How to Make a Great Christmas Song | Features | MN2S

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and what better way to celebrate than by releasing a festive song for the holidays? Every year the same twenty or so Christmas classics are played in constant rotation on the radio and on the high street, so there is definitely room for some newer Christmas tracks to freshen things up. Here are 5 approaches to creating your own future Christmas classic.

Add something new

We all know the components of a classic Christmas song. Jingling bells, children’s choirs and festive lyrics are all well and good, and there’s no reason not to use them, but if you want your Christmas song to stand out you have to bring something new and unique to the table. This could be as simple as adding an unexpected sound or instrument to the classic Christmas elements. The Beach Boys brought their trademark lush harmonies to ‘Little Saint Nick’, and Paul McCartney layered an unconventional synthesizer over traditional sleigh bells for ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’.

 

You can also add something new to a Christmas song by covering heavy topics in the lyrics. Fellow Beatle John Lennon combined an earnest anti-war sentiment with a Christmassy children’s choir on ‘Merry Xmas (War is Over)’. Other musicians who have added a political bent to their Christmas songs include The Mynabirds, who sang about global warming on ‘All I Want is Truth (For Christmas)’, and The Be Good Tanyas tackled homelessness on ‘Rudy’.

 

Whatever you do, you should make sure your Christmas song displays something unique to you that will make people want to listen to it instead of the countless other Christmas songs they already know and love.

Reinvent the classics

If you don’t want to compete with Christmas classics by writing an original song, you can still be successful with a cover of a festive staple. But if you do choose covering over composing, make sure you put your own spin on the song.

Michael Bublé has become as synonymous with Christmas as mulled wine and mistletoe. He’s performed every Christmas song under the sun on his countless Christmas specials. One of the biggest selling Christmas albums of all time is his album ‘Christmas’. At first glance, it looks like just another album of Christmas standards, this time performed in Bublé’s silky smooth voice. While this is true of some of the tracks on the album, it also features clever reworkings of modern Christmas songs. Bublé turns Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’ into a heart-wrenching ballad, and gives us a gender-bending version of ‘Santa Baby’.

 

Someone who has been putting his own spins on Christmas songs for years now is singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Stevens has released over 100 Christmas songs, and the best of these songs give us wholly original interpretations of the source material. The singer manages to take ‘Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’ and turn it into an acoustic masterpiece that is somehow simultaneously chilling and comforting.

 

Remixing the classics can be another way to make a great Christmas song with built in appeal. The album ‘Christmas Remixed’ is a great showcase of DJs turning classic Christmas songs into festive floor-fillers.

 

Throw away convention

Completely ignoring all of the Christmas conventions is a risky move when creating a Christmas song, but when it works it has a huge payoff. One of the biggest Christmas songs of all time, frequently voted as the nation’s favourite, is The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’. This is a song that features none of the conventional elements of a Christmas song. No sleigh bells, no trumpets, no children’s choirs. The song has a traditional Irish folk sound, unlike any other big Christmas song, but paired with lyrics telling a story set on Christmas Day, this song has become a yuletide classic.

 

This Pogues’ approach would work in any style. There is a very big gap in the Christmas song market for a festive classic in the broad electronic genre. This wouldn’t have to be a Christmassy song with electronic elements. It could be an electronic song with a few Christmas elements. If Daft Punk released a song where their robotic voices lamented being lonely on Christmas Day, there’s no doubt it would become a holiday staple.

Make sure it’s catchy

There is one factor that unites every Christmas song, whether it abides by Christmas sound conventions or not, and that’s an almost excessive catchiness that keeps people coming back year after year. Whichever approach you take to crafting a Christmas anthem, make sure the song is as catchy as possible. This way, it could join the ranks of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’, and become singed into the minds of millions of listeners through repetitive annual exposure. Who knows, it may even get covered by Michael Bublé.

Featured image from tOrange.

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