Festive 45: An Alternative Christmas Playlist

Shakin’ Stevens, Mariah Carey, Wham!, Slade, Wizzard? Forget about those guys and step into Christmas with The Skinny, alternative-style with our Festive 45

Feature by The Skinny | 16 Dec 2016
  • Christmas Card 2013 - Darren Cullen

If you, like us, are sick of hearing the same old Christmas songs then we’ve got just the thing for you – Festive 45, taking in everyone from Belle & Sebastian to Tom Waits with songs along the way from the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, The Duke Spirit, Frightened Rabbit, Jonnie Common, LCD Soundsystem, of Montreal, The Sugarcubes and more!

Here's a bit more about some of the songs that made the cut.

Britney Spears – My Only Wish (This Year)
16 years after its release, Britney Spears’ My Only Wish (This Year) has defied its initial critical panning to take its place on the tree of festive classics. A textbook example of early noughties bubblegum pop, its meaning has been transformed by the events of its creator’s life. It’s difficult not to be affected by the pathos of a young Spears’ lyrics, knowing what we know now.

She writes to Santa, asking him for just one thing – a lover. 'I want someone to love me, someone to hold.'

It’s all Britney ever wanted; someone to love her. She just looked in all the wrong places – spurned by Justin Timberlake amidst allegations of cheating, she impulsively married a childhood friend, only to have the marriage annulled within days. In two years she was married to K-Fed, had kids, then divorce, custody battle, meltdown. Today she languishes under a conservatorship, legally unable to make decisions over her own life while performing night after night before the baying hordes of Las Vegas. She’s a Slave (4 U).

'All I want is one thing,' sang an 18 year old Britney, back in 2000. 'Santa I've been so good this year. I want my baby, baby, baby.' It’s all she ever wanted.

#freebritney [Rosamund West]

Carly Rae Jepsen – Mittens
Her cover of Wham's Last Christmas may fall into the classic trap of not sticking to the actual melody, but Carly Rae's 2010 track is a great addition to the canon of 'lonely at Christmas' tunes. Jingle bells, soft acoustic guitars, lovelorn lyrics, and a chorus which features an emotive delivery of the word 'mittens'. Twice. [Peter Simpson]

Cyndi Lauper & The Hives – A Christmas Duel
‘I bought no gifts this year / And I slept with your sister,’ sings The Hives frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist on the intro to A Christmas Duel, a duet recorded between The Hives and Cyndi Lauper in 2008. Lauper is quick to retaliate with ‘That’s okay honey cause see / I bought no tree this year / And I slept with your brother’ – their duet is a thing of wonder.

Their marriage should be falling apart; they’ve cheated on each other but they still want to spend Christmas together. That’s what Christmas is about right? Forgiveness. Or something.

‘So whatever you say, it’s all fine by me / Who the fuck anyway wants a Christmas tree / Cause the snow keeps on fallin’ even though we were bad / It’ll cover the filth, we should both just be glad / And spend this Christmas together.’ A lovely sentiment, I’m sure you’ll agree? You feel all warm inside now, don’t you? Success. [Tallah Brash]

The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)
Just cast your mind back to 2003, when thanks to The Darkness, the country was united in unwittingly belting the words ‘bellend’ and ‘ring-piece’ at the top of their voices for the whole of December; from Black Friday clubbers to school disco deely-bopper wearers, bosses at office parties to trendy aunties drunk on Cava. That's why this song’s on the playlist. [Kate Popsola]

Destiny's Child – 8 Days of Christmas
Remember 2001, the year when must have Christmas gifts included crop jackets, dirty denim jeans and diamond belly rings? Destiny's Child's 8 Days of Christmas is a must when creating any Christmas playlist. In fact, scrap the whole playlist and just stick on their entire Christmas album for a wave of millenial nostalgia with some sick up-tempo R'n'B beats (feat. Solange way back when).

8 Days of Christmas though? Maybe her boo ran out of gift ideas/cash after day two's CLK Mercedes but we forgive em' – cause fuck it, Beyoncé, Queen of Pop wrote it and she can have whatever amount of Christian Twelvetide days she dang well wants. [Sarah Donley]

Justin Bieber & Busta Rhymes – Drummer Boy
Thanks to the syrupy, sparkling wonder-single that was Mistletoe, cult Bieber appreciators and passing fans alike are surely acquainted with his Christmas album of 2011, Under the Mistletoe (Deluxe Edition). It’s a hit-and-miss affair, but skip through a duelling banjos-esque duet with Mariah Carey and a diabolical attempt at Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire with Usher, and you’ll land on a hell of a banger. That’s right – we’re talking about his cover of Little Drummer Boy. It’s got all the vital components that make for an alternative Christmas song – superfluous vocal runs, shit-hot bars ('Playing for the king / playing for the title / I'm surprised you didn't hear this in the Bible') and a Busta Rhymes cameo. Stick it on repeat and let it wash over you. [KP]

LCD Soundsystem – Christmas Will Break Your Heart
Christmas Will Break Your Heart marked the return of New York’s LCD Soundsystem, and I genuinely had a wee cry. I remember sitting on the couch on Christmas Eve watching a Christmas film and my phone buzzed; a message from my mum to say ‘Merry Christmas’. I naturally segued to Facebook where at the top of my newsfeed was a post from LCD’s James Murphy: “So, there’s been this depressing christmas song I’d been singing to myself for the past 8 years, and every year I wouldn’t remember that I wanted to make it until December, which is just too late to actually record and release a Christmas song (...) anyway, for the holidays we give you (...) Christmas Will Break Your Heart.” I yelled at my other half: “Pause the film, pause the film!” I was giddy. It’s just the loveliest, most perfect LCD Christmas song you could ever hope for. God bless you James Murphy and pals. You guys are the best. Here’s hoping Christmas doesn’t break all of our hearts... [TB]

Run The Jewels – A Christmas Fucking Miracle
'The beat breaks and your teeth break / Keep your canines embedded in my knuckles as a keepsake'. Christmas 'round Killer Mike and El-P's isn't the merriest, with a bleak, grimy affair that comes at the end of their all-action RTJ debut. But it's also a tale of sticking to your guns and doing things your way. Want to rap about everyday power struggles and the importance of individuality and hit the Christmas sleigh bells? Mike and El prove that you can do it, and if you want to dress as Ebeneezer Scrooge or a smoking elf for the video then that's alright too. [PS]

Listen to our Festive 45 playlist on Spotify now


Christmas 2016 takes place on Sunday 25 December