Which are the tinselly treasures and which shouldn’t you touch with a ten-foot candy cane?
Blossoms – ‘Wonderful Christmastime’
Who did the original? Paul McCartney recorded the Chrimbo perennial in 1979.
What’s it like? Cool Like Yule! Stockport’s Blossoms are no slouches when it comes to spreading festive cheer – they’ve covered ‘Last Christmas’ live for yonks, even during summer. Accompanied by an Instagram comic strip, this hews scrupulously to the synths ‘n’ sleigh bells original, and could have probably only been improved by fellow Greater Manchester-ian Bez turning up and shaking a tin of Quality Street as percussion.
How festive is it? As festive as a pissed Kim Wilde in askew reindeer antlers slurring ‘Kids In America’ on The Polar Express.
Rating: 4 Cliff Richards Out Of Five
Pale Waves – ‘Last Christmas’
Who did the original? Wham! released this timeless vignette of Christmas heartbreak in 1984, with 21-year-old George Michael writing, producing, and playing every single instrument on the track. Pipped to the Xmas Number One spot by Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, famously it’s the best-selling single to never reach the summit of the UK charts.
What’s it like? It’s GOTHMAAAAASSSS! It’s a feat, but somehow Pale Waves have managed to make ‘Last Christmas’ sound even more ’80s than the original. The track is ripe for piling on the emo melodrama – previously it’s been covered by the likes of Jimmy Eat World. Pale Waves’ rendition starts off shakily, but halfway through it kicks into gear and sounds like it should soundtrack a montage in a lost John Hughes film.
How festive is it? As bleakly festive as pulling a cracker and finding an eviction notice in lieu of a joke.
Rating: 3 Aled Joneses out of 5
Robyn – ‘Last Christmas’
Who did the original? See above. Other artists who’s tried covering it include Carly Rae-Jepsen, Taylor Swift, Whigfield, Manic Street Preachers and the Crazy Frog.
What’s it like? Before performing this majestically minimal version on Radio 1’s Live Lounge, Robyn declared George Michael her “hero” – and she does him proud. Usually, mournful stripped-back versions of great pop songs are terrible (Exhibit A for the prosecution: Calum Scott’s ‘Dancing On My Own’), but nobody does tears-in-the-toilets fare better than Robyn. The devastating whispered ‘special’ at the end would cause even the Grinch’s heart to grow three sizes. By comparison, it makes poor Pale Waves’ version (as good as it is) seem more Andrew Ridgeley than George Michael.
How festive is it? As festive as a sadistic child in a trap-strewn house viciously launching a paint pot into a hapless burglar’s face.
Rating: 5 Bonos bellowing ‘Well, tonight thank God It’s Them Instead Of You’ out of 5
Joshua Homme and C.W. Stoneking – ‘Silent Night’
Who did the original? Composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr.
What’s it like? Hailed as “ Christmas miracle on vinyl!” on Queens Of The Stone Age’s Instagram page, this sees Josh Homme team up with Australian singer-songwriter C.W. Stonking for an offbeat, raucous blues-ed up take on the classic carol, replete with knowing, enjoyably corny ad-libbing. The B-side is a reading of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ by Homme, his Distillers-frontwoman wife, Brody Dalle, and their three children. All proceeds from the seasonal seven inch go to charity.
How festive is it? As festive as Rudolf’s artificial septum.
Rating: 4 Father Teds trying to escape from Ireland’s biggest lingerie section out of 5
Shame – Feliz Navidad
Who did the original? Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano released the Spanish/English song in 1970.
What does it sound like? Astonishingly, giddily Christmassy, with OTT autotuned vocals, rabble-rousing Spanish bellowing, obligatory sleigh bells and artwork depicting their inflatable onstage mascot in a Santa hat under the milestone.
How festive is it? As festive as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future looking at their work rota and exclaiming: “Fuck! Do we have to visit Jacob Rees-Mogg again?”
Rating: 5 Mariah Carey’s hitting that high note out of 5.
Anderson .Paak – ‘Linus And Lucy’
Who did the original? The jazz-piano composition was written by Vince Guaraldi, and appeared in A Charlie Brown Christmas, a beloved 1965 US holiday institution starring Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters.
What does it sound it? Recorded for Spotify, the Californian rapper’s version more potent and groovier, with trumpet and drum solos.
How festive is it? As festive as being held hostage by foreign stereotypes in Nakatomi Tower plaza (Don’t @ Us).
Rating: 3 ‘Holidays Are Coming’ trucks out of 5
Tyler, The Creator – ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch’
Who did the original? For the 1966 animated special, Thurl Ravenscroft sang the original diss-track with lyrics written by Dr Seuss himself.
What’s it like? The Grinch starts out as a monumental dick and then ends up as a good-egg. Sound familiar? Ten years ago, the only Dr Seuss film you’d imagine Tyler starring in would be Horton Hears A Homophobe, but those problematic Odd Future days are so behind him that he can come up with this festive take – with added angelic children’s choir – on the green meanie’s anthem for this year’s big screen Pharrell-starring remake. He’s also released a Grinch-themed EP, with his collaboration with Santigold showing it’s not just the Whoville tree that’s lit.
How festive is it? As festive as repeatedly having to say “No Granny, we don’t use that word anymore” over Christmas dinner.
Rating: 3 Jools Hollands pretending it’s New Year’s Eve in October out of 5
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert – ‘Lonely This Christmas’
Who did the original? Glam rockers Mud spent four weeks at number one between December 1974 and January 1975 with this homage to Elvis. The memorable Top of the Pops appearance featured frontman Les Gray singing to a ventriloquist’s dummy.
What’s it like? Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat and fellow Glaswegian RM Hubbert have again teamed up for a new album, ‘Ghost Stories For Christmas’, the centrepiece of which is this slowed-down, brutally bleak cover which strips off the Elvis jumpsuit to expose the sombre lyrics lurking beneath. So devastatingly desolate, it would bring a tear to even that aforementioned ventriloquist’s dummy’s eye.
How festive is it? As grimly festive as forcing a child to watch the ending of Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman over and over again on loop.
Rating: 4 office party hangovers out of 5.
Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Christmas Song’
Who did the original? Nebraskan folk-band McCarthy Trenching released ‘Christmas Song’ in 2008.
What’s it like? “It’s not often that I hear a Christmas song that doesn’t make me want to quit music,” commented sad-pop star Phoebe Bridgers upon unveiling her Christmas single, which gave the game away that she wasn’t providing a melancholic take on ‘Wombling Merry Christmas’, Jane McDonald’s ‘Cruise Into Christmas’ or ‘Naughty Christmas (Goblin In The Office)’ by Fat Les. Instead, she’s opted for this tale of seasonal gloom. Recruiting ‘70s singer-songwrier icon Jackson Browne to assist, she sings about how “sadness comes crashing like a brick through the window”, and “you don’t have to be lonesome to be lonely”, before a rousing cathartic choir of voices kicks in towards the end.
How festive is it? As festive as watching crying bellow-monsters have a worse Yule than you on the EastEnders Christmas specials.
Rating: 4 difficult-to-peel satsumas out of 5
William Shatner – ‘Jingle Bells (Punk Rock Version)’
Who did the original? The traditional song that’s generally more fun to sing than listen to was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857.
What’s it like? The thinking man’s David Hasselhoff has unleashed a glad-tidings tie-in album, ‘Shatner Claus’, where he performs the likes of ‘Silent Night’ in his usual knowing style (ie: all the emotional range of Siri reading the Shipping Forecast). Here, Henry Rollins joins the ever-game octogenarian for this punk-rock student union in-joke. Would be the most unusual version of ‘Jingle Bells’ released this year were it not for Eric Clapton releasing an inexplicable six-minute EDM version (on his ‘Happy Xmas’ album) that’s a tribute to the late Avicii. Words can’t begin to describe it – seriously, the English dictionary is waving a white flag. Sorry Kirk, you’ve been out-Shatnered by Eric.
How festive is it? As festive as a particularly awkward round of Secret Santa .
Rating: 2 Mrs Browns stuck on a Christmas tree out of 5.