Make your party playlist stand out from the noise with our pick of tinselly musical cheer
Time Out Dubai staff
Whether you’re having a Christmas party or not these are the songs you need to put on personal playlists this festive season. We started out trying to make a list of credible Christmas classics, the songs with artistic merit and no novelty appeal. Then we threw that list in the bin and came up with these 12 tunes to get us feeling tinselly.
Slade, Merry Xmas Everybody Noddy Holder and his troupe of platform-wearers continue to blight radios, TV specials and playlists every December with their frightening style. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s the joyful simplicity of 1973’s Merry Xmas Everybody, which is guaranteed to inject that euphoric Christmas-love vibe into the festive season.
Chris Rea, Driving Home for Christmas This loungey number about being stuck in Christmas traffic from husky-voiced housewives’ favourite Chris Rea has had surprisingly lasting appeal. Clearly people of all generations and nationalities are able to enjoy this harmless slice of Christmas cheese. And hate traffic.
Bobby Helms, Jingle Bell Rock Following its release in 1957, this rockabilly ditty topped the Christmas charts five years in a row, making it a veritable holiday classic even by the early 1960s. Today it retains a towering presence in the Christmas canon, as synonymous with the holiday as tinsel and paper crowns.
Amy Winehouse, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus Tommie Connor’s adorable novelty song was a hit record for tween singer Jimmy Boyd in 1952, but modern listeners know it better through the Ronettes’ full-throttle 1963 rendition on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. That’s the one that Amy Winehouse drew on for her own soulfully merry live version, in which Winehouse’s knowing vocals spin a festive tale.
Paul McCartney, Wonderful Christmas Time Good old Macca. Whereas Lennon could be relied upon to make impressive political statements (when he wasn't laying about in bed all day), McCartney is the master of the charmingly naïve pop opus. This little ditty isn't going to shake up your festive paradigm, but it won't half stick in your head.
Band Aid, Do They Know It’s Christmas? Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s 1984 reaction to the Ethiopian famine, with contributions from Phil Collins, Sting, Bowie, Macca and Bono, was a publicity machine of epic proportions. It worked: Do They Know It’s Christmas? stayed at the top spot for five weeks, and was the biggest UK chart success of the decade. Put that all aside, and it’s also just a great (and surprisingly unconventional) pop song.
Jackson 5, Santa Claus is Coming to Town There are versions of this song by everyone from Bieber to Bublé, but Michael and the gang’s effort is the grooviest and the most fun.
Kurtis Blow, Christmas Rappin' At the beginning of this somewhat unlikely 1979 Christmas smash, you can hear the moment at which hip hop arrived. Interrupting a starchy recital of ’A Visit from St Nicholas’, Kurtis Blow launches into his own inner city yarn about Santa showing up to a Harlem Christmas party, producing a Yuletide classic – and rap’s first major label hit.
Bing Crosby, White Christmas It can be easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. The truth is the power of Christmas nostalgia itself is greater than the real memories. Hence, all of us can hark back with Bing on this Irving Berlin-penned ’40s number to a white Christmas just like the ones we used to know, even if our true past is full of crushing disappointments. It’s a feeling that is tenuous and transient, yes, but also entirely wonderful.
The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Fairytale of New York Yes, you will hear it on repeat in the shops. Yes, the band are scraping the barrel a bit putting on an entire annual Christmas show, mainly for the purpose of playing this song live. But when was the last time you properly listened to Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues’ epic Big Apple-set fable? Shut your eyes and give it a go, and if you aren’t a nervous wreck by the fade-out, your heart (like that jumper from your grandmother) is two sizes too small. ‘Fairytale…’ is a perfect four-minute narrative of hope, despair and heartbreak – and it ends with love. Wham!, Last Christmas There are so many winning elements to Wham!’s 1984 smash that its status as a solid gold Christmas staple – covered by such diverse talents as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Crazy Frog – is forever guaranteed. A ballad of doomed romance, it features sleigh bells and synthesizers, plus some truly memorable knitwear in the video. But what really sets Last Christmas apart is George Michael’s heart-on-sleeve delivery: his genuine heartbreak horror and wistful whispers.
Mariah Carey, All I Want For Christmas Is You It’s not the best-selling Christmas anthem (that’s Bing) but Mariah is one of the greatest ever festive songs for one good reason – it’s catchier than a Christmas cold. Originally released in 1994, this selfless plea to be with a loved one has everything: sleigh bells, pop hooks, the right balance of schmaltz and soul, and uplifting vibes strong enough to launch a jump-jet. The acid test of a great Christmas song is whether you get bored of it, and this one, we’re sure, is for life.