As Andy Williams famously sang back in 1963; it’s the most wonderful time of the year. As classes wrap up and exam time looms, it is precisely this moment each year (without fail) that I begin to feel uncontrollably festive. The miniature Christmas tree comes out, the Christmas jumpers are yanked out of the closet, and I inevitably develop a mince pie addiction. It’s the yuletide spirit.
On top of all of that, it has become an annual tradition that I compile my own personal Christmassy Spotify playlist (mainly as a means of procrastination). Given that my usual music taste has been likened to “a 13 year old girl’s pop party,” it is perhaps unsurprising that I tend to stay away from slow, melancholy, festive songs. Instead I predominantly listen to, what I call, festive bops.
What constitutes a festive bop I hear you ask? Well, lucky for you, I have compiled a fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-list of my current favourites. Some are old, some are new, some are well-known, and some are downright obscure, but hopefully they will all be making their ways onto Christmas playlists everywhere and attaining the recognition they deserve.
All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
This festive staple may have been played to death on the radio and in shopping centres, but I always find something new to appreciate about it every time I hear it (even if it’s for the 329486th time). And that iconic high note at the end still sends serotonin rushing to my brain like nothing else. This bop deserves to remain on Christmas playlists for all eternity.
Underneath the Tree – Kelly Clarkson
A modern classic! This song has it all: sleigh bells, church bells, a delightfully up-tempo chorus, and a lovely smattering of Clarkson’s legendary riffs. After being released in 2013,
it’s racked up a healthy 181 million plays on Spotify (and I promise they aren’t all me). However, somehow it has only peaked at number 21 on the UK Singles Chart. A complete and utter crime if you ask me.
My Only Wish (This Year) – Britney Spears
Admittedly I am a passionate Britney stan, so I would likely still praise this song to the heavens even if it was rubbish. But the truth is, it very much isn’t. The song’s narrative is premised on Spears asking Santa Claus for a lover to keep her company, so she doesn’t feel lonely over the Christmas period. Now if that isn’t a relatable mood, I don’t know what is.
Cozy Little Christmas – Katy Perry
Ms Perry’s popularity may have dwindled since her ‘Teenage Dream’ heyday (and her latest album may have been… questionable), but this festive offering really ticks all the boxes. She sings about how she doesn’t “need diamonds or sparkly things” because love is what’s most important at Christmas. Awww! The chorus is also infectiously catchy and features a classic woah-ah-ah-ah-ah hook that you’ll be singing in your sleep, guaranteed.
A Spaceman Came Travelling – John Gibbons feat. Nina Nesbitt
‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ was originally a 1975 hit for Chris de Burgh, and features on many Christmas compilation albums despite being objectively boring. Thankfully, DJ John Gibbons came to the song’s rescue in 2018 and revolutionised it into an electronic dancefloor smash, with Scotland’s own Nina Nesbitt providing the vocals. The fact that there is almost no trace of this remix online, apart from a rogue performance on an Irish talk show, baffles me. It deserves considerable commercial success, and maybe even a Grammy.
Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
It seems like this song has been covered by every musician and their dog, but the best version is definitely by the Ronettes, a fierce American girl group from the 1960s. It’s instantly recognisable thanks to the “ring-a-ling-a-ling, ding-dong-ding” background vocals, and the iconic clip-clop and whinny of a horse at both the beginning and the end of the track. Those attributes alone certify it as being worthy of festive bop status.
In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield
Back in 1975, Mike Oldfield took the traditional, mundane Christmas carol ‘In Dulce Jubilo’ and transformed it into an instrumental masterpiece, complete with a pulsating electric guitar solo. I feel like I had heard this song on numerous occasions without knowing what it was or who it was by, before being enlightened with that information a couple of years ago thanks to my good friend, Shazam.
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
Now this is a well-known festive tune, and for good reason! The melody is simple but memorable, and the jazzy saxophone solo before the final chorus would make anyone want to get up and cut some shapes. Astonishingly, Brenda Lee was only 13 years old when she recorded this song in 1958. Another fun fact: it was written by Johnny Marks, who also wrote Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!
Christmas Tree – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is a woman who needs no introduction. Yet strangely, this song does need a bit of an introduction as it’s slipped off the metaphorical radar since it was released over a decade ago. The lyrics are stuffed full of cheeky innuendos (the type that I probably unwittingly sang along to aged 10 without any idea as to what they really meant). Not exactly family friendly. Still very iconic though.
Driving Home for Christmas – Chris Rea
I first heard this song on the radio when I was – you guessed it – driving home for Christmas back in 2017. Apparently, it didn’t achieve much success when it was first released in 1988 but it has gained popularity in recent times after Stacey Solomon covered it for a festive Iceland TV advert. (That might not actually be true, but I’ve decided that that correlation can’t be purely coincidental). This tune will definitely have you shimmying your shoulders as you travel ho-ho-home for the holidays!