ENTERTAINMENT
17/12/2020 06:00 GMT

New Christmas Songs 2020: Our Verdict

Featuring Lil Nas X, Liam Gallagher and *that* epic Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson collaboration.

Vevo/Apple/Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce/Shutterstock

We get it, putting your festive playlist together is no simple task, and with a deluge of brand new songs to sift through every year, it’s hard to choose exactly which of them are deserving of a spot alongside the usual suspects at this time of year.

To help make it less of a chore, we’ve had a listen through some of the biggest new Christmas songs released in the last few weeks, which includes new tunes from artists like Liam Payne, Lil Nas X, Amanda Holden and even the Queen of Christmas herself, Mariah Carey.

Here’s our verdict on this year’s new Christmas tunes...

Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson – Oh Santa!

 

Nothing against All I Want For Christmas Is You – the reason it’s so successful every year is because it is straight-up amazing. But the song’s huge impact means Mariah Carey’s other Christmas bops can sometimes fall by the wayside.

The biggest example of this would be 2010′s Oh Santa!, an undeniable banger that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves because of its more well-known cousin.

That’s why we were thrilled to hear Mariah would be shining a light on Oh Santa! in 2020, not just giving it pride of place in her new Christmas special, but roping in Jennifer Hudson (!) and Ariana Grande (!!!!!) for a brand new festive remix.

Obviously, we don’t expect it to reach the heights of All I Want For Christmas Is You or anything, but surely even the biggest of Scrooges will want to rock around the Christmas tree to this one.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “I saw them shopping last week, and his new girl was so bleak, and then I swore to myself Santa’s gonna come and make him mine this Christmas night.”

Lil Nas X – Holiday

 

After dominating the radio last year with his breakthrough hit Old Town Road, singer and rapper Lil Nas X is setting his sights on Christmas this time around, with his new festive tune.

Admittedly, besides the title of the track and one line of the chorus (yes, the “hoes on hoes” one), we’re not sure whether we’d even consider this a seasonal tune at all, but it’s the song’s music video where Nas really cranks the festivities up to 100.

Already known for his elaborate visuals, we knew we weren’t expecting a phoned-in lip sync in some fake snow, but Lil Nas X really takes things to the next level in the Holiday video, which turns ideas of traditional Christmas on their head.

The clip sees the chart-topping star portraying a futuristic Santa Claus in a winter wonderland, flying a sports car led by robot reindeer through a snowstorm, as well as playing various action figures in Santa’s workshop. It’s a lot, but we wouldn’t expect anything less.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “Ay, it’s a holiday, I got hoes on hoes and they out of control, yeah.” 

Dolly Parton – Christmas On The Square

 

The queen of country music bestowed us with two early presents in 2020, first the brilliantly-titled Christmas album A Holly Dolly Christmas and the new Netflix film Christmas On The Square, featuring new music from Dolly.

Christmas On The Square is the title track from the film, and it’s pretty much the thigh-slapping, call-and-response, fiddle-led kind of country-fied tune you’d expect when Dolly Parton put her efforts to a Christmas tune.

As the song was written to go with the film, Dolly spends most of the the track coming up for imaginative rhymes for “Christmas on the square” (including “lovers walk in pairs”, “nothing ordinaire” and, naturally, “thermal underwear”), and while it’d be easy to pick apart… it’s Dolly Parton, so why would you really want to?

Our rating: 🎄🎄

Sample lyric:Carolers sing and gifts exchanged, lovers walk in pairs, trees a-glow and mistletoe, it’s Christmas on the square.” 

Robbie Williams – Can’t Stop Christmas 

 

For the reissue of his album The Christmas Present, Robbie Williams has taken on the events of the last year with his trademark sense of humour, with new track Can’t Stop Christmas.

While the song itself might sound reminiscent of festive classics like Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, the lyrics are far more acerbic, right from the opening line: “Oh what a miserable year, but what a time to be alive.”

Even the obligatory children’s choir are fed up, moaning: “Why oh why are we all waiting, the whole damn world anticipating.”

Those who prefer a bit of escapism with their Christmas tunes might want to swerve this one, but anyone looking for something timely in 2020 should definitely check out Robbie’s efforts.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “Santa’s on his sleigh but now he’s two metres away, the people gonna need something to believe in after a year of being in.”

Jess Glynne – This Christmas

 

Seemingly hoping to follow in Ellie Goulding’s footsteps last year, Jess Glynne has teamed up with Amazon to cover a classic Christmas song, opting for Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas (look out for a surge in streams to this one after everyone unwraps their Alexas on Christmas morning).

The track itself is perfectly fine, if not a little by-numbers, but for fans of both Jess Glynne and background Christmas music, this should serve them just fine.

We have to say, though, This Christmas just isn’t the same without a legendary diva frantically asking where her backing singers and lyric cue cards are over the top of it... 

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “Fireside is blazing bright, we’re carolling through the night, and this Christmas will be a very special Christmas.” 

Carly Rae Jepsen – It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries

 

If the usual Yuletide lyrics about unity and togetherness always ring a little hollow for you, we’d like to point you in the direction of Carly Rae Jepsen’s new festive tune.

As the title suggests, It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries tells the story of a dysfunctional family Christmas, voicing what many of us go through at this time of the year, from getting into political rows with distant relatives to spending an uncomfortable night in your childhood bed.

Those who’ve been following Carly Rae Jepsen’s latter-day tunes will be pleased to hear her festive tune is as twinkly and 80s-esque as recent cuts like Too Much and Julien (with added sleigh bells, no less).

And if the Canadian star has been off your radar since Call Me Maybe topped the charts eight years ago (!), we implore you to take this opportunity to check out her whole back catalogue.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “My boyfriend is a vegan so they fed him fish, my uncle made it worse by talking politics.” 

Liam Payne and Dixie D’Amelio – Naughty List

 

Liam Payne actually put out his first Christmas tune last year, with the James Newman-penned melancholic piano ballad All I Want (For Christmas). However, it’s fair to say his latest offering is decidedly more… Liam Payne.

Naughty List starts off innocently enough, with Liam offering to walk a love interest home after a night out at (where else?) “the club”. But it’s there things take a less gentlemanly turn in the chorus, with the former One Direction star crooning the, frankly, unforgivable line: “Santa saw the things we did, and put us on the naughty list.”

We don’t even want to know, tbh. 

Our rating: 🎄🎄

Sample lyric:I said, ‘there’s no way I’m not walking you home’, next thing you know it we were drying our clothes, but I didn’t mean to get you in trouble.”

Sam Smith – The Lighthouse Keeper

 

We’re going to be honest, we’ve been listening to this song a lot, and it took us a long time to decide whether we actually liked it.

It’s certainly experimental and untraditional for a Christmas pop song, the introduction suggests you’re in for an almost religious, Silent Night-esque carol, but then veers in a completely different direction, with the harmony-laden choruses performed completely acapella, putting us in mind of Anohni or even Björk.

The Lighthouse Keeper is not a Last Christmas or All I Want For Christmas Is You rip-off, let’s just put it that way.

Those who’ve followed Sam Smith’s career will not be surprised to hear their take on Christmas is an emotional one, with The Lighthouse Keeper’s lyrics telling the story of a powerful love guiding someone back home at Christmas, which will ring true in a year when many of us have been kept apart from our families and those we care about most.

Eventually, it was the message and delivery of The Lighthouse Keeper that won us over, and even though it’s definitely not going to please everyone, we certainly applaud the Grammy-winning star for trying something different. 

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric:Don’t resist the rain and storm, I’ll never leave you lost at sea, I will be your lighthouse keeper, and bring you safely homе to me.”

Liam Gallagher – All You’re Dreaming Of

 

A perhaps surprising contender for Christmas number one, the former Oasis frontman’s new track puts us immediately in mind of his band’s classic material, not sounding a world away from the piano-led Don’t Look Back In Anger, but with a bit of a festive twist.

Lyrically, All You’re Dreaming Of is actually rather beautiful and poetic. It’s full of yearning for a better world (relatable, right?), preferring to stray away from Christmas clichés in what could be an attempt to snag those who would otherwise have turned their noses up at a straightforward festive tune.

For existing fans of Liam Gallagher, All You’re Dreaming Of is going to be a must-listen, and judging from the way it’s already climbing the UK charts, the charity single could be a big one this year.

However, whether or not we’d return to it in future years is probably another matter.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “Paint the night sky, while the morning waits, with a field of stars, to keep the dark at bay.”

Ava Max – Christmas Without You

 

We have to be honest, when we heard that Ava Max was releasing a Christmas track, we were bracing ourselves for a completely ridiculous festive banger in the style of Lady Gaga's Christmas Tree or Kylie and Dannii Minogue's 100 Degrees.

Instead, we got a more traditional midtempo pop song about missing the one you love at Christmas that definitely ticks a lot of boxes, but we're not sure it's bringing much new to the table.

Christmas Without You is, unfortunately, not the stuff of future office Christmas party scenes that are never spoken about again we were hoping for. Still, if all you're after is a brand new inoffensive Christmas track to add to your playlist, this does the job perfectly

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “I wanna hold you while the bells are all ringing, want you to be here while the angel's singing.”

Amanda Holden – Home For Christmas 

 

With lyrics like “I want to go home for Christmas, let me go home this year”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Amanda Holden’s first Christmas song was a little heavy-handed and on-the-nose in 2020, so it might surprise you to hear it’s actually a cover of a 2010 track by Norwegian artist Maria Mena.

If you’re a fan of a teary ballad, then Home For Christmas’ message about the comfort of being around loved ones at Christmas time will hit especially hard, given the events oft his past year.

And while admittedly, we’d probably have picked something a bit more upbeat (and, yes, probably a lot more camp) for Mandy had we been in charge of her festive release, there’s no denying her voice does sound lovely on this song, which fits snugly alongside the musical theatre covers she’s already released in the last few months.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “There’s a place where I erase the challenges I’ve been through, where I know every corner every street name all by heart... I want to go home for Christmas”

Tegan And Sara – Make You Mine This Season

 

Taken from the soundtrack to the much-awaited queer holiday film Happiest Season, Tegan and Sara have returned to the shimmering 80s-esque sound of their Heartthrob and Love You To Death albums for this festive tune and, in short, we absolutely love it.

Full disclosure: it’s not winning any awards for imaginative lyrics – and you can scratch the “star at the top of the tree” and “snow falling all around” off your Christmas song bingo cards.

But in a year when so many singers have veered in a maudlin direction, with tracks reminding us just how rubbish a year 2020 has been, a straightforward synth-y Christmas love song has well and truly hit our sweet spot.

Our rating: 🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

Sample lyric: “I write your name, I know it’s foolish, but I chase the feeling, ’cause you keep me dreaming, that I could make you mine this season.”