Christmas songs become a fact of life when it comes to the festive season, seemingly omnipresent in the background as we go about our business. In this article, six of our writers explain how one song, in particular, has become their favourite.
The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
This is my favourite Christmas song for a simple, selfish reason: sentimentality. When I listen to this track (always the Nat King Cole recording, of course), I am lulled into warm memories of Christmas with my family. All it takes is that string and piano instrumental at the start and my mind is transported to the comforts of mulled wine, a crackling fire and home. The lyrics beautifully illustrate the classic Christmas setting while the instrumentation hits a fine balance between jazz and classical, with decorative violin lines over a cosy and calm piano and bass accompaniment. Call me a granny, but I just love the peaceful reminiscence of this song. “So I’m offering this simple phrase, To kids from one to ninety-two, Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.” It’s just heartwarming.
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Favourite Christmas song? It’s a no-brainer for me. Vocalist Patty Donahue expresses how a lot of us feel in the run up to the festive season – a bit battered and bruised from a long year, and just wanting a bit of peace and quiet. However, although she has “turned down all [her] invites” and waits to “get this winter over with”, the seasonal spirit eventually works its magic. After verses filled with cynicism, disillusionment and disappointment, a chance romantic encounter on Christmas Eve sees her Christmas brought to a warm and satisfying conclusion. With an irresistibly catchy rhythm propelled by the funkiest bassline you’re likely to come across in a Christmas number, this is a song I can never wait to come back to, time after time, year after year.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Lou Rawls
While I spend most of December listening to pop Christmas hits, going home-home for Christmas for me means jazz, and Lou Rawls’ entire eponymous christmas album goes perfectly with being slightly wine-drunk and dancing around the Christmas tree. Hark The Herald Angels Sing is the perfect blend of carol and feel-good, starry-eyed jazz. Not a descant to be heard.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Cat Power
I first discovered Chan Marshall’s gorgeous rendition of this Christmas classic after my first term of second year. I was working through the winter break, and so decided to not return home for Christmas Day, much to the chagrin of my family and friends. Being Jewish, this was perplexing: if we don’t celebrate Christmas, why was this so important? Cat Power taught me that I’d missed the point entirely. This track, in contrast to most versions, is raw and bare, anchored by Marshall’s iconic husky voice. This mirrors the song’s normal effect, its frosty exterior providing the irresistible compulsion for the warmth of a fire and the presence of loved ones. Needless to say, I’ve spent every Christmas at home since.
Is This Christmas? – The Wombats
I think part of the joy of Christmas is in the admission that it is occasionally, explosively, woefully terrible. With that in mind, I nominate ‘Is This Christmas?’ by The Wombats. What I like about this song is it encapsulates the littlest foibles of Christmas perfectly (“turn Back To The Future off, I’ve seen it before”), while holding onto a smidgeon of festive (but still #indie) cheer. The song even has the guts to tackle the characteristic British weather: “It never really snows, it’s more like horizontal sleet…” That’s a hot take if I ever heard one, and it’ll be warming me ‘til January at this rate.
Last Christmas – Wham!
Wham! member Andrew Ridgely described ‘Last Christmas’ as “musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music.” George Michael’s song contrasts two universal feelings as festive cheer coincides with the gut-wrenching disappointment of a failed relationship, and the result is a pop classic that has sold over two million copies. Adding to the song’s legend is an iconic music video set in a ski resort and a series of covers by artists as diverse as Joe McElderry, Ariana Grande and Crazy Frog. Furthermore, Michael’s premature death on Christmas Day 2016 has given ‘Last Christmas’ additional poignancy in recent years.
From all of us at Pi, have a very merry Christmas.