This post has been written by Katie Cockroft
As the season of Advent is finally upon us, it is now socially acceptable to play Christmas songs full blast for everyone to hear - without people thinking you’re Christmas obsessed! This time of year usually sparks debates over the best songs, people’s top rankings, and whether certain songs are actually festive at all (2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls anybody?).
So, without further ado, I wish to present the definitive* list of the top 10 best-ever Christmas tunes!
*not particularly official, but pretty darn close.
10. Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo
You can’t help but bop along to Mike Oldfield’s instrumental arrangement of the 14th century Christmas carol of the same name. It provides a modern interpretation of a historically important piece of music. The acoustic guitar and flute opening brings sounds of a traditional Christmas, which you’d expect to accompany folk dancing in a quaint English town. As the song builds to a crescendo, the addition of the electric guitar sets it apart from most traditional Christmas hits. Thoughts of 90’s Nativities definitely spring to mind when I listen to this. It is the ultimate tune to have playing in the school hall as the children parade in, wearing their costumes with pride. Put this on and the toe-tapping will begin in earnest, I assure you.
9. Coldplay – Christmas Lights
A bit of a slower one, and could indeed be a controversial choice for the top 10. In my mind, this is a very typical British Christmas song. Mentions of Oxford Street and waiting for the snow to fall remind us of the cultural rite of passage at this time of year. The swish of the bridge stays true to Coldplay’s alternative style, whilst gearing you up for the change in tempo during the song’s chorus. Beautifully written and almost Scottish-esque in sound, all that’s missing are a set of bag pipes to catapult this tune to ultimate festive heights. The song’s climax ignites the reassuring and heart-warming feelings that Christmastime brings. May all your troubles soon be gone, oh Christmas lights, keep shining on.
8. Jona Lewie – Stop the Cavalry
A personal favourite of mine, I always end up bitterly disappointed when this song falls below the top 20 in most Christmas countdowns. Jona Lewie’s husky vocals make this song truly unique in sound. Although it was never intended to be a Christmas hit, the addition of the brass band and tubular bells bring strong festive vibes. It’s difficult to stay quiet when the chorus of dub-a-dub-a-dum-dums begin. This jolly chanting is concluded each time with the song’s main lyric: ‘Wish I was at home for Christmas’ – a theme anyone can relate to at this time of year.
7. Wizzard – I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday
A little cheesy, but a Christmas staple which just can’t be ignored. This busy composition embodies the hustle and bustle of the festive season, whilst encouraging listeners to embrace their inner child! And, being brutally honest, I wish it COULD be Christmas every day! Can I just take a moment to shout out to the true stars of the music video: the curtain-haired drummer boy and the sassy kid playing the saxophone? Iconic. The Top of the Pops recording of this tune provides absolute CLASSIC viewing too, in which Roy Wood half-heartedly lip-syncs the whole song. His attempt of finishing line ‘why don’t you give your love for Christmas’ is a particular shocker, but well worth a watch.
6. Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You
Here it is - Mariah’s record-breaking Christmas anthem. You’d probably expect this song to rank higher on the list, but its obscene popularity results in the song being so overplayed, you can’t help but become a bit fed up with it come December 25th. Is it just me, or does Mariah go into hiding each year before making an over-bearing appearance in the holiday season? That being said, it is undoubtedly a modern-day masterpiece. The cheerful, upbeat melody is enough to get anyone in the festive spirit. What else can I say? Every year, this classic seems to creep back into the charts – and it’s clear to see why.
5. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
Of course, Sir Paul is bringing us into the top five. Without a doubt, this has got to be one of the most Christmassy songs of all time. The mood is right, the spirit’s up, so get this absolute classic played on maximum volume! From the guitar, to the percussion and keyboard, every instrument in this composition is played by Paul himself. The sleigh bells jingling throughout help to reinforce the ultimate festive feeling. Taking just ten minutes to write, the song’s popularity speaks for itself – it is estimated that each year, McCartney earns $400,000 from the royalties of this song alone.
4. Elton John – Step into Christmas
No matter who I speak to, this seems to be a firm festive favourite. It has ranked so highly on this list for a few reasons. The first of which being that it is so incredibly jolly and uplifting. Not only that, but it is about grabbing December by the baubles and embracing the Christmas season with all you’ve got. Christmas isn’t always an enjoyable time for everyone, and I understand that, but it’s hard to not want to enjoy Christmas when you’ve got Elton chirping away in your ear. After all, the admission’s free! The music video is also a belter, in which Elton is having the best time being silly with fellow musicians and pals. During the musical interlude, his slow reveal of his perfect Christmas gift, a Watford FC season ticket, adds to the hilarity.
3 The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York
There’s a reason that this is the UK’s most played Christmas song. The Fairytale of New York is such a beautiful and iconic addition to anyone’s Christmas listening catalogue. The title says it all: a poetic story, embracing the bittersweet beauty of two unfortunate lovers in the city that never sleeps. The introduction to this song definitely makes me feel emotional, perhaps due to truthfulness of the lyrics, but also the air of hope that next year will be better. A few dated lyrics have made some parts of this song controversial, but its long-standing popularity will continue to dominate the Christmas music industry for years to come.
2 Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
It may seem like a strange choice for the number 2 spot, but this usually over-looked classic is quintessentially Christmas. The simple yet poetic lyrics stir memories of years gone by, and brings to mind the magic experienced as a child during Christmastime. Within the first five seconds, the string arrangement instantly whisks you away to a relaxing, festive paradise. Imagine yourself on Christmas Eve, hot chocolate in hand, sitting in front of a roaring fire whilst listening to Cole’s soothing notes. I couldn’t think of anything more perfect. And all the while, the song only offers the simple phrase: Merry Christmas to you.
1 Wham – Last Christmas
Sorry folks, but this cheesy ballad had to claim the top spot. Can you even talk about last Christmas without someone bursting out in song? In my house, it’s hard not to. Firstly, George Michael’s hairdo in the music video for this seasonal staple is surely enough to win any competition, regardless of context. The focus of this song is on Michael’s voice alone, backed by a simple track creating the festive ambience. Yet, somehow, the song provides a refreshing take on a story of heartbreak. The moral of this song will always be relevant, still sounding fresh after 35 years since the original release. We love you, George. Thank you for giving us a beloved Christmas classic that will last for eternity.
Best of the Worst
And with a list of the best-ever Christmas songs, come a few special mentions. Here’s my ‘Best of the Worst’ picks: so brilliantly cheesy, they deserve a shout-out.
Band Aid - Do they know It’s Christmas?
Of course this song is for a good cause, but it is so absolutely milked dry. Sorry, Bob!
Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody
This song nails every Christmas cliché. Similar to Ms. Carey, Noddy’s ‘IT’S CHRISTMASSSS!’ announcement grates on me by the end of the month.
Merry Christmas Everyone - Shaking Stevens
Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. Need I say any more? However, Shaky’s jumper in the music video is undeniable outfit goals.
And there you have it! My list of ultimate Christmas bangers. Merry Christmas!