It is known that during any kind of celebration music is indispensable and the holiday season is no different. There are special class of songs dedicated to Christmas! Since this time of the year brings positiveness, we decided to analyze the holiday songs to uncover some interesting insights related to musical features and positiveness in songs.
So read on to get some fantastic musical insights for your holiday party.
Considering I’m not an expert in music, I’ll rely on the professionals in this field, i.e., Filtr (part of Sony Music Entertainment) to select top holiday songs. This is a song curation tool that can be used with Spotify to access numerous playlists. It seems curation is king! Some of the playlist examples are ‘Country Vibes’, ‘Hip hop 2018’, and ‘Christmas Songs — Holiday Music’. And, that’s the playlist we’ll use for this analysis. I used the elegant spotifyr package for R to download all the musical features of 167 songs in the playlist.
Click here to download the data set directly.
We will be starting with the top artists with the most number of holiday songs in the US. That will be followed by top ten most positive and then the top ten most danceable holiday songs. After that we will actually go into the technical details of the songs and see what we can derive.
So here are the points that we will be going over in this article-
- Top artists with the most number of holiday songs in the US
- Top 10 most positive holiday songs in the US
- Top 10 most danceable holiday songs in the US
- Top Keys that are used in the top holiday songs in US
- Correlation of musical features of top holiday songs
- Density plot of holiday song duration
- Density plot of energy, valence and danceability
- Heatmap of valence in top holiday songs
Top artists with the most number of holiday songs in the US
Pentatonix, American a cappella group from Arlington tops the list with 9 songs. Two of their top holiday songs are — “Hallelujah” and “Mary, Did You Know?”. Mariah Carey bags the second spot 6 songs and Elvis Presley is at 3rd spot with 5 songs. Also, very interesting to see that the musical TV series Glee has some of the popular Christmas tracks.
Density plot of holiday songs’ duration
The density plot for song duration gives interesting insights. Very few songs lie below the 100 seconds mark, while the highest frequency is observed in the 160 seconds and 205 seconds range. The average comes to little more than 180 seconds (~ 3 minutes) which is in line with general song duration.
Top 10 most positive holiday songs in the US
As per the chart, the song with the most positiveness, that is likely to make you happy, is Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autry. You can see that the songs are measured by their valence score. What is valence? Well, you see our reaction to music is emotional — songs with higher valence score make us happy and the ones with lower score make us sad.
The ones at the second and third positions are Little Saint Nick and Feliz Navidad. Now, we can see majority of the positive songs are older classics while very few newer musicians like Kelly Clarkson and Pentatonix feature in the positive song list. Guess with time positiveness in songs has gone down.
Top 10 most danceable holiday songs in the US
Songs are not just for listening — especially in the holiday season, you’d expect people to dance (thanks to the parties). This chart shows ‘Last Christmas’ by Jule Vera is the ultimate dance song! Here Gene Autry’s song, ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ comes second which is the most positive songs according to previous chart.
Add the other songs to the playlist for your upcoming party.
Top Keys that are used in the top holiday songs in US
Music is heavily influenced by the type of keys used. We can see that some keys occur more in these festive songs than the others. Maybe you can use this data if you are working on a holiday song yourself. C, G and D are more frequent than all the other keys, so it can be stated with some amount of certainty that these are “Christmas keys”
Correlation of musical features of top holiday songs
Given below is a color-coded correlation matrix of the musical features such as instrumentalness, loudness, and energy. By correlation we mean how these features are related. For example, one can say that ice-cream sales are related to the weather — sales are higher when it is warmer. This would mean there is correlation between temperature and ice-cream sales.
The peach color in the matrix signifies positive correlation and negative correlation is depicted by bluish color. The ‘x’ signifies no correlation.
The most prominent findings from the graph are as follows-
- Loudness of a song has strong correlation with its energy
- Danceability and energy have positive correlation with valence
- Energy are loudness have negative correlation with song’s acoustic-ness.
Note: Correlation doesn’t imply causation.
Density plot of energy, valence and danceability
Since the correlation matrix showed that energy, valence and danceability have positive correlation, we would create a chart of their density plot.
Heatmap of tempo and key combination for valence
Tempo is the speed of a particular song according to musical jargon. It is measured as beats per minute, i.e., bpm. Since the data set had numerical value for tempo, we converted that to categorical value based on the tempo marking.
This heatmap shows which key and tempo variation produces higher valence in holiday songs. We can easily see that the combinations producing the highest valence are –
- G minor in Vivace
- F# minor in Vivace
- F major in Moderato
To understand the combinations, a table has also been produced that shows the relationship of the tempo category, key modes and valence.
|Tempo category||Key mode||Valence|
The holiday season is all about spreading happiness and songs play a vital role — be it Christmas carols or party songs. This article used data to bring you interesting insights and we hope it will help you with some smart talking points for the upcoming parties.