The 50 best Christmas songs
Not all Christmas songs are totally naff. Forget the turkeys, here's our pick of the festive pops
Tue Dec 4 2012
As Noddy Holder once screeched dementedly: it's Christmas! That means mince pies, marathon TV-watching sessions and, yes, Christmas songs. Although you might have heard some of the anthems below so many times before that you'll want to want to perforate your eardrums with a candy cane – don't! You'll regret it later, and many festive pop songs are great works of art. If you really, properly listen to our countdown of the Top 50 festive tunes, you might just find your heart filling up with Christmas joy. Feel free to pilfer our playlist for your Christmas shindig too: it should break the ice. And that's snow joke (sorry).
Did we miss out your festive favourite? Let us know in the comments box below or tweet us at @TimeOutMusic.
Written by Rachel Aroesti, Jonny Ensall, Danielle Goldstein, Sophie Harris, Oliver Keens, James Manning and Tom Slater.
50. Slade – 'Merry Xmas Everybody'
Noddy Holder and his troupe of platform-wearers continue to blight our television screens each December with their frightening fashion sense. 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, slightly drunken, Christmas-love vibe into the festive season.
49. Gruff Rhys – 'Post Apocalypse Christmas'
Believe it or not, this is the most upbeat number on Gruff Rhys’s ‘Atheist Xmas’ EP – and all the better for it. The jaunty bass line and glam guitar solo serve as perfect foils to the song’s less-than-jovial content, allowing Rhys to attack cheesy Christmas sentiment with a smile rather than a sneer.
48. Vince Guaraldi Trio – 'Christmas Time is Here'
The world first fell in love with this jazzy, choral ditty in 1965 when it featured in the Peanuts TV special ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. As well as being the perfect soundtrack to a small boy’s incurable miserablism, it’s also pretty darn lovely with friends, family and a glass of wine on Christmas night.
47. The Ramones – 'Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)'
Joey Ramone’s plea to his lover to put their scrapping aside for the holidays is undoubtedly the punk Christmas anthem. Beneath its acquiescent lyrics, mind, is a typically fiery Ramones riff that’s more likely to fuel high tensions rather than ease them around a warring Christmas dinner table.
46. Soul-Saints Orchestra – 'Santa’s Got A Bag Of Soul'
This funky-as-you-like number might sound like rare groove from ’60s America, but is actually the product of mid-’90s German band The Poets of Rhythm, playing under a different name. Who cares about the provenance, however, when the beats are this big?
45. Shonen Knife – 'Space Christmas'
This track from everyone’s favourite all-gal, Japanese punk-pop band may not make one jot of sense, but it’s positively dripping in youthful Christmas cheer. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa, who apparently travels by ‘bison sleigh’, the girls hope for a spaceship so they can fly to Pluto and eat ice cream. Makes dry turkey and lumpy gravy round Auntie Jeane’s look rather unexciting, doesn’t it?
44. The Flaming Lips – 'Christmas at the Zoo'
With this typically oddball festive Flaming Lips track, Wayne Coyne seems to mount a Band Aid-like soapbox. Difference is, where Geldof had his charitable gaze placed firmly on humans, Wayne wants to know if zoo animals know it’s Christmas time. Unfortunately, when he goes to let them out, they’re unhappy but too sheepish to escape. Never mind, Wayne – at least you got a fun song out of it.
43. Greg Lake – 'I Believe in Father Christmas'
This is Christmas cynicism at its most tuneful. Intended as a denouncement of the increasing commercialisation of the festive season, Greg Lake inadvertently crafted a folk-prog Christmas classic. Ironically, it’s now one of the go-to songs for cash-cow Christmas compilations.
42. Aidan Moffat – 'Plastic Mistletoe'
This downbeat ballad bemoaning phony Christmases and festive abandonment appears on a 2011 Ep by Arab Strap alumnus Aiden Moffat. Don’t let the whinging put you off: Moffat’s lovely Scottish drawl and twanging guitar will soothe you after the trials of late-night shopping on Oxford Street.
41. Ryuichi Sakamoto – 'Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence'
The theme from the 1983 Japanese WWII film of the same name (in which Sakamoto starred alongside David Bowie and Tom Conti), was the beginning of the electro-pioneer’s incredibly successful career as a film-score composer. What’s that you say – World War II’s not very Christmassy? Who cares when the music’s this warm and nostalgic?
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