People’s opinions on Christmas music are held at practically a sacred level—which songs are the best, which ones are overplayed, and just how soon is too soon to start playing it. There’s now one holiday song debate science has supposedly settled for us with researchers creating the happiest Christmas song of all time. Joe Bennett, a musicologist and professor at Berklee’s Boston Conservatory, has partnered with musicians and lyricists to make what may be the most Christmassy Christmas song to ever Christmas, at least scientifically speaking.
Bennett started with a study, analyzing over 200 of the most-streamed UK Spotify songs the week of December 25, 2016. Of those 200 songs, 78 were Christmas-specific. Bennett then examined the traits of these 78 songs, looking at everything from commonly used words and themes to song tempo and key to vocalists and instruments used. He even tracked “sleigh bell usage.”
While Mariah Carey belting may signify the start of the Christmas season for many (“All I Want for Christmas Is You” was the number one streamed song last Christmas), there’s one singer who reigns supreme over seasonal songs: Michael Bublé. Ten of the 78 songs were performed by Bublé, which will come as little surprise to anyone who has worked in retail during the month of December.
Sleigh bells were also a signifier of a Christmas hit as they were featured in 49 percent of the songs. Of those songs with lyrics, each fit into one of eight broad thematic categories: home, being in love, losing love, partying, Santa, snow, religious themes, and peace on earth. More than nine-in-ten of the most popular songs were in a major key and in 4/4 time.
So, what’s a researcher to do with this information? Make the happiest song for the most wonderful time of year, of course. The song was commissioned by intu shopping centers in the UK to make holiday shoppers happy. Harriet Green and Steve Anderson incorporated Bennett’s finding to create the most happy Christmas song they could. (Minus Michael Bublé singing.)
As one of the song’s writers Harriet Green states in a behind-the-scenes video, “there is no proven formula to writing the perfect song.” However, the songwriters combined some of Bennett’s “key ingredients” to create a Christmas earworm sure to stick with you throughout the holiday season.
Here is the London Community Choir performing ‘Love’s Not Just For Christmas,’ a song sure to melt the most humbug-y of hearts.
WIth lines like “Make December last forever” and “Everyone’s about the peace on earth. A little Christmassing for what it’s worth,” the song is a Christmas ~*bop*~. The lyrics also read like a holiday word search of sorts, after reading the exact holiday themes Bennett called out and Green and Anderson worked to incorporate. You can view the full lyrics here, in case you want to add it to your caroling roster.
However much of a hit a Christmas song claims to be, some studies suggest that Christmas can actually be mentally taxing, especially depending on when you start playing it. Psychologist Linda Blair told CBS News that for some, listening to Christmas music too early may affect mental health and possibly trigger feelings of stress. For retail workers and shoppers alike, Christmas music is the tell-tale sign of the Christmas creep, the looming term for retailers putting out holiday decor sooner and sooner in the season.
The effect Christmas music has on our brains may also impact how much we spend. One study found that Christmas music paired with a Christmas-y scent like pine made consumers view a retail store more favorably. Some even suggest that Christmas music makes you buy more. While any official research on the subject is inconclusive, my personal research seems to confirm that hypothesis: I walked into a Bath & Body Works this weekend, smelled a bunch of sugary holiday scents, heard two different versions of ‘What Christmas Means to Me,’ and somehow walked out with five candles.
Regardless of whether ‘Love’s Not Just For Christmas’ will prove to be a holiday classic for retailers and Christmas parties, it’s certainly a welcome addition to any holiday playlist looking to space out their endless Bublé songs.