20 Christmas songs to add to your festive playlist: from Mariah Carey and John Lennon to James Brown and Run DMC
Mariah Carey has cemented her place as the pop queen of Christmas with her classic festive anthem topping the charts once again.
All I Want for Christmas is You reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 this week, marking the 26th time it has claimed the top spot since its initial release in 1994. It also hit the number one spot on the UK Official Big Top 40 charts this week, for the very first time in the song's 26-year history.
Last Christmas, the song achieved another impressive feat by smashing Spotify’s single-day record with nearly 11 million streams on December 24.
With Spotify’s rates reportedly reaching $0.00084 per stream, Carey could have pocketed as much as $92,400 (Dh339,339) for a good day's work.
With more than 16 million copies sold and reportedly up to $60 million made in royalties, All I Want for Christmas is You continues to be the gift that keeps on giving for Carey.
The song also follows a decades-long tradition of pop stars recording eclectic Christmas-themed tracks.
From John Lennon and Tina Turner to the Pet Shop Boys and Run DMC, these offerings were often released as one-offs.
While most haven’t achieved the enduring success of All I Want for Christmas is You, these tracks all managed, in their own way, to channel the spirit of the season.
Here are 19 more Christmas pop songs to put you in a festive frame of mind.
1. 'Christmas in Hollis' by Run DMC (1987)
The hip-hop heavyweights explore how the season was celebrated in their neighbourhood of Queens, New York. Judging by the lyrics, it was an absolute feast: “Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens / Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese / And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees."
2. ‘Christmas Rappin' by Kurtis Blow (1979)
This is one of hip-hop's first Christmas songs. A rap version of A Visit from St Nicholas, Kurtis Blow made it a seasonal banger with lyrics describing Santa as "a red-suited dude, with a friendly attitude and a sleigh full of goodies for the people on the block".
3. ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ by Band Aid (1984)
A kind-hearted gesture or a condescending message from millionaire celebs? While the merits of this charity single are debatable, it's still a catchy tune featuring the who's who of the 1980s British pop scene, including Bob Geldof, Phil Collins and Sting.
4. ‘Eight Days of Christmas’ by Destiny’s Child (2001)
The lead single from Destiny Child's one and only Christmas album, the track is one of the few original tunes penned for the release. While it sounds like a standard Destiny's Child RnB track with Christmas lyrics, it still went on to become a fan favourite and one that's rolled out every December.
5. ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by John Lennon (1971)
'Merry Christmas' and 'Give peace a chance' are the twin messages behind this release. A mix of festive spirit and anti-war stance, Lennon and Yoko pull off a track that is as soothing as it is caustic.
6. ‘It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas’ by Pet Shop Boys (1999)
An anthem that Scrooge would have been proud of. The Pet Shop Boys dissect all that is wrong with the modern holiday season with its consumerism and "plastic trees". That said, as is the case with most of their work, it's all a bit tongue in cheek as the production is nothing less than jubilant.
7. ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham! (1986)
This one gives you all the feels. From the cheesy video full of bad sweaters to George Michael's serene vocals, this is a heart-warming track capturing the family vibe of the season. Notice, I say “vibe”. because the lyrics detail a sad Christmas where Michael experiences heartbreak. Just sing along without paying too much attention to the words.
8. ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ by Ike and Tina Turner (1964)
Get your funk on this Christmas by playing this classic. The popular soul duo deliver a festive jam full of horns, Motown beats and the smoky vocals of the indomitable Tina Turner.
9. ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’ by The Ramones (1989)
This punk anthem is written from the point of view of a warring couple who cease hostilities for the Christmas period. Fun, manic and powered by Joey Ramone's sneering vocals, this has become a December staple of the punk music community.
10. 'Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama' by Chance The Rapper & Jeremih (2016)
A key track from the duo's Christmas-themed mixtape, Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama is a joyous and superbly constructed track. The lyrical nods to the festive season are mixed with great production that has dollops of gospel, soul and electronica.
11. 'Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade (1973)
Even rockers can join in the Christmas fun. A nice break from the glam rock anthems, Slade took to the studio for this jaunty track full of the love and togetherness the season presents.
12. ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart’ by Al Green and Annie Lennox (1988)
Recorded for the Scrooged soundtrack, this song is just on the right side of cheesy with synth lines, glockenspiel and euphoric melodies. It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
13. ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell (1971)
Is this really a Christmas song? While popular culture seems to think so, this is essentially a stark ballad about the dissolution of a relationship set during the Christmas period. Nostalgia pervades this track that went on to receive over 400 covers by artists ranging from James Taylor and Barry Manilow to Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding.
14. ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' by DMX (2012)
Taken from an impromptu performance during a US radio interview, DMX brings his signature gravelly drawl and barks to this seasonal classic. It may have been recorded as bit of a joke, but the song went on to become a mini viral sensation and a hip-hop Christmas classic.
15. ‘Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto’ by James Brown (1968)
Father Christmas meets the Godfather of funk, but while Brown keeps it groovy, he is in no mood for celebration. The lyrics find him almost admonishing Santa Claus and telling him to ditch the suburbs and visit the struggling neighbourhoods where he is truly needed.
16. ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Jackson 5 (1970)
Powered by a seriously groovy bass line, the Jackson 5 give this classic the Motown treatment, and a young Michael Jackson perfectly captures the childish glee of the season.
17. ‘Stay Another Day’ by East 17 (1994)
A festive ballad steeped in tragedy. With Stay Another Day, East 17 do a reflective turn with lyrics inspired by the tragic death of member Tony Mortimer's brother. If it wasn't for the sleigh bells, the track would have stood alone as a gorgeous ballad.
18. ‘Step Into Christmas’ by Elton John (1974)
Even without the seasonal lyrics, Elton John would have a hit with this rollicking track. Full of those bluesy pianos, strident bass lines and urgent vocals, Step Into Christmas captures John in his heyday.
19. ‘What Christmas Means to Me’ by Stevie Wonder (1967)
As the title suggests, Stevie Wonder lists all the joys of the big day, from setting up the tree to unwrapping the Christmas presents. He sings with the fervour of an excited child and he is backed by a lovely Motown arrangement. This is a fun track to put on in the morning of December 25.