BORED of Bublé? Sick of Slade? Our Grinchy gurus of groove have picked out their favourite songs for the festive season. Find the full YouTube playlist here, and try a kiss under the mistletoe to these musical masterpieces instead:
|Helen||사르르 (Softly) – Starship Planet||Starship Planet’s ‘Softly’ is as comforting as it sounds. It’s a sweet Korean pop jam which you’ll definitely find yourself humming in the mornings to make yourself feel festive. It being in Korean, knowledge of the lyrics is not important when it comes to getting fuzzy Christmas feelings or getting into the spirit of the season.|
|Anna||Kate Bush – December Will Be Magic Again||Accompanied only by a few piano chords, Kate Bush manages to avoid the bells, whistles and cliché that Christmas hits depend on. In this 1980 single Bush’s voice takes on an extra wintery quality as she sings of Oscar Wilde, Bing Crosby and a city silenced by snow. A moment of peace and tranquility before Slade and the Pogues descend.|
|Alex||Jingle Hell – Christopher Lee||Even at the age of 92, acting legend Sir Christopher Lee knew how to rock a guitar solo. In 2013, he released heavy metal song Jingle Hell which reached No 18 in the Billboard charts, making him the oldest musician ever to chart. A perfect antidote to the usual warm, fuzzy Christmas songs and a nice, festive reminder that you will never be as cool as Sir Christopher Lee.|
|Sam||Gary Jules and Michael Andrews – Mad World||This haunting Tears for Fears cover made it to the Christmas number one spot in 2003. Featured in the movie Donnie Darko, it’s worth a listen around this time of year to remind ourselves of the sheer madness of it all while pondering the existential crises of Christmas in front of a roaring log fire.|
|John||Queen – A Winter’s Tale||Queen are a very famous band with plenty of pedigree around Christmas time. Bohemian Rhapsody remains the only song to be Christmas number one on two separate occasions (1975, 1991) and the band did record a Christmas song called ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’ in 1984.
But ‘A Winter’s Tale’ is something a bit different and a bit better. It is not exclusively about Christmas, but more a poignant description of Freddie Mercury’s last winter before he died which creates a bittersweet and easy listening track.
|Dave||Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r Bore (Traditional from Wales)||This song is a traditional kind of Welsh carol song called a Plygain. They used to be sung in the depths of the night on Christmas Eve by stalwart chapel-goers braving the cold.
Today Plygain singing is rare and where it is found it is spread out across the Christmas period whenever people can fit it in.
These carols are sung acapella by a party of three people. I really like the idea of Plygain singing because there’s a real have-a-go attitude behind it. As long as you know a few of the songs and have two other willing volunteers, you can take jump up in front of an audience and belt it out.
|Danny||Mic Righteous – Power of Love||I don’t really celebrate Christmas. To me, Christmas is a day off. Another chance to be lazy, eat pizza, watch bad T.V. and not worry about any work or deadlines. So, rather than a Christmas song, I’ve decided to go with a song from my ‘Winter’ playlist. Ironically, another version of the song was used for a John Lewis Christmas song. Mic Righteous, a hard working British rapper, does this classic justice. His lyrics, flow and the gentle piano combined with the powerful chorus perfectly encapsulates those brooding, wistful winter moments. Ah. Cold nights, warm fires, hot drinks. Winter.|
|Bronte||The Crookes – It’s Just Not Christmas Without You||As someone who isn’t a fan of Christmas songs, I had to do a quick YouTube search to find this. The Crookes are an indie band from Sheffield and despite seeing them live a couple of times, I had no idea this song existed (probably because I make a conscious effort to avoid Christmas songs). ‘It’s Just Not Christmas Without You’ sort of reminded me of the Beatles, but there’s an obvious festive jingle in the background. It’s definitely worth a listen if you want to feel festive, but also want to avoid White Christmas or Mariah Carey.|
|Matt Lodge||Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo||This rendition of the traditional Christmas carol, released in 1975, is a must-listen in my house. Mike Oldfield reimagines the 13th century carol into a happy song which is impossible not to smile at, while showing that you don’t need words in a song to make it memorable. Christmas should be a happy time where everyone enjoys the company of others and this song personifies that. Put it on in the background and watch the kids open presents and you have a memory for both your life and theirs.|
|Joe||Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis||Christmas in Hollis could’ve just been another seasonal cash in, but Run DMC absolutely hit it out of the park with their 1987 single. Pairing a sample of Clarence Carter’s bluesy ‘Back Door Santa’ with a classic hip hop beat, and lyrics cheerfully extolling the virtues of DMC’s mum’s Christmas Dinner and how much Santa keeps in his wallet, Christmas in Hollis has thoroughly earned its place as the greatest rap carol of all time.|
|Andrew||The Pretenders – 2000 Miles||A song which is exactly four times as good as 500 Miles by The Proclaimers, this 1983 non-hit (it peaked at no.15) has come to be a staple of any self-respecting ‘Alternative Christmas’ playlist. If you listen to this, you WILL be humming it all day.|
|Britta||Destiny’s Child – 8 Days of Christmas||I don’t care what time of year it is, every day is Beyonce day and Christmas is no exception. Thank god she released a Christmas song when she was still with Destiny’s Child because as much as I’d like to it would be uncouth to play the Lemonade album over lunch. What makes this song so incredible? The clue is in the title and the proof is in the pudding. Bey, Kelly and Michelle modestly request just eight items for Christmas as opposed to the traditional twelve. Not only is this easier to remember but it’s also more relatable to the modern listener. Now I wouldn’t usually ask for a pair of Chloe shades or a CLK Mercedes, but who wants a partridge in a pear tree?|
|Bronwen||Tim Minchin – White Wine in the Sun||‘White Wine in the Sun’ anyone? This is an unusually sentimental song for Minchin, whose musical comedy is more brash and pessimistic as a whole.
Despite the usual frizzy hair and bare feet, here he is with just a piano displaying a wonderful array of chords that will grab at your heartstrings.
The song is about his Christmases back home in Australia and what the holiday means to him.
In the end his words are directed to his young daughter, as a reminder in the future that no matter where she is at Christmas, her family will be waiting for her – in the sun.Whether you like his comedy or not, you will have to agree this is an emotional one that will have you calling home to confirm arrangements for Christmas and longing for the holidays when you can celebrate with your family.
|Elgan||Jonah Lewis – Stop the Cavalry||Whether you love brass bands, hate war, or neither of the above, this song is a Christmas cracker. Okay, so maybe it helps if you like brass bands in particular. The trumpet section in particular is very pleasing on the ear, and if you’re fervently against the nuclear arms race, this protest-song is most definitely the tune for you.|
|George||Irish Rovers – Good King Wenceslas||Watch it, it’s a banger of a Christmas carol, not dreary like Silent Night. The Irish Rovers are so clearly into the song and the penny whistle just works so well.
I get this song stuck in my head every year. It’s an absolute classic.
For years I thought the lyrics were “Good king Wences last looked out.” Still sing that sometimes.
|Marcus||Bob Dylan – Must be Santa||Have you ever wanted to hear a Nobel Laureate cover a forgotten Christmas single from 1960 in a weird upbeat polka style? Dylan, as ever, delivers what nobody asked for and more. In the video he’s wearing some kind of long silvery wig I think he borrowed off Roy Wood for the occasion. At Christmas, this track reminds us that it’s all very well being a trailblazer but everyone, sometimes, needs to be told “no”.|
|Matt Drake||De la Soul – Millie Pulled A Pistol on Santa||As the first line says: “A title for a style that sounds silly,” but goes much deeper.
The song is about a social worker called Billy who volunteers to play Santa Claus at Macy’s department store. But behind closed doors he sexually abuses his daughter Millie.
She tells others of the abuse but no one believes her. So she procures a gun, goes to Macy’s where her father works: “and with the quickness it was over…”
Christmassy. Festive. Joyful.
|Phil||Rage Against The Machine – Killing in the Name||Perhaps the Grinchiest, Scroogiest song to ever reach Christmas number one.
Killing in the Name was originally released in 1992 but climbed to number one in 2009 after an online campaign to stop whoever won X Factor being Christmas number one gained publicity.
The song was already a favourite of mine before its resurgence in 2009 but it will now always remind me of Christmas, regardless of its repetitive vulgar language and lack of connection to the festive period.
|Tommy||Mud – Lonely this Christmas||How many people thought this song was by Elvis? No? Me neither. Seventies glam rockers Mud released doo-wop hit ‘Lonely This Christmas’ in 1974, which spent a month at the top of the charts. The song was in fact a deliberate pastiche of the crooning love songs of The King’s later years. Mud’s lead singer, the late and great Les Gray, actually left the band to play Elvis in a stage show.
All about lost love, it’s a great song for all the humbugs out there who refuse to join in with the festive cheer. Merry Christmas, wherever you are!
|Sana||Stormzy – Xmas Shut Up||
Big up to all grime fans. Wicked Skengman gets merky with a Christmas compilation of some of his best songs. For years, I had a firm belief that there was no such thing as Christmas grime. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this BBC 1xtra compilation, featuring presenters Twin B and Yasmin Evans. After all, how many grime artists would risk their hardcore reputations by dressing up like Santa and changing their songs? Watching them all dressed up and replacing his song lyrics with Christmassy things is the best part about this. Respect for Stormzy for putting this together and just shows why he one of the best grime artists out there.
And a very merry Christmas from all of us here at The Cardiffian!