Part 4 of my countdown of the top 50 Christmas songs of all time. Click these links to see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. With the Mayans – or at least Internet conspiracy theorists – proven wrong and the world still stubbornly here, it’s time to continue my countdown of my top fifty favourite festive tunes as the season of goodwill approaches!
20. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone (1985)
Sporting the best festive jumper in the world in the video, this mid-eighties Christmas song is an absolute classic. Filled with sleigh bells and catchy lyrics, it’s a song that’s hard to avoid on the radio and captures the seasonal mood perfectly. Stuffed full with memorable lyrics in the verse, bridge and chorus this is a great way to start off the top twenty.
19. Judy Garland – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1944)
From the musical ‘Meet Me In St. Louis’ this is a slow-paced ballad that manages to mix some cheery, forward-looking lyrics with a gloomier sound that balances the happy and sad of this time of year well. Short and sweet and beautifully sung, it’s another festive favourite that feels very wintery but equally showcases some shade in the happier times.
18. Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (1958)
Forgetting the Kim Wilde and Mel Smith cover that plays the song for laughs, this straight up late fifties Christmas song is fun to sing with its perky rhymes and is a definite earworm. Plus, if the film is to believed, it’s a great way to deter burglars when you’re home alone. With a great brass solo and chorus of voices, this is another Xmas classic.
17. Wham – Last Christmas (1984)
The biggest selling single in UK chart history, Christmas or otherwise, never to reach number one, this is another regularly played festive song. With a repeated chorus that hooks you in, this tale of unrequited love is a fun, sing-a-long track that mixes in the usual production values of festive songs together with a joyful keyboard and drum line.
16. Victoria Hart – Santa Baby (1953 (Original))
Eartha Kitt may have sang the original and Kylie Minogue famously covering it – alongside many, many other people – but it’s Canadian singer Victoria Hart who does my favourite version of it. With an addictive brass section and Hart’s sexy, sultry voice, this is quite a provocative Christmas tune but very enjoyable. With a selection of seasonal double-entendres it’s certainly one for the dads!
15. The Killers feat. Elton John and Neil Tennant – Joseph, Better You Than Me (2008)
The third Christmas charity single from Las Vegas’ ‘The Killers’ is a great modern festive song, focussing on a person usually forgotten in the Nativity. With Flowers’ vocals falsetto vocals well balanced against John’s deeper vocals, and later a brilliantly segued-in Tennant, this is a sombre, plodding number but one that builds to something great as Elton John’s breakdown really hits home to combine in the ending. With a great mix of guitar, brass and drum with some well-written lyrics, this is one of the best seasonal tunes of recent years.
14. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) (2003)
From the noughties year that spawned several big hits in this countdown, this festive offering from The Darkness in the wake of their well-received debut is a modern pop classic with a singable but rocking chorus in Hawkins’ distinctive falsetto, that proves that Christmas songs can crank it up and don’t have to be ballads with sleigh bells. With an added children’s chorus it’s not afraid to embrace some of the conventions but throws them up in the air in an interesting way.
13. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime (1979)
With a very distinctive synth line, this is a song that splits the crowd but I really enjoy it. With a catchy chorus that’s easily singable at a Christmas party, it ticks the festive pop box with simple and clear lyrics that will get anyone singing. It perhaps doesn’t particularly head in a very exciting direction but it’s a nice slice of party pop.
12. Hot Pantz – (I’d Like To Give You) One 4 Xmas (2004)
It might be as ‘Carry On’ as you can get with a Christmas song, chock full of cheesy innuendo, but if you can’t get away with that at Christmas when can you? With some neat drum machine work tied in with some nifty synth, it’s singable and cheeky enough to get away with. Classic British humour wrapped in a four minute pop song.
11. Chris De Burgh – A Spaceman Came Travelling (1976)
And as Monty Python would say, now for something completely different. With the lyrics being Erich Von Daniken meeting the Nativity, it’s a simply performed song but with the most atmospheric and haunting backing music of any Christmas song ever. It’s a long song that moves slowly, but with lots of synth effects that build it up but then moving into the simple, rousing, hummable chorus and the powerful ending. An absolutely beautiful track even if you don’t follow the messages contained within.