Every single Christmas Live Lounge cover definitively ranked because Christmas

Every single Christmas Live Lounge cover definitively ranked because Christmas

Over the last decade or so, BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge has morphed into a truly venerable institution, having been welcoming musicians big and small onto the station to plug their latest single, exchange light banter with Jo Whiley/Fearne Cotton/Clara Amfo, and take on someone else’s song with a typical promise of either tremendous novelty, intriguing artistry, or downright farce.

For better or for worse, festive seasons in recent years have given the visitors excuses to choose their covers with a seasonal focus, and the recent ridiculousness that was ‘Baby’ makers Clean Bandit melding Mariah Carey with Ace Of Base got me wondering just how deep the rabbit hole we’d need to go to find the very best and very worst that Christmas Live Lounge covers had to offer.

Gradually, we realised just how bare the official YouTube playlist is – with only 15 tracks, you barely even get a sense of just how often The Pogues and ‘White Christmas’ pop up. The result of a Christmas Eve evening spent in the company of the depths of YouTube search follows: here’s every single seasonally-glad cover from the Live Lounge, 1Xtra, Piano Sessions, Maida Vale, and more that we’ve been able to find any evidence of ever existing in the past few years.

Some – like a bunch of Olly ChristMurs sessions and Slaves merrily bellowing ‘Last Christmas’ in 2015 – stand proud all over Radio 1’s feeds. Others, for reasons that may become entirely clear once you press play, have been largely consigned to history, with their place here only earned following painstaking cross-referencing of schedules, tracklists, ancient academic archives (which had an alarming amount of Ben Howard), and even a copy of the new compilation The Sound Of Christmas: Live & Exclusive At The BBC.

So settle down, stick the mince pies within arm’s reach, top up the mulled wine, and get ready for a thrilling journey through musical tributes and questionable festive pastiche.

The Missing

Despite our best efforts whilst scoffing goujons and Guylians over Google last night, a small handful of performances that we are certain took place have managed to elude us, and therefore must make up the best of the rest. In no particular order:

  • arlissa (2012) – ‘all i want for christmas is you’

  • calum scott (2016) – ‘this christmas’

  • michael bublé (2011) – ‘jingle bells’

  • michael bublé (2011) – ‘santa claus is coming to town’

  • sugababes (2006) – ‘white christmas’

If you have any leads on these – or, indeed, any other magic we may be missing – then please get in touch: alliwantforchristmasis@bopappreciation.com is a one-stop shop.

62: Jake Bugg (2012)
‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’

Good news: things can and do only get better from here.

Bad news: this is neither the last of Bugg nor Bugg taking on this song that you’ll hear.

61: Stacey Solomon (2011)
‘Driving Home For Christmas’

No, you didn’t hallucinate the 2010 I’m A Celebrity champion’s whole vaguely-a-popstar phase. This was even her debut single!

Imagine if she’d beaten Joe McElderry in The X Factor. Rage Against The Machine wouldn’t have stood a chance.

60: Jake Bugg (2013)
‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This one does have a choir, at least.

59: Bastille (2013)
‘Christmas Mashup’

As if Dan Smith’s tendencies to unnecessarily mishmash every song at every opportunity and deliver them with a peculiar excessively breathy warble wasn’t irritating enough, here he does it in a Halloween shirt at a Christmas do.

58: Coldplay (2013)
‘White Christmas’

Yeah, that particular afternoon party of Fearne’s really came off unfortunately off-key and half-arsed.

57: Grimmy, Wretch 32, Fiona Hanlon & Dappy (2013)
‘Xmas Rapping’

This is far from the only time Radio 1’s presenters and producers have conceived some sort of abominable festive-ish noise.

Fortunately, this is the only one that looks like it was recorded either live or in a lounge.

Dig into the rest of them here.

56: Olly Murs (2014)
‘Last Christmas’

Welcome to the first of many Olly ChristMurs appearances in this rundown.

People in the comments actively debated whether or not he sounds like a squealing pig here.

My 2p: yes.

55: Olly Murs (2016)
‘Lonely This Christmas’

I’ll give Olly a little bit of credit here: from 2014 to 2016, his jumper game improved infinitely.

Yet, for some reason, he still thinks he needs to natter over everything after the second chorus.

54: The Wanted (2011)
‘White Christmas’

As boybands spawned from mass auditions to sing about PowerPoints on their debut single go, The Wanted had a fairly decent run of it.

This doesn’t particularly show off their appeal, though. Allow YouTube commenter Shar H to say it best:

“When nathan started singing,,, oh my, He can go so deep is sexxxxay ;)”

53: Bastille (2016)
‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

You know, Dan, just because Mariah Carey, Tupac, and R. Kelly can go together, IT DOESN’T MEAN THEY SHOULD FOR WREATH’S SAKE.

52: Elliot Minor (2007)
‘Sleigh Ride’

One thing you can’t not love here: the frontman’s face as a sticker on the keyboard behind him.

No idea why, but also no idea why not.

51: The Vamps & Matoma (2016)
‘Jingle Bells’

Fun fact: this seems to have only been played in a festive Live Lounge special in 2016, and no other trace of that particular tropically-whiffing sequence appears on the internet.

It’s for the best, really.

50: Ellie Goulding (2012)
‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

Given that Ellie’s distinct breathy approach contrasts so wildly with the powerhouse vocals of Mariah’s original, it’s rather impressive that this is as not hideous as it is.

I suppose that’s a compliment of sorts.

49: Elliot Minor (2007)
‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’

By far the best bit about this two-song foray into the BBC Switch days is how Annie Mac’s channel shows Radio 1 was literally all of us on YouTube in the ’00s.

Don’t believe me? Just watch.

48: Sam Smith (2017)
‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’

This sounds all tolerable until you realise that every bit of this cover was done better a year before.

More on that later.

47: JP Cooper (2016)
‘Merry Xmas Everyone’

Like The Vamps and Matoma earlier, there doesn’t seem to be any recorded evidence of this online.

So here’s Shakin’ Stevens doing the original a not too dissimilar sort of justice on Loose Women last week.

46: Paloma Faith & Roy Stride (2009)
‘Fairytale Of New York’

Between Paloma Faith, the choir, and the general ambience of this thing, there’s plenty of ingredients of an actually palatable Live Lounge here.

But then there’s Roy “Scouting For Girls” Stride.

45: Ed Sheeran, Anne-Marie & Beoga (2017)
‘Fairytale Of New York’

Trust the ginger bloke from Suffolk to find a way to ‘Galway Girl’ up the Irishest of Christmas songs to the point where even The Pogues’ original would make for a more pleasant listen.

44: Olly Murs (2012)
‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’

Whoever edited this video and put it on YouTube has put a trouserless Murs sitting on a settee in a less than flattering pose as the visual right at the prime spot (0:32) where the chorus begins.

Make of that what you will.

43: JLS (2011)
‘Do You Feel What I Feel?’

Yes, if what you feel is ominous rumbling courtesy of Bing Crosby rolling in his grave at the mere thought of this mess actually being put out as a single.

Bonus points for whatever that is Aston’s got on his head.

42: McFly (2006)
‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’

This one’s worth a go purely so you can chuckle at how bizarre ’00s fashion truly was.

I’d be properly up for a peak McBusted-style pop-punk-lite assault on ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’, to be fair.

41: David Brent & Foregone Conclusion (2016)
‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’

Sam Smith before Sam Smith was Sam Smith.

And Gervais even had the good grace to stick a guitar in his mix.

40: The Ting Tings (2008)
‘Santa Baby’

In thing things never before sincerely said about this band, this is where it the playlist actually starts to get vaguely enjoyable.

Even if the only reason they get that honour is from sampling all the best bits of the original.

39: chVrches (2013)
‘Stay Another Day’

Lyrically, East 17’s signature ballad is about as traditionally festive as eating so many jacket potatoes that you fall out of and get run over by your Mercedes while trying to throw them up, but there’s no denying its intrinsic connection to the Christmas spirit.

Until CHVRCHES got their mitts on it, that is.

38: Gorgon City (2014)
‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

Most of me really wants to like this: it’s an intriguing arrangement that softens Gorgon City’s regular bombast through one of the most underrated Christmas songs.

But my ears still aren’t quite as convinced.

37: Jason Mraz (2008)
‘Winter Wonderland’

Remember Jason Mraz, the punchline of the only funny joke in Family Guy history?

Yeah, I’d completely forgotten too. I’ve listened to this cover half a dozen times already and I’m still no more certain what it’s meant to actually make me feel.

36: Olly Murs (2016)
‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

Thoroughly enjoyable: trying to have a listen to this but being forced by YouTube to sit through a non-skippable 20-second Asda promo featuring the far superior Darlene Love original.

It’s the best of Murs’ assorted turns of this nature, if that means anything?

35: Bastille (2016)
‘Oh Holy Night’

I’ve never seen anyone look quite so forlorn with that much tinsel around them. Someone grab Dan an IV of generic house-based chart-friendly production, stat!

Thankfully the harmonies and piano partnership help the final package sound a bit more lively.

34: James Arthur (2017)
‘Silent Night’

I’ve neither ever seen nor heard a valid reason to give James Arthur and his music the time of day, but there’s quite a bit of his ‘Silent Night’ that I don’t loathe.

My favourite bit is when all three vocalists choose to come in at different points right at the start. It really sets the tone.

33: Louisa Johnson (2016)
‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

That someone who’s emerged from the smouldering rubble that is post-Little Mix X Factor has even made as far as the Live Lounge is certainly something to applaud Louisa for.

Sadly, this largely elusive Mariah rendition is a fair microcosm of the story so far, with a rather pleasant backing slowly strangling her vocal performance as it goes on.

Here’s a snippet in a Coke ad, because of course.

32: Shivum Sharma (2014)
‘White Christmas’

Sharma may well be the most obscure name here – best known for featuring on a divine 2016 Icarus track by the name of ‘They Are Not Like You’ – but his Piano Session doesn’t justify that, with a pleasant combination of traditionality and vocal flair.

31: THe Wombats (2008)
‘Frosty The Snowman’

Last week I found myself with The Wombats’ latest album for company and thoroughly enjoying it despite its childlike novelty.

It helps that ‘Frosty’ sounds like a song they wrote in the first place, but vintage Murphy and co. seem right at home here.

30: Glass Animals (2016)
‘Winter Wonderland’

Anyone who switches up lyrics to make them about pretending a snowman is Huw Stephens is alright in my book, and Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley designs his ‘Winter Wonderland’ through delightful hushed tones.

29: The xx (2012)
‘Last Christmas’

After that Murs dirge earlier, The xx gain the honour of finally welcome us to this ripe middle ground of palatable Whamathons.

It’s not that they’ve done anything bad, per se – Jamie gets things going in the second verse, and Oliver always sounds superb when dealing with hooks like this – but this morose Coexist-era take doesn’t quite settle as nicely as it might have done another day.

28: Ben Howard (2011)
‘Silent Night’

Controversial opinion: Ben Howard’s oft-heralded ‘Call Me Maybe’ Live Lounge is NOT GOOD.

This one sees him go for the same sort of deconstruct-its-very-nature-and-just-do-some-arbitrary-soft-folk-stuff style, but at least this one makes a bit of sense and doesn’t drag CRJ down with it.

27: Florence & The Machine & Billy Bragg (2009)
‘Fairytale Of New York’

Every ‘Fairytale’ cover seems to touch on just one particular note of the original, and this time it’s Florence and Billy going for the apathetic duet dynamic.

With harps!

26: The Saturdays (2009)
‘Winter Wonderland’

The Saturdays never got a fair shake and continue to deserve better than a few R&B EPs that nobody’s ever heard, Radio 1 weekend breakfast with Matt Edmondson, occasional This Morning cover duty, some Channel 5 thing called Celeb Trolls: We're Coming To Get You, and country music.

Fight me.

25: Snow Patrol (2004)
‘Just Like Christmas’

I have a peculiarly vivid recollection of one morning in 2010-ish when Fearne had a snow-based feature on the show that basically gave her an excuse to play Miike Snow and Snow Patrol records to tie in with the weather. She didn’t play this.

However, their inevitable festive Live Lounge claims the honour of taking on the only song here I’d never heard in its original form. It’s a good one!

(Before you ask, it’s by Low.)

24: Slaves (2015)
‘Last Christmas’

The sheer madness that is Tunbridge Wells’ finest going all-out in their anarchic style on Wham! sounds just like it could a recipe for the Live Lounge (turkey) crown.

That said, I can also see this being a fine way to induce a few too many distressed calls to Ofcom.

23: Maverick Sabre (2011)
‘Fairytale Of New York’

It takes a brave man to tackle both sides of ‘Fairytale’ alone, but given how 2011 seems to have been the year of Maverick Sabre setting up shop on Moyles’ studio sofa to cover classics on demand, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Channelling his Wexford side with great aplomb, this stripped-back acoustic treatment might not necessarily be the most adventurous take on The Pogues in Live Lounge history, but I swear that man could make even my words here sound like some wondrously profound call-to-arms.

22: Robyn (2018)
‘Last Christmas’

Here’s another case where we can desperately pine for what could have been. Don’t get me wrong: Robyn is impeccable, and ‘Last Christmas’ spun with this level of anguish sounds tremendous, but just imagine what a synthpop sadbanger this could have been.

21: Hozier (2015)
‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’

The subtle hints of melodic gloom and doom of ‘God Rest Ye’ has intrigued me as long as I’ve been familiar with it, and there’s nobody better than Hozier to whisk that into a full-blown eerie affair with an arrangement of pure gold.

20: Rita Ora (2017)
‘Last Christmas’

It’s like all of Rita’s songs ever, except it actually sounds alright.

Although there is a good chance I’m only thinking that because of the way she adds in her own iconic flair:

“I hope you all have an amazing meal this year
and all my vegans: 'appy vegan Christmas.”

19: Tinie Tempah, Angel, Wretch 32, Devlin, Twin B & One Pound Fish Man (2012)
‘Christmas In Hollis’

This one cheats slightly, with 1Xtra’s Twin B joining a series of guests in re-imagining Run-DMC’s classic and then mashing it all up later, but COME ON LADIES COME ON LADIES ONE POUND FISH.


18: Rag'n'Bone Man (2017)
‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’

If this was a prize based solely on how festively the artists decked themselves for their performance, Rag'n'Bone Man would take this hands down. He’s a bit of beard bleach away from going full-on Father Ragmas.

But no, we have to take the song into account too. Soz, mate.

17: Florence & The Machine (2010?)
‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Girl With One Eye’

This is an unusual one, allegedly from a Radio 1 Christmas Party and meshing a little bit of Mariah with a lot of her own Lungs cut ‘Girl With One Eye’. The result – while compelling – isn’t that festive at all, but perhaps finest is the debate that rumbles in the comments:

“Why the hell can't a beautiful thing like Florence sing a song without a single prick saying that she is satin worshiper or something? That's just fucked up.”

16: The Ting Tings (2008)
‘Shut Up And Let It Snow’

Confession time: I decided the order and formatted this post last night and the only thing stopping me from shoving this way up to the top on second listen is that I ate far too much roast lamb this afternoon to go faffing around with layouts at this time of the day.

This is INCREDIBLE. I demand a studio version.

And a video where they throw snowballs at Chris Moyles' head.

15: Coldplay (2000)
‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’

For the oldest song on this list we have to go back all the way to the Whiley era and a gorgeous session that formed the backbone of a 1,000-copy EP called Mince Spies.

Anyone who says they hate Coldplay is a liar.

14: Lucy Rose & Rae Morris (2015)
‘Merry Christmas Everyone’

Winning the Piano Session class of this contest is a brilliant version of Shakin’ Stevens, but this certainly isn’t the last you’ll see of either of these two on this list.

13: Paolo Nutini (2006)
‘Silent Night’

I have no clue whether this version is indeed Nutini’s 2006 Live Lounge performance, but it’s so gorgeously rich and charming that I don’t even care where it came from.

If anyone would like to join me in running a petition to officially declare 2019 the year of Paolo Nutini, you know where to find me.

12: Biffy Clyro (2012)
‘Merry Xmas Everybody’

Is Noddy Holder really that intimidating? I only ask because it seems only thunderous tattooed Scottish rock trio Biffy Clyro has ever dared attempt a Slade cover around these parts, and it’s really comes together as a thoroughly enjoyable and whimsical oddity – featuring a chorus of Rizzle Kicks, Jake Humphrey, and Gok Wan.

We need more of this sort of thing.

11: Florence & The Machine (2009)
‘Last Christmas’

Florence just misses out on a spot in the top 10 because her Wham! plan forgot to play on the whole Christmas side of things. As lovely as harps and gutwrenching emotion are, if you want to play for the big prizes then you really need a few absurd sleigh bells. Apols.

10: Rizzle Kicks (2011)
‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’

Last time I was reminded that Rizzle Kicks had ever been a thing was when Jordan solved Brexit from his bath two weeks ago.

You’re welcome.

9: Lucy Rose (2012)
‘Merry Christmas Everyone’

Your eyes do not deceive you – Lucy’s done it again! Her solo take on ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ edges the more recent version thanks to its rich acoustic guitar bed, a key change with bonus sleigh bells, and the sweet sound of Huw Stephens covering daytime.

8: Stormzy (2015)
‘Xmas Shut Up’

“I didn't fart, that was my reindeer.”

Glasto's going to be a piece of cake.

7: Clean Bandit (2018)
‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

Ever listened to Mariah’s wishlist and thought it was just missing a bearded bloke with a massive saxophone, an oddball reggae lilt after some Ace Of Base gets massaged in for little discernible reason, and Grace Chatto with a keytar?

Me neither, until this very moment.

6: London Grammar (2017)
‘White Christmas’


That’s all my notes on this track said, and I stand by them.

5: The Maccabees (2011)
‘Home Alone Medley’

Although technically a Maida Vale session for Zane Lowe rather than a Live Lounge, The Maccabees easily win the creativity prize for using Macaulay Macauley Culkin Culkin as an excuse to turn ‘Carol Of The Bells’ into a proper indie banger.

I’d ask for more of this sort of thing, but last week 60% of the band reunited to soundtrack a cricketer shredding Russian visas for a podcast, so I’m not sure how much further they can go.

4: Rae Morris (2014)
‘Stay Another Day’

This may be getting some subconscious bonus points because a couple of weeks back I saw Rae Morris and many, many friends play live and have been completely obsessed with Someone Out There since, but this is superb. Rae gives an underrated and bloody heartbreaking festive banger the love it deserves, with slithering percussion that really fits her style giving it more tension, and a dash of ‘Silent Night’ ices the cake.

3: Bombay Bicycle Club (2014)
‘In The Bleak Midwinter’

Once I’d gathered all the tracks together, this was the first to play and it was all too tempting to just give the prize there and then.

The band I miss more than any other in this world giving a divine performance of my favourite wintertime song with a sumptuous dose of xylophone, cornet, and saxophone to complete the puzzle? It’d take a very special effort to top that.

2: Daniel Merriweather & Mark Ronson (2008)
‘Wonderful Christmastime’

Joy to the world, the Ronson’s come.

After he stumbles in a few beats prematurely, Daniel Merriweather’s incredible voice is a treat across this Paul McCartney cover, and support from proper Version-era Ronson heralds a perfect recreation of the original’s oddly aggressive keyboard parts before exploding into funky, jazzy joy a minute in.

Not convinced? Just wait for the Wiley bit.

1: Plan B (2010)
‘In The Bleak Midwinter’

Ben Drew is no stranger to the Live Lounge. For Radio 1, he’s found opportunity to rework artists from Cheryl to Portugal. The Man in an apparent effort to prove no genre is safe from his vintage-rooted rap/soul fusions. But nothing quite prepares you for this.

His ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ lives on through a time capsule of the Live Lounge at its ramshackle basics. Tinsel is wrapped shoddily around mic stands. It’s clear that the performance space is just an offshoot of Jo Whiley’s desk. This particular potato-shot video crops things perfectly so your lead-in to the session is Ben saying he needs to cough and Jo giving him the seal of approval. If you look carefully, you can just about watch his transformation from pasty white bloke to the hue of a baked bean.

That’s because Drew – at least in the Strickland Banks era – would stop at nothing on his way to making everything he did a rollocking display of organic funk and fierce soul. Whichever way (Darke or Holst) you prefer it, ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ is a delicate carol born from the Victorian poetry of Christina Rossetti. Typically, it’s about as far from a tambourine-backed lesson in rhythm and blues as you could possibly imagine. Yet, Drew never overcomplicates things and serves exactly that in every department, propelling things forward from your typical acoustic opening into a quite riotous affair, flying through lines deliberating gifts for the baby Jesus and shoutouts to the adoring ox, ass, and camel with outrageous joy.

In other words, it’s all I ever wanted.

Merry JaNEWary! Here’s a Bop 40 from the very best new music names of 2019

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The Christmas Bop 40

The Christmas Bop 40