You know it’s December when Maria Carey’s All I Want for Christmas comes on the radio and Michael Bublé’s festive album is on heavy rotation in every store across the country.
But if you need a break from the well-worn classics, give these alternative tracks a play. From ska bops, to high-energy pop-punk and 80s throwbacks, these are my favourite alternative Christmas songs to see you through the holidays.
Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are) - Lower Than Atlantis
Like an extended drunken ramble on the way home from the pub on Christmas Eve, Lower Than Atlantis’ Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are) captures the spirit (ahem) of Christmas as you part ways with your friends for the next few days.
Last Christmas - Carly Rae Jepsen
If you love this classic George Michael-penned song, Carly Rae Jepsen’s reimagined version sounds like it could be a B-side from her album Emotion, but it retains the heart of the original, so it’s the perfect replacement if you’re in on this year’s Whamageddon.
Rudolph Was A Rude Boy - The Downsetters
The Downsetters describe themselves as “one of the best ska and reggae acts the UK has ever produced,” and it’s hard to dispute with this fun, skank-friendly version of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, as Santa’s famous companion gets more than a bit merry on a night out.
I Am Santa - The Darkness
The Darkness’ Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) is a modern-day classic (which came out 20 years ago!?), but the roots of this 80s-inspired track are more Band-Aid than AC/DC, and it reimagines Santa as a “manufacturer and distributor of toys” with an insatiable appetite.
White Wine In The Sun - Tim Minchin
Tim Minchin’s humanist song is an exploration of the value of Christmas, even if you’re not religious. To quote Minchin, “And if, my baby girl, when you're twenty-one or thirty-one, and Christmas comes around, and you find yourself nine thousand miles from home, you'll know whatever comes, your brothers and sisters and me and your mum, will be waiting for you in the sun.”
Chillin’ With Santa - Derek B
All the hallmarks of late 80s hip-hop are here; sparse production, liberal use of samples, and a talent for storytelling. British rapper Derek B’s festive tale takes us on a fun sleigh ride adventure with Santa through the skies as he delivers presents across the country.
I Won’t Be Home For Christmas - Blink-182
This festive tale involves a scrap with some carollers and a night in jail ('I won’t be home for Christmas') and features all the Blink staples; fast guitars, fun harmonies, and plenty of la-la-la’s. Plus, it’s less blue than the group’s other Christmas classic, "Happy Holidays, You Bastard".
O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night - Trans Siberian Orchestra
If you’re in a heavy metal band, but love the holidays, what do you do? You form a Christmas hard rock band, performing festive staples with riffs, lots of guitar solos, and arena-sized production. The group has released several Christmas albums, but this track is the best entry point to their extravagance.
It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas - Pet Shop Boys
It probably won’t be a white Christmas, and this upbeat dance-pop track (with lots of festive bells) is the Pet Shop Boys’ reminder that Christmas isn’t what the movies promise, but it’s still great fun if you’re with the people you love. (Plus you get to shout 'Bing Crosby!' in the chorus).
Silent Night - Chuck Billy, Scott Ian, Jon Donais, Chris Wyse, John Tempesta
Sinead O’Connor’s hauntingly quiet rendition of this carol might be the definitive version, but this track taken from the album ‘We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year’ comes with a sore neck and a dancing-around-the-fretboard guitar solo.
Christmas In Hollis - Run-DMC
Die Hard is a Christmas movie; I won’t be taking any questions at this time. While driving McClane to Nakatomi Plaza, Argyle hits play, and on comes Run-DMC’s Christmas In Hollis, with samples ranging from Back Door Santa to Frosty The Snowman, and Jingle Bells.
My Favourite Day - Fickle Friends
It’s the time of year when musicians around the world drop winter-y, mournful ballads about lost love. My Favourite Day is a more positive take, looking back at the 90s childhood traditions that stick in the memory, like watching Mr Bean and playing board games after dinner.
Christmas Is Awesome - Ruben
Culture writer Lauren O’Neill recently wrote ‘Nothing captures the banality and beauty of a British Christmas like the finale of The Office’ for The Guardian, and this track is basically that finale in song form. Expect talk of having the day off work, eating sprouts, and getting Doctor Who DVDs.
Ho Ho Ho - Teya & Salena
This festive-themed song gives Mrs. Claus her due and is a fun reprise of the duo’s Eurovision 2023 track Who The Hell Is Edgar, with Ho, Ho, Ho’s, plenty of innuendoes, and a chorus that’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Wizards In Winter - Trans Siberian Orchestra
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when YouTube was fun, with home-shot clips of kittens, fails, and perfectly-timed Christmas lights. TSO’s Wizards of Winter was the soundtrack to many of these displays in the late 2000s, cementing its place in end-of-year playlists.