There are some KEY ingredients to what makes a good festive tune. Here’s my opinion (which is, coincidentally, 100% factual) on the absolute essential parts of a Christmas banger. Whack it in the oven at 250′ for 20 minutes, and you’ve got yourself a Christmas number one.
Around 2 Cups of Cheesy Catchy Lyrics
Sure, nearly every Christmas song talks about ‘kissing under the mistletoe’, or ‘playing in the snow’, or ‘cozying up in front of the fire’, or ‘I saw my mom making out with someone’ (seriously The Jackson 5 that was a WEIRD subject choice), but aren’t those cheesy topics what make those songs so memorable? It’s way easier to remember songs if the lyrics sound kind of the same across the board. If it’s got some kind of reference to silver bells, heartbreak at Christmas, love at Christmas, partying at Christmas, putting presents under the tree, snow, etc., then you know that song is gonna be a damn good one.
A Pinch of Some Sweet Synths
All of the best Christmas songs came out of the 80s and 90s. Cry about it, you know it’s the truth. And what was the one thing that ran rampant throughout all the big hits of the 80s? That sweet, sweet synth, as originated by synthesiser pioneers The Human League. All the best Christmas songs have gotta involve synth in some way, whether it be as a fade in or fade out, an aspect of that jolly backing music, or just thrown in there for the hell of it.
A Generous Dash of Emotion
Every Christmas song doesn’t necessarily have to have a great big meaning behind it, but sure does it slap hard if it’s got a least a little feeling in it. It could hugely heartbreaking, like East 17‘s tragic track ‘Stay Another Day’, or about heartbreak itself, like iconic tune ‘Last Christmas’ from Wham!, or super happy, like Elton John‘s ‘Step into Christmas’, or just quite funny, like a cheeky bit of The Waitresses ‘Christmas Wrapping’ with it’s catastrophic Christmas romance (a personal favourite of mine). Music in general should make you feel something, but Christmas songs especially need that EMOTION, otherwise you’re just not gonna feel pumped up enough to scream along to it.
A Sprinkle of Some Silver Bells
Nothing gets me going absolute mad on the dancefloor than the sweet sound of those silver bells clanging. That is THE sound of Christmas (apart from maybe Mariah Carey); you hear those bells, and you just KNOW that song is gonna go hard. Iconic Christmas tunes like The Darkness‘ ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)’ celebrate such a perfect sound, as they rightly should, as it is frankly just the defining sound of the festive season.
About a Handful of Some Killer Vocals
Vocals are obviously a key part of the Christmas song, as they’re the parts you’re gonna be screaming along to in the shower for all 31 days of December. Now, vocals are a bit more open to variation; you can have the whistle tone of Mariah, the smooth deepness of Buble, the heartwrenching warble of classic crooners like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, the classic layered melodies of 90s hits, and the speak-singing of the louder 80s tracks. No matter what, that vocalist (or vocalists) has got to be giving it their ALL; if they’re not going hard, that lack of energy is just gonna made the whole song completely limp. No matter the genre, the era, the vibe, that vocalist has to be hitting every word perfectly, or frankly it’s just not a cracking Christmas tune.