The perfect Christmas songs playlist

The perfect Christmas songs playlist

Daniela Soave picks the ideal Christmas party soundtrack and offers some advice on surviving the Christmas shopping muzak

Here’s a seasonal starter for 10: what’s the most successful British Christmas single of all time? Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’? Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’? The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’? Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’? Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’?

The answer, according to the UK Top 40 Hit Database (everyhit.com), is Band Aid.

While you’ve been racking your brains, I’ve proved my point – there here are A LOT of Christmas songs. And you’ll have been hearing them in the shops for weeks by now. This will either make you feel festive and jolly, or like a teeth-grinding Victor Meldrew after the 986th time you’ve endured Noddy Holder (bless him) belting out his Christmas salute.

The charm (or curse) of the Christmas single

Ah, the seasonal oddity that is the Christmas single. Never played in any other season yet instantly recognisable, wheeled out year after year.

In recent years it has been hijacked by winners of TV talent shows – rarely festive in any way apart from the timing of its release – and the battle for Number One has been transformed into a hard-nosed marketing exercise, which surely defeats the point in the season of goodwill.

This is not the point! It’s not about getting to Number One in Christmas week: it’s about composing a tune that embodies the musical equivalent of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

What makes a Christmas classic?

The quintessential Christmas single features bells, festive lyrics, an optional choir for the chorus and the right amount of cheesiness and sentimentality. A touch of tongue in cheek helps – prime example ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)’ by The Darkness – but it must never be too knowing.

Mind you, nobody loves the Christmas single more than champions of commerce. Christmas music puts us all into the Christmas mood and encourages us to spend more. In 2009 a survey by Entertainment Media Research found that 85% of consumers agree that Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christmas music. One in four admitted being more generous in gift buying if they liked the festive music soundtrack.

When customers are listening to Christmas music, their attention is distracted so they are less resistant to sales techniques. Hence they spend more. Conversely, if they dislike a particular song (Christmas ditties by the Smurfs, The Cheeky Girls and Mr Blobby spring to mind) they’ll be out the door before you can sing The Chipmunk Song (‘Christmas Don’t Be Late’).

Pick your own playlist

At least you have more control over the soundtrack at home.

What you play as you’re wrapping presents might be completely different to the tunes you’ll pick for Christmas morning with the family or a festive drinks party with neighbours or friends but at least you’re in charge.

For a Christmas drinks party – go classic most of the way, then finish off with rousing hits of yore. I recommend Frank Sinatra’s ‘Christmas Album’, James Brown’s ‘Funky Christmas’ and the big band spectacular ‘Swingin’ Christmas Party’, which includes tracks by Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. Towards the end, throw in some ’70s spritz such as Slade, Wizzard and John & Yoko and you’re rocking.

For Christmas morning – you want to start a bit more mellow (I love ‘Music for Christmas’ by the BBC Singers); ‘Have Yourself A Jazzy Little Christmas’ by the likes of Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald; ‘Christmas Cocktails’ with tracks by Peggy Lee, Julie London, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Nancy Wilson and a more contemporary take by She &Him, featuring actress Zooey Deschanel.

For anytime – I stop being cool. My favourite, favourite album is not up to the minute or hip and groovy. Step forward Dean Martin and Making Spirits Bright. Put the goose or nut roast in the oven, set off for a crisp morning walk, return to a glass of mulled wine and Mr Martin, and everything in the world is all right.

Happy Christmas everybody.

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Daniela

Lifestyle & Culture

An author of books on contemporary culture and she is currently working on a novel.