Happy Christmas everyone! It's a magical time, when enforced proximity to our least-tolerable family members and colleagues teaches us to be thankful for the solitary drudgery that makes up the rest of the year.
It’s an especially important time for DJs, who will find themselves performing at parties full of people who wouldn’t normally leave the comfort of their TV-illuminated lounges, and who hate music, themselves and life.
These people demand to hear songs featuring jingle-bells and lyrics about a kind of spiritual kinship that they don’t actually believe exists. Thankfully, there are plenty of awesome Xmas jams out there that will not only get crowds feeling festive, but prepared to bump and grind on the dancefloor.
If you’re ready to rock out with your stocking out this Christmas, here’s MusicRadar’s setlist of 20 Christmas crackers that will get your party popping!
Also be sure to check out MusicRadar's countdown of the 25 best Christmas songs of all time.
James Brown - Soulful Christmas
Let’s get the party started with this rolling 1968 cut from The Godfather, featuring beats provided by none other than the original funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield.
Despite the Christmas theme, this jam is vintage James Brown: he’s grunting all over the shop, talking about himself in the third person (“James Brown loves you, you lucky so-and-so”), exhorting us to come and see his live show, and getting so funky that he apparently “can’t stand [himself]”.
A selection of James Brown’s surprisingly numerous Christmas songs can be found on the fantastic Funky Christmas compilation, which includes the amazing Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto - presumably the inspiration for Snoop Dogg’s similarly-titled funk-fest.
Run DMC - Christmas in Hollis
Keeping with the funky flavour, Run DMC’s 1987 number delivers everything you’d hope for from the hip-hop legends, including plenty of scratching, a massive riff from Clarence Carter’s inappropriately raunchy Backdoor Santa, and lyrics that include suitably festive rhymes such as “yule log” and “eggnog”.
Only the most Scrooge-like of partygoers could fail to be moved by its big beats, and the video itself is an amazing thing to behold: disturbing naughty elves, comedy gift unwrapping, and dogs wearing antlers are all in full effect.
Ace of Base - Always Have, Always Will
Primarily remembered for cod-reggae europop anthems such as All That She Wants and The Sign, here, Ace of Base channel fellow Swedes Abba and take inspiration from Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, resulting in a slice of pure pop perfection.
Despite the Spector-style jingle bell-inflused instrumentation, the lyrics don’t reference Christmas at all, and even though the song reached #12 in the UK Top 40 it’s not particularly well remembered, meaning that, sadly, Always Have, Always Will isn’t peak-time material. Still, a great bit of pop music that delivers good-time vibes by the bucketload.
Eels - Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas
Switching things up, Eel’s Xmas effort is a Christmas-related song with standard rock instrumentation.
Although it’s an up-tempo number with some fun moments, Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas’s lyrical theme is bittersweet: hopefully, this festive season will be less miserable than year’s. You don’t want this to strike a chord with your drunken audience - potentially resulting in mass-sobbing - so it’s important to play this one early before they imbibe too much alcohol.
Don’t worry, though: we’re saving the emotional TKO for later on.
R. Kelly - Christmas I'll Be Steppin'
That’s right, even the priapic prince of RnB has got a Christmas song but, thankfully, Kelz is keeping a lid on his freaky fantasies this time.
A kid-friendly shower of golden Christmas magic, the track might be bereft of the Pied Piper’s trademark sexual metaphors, but it’s a solid mid-tempo jam. The ridiculous extended bridge that urges the audience to “jingle to the left” and “jingle to the right” to the accompaniment of bongo-laced beats and soothing synth brass will keep the crowd steppin’, and gives you the opportunity to hit the bar before things get too hectic.
Low - Just Like Christmas
Another Phil Spector-esque treat, Just Like Christmas is an indie favourite from the Minnesota rockers’ mini-album Christmas.
If your crowd is cool-enough they’ll already know the tune, or at least will appreciate the gloriously fuzzy, vintage-style lo-fi production and catchy chorus hook. Like Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas, the track is tinged with sadness, so we’re slipping this one under the radar before things get serious.
Justin Bieber Duet with Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You (SuperFestive!)
We’re entering a crucial period now: the audience haven’t heard any full-on cheese yet, and they’re not probably not drunk enough to keep dancing to obscurities.
It’s time to bring out the biggest of guns. All I Want For Christmas Is You is arguably the greatest Christmas single ever made, and this 2010 SuperFestive! version boasts additional vocals from the appropriately sprout-faced pop cherub Bieber.
Take a moment to check out the incredibly crass video which features Biebz filling his trolley with Christmas goodies, Mariah vamping it up, and some none-too-subtle product placement. Astonishing!
Song for Children - I Want A Puppy For Christmas
Only seven songs in and we’ve blown our trump card. If you haven’t got the crowd on-side by now you’re screwed anyway, so let’s go for broke: I Want A Puppy For Christmas is the touching song of a grown woman who so desperately wants a puppy she doesn’t mind how hideous it is, and deludedly believes that she is going to “teach him how to bark”.
Even if this heart-warming tale doesn’t go down well it’s mercifully short - clocking in at a brisk 1:21 - so you can quickly move on to a bona fide classic...
The Darkness - Don't Let The Bells End
We’ve indulged our inner child, so let’s get a bit more adult with a little bit of good, old-fashioned innuendo.
As we all know, the noughties were something of a golden age for music, and this is the most culturally significant product of that era: a song about Christmas that references a slang term for the glans.
Assuming you haven’t been lynched you during the previous track, Don’t Let The Bells End should start to see the night begin to peak, with the audience fist-pumping and playing air guitar as you prepare to take things to the next level.
Cliff Richard - Mistletoe and Wine (dubstep remix)
We’re nearly halfway through and it’s time to get hardcore. Who better to guide us than ageless pop megastar Cliff Richard, accompanied by a selection of filthy wobs, glitched-out vocal edits and bitcrushed chimes?
At the one minute thirty mark the beat switches up, giving you the opportunity to mix into the next track...
Mikee B & Urban Hype - Jingle Bells
Primarily remembered for their Top Ten “toytown techno” hit A Trip To Trumpton in 1992, Urban Hype are no stranger to novelty rave. The previous year they released Jingle Bells, a no-nonsense jungle techno cover of James Lord Pierpont’s Christmas classic.
With a bubbling bassline and rolling Funky Drummer breaks the track is actually pretty credible during the parts when the stabby Jingle Bells hook isn’t playing, and will have party-goers of a certain age pining for the halcyon days of breakbeat hardcore.
This Paul McCartney-sampling 12” by DJ Dance is in a similar vein but, sadly, no YouTube clip is available.
X-Project - Walking in the Air
What would Christmas be without a dose of junglism? Produced by none other than original junglist Rebel MC, this track will be familiar to those who’ve read our feature on unlikely sample sources, and chucks Slick Rick and Cutty Ranks into the mix along with Aled Jones’s rendition of Walking In The Air.
If this track’s ragga chat, gunshot sounds and weighty sub bass don’t get the crowd into the festive spirit, surely nothing will?
Komatic - Sickels Christmas Time
Naturally, old skool jungle won’t cut it for the modern-day Christmas raver, which is why you should follow it with Komatic’s take on Paul McCartney’s synth-tastic Wonderful Christmastime.
Yet more dancehall samples and mashed-up breakbeats accompany the ex-Beatle and his choir of children, and the heavy bass drops will get your mulled wine-fuelled audience hyped for the heaviest Christmas beats yet. What can top this triumph?
Rotterdam Termination Source - Merry X-mess
The follow up to the hardcore techno masterpiece Poing, Merry X-mess is Rotterdam Termination Source’s 190BPM+ gabba tribute to Christmas.
Unlike in the minimal Poing, Rotterdam Termination Source have used every single element imaginable in the creation of this track, including distorted kick drums, Amen breaks, happy hardcore pianos and samples from Home Alone 2.
After four minutes of this aural assault your audience should be spent, pliable, and ready to wind down.
Nexcit - Last Christmaz (Hardstyle Christmas Special)
Bursting with catchy supersaw melodies and bouncing along at a mere 148BPM, this will be light relief for your by now battle-hardened audience.
Lindstrøm - Little Drummer Boy (Short Edit)
Lindstrøm’s dedication to Xmas excellence makes Cliff Richard look like a Christmas-hating Scrooge, and if you’re a lightweight like Cliff you could drop the edit featured in the YouTube clip. Of course, at a mere five minutes long, how Christmassy can it actually get?
Beck - The Little Drum Machine Boy
Naturally, after the last 40 minutes the crowd will be clamouring to hear a psychedelic take on Little Drummer Boy, so thank goodness for Beck and his version of the standard from between his Odelay and Midnite Vultures eras.
With insane drum machine clap rolls and mangled robotic vocals, it’s definitely at the weirder end of the artist’s already esoteric oeuvre, and climaxes with the funky Scientologist chanting “Hanukkah pimp” for an extended period.
Everything But The Girl - 25th December
We’ve emotionally exhausted our audience, so now it’s time for that knockout blow we talked about earlier.
Everything But The Girl’s 25th December is taken from their pre-dance era Amplified Heart album, and it’s not exactly a jolly song. In fact, it’s more like what it would sound like if you could distill into aural form the essence of a grown man, alone on Christmas day, crying unstoppably into an album of childhood photos. Merry Xmas everyone!
Jim Jones - Dipset X-Mas Time
The emotionally vulnerable are always soft targets for impromptu romance, so it’s at this moment you hit them with a sensual slow jam.
“Santa knows whether you’re good or bad... and we ballin’!” explains Jim, presumably flush on the advance from the 2006 album Dipset Christmas which this track is taken from.
It’s worth checking out the supafly Have a Happy Christmas for a festive take on gangsta rap, complete with gun clap FX and tons of NSFW expletives.
Will Smith - Will 2K
We’ve finally come to the end of our Xmas celebrations, and it’s new year! Or at least it feels like it, so why not literally party like its 1999 with a bit of pre-millennial paranoia from that other funky Scientologist, Will Smith?
The Fresh Prince imagines the Y2K-fuelled “chaos” that may occur at the dawning of the new century, then displays a philosophical approach to the looming apocalypse with “Man who the hell cares? Just don't stop the beat!”
Great attitude Will, but sadly our Christmas setlist must end with your Clash-sampling anthem. Until next year!