Data visualization and storytelling


All I want for Christmas… is data 🎵

When does each country start and end its Christmas celebrations? Spotify Charts data + plus Flourish = festive insight!

Look, it’s not that I hate the song. It’s not even that I hate Mariah Carey, because how could I? It’s just that there comes a point every year when all I want for Christmas is a time machine, so I can travel back to 1994 and make Mariah do anything – anything! – other than release “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.

This year, that point came when I was in a pub and it began twinkling over the speakers. I pulled out my phone to check I hadn’t become spontaneously concussed and forgotten an entire month of my life, but it was indeed the 9th of November.

As I sat there, I began to wonder if this phenomenon was uniquely British. Do other countries also love Mariah/Christmas so much they start listening to this song in mid-autumn?

So, in true data journalist fashion, I scraped Spotify Charts and used Flourish to investigate. By checking when Mariah enters the Top 50 in each country, I got an insight into how each country celebrates the holiday season.

I don’t want a (dot plot) for Christmas

I began by looking at when AIWFCIY enters the Spotify Top 50 in each country in 2017, and when it dropped out again. Turns out – yes! – there’s a slightly deranged cohort of countries, including Austria, Canada, and the UK, which turn the song on abnormally early and turn it off abnormally late.

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Special mention should also go to Iceland, Denmark and Norway, because any way you slice the data – top 50, top 5, top 10, top 100, top 200 – these three are always at the top of the list.

There is just one (scatter chart) I need

But this simple chart ignores an important question. Is it possible that some countries embrace AIWFCIY early and end late, but other countries listen more intensely over Christmas?

To investigate this question, I took the total number of streams of the song on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in each country (normalised for population, of course) and plotted that against the song’s mean rank over the holiday season.

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The big outlier in the top right is Sweden, where people listen intensely on Christmas, and AIWFCIY also ranks consistently high on Spotify’s charts throughout the holiday season.

Amazingly, at 558 streams per 10,000 people, that means approximately one in 17 Swedes listened to Mariah on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in 2017 – that is of course if everyone in the country was sitting in a room alone, which I hope is generally not the case.

Make my wish come true (interactive line charts)

For true festive insight, the chart below shows the Spotify chart position of AIWFCIY in each country, by day. This shows some interesting outliers – like Greece, which unlike almost everywhere else, carries on listening until New Year.

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Happy holidays! 🎵