  34. ‘2 Become 1’ – Spice Girls
  35. ‘Mistletoe And Wine’ – Cliff Richard
  36. ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ – Bon Jovi
  37. ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ – Michael Bublé
  38. ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ – The Crystals
  39. ‘All Alone On Christmas’ – Darlene Love
  40. ‘Winter Wonderland’ – Darlene Love