It’s that time of the year when Christmas songs fill the airwaves of radio stations, the shops and our heads (for better or worse!).
But what makes a Christmas song good? What makes it enjoyable year after year? A good catchy chorus hook certainly seems to be near the top of the list. Beloved Christmas tracks such as Wizzard’s ‘I wish it could be Christmas Everyday’ and Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ (apologies you have now been Whammed!) easily get stuck inside our heads with their catchy choruses. Even the more atmospheric tracks seems to have an unforgettable chorus. ‘Walking in the Air’ performed by Aled Jones and Chris de Burgh’s ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ are both very atmospheric tracks which differ from the pop seasonal tracks. Parts of these tracks are, in many ways, quite dark. And yet, they also get into our heads and have remained Christmas classics throughout the years.
What else contributes to these seasonal favourites? The instrumentation and arrangement of these songs varies immensely. Christmas bells frequently make their appearance. I now have Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ stuck in my head. The distinct tone of the bells in this track contribute to its memorability. But what about other instrumental techniques? Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop the Cavalry’ is instantly recognisable from it’s brass melody and marching rhythms that run throughout the track. Orchestral instruments make frequent appearances. ‘Walking in the Air’, as previously mentioned, features heavy orchestral instrumentation which contributes the theatrics and drama of the music.
As well as these classics, modern day Christmas songs can be found in every genre. I shall quickly introduce you to some heavier tracks for those metal heads out there. Lacuna Coil’s ‘Naughty Christmas’ is one of the better metal Christmas tracks, in my opinion that is. It brings a wonderful heaviness and lyrically, linking to the character Krampus from European folklore, the metal sound works rather well. Other bands have produced their own alternative tracks. Within Temptation are a rather excellent symphonic metal band but I’m not sure ‘Gothic Christmas’ is their finest work. I’ll leave you to be the judge on that. Regardless, it shows the diversity of adaptation in the creation of Christmas songs.
What do you think makes a good Christmas song?