There comes a point every festive season when it suddenly dawns on you that if you hear the same old Christmas songs one more time you are going to run for the hills.
Yes, we’ll admit to getting those lovely nostalgia pangs when we first hear those opening bars of Merry Christmas Everyone or I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday at the beginning of December, but after weeks of it, it can start to take its toll.
That’s why we’ve come up with a handful of alternative tunes for anyone hoping to inject a little extra sparkle to their Christmas Day playlists, without having to resort to the dusty old favourites we’ve been suffering through every winter since time began.
You can forget about Shakin’ Stevens, Chris Rea and even The Pogues - here are 18 lesser-known tracks guaranteed to help bring along some extra holiday cheer, including festive bangers from big-name artists like Ariana Grande, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga that haven’t quite crossed over to the mainstream…
1. Kylie and Dannii Minogue - 100 Degrees
100 Degrees was undoubtedly the most memorable – and dance-able! – offering from Kylie Minogue’s 2015 Christmas collection.
This original track might not immediately fill you with Christmas spirit (there’s neither a sleigh bell nor a reference to Santa in sight), but this disco-infused bop is guaranteed to get the whole family up twirling around the living room. Yes, even your dad.
2. Dragonette - Merry Xmas (Says Your Text Message)
Potentially the only Christmas song you’re likely to listen to with the lyric “thanks a lot, but fuck you”.
Obviously, this cheeky (and NSFW!) offering might not exactly be one to put on full blast while your nan makes her annual Christmas visit, but it’s still a catchy ode to dumping someone on Boxing Day, which makes a welcome change from those artists who just rhymie “festive cheer” with “last all year” and hope for the best.
3. Lady Gaga and Space Cowboy - Christmas Tree
Long before A Star Is Born, her Oscar win and *sigh* A Night Of Piano And Jazz, Lady Gaga was best known for putting out synth-heavy pop ditties like this Christmassy offering, Christmas Tree.
Although it references traditional tracks like Deck The Halls and Little Drummer Boy throughout, lyrics like “take off my stockings we’re out spreading Christmas cheer” suggest this isn’t one to put on while the family tucks into their turkey.
That said, it could provide the perfect soundtrack to an office party flashback, depending on how well you behaved...
4. Ariana Grande - Wit It This Christmas
You’re probably familiar with Ariana Grande’s latterday Christmas classic Santa Tell Me, but what you might not realise is that the chart-topping star actually has a plethora of festive tunes to her name.
In 2015, shortly before unveiling her Dangerous Woman album, Ariana released an entire Christmas EP, titled Christmas & Chill, recently described by Vulture as a “surreal six-song compendium detailing the specific ways in which Christmas sexually arouses her”.
They’re not wrong either, and Wit It This Christmas is probably the best example of this. Ariana sets the tone early on with the line “are you down for some of these milk and cookies?”, and it doesn’t get any more subtle as it goes on. It’s a lot of fun, and as it’s written by the same team behind most of her Thank U Next album, it’s also hugely listenable.
5. Kacey Musgraves and Troye Sivan – Glittery
We love an all-guns-blazing chaotic Christmas tune like Elton John’s Step Into Christmas or Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath The Tree as much as anyone, but sometimes it’s nice to have something a bit more slowed-down to enjoy at this time of the year.
Country queen Kacey Musgraves’ duet with Troye Sivan is a twinkly ballad that’s also unapologetically mushy, but these two stars manage to pull it off, and Glittery manages to warm you up from the inside out like a good glass of mulled wine.
6. Sia – Santa’s Coming For Us
Given that she’s more closely associated with ethereal and powerful ballads like Alive, Chandelier and The Greatest, Sia tried something new in 2017 and released an album of entirely new Christmas tunes.
Lead single Santa’s Coming For Us features enough lyrical festive clichés that you immediately feel like you’ve been listening to it for the last 30 years, but the production is also contemporary enough (and the delivery quintessentially Sia enough) to keep it sounding fresh.
7. Gwen Stefani - Secret Santa
Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, and more often than not, a Christmas re-release can feel more motivated by those December royalties than the festive spirit, and we have to admit that was the impression we got when Gwen Stefani announced the deluxe edition of her album You Make It Feel Like Christmas.
We’re glad she did, though, because the new version included Secret Santa, a 1960s girl group throwback that definitely stands up to repeated listens.
There’s just something about a Gwen Stefani ballad, and Secret Santa is a worthy addition to her back catalogue.
8. Bonnie McKee - California Winter
Bonnie McKee is responsible for co-penning some of the most memorable tracks by artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Rita Ora, so it’s no surprise that her own Yuletide output is a total earworm.
9. The Weather Girls - Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man)
Rumour has it, the phrase “camp as Christmas” didn’t actually come to be until the year 1983, when this wonderful song burst onto the scene.
As if the ultimate Christmas throwback wasn’t joyous enough, it opens with the expression: “We’re your Weather Girls... and have we got holiday news for you!”
Now that’s brand awareness.
After a couple of generous snowballs, we defy you to stay on the sofa when the beat kicks in on this song during that Christmas afternoon lull.
10. Mariah Carey - Oh Santa!
Listen, we’re not going to sit here and pretend Oh Santa! is as good as All I Want For Christmas Is You, because it isn’t. But if we judged every song by that criteria, we’d be left with about four to listen to all year around, wouldn’t we?
If you want a bit of Mariah this festive season but you’re scared of what you’ll do if you have to hear All I Want For Christmas Is You even one more time, then this is the song for you.
And to take things up about 20 additional festive notches, check out the 2020 remix featuring Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson.
11. Carly Rae Jepsen - It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries
Carly Rae Jepsen’s version of Wham!’s Last Christmas has been on our playlist for a good few years now, so we were over the moon in 2020 when she finally unveiled her first original festive tune.
It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries is a celebration of those dysfunctional gatherings so many of us suffer through when it comes to putting together groups of extended family members.
And while the lyrics about uncles “talking politics” and cousins questioning “if Santa’s a lie” might seem like the stuff of Yuletide nightmares, the synth-y production make sure you’re dancing through till Boxing Day.
12. Lil Nas X – Holiday
Holiday performed modestly when it was released in 2020, peaking just outside the UK top 20. However, since then, Lil Nas X has had huge success with his chart-topping hit Montero (Call Me By Your Name) as well as his debut album, so we’ll be curious to see if his festive offering slides any further up the charts this Yuletide.
This festive ditty is pretty much everything you’d expect from a Lil Nas Xmas track (see what we did there?), with blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em sex references interspersed with cheeky plays on festive tropes. Oh, and the video is a total feast for the eyes, too.
13. Tegan And Sara – Make You Mine This Season
Originally included on the soundtrack to the festive rom-com Happiest Season, Make You Mine This Season instantly became a fave of ours when it was released in 2020, so we’re happy it’s finally time to get it back in rotation.
The Tegan and Sara track is a rare Christmas song that explicitly references a same-sex relationship – but more than that, it’s just a really heartwarming listen that’ll make you want to slip into your festive jammies and sip something hot in front of the fireplace.
14. Spice Girls - Christmas Wrapping
Disappointingly, the Spice Girls never released an original Christmas song during their time together, which is a shame as this perfect mix of Spice Girls attitude and festive fun (which was used as the B-side to their Christmas number one Goodbye) is an absolute gem (if you’ll pardon the GEM reference).
15. RuPaul - Hey Sis, It’s Christmas
If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s musical output but prefer to have the usual lyrics about “walking the runway”, “stomping the runway” and “bringing it to the runway” swapped out for some Christmas references, then this will have you “yassss”-ing along all the way through until Boxing Day.
16. Girls Aloud – Not Tonight Santa
This original Christmas tune from Girls Aloud was never released as a single, which we think is a real shame as it really has the potential to have been a modern classic, mixing the girl band’s signature pop perfection and attitude the girl group and putting a bit of a festive slant on it.
Not Tonight Santa actually formed part of a string of festive songs recorded by Girls Aloud, which also included covers of Jingle Bell Rock, Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.
17. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - I Think You Might Like It
No, this isn’t exactly a departure from the usual cheesiness we’re subjected to on the usual radio stations around Christmas (in fact, compared to this, even Wombling Merry Christmas sounds edgy).
But Christmas isn’t about the cool or cutting edge, it’s about the naff, the over the top and the completely ridiculous, and what could fit the bill more than watching John Travolta flying a plane to see Olivia Newton-John accompanied by a line-dance-friendly festive tune?
18. Hurts - All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day
Truly an anthem for anyone who just wants the festive period to hurry up and be over, a quick blast of this moody offering from Hurts should really let everyone in the vicinity know how you’re feeling.
Check out our alternative Christmas playlist in full below: