Classic Christmas Songs Tier List
Disclaimer: I know this can be a touchy subject for some so I just want to reiterate that all opinions expressed here are entirely my own and are therefore better than yours.
S Tier – Get in my eardrums
Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
My all-time favourite Christmas song, probably because it’s not a Christmas song but an anti-war song with Christmas in it (very different to a Christmas song about war but we’ll get to that later).
Ridiculously catchy theme, so catchy that it convinced people to blare out the lyrics:
Bang! That’s another bomb on another town
While the Tsar and Jim have tea
If I get home, live to tell the tale
I’ll run for all presidencies
If I get elected I’ll stop, I will stop the cavalry
Wish I was at home for Christmas
Makes you feel good about Christmas dunnit.
Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea
It says a lot about how much I like this song that even upon hearing from a reliable source that Chris Rea is a top-class knob, this still sets off the tingles in me. The instrumentation is lovely and the words don’t oversell “CHRISTMAS IS GREAT EVERYONE” but focus on the more tangible emotions of longing and excitement.
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
“You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap, lousy…” and watch the panic in people’s eyes. Do they forget and plough halfway through the word before cutting themselves off after realising that everyone else fell silent? Do they just repeat maggot and let lyrical clunkiness triumph? Do they scream it at the top of their lungs as a reclamation of homophobic slurs by the LGBTQ+ community?
No matter what you do, it’s a shame that such a crowd pleaser has such a controversial line but with a new edit removing it, the song can reclaim its status as an absolute classic of abusive, drunken, Christmassy love that Gavin and Stacy fans will love till the day they die.
Millenial Whoop – Chip the dead dog
Oh what how did that get here. Oh well, guess it’s a classic now.
A Tier – Slaps hard
Last Christmas – Wham!
Oh God the cheese. That pungent, powerful cheese. Unfortunately, this brie’s been in my blood for years now and no transfusion can remove the lactose from these veins. Also, special props go to this song for providing the entire narrative for a multi-million dollar film.
All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
The most played Christmas song of all time. Every year it becomes slightly crueller to wheel Mariah Carey out on a stage to croak out her iconic tune but still we do it and we love it. While I thought I would hate it, this is a guilty pleasure too great to bash. This is skipping the boys’ trip to the football to stay at home and watch Glee (what who said that?). Glorious.
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
I don’t have anything funny, witty or even pithy to say about this one. It makes me feel warm and happy inside and if you don’t like that then I’m sorry you must have had a rough upbringing and I hope somebody is being kinder to you now than you have been to yourself.
The original is cosy, velvety sentimentality and I’m even partial to the more modern Micky Bubbles version.
Carol of the bells – Various
This is a weird one, innit. Whoever took some of the sweetest, most optimistic lyrics and decided to set it against music which sounds like it could be used to accompany human sacrifice is… a genius? I was scared of this song growing up and now I’ve kind of grown to love it. Is that Stockholm syndrome? Maybe.
B Tier – Still gets me going
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
Scrap the sentimentality, this a song about a glorious piss up on Christmas. The chorus is catchy, feel-good without falling into saccharine. The music definitely feels a bit dated but that doesn’t have to always be a bad thing with Christmas music.
Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
The first Christmas song I truly fell in love with. I vividly remember at a school Christmas concert, aged 10, quivering out a rendition of Maria from West Side story with my grade 5 trumpet to a smattering of applause, only to be followed by a group of rowdy 13 year olds screaming out Merry Xmas Everybody. The crowd loved it. They clapped along, they sang along, they stomped their feet, along. I was jealous, bitter and utterly awestruck all in the same breath. Would be a certi S tier if I didn’t still wake up with nightmares of standing outside the concert hall afterwards with no one saying well done.
Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – Wizzard
Do you? Do you really? Do you really want to take away everything that makes Christmas feel special and make it something tiresome and boring that claws away at our bank balances with a consistent string of financially draining presents most of which are already tenuous guesses when it happens even once a year but imagine how crap the gifts would be if they were every day like oh yes thank you you’ve bought me a third hand lampshade from ebay with six holes in you’re a really great friend and or relative and I’m not even getting onto the amount of cooking you would need and the damage that would cause our collective gastric systems while also decimating the global turkey population within a few months of daily Christmases so get your head out of your arse, Wizzard.
Catchy tune though.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Michael Buble
Ah yes, Old Micky the Christmas gremlin has finally arrived. In a painfully clichéd way, December 1st -10th this song is on repeat in my head and on my Spotify. If it didn’t lose its potency the further into the Christmas season it gets, this song would be higher.
C Tier – Eh
Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
When you first hear it every year, an absolute classic, the sound of the season. Unfortunately, on repeat listening it lacks a bit of substance. This rating has not been helped by the music video which features Shakin’ Stevens looking like your Uncle trying to be happy about your Dad marrying the woman he’s been in love with since he was six.
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams
Ok Andy tried. He really did and it’s a good song! A lovely song! And he has a lovely voice! But it just doesn’t really stand out for me. It fits in nicely into the wider selection of classic Christmas tunes but I want more. This song is the refined, mature friend who you enjoy having a classy coffee with but you’d never get messy with on a degenerate, substance-fuelled night out. Nobody gets to December and screams “OMG PLAY THAT ANDY WILLIAMS ONE”.
Baby Its Cold Outside – Various
Let’s start with a general “Oof”. This takes the Fairytale of New York dilemma and fireworks it out into a clear night sky. Being fair, done well, this song can be flirty and charming. It was originally a husband-and-wife duet, allegedly written as a comment on women’s inability to be honest about sexual desires for fear of public repercussions in the 40s. There are many versions, some with updated lyrics, some without, that capture the playful, light-hearted tone.
Then there’s the Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews version where he LITERALLY DRUGS HER. Jesus. With so many different interpretations of this song and a fine line of how to make it sound acceptable, especially with lyrics like “Hey what’s in this drink” hitting differently in a modern context, this song can be awful.
This one can go everywhere from an A to an F so I’ll be fair in the middle with a C.
D Tier – Ah, maybe not
Santa Baby – Kylie Minogue
I feel this one will divide people into two camps. The ones who want to f*ck Santa and those who don’t. I’ve spent too much being taught by Marc this term to wonder what being raw-dogged by a fat, bearded, old man would be like so for me it’s a pass.
Blue Christmas – Elvis
I’m sad to say I had high expectations of this song which weren’t matched with reality upon relistening. I get that there’s a theme of colour going on, but I can’t stop thinking that “Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree” sounds like a nursery rhyme you’d use to teach colours to kids who weren’t quite bright enough to be left alone with the crayons yet. The song is held together by Elvis’ magnetism and other versions of it crumble in comparison.
12 Days of Christmas – Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters
It’s shit to sing, it’s shit to listen to, it gets boring beyond verse six. The whole song is an exercise for those who fall in the middle of Venn diagram of “Sadistic” and “Enforces organised fun.”
On a completely separate note, what kind of expectations does this set for any romantic partner? And if they’re your true love then why do they need to give such a ludicrous array of gifts in order to get your attention and why do you reject their gifts 11 days in a row?
Also, is there a fresh patridge in a pear tree every day? Does that mean there are a total of 12 patridges in 12 pear trees, 22 turtle doves, 30 french hens, 36 calling birds, 40 gold rings, 42 geese a laying, 42 swans a singing, 40 maids a milking, 36 ladies dancing, 30 lords a leaping, 22 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming?
What kind of eccentric menagerie of animals and performing artists does your lover manage? It sounds like a livestock prison break from one of Pablo Escobar’s estates.
E Tier – Please, no
Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard
Wow, I feel deeply uncomfortable. The whole thing feels like a half-arsed effort of Christian indoctrination while Cliff Richard stares at the camera with the enthusiasm of a microwaved Ken doll. His writing technique appears to be just a shopping list of things that he has seen at Christmas while the music isn’t catchy in the slightest.
Stay Another Day – East 17
This might be a cheap shot but apparently enough people consider this a Christmas song to make it onto “Top Christmas songs of all time” lists. Let me set you little shits straight. This is not a Christmas song. They added snowflakes into the video and Christmas bell chimes into the backing to take advantage of the highly lucrative festive music market. This song is toxic capitalism at its worst, cramming together unrelated worlds in the ungodly pursuit of profit. Ok it’s not quite its worst but I still don’t like it.
Santa Claus is comin to town – Jackson 5
Is there any song that baffles me more than this one? Probably not. The message of omniscient Santa being the ultimate purveyor of secular morality, where even the expression of basic human emotions like fear is expressly prohibited – Santa clearly comes the outdated school of hard knocks where “Real men don’t cry”.
The fact that they dare not even mention the consequences of breaking one of Santa’s rules in the song makes it even more horrifying, that putting his wrath into spoken language is too dreadful to consider.
Ultimately, while Michael Jackson is captivating in his performance, this song is a sad metaphor for the oppressive life he led as a child star under the controlling gaze of the music industry.
F Tier – F Off
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John and Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir
What’s worse than child abuse? That’s right, obnoxious rich people making profit from sanctimonious, vacuous songs about war while tying it up in the Christmas wrapper so they don’t have to put in any artistic effort and make a lazy message about being kind to one another. Eugh. There’s no doubting that John Lennon can write a banging tune but that does little to cover the war crime that is this song. To rest my case, I leave you with the lyrics
“And so happy Christmas for black and for whites,
For the yellow and red ones,
Let’s stop all the fight.”
FF Tier – Band Aid
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
The lowest of the low. The most patronising, chemically-created abomination of a pop song. The saving grace for the song is the good that it did in raising money at a time of crisis but by God the lyrics.
And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Generalising all of Africa into one country, ignoring the fact that it has the longest river in the world as well as preaching a Christian festival that many of them wouldn’t celebrate even if there weren’t a famine. Bob Geldof stated about this song: “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. The other one is ‘We Are the World’.” I don’t disagree.
For the sake of an already silly long SCAB I’ve skipped a lot of songs. Hit me up on twitter at @eddomrees if you want me to rate any others.