It’s time to put your Santa hat back on, reach for the crackers and Mistletoe, and prepare to “Step Into Christmas” with Philip Lickley’s next ten super seasonal songs – keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 coming soon! See Part 1 here.
40. The Wombats – Is This Christmas? (2008)
The Wombats aren’t known for their particularly happy singles, and this is no exception – being one of the darkest singles ever written about the period. But in their pessimism there is a certain truth to the lyrics, and the gloomier lyrics are over-shadowed by a happier backing tune that, like George Michael’s offering in Part 1, sounds older than it actually is, but this does wear it’s modern origins on its sleeves more. The chorus may be simple but, as with many others in this countdown, grabs you and the stripped-back breakdown adds to the tune.
39. The Puppini Sisters – Jingle Bells (2006)
Making a classic song your own is a tricky task but the Puppini Sisters managed it with this up-tempo, rocking cover of ‘Jingle Bells’ that gives the song a fresh lick of paint. Well worth a listen for something different and, ultimately, danceable, not that I’m going to try it!
38. The Feeling – Feels Like Christmas (2008)
Like The Wombats’ contribution to Christmas above, you could never accuse ‘The Feeling’ of being a happy band and a group you’d associate with a festive release, but they did one in 2008. ‘Feels Like Christmas’ boasts some fun strings and one of the best chorus lines of a Christmas song – ‘Is it Christmas or am I just going insane?’. Capturing the mood of the season well and full of bursting strings, it’s not one of their strongest releases but their sound fits in with this style of song.
37. Aled Jones – Walking in the Air (1985)
Even though it’s not even Aled Jones on the television version – that credit goes to Peter Auty – it’s this version that is more famous and also one of the most iconic television Christmas songs ever. Covered by lots of people – including later on by an adult Aled Jones with his falsetto self – it’s this version that I’ve picked. With its swelling strings, passionately sung vocals and memories evoked of the touching animation it’s taken from, it’s a song that most people have a soft-spot for.
36. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) (1961)
Recorded several times by Cole, the 1961 version is often said to be the definitive version. A true Christmas classic with the string side brought out again like many other singles, it doesn’t do anything particularly amazing but Nat King Cole’s voice is enough to carry this song. A true classic with a simple, but effective, message and a warming piano solo.
35. Britney Spears – My Only Wish (This Year) (2000)
Going much more contemporary, poppy and uptempo here was Spears when she still had the innocent girl-next-door ring to her. Unashamedly poppy and perky, this is Britney at her early best and, yes, it may have its cheesy moments but it’s a great listen.
34. Bing Crosby – White Christmas (1941)
Written by Irving Berlin, this is the best-selling single of all time – yes, not just Christmas singles, any single. Featuring lyrics reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas (I’m not sure what they’d think of the festive period seventy years on!). This is an absolute classic, easily singable and one of the most atmospheric of festive songs. Simply recorded but evocative of the season, it’s easy to see why this is a big seller.
33. John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir – Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1972)
Another absolutely classic Christmas song with lyrics that contradict the Christmas feeling of the music, which includes the expected sleigh bells and children’s choir. Actually a protest song against war, in particular the Vietnam war, it’s meaning has perhaps been adapted more into the canon of core Christmas tunes, but it’s no less meaningful in a time when war continues. Again, very singable, and balances the seasonal sound with less sugary lyrics than you get on your average Xmas tune.
32. Status Quo – It’s Christmas Time (2008)
It may have taken them 41 years into their long career to finally write a Christmas song but when they did get round to it they made a corker. Sure it has their familiar ‘Rocking All Over The World’ guitar chords in the background and sounds so Status Quo it almost sounds like a parody, but they capture the sound of the season with the bells and xylophone and the lyrics paint a happy – some would say unrealistic – picture of the season. It’s not highbrow and perhaps a little cheesy but it’s a strong festive song with the guitar bringing a little bit more to the record.
31. Johnny Mathis – When A Child Is Born (1976)
Based on a 1972 composition called “Soleado” it has been sung by many artists but it’s the Johnny Mathis version that is seen as the definitive one. With a beautifully hummed riff and a much more traditional sound – and lyrical content – this is an emotive, smooth and gentle, almost carol-like, pop tune. Well written and sung, and definitely a winter warmer, even if talk of a ‘yellow’ child sounds, to a modern ears, just a tad dodgy…