The Christmas songs we love to hate

There’s no escaping it, even if you’re one of those people who likes to believe that Christmas doesn’t begin until mid-December, you’ll still be confronted by those ubiquitous festive songs every time you walk into a shop, bar or restaurant from now until the big day itself. It’s all designed to get us into the Christmas spirit of course, well, at what other time of year would we accept hearing songs that are 20 years old, several times a day?

"At Christmas, the usual rules and trends that apply to the charts tend to go out of the advent calendar window,” explains Gennaro Castaldo from HMV . “This means all manner of novelty and classic hits suddenly come back to make a play for the festive number one - or, in a pop world still dominated by X-Factor, to at least re-chart back in the top 10.”

So let’s take a look at some of those classic contenders…

All I want for Christmas is – some new music…



Let’s start with All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey. Found to be the most popular Christmas song of the last decade, it’s surely the epitome of the Christmas heavyweight hit – upbeat lyrics? Check; Frustratingly catchy tune? Check; appropriate use of sleigh bells? Check.

It remains Mariah’s best selling single in the UK, even though it only reached number 2 in the charts when it was released in 1994 (beaten to the top spot by East 17’s Stay Another Day) but why are we still listening to it 18 years on? “The revived interest coincided broadly with the global success of the 2003 Christmas romantic comedy Love Actually, which featured the song strongly on its soundtrack and reminded us all what a great tune it is,” explains Castaldo.

The last thing you want to hear at Christmas…

But Mariah’s formula isn’t the only way to score a Christmas hit, in fact Wham!’s 1984 song Last Christmas is almost the antithesis of All I Want for Christmas - well having a pop at a former flame for their infidelity is pretty un-Christmassy in our book. Wham! lost out on the festive number one spot to Band Aid (see below) but former X Factor winner, Joe McElderry is having a go with his version this year, so who knows, it might be second time lucky.


[See also: The man who celebrates Christmas 365 days a year]

So here it is…again

A Christmas-themed song that did make it to number one is Merry Xmas Everybody, by Slade in 1973. “Many of the favourite Christmas songs come from the 1970's, when the art of the classic Christmas pop song was pretty much perfected, and the leading artists of the day lined up to make a serious attempt at crowning their careers with a Christmas number one hit single,” says Castaldo.

Maybe that explains why we’re still listening to hits from three decades ago: credibility and Christmas single don’t exactly go hand in hand these days. Imagine downloading a festive track by N-Dubz or Calvin Harris…

Thank goodness it isn’t Christmas every day…


We don’t know what they put in the water in 1973, but it produced two of our top ten love to hate seasonal songs – yes there was a real battle for Christmas number ones, with actual Christmas songs, hard to believe, isn’t it.

While Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday might not have made it to the top of the charts, it has been re-released several times over the years, and regularly features on Christmas compilation albums, so it feels like Wizzard have got their wish, after all.

Yes, we’re pretty sure everyone knows it’s Christmas…

The 1980s introduced us to a new kind of Christmas single – the charity record. If ever there was a song to tug at the heart-strings and make us take a step back from tinsel and mince pies, it’s Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid, which took a selection of current chart stars and turned them into a super group.

It’s the only song to top the Christmas charts three times, in 1984, 1989 and 2004, and succeeded in raising millions of pounds and awareness of famine in Ethiopia. It’s a classic love to hate song: thumbs up for charitable works, thumbs down for the complete overuse of the line “feed the wo-orld” meaning that try as we might, we just cannot get it out of our heads.

Christmas might well be over…

While the Vietnam War may not sound like the best theme for a festive song, Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was a hit in 1972 for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and appealed because of its worthiness and right-on message.

It only reached number 4 in the UK charts, as more of the single-buying public preferred Little Jimmy Osmond’s Long Haired Lover from Liverpool. Now, the required swaying and singing the mantra “war is oh-ver” just makes us feel a little queasy. Or maybe we shouldn’t have had that third mince pie…

Don’t hurry down the chimney…


Santa Baby is probably one of the most covered Christmas songs of all time, despite achieving no real chart success in the UK. Since Eartha Kitt released the original in 1953, it’s been sung by everyone from Kylie to Britney, Madonna, The Pussycat Dolls and even Miss Piggy, which might explain why it’s impossible to avoid at this time of year.

It does make a pretty appropriate soundtrack to a Christmas shopping trip though, all that talk of decorations from Tiffany’s, and frankly, who wouldn’t want a yacht and the deeds to a platinum mine… but as we’ll probably have to be content with a selection box and some novelty socks, this is really just rubbing it in.

Simply wishing it wasn’t so catchy


Paul McCartney showed off his skills by singing and playing all the instruments when he recorded Wonderful Christmas Time in 1979 (so maybe Christmas comes several times each year for Sir Paul in the form of royalty cheques), it wasn’t one of his greatest hits at the time though, only reaching number six in the charts, but there’s something rather sweet about its simple message, which makes the song a perennial favourite. We have to say, after a while, all that ding-donging does start to irritate, though.

With Christmas CDs on loop in all our favourite stores, plus the work Christmas party, there’s really no getting away from the perennial Christmas songs but when you think of the 90s and the novelty singles by the likes of Mr Blobby and Bob the Builder, perhaps these classic favourites aren’t so bad…

So did your favourite love to hate song make our list? We’d love to know which Christmas song drives you crazy, tell us here…

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