Hit Parade

Chestnut Roasters Edition

A festive retrospective on the artists whose holiday hits outperform the rest of their catalog combined.


Episode Notes

Bing. Nat. Dean. John and Paul. Darlene. Mariah. Ariana. Musicians so famous, with so many classic hits, you don’t even need their last names. Now here are a few more, with fewer hits: Vince Guaraldi. José Feliciano. Donny Hathaway. The Waitresses. What do all of these acts have in common? Years from now, each of them may be known primarily for a single holiday chestnut. In fact, in the streaming era, some of them already are consumed largely in December.

In this holiday episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy dives deep into radio, streaming and Billboard chart data to compare these acts’ long hitmaking histories to the majority-merry ways they are consumed today. And none has been more condensed by Christmas than another artist who was once famous enough to go by her first name: Brenda. A ’60s chart dominator and double–Hall of Famer, Brenda Lee is now mostly known for that tune about Christmas tree rockin’. How did the legendary “Little Miss Dynamite” become Santa’s little helper? And will she ever pass Mariah and go back to No. 1?

Podcast production by Asha Saluja.


About the Show

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.

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  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.