Band Aid is back. If you loved it before, you’ll love it again. But for those who don’t like it, there are plenty of other charity singles to celebrate Christmas.
“There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas.” Well, perhaps not specifically on 25th December, but it does snow in Africa, particularly in the South. I’m not a big fan of Band Aid, but it carries considerable weight with acts like Paloma Faith, One Direction, and Rita Ora.
Yet it’s unrelentingly depressing and condescending, its lyrics cringe-worthy – or at least, that’s what I think. I can’t be the only one.
“It’s for charity!” Yes, but there are other songs vying for the #1 spot this Christmas that benefit others.
God Only Knows
The BBC’s version of God Only Knows, originally recorded by The Beach Boys, is a who’s who of music, featuring 29 artists plus the BBC Symphony Orchestra. We start off with Martin James, and the ever-Happy Pharrell Williams (sans ridiculous hat and socks), then onto Emili Sandé and Elton John, before glimpsing a bevy of celebs like Kylie Minogue, Brian May, and Baaba Maal. And of course, the song’s writer, Brian Wilson!
It’s a really impressive supergroup, used to promote the launch of BBC Music, but benefits Children in Need. You can buy it as a CD in numerous stores across the UK, but is otherwise available from BlinkBox, Apple, Napster, Amazon, and various other download and streaming services. It’s one everyone could sing along to at a Christmas party. Alternatively, here’s a list of places you can download free Christmas songs legally. And if there aren’t enough for you there, here are ten more sources for a musical Christmas.
The charity has, since its debut in 1980, been hosted by Sir Terry Wogan and this year raised over £32,600,000. But God Only Knows isn’t even its official single…
Wake Me Up
The charity’s had a dubious relationship with music: treading the line between quality songwriting and unadulterated cheesiness. Children in Need include EastEnders’ Patsy Palmer, Sid Owen, and Shane Ritchie; McFly; and the Spice Girls. Things looked up with Peter Kay’s superb Animated All-Star Band, and last year’s How Long Will I Love You by Ellie Goulding (which, although it was played everywhere, only reached #3 in the UK Charts).
And this year, Gareth Malone’s All-Star Choir give us Wake Me Up.
Starring the likes of Jo Brand, Craig Revel Horwood, and John Craven, it’s unlikely, but Malone has pulled it off brilliantly – as he always does. The accompanying two-part documentary on BBCOne was an interesting look into how they managed it, and helped get the single to #1.
It’s not all up-beat pop songs though: Classic FM released Steadfast to aid Make Some Noise, a UK-based charity, set up by Global Radio to help disadvantaged children across the country.
Classic music is underappreciated by many. Classic FM has drafted in heavyweights, Katherine Jenkins, Myleene Klass, SOL3 MIO, and Alfie Boe, to spread the word. Classic music can be cool. Give it a go. It may surprise you.
Steadfast‘s available on iTunes for just 99p!
From classical music to a cute penguin. Oh, there’s plenty of variety at Christmas!
Tom Odell’s version of Real Love (originally by John Lennon) accompanied John Lewis’ Christmas ad. In the past, we’ve had a lovely tale about a snowman going out of his way to get a nice pressie for Mrs. Snowman, a great animation around a festive gathering of animals (most notably a bear and a hare), and “the long wait” a child goes through to give his parents a gift.
This year: Monty the Penguin.
Friendship, love, and the ideals and morals of a child – that’s basically what Christmas is all about. Proceeds from CD sales go to WWF’s Adopt A Penguin programme. Sadly, when the Bristol Zoological Society asked for help with their appeal to aid orphaned penguin chicks in Africa, John Lewis said no. That’s certainly left a sour taste in the mouth.
All Together Now
Can The Justice Collective, rebranded as The Peace Collective, achieve another #1 hit?
Produced by Madness’ Suggs and The Clash’s Mick Jones, All Together Now marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce during the First World War, a time when opposing men stopped fighting each other and instead played football and attended church. They were obviously forced back into the bloodshed the following day, but it’s an incredibly beautiful and moving true story.
All Together Now is sung by children from the Premier League and German Bundesliga, as well as celebrities like The Proclaimers, Engelbert Humperdinck, and original artists, The Farm. The fact that it’s been released so close to Christmas may mean it’s unfairly ignored, but at £1.99 for either a CD or download, plus a special B-side, it’s well worth it.
All profits go to the British Red Cross and the Shorncliffe Trust.
1914 – The Carol of Christmas
— Terry Wogan (@terry_wogan) December 12, 2014
Similarly, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund marks the First World War with The Carol of Christmas. It’s a beautiful little number sung by a selection of military voices. And 12-year-old William Inscoe, BBC Radio 2’s Young Chorister of the Year Finalist, is joined by the RAF Spitfire Choir.
Proceeds are split between the RAFBF, The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
It’s written by Chris Eaton who was responsible for the 1990 Cliff Richards hit, Saviour’s Day… Oh, and is supported by Children in Need’s Sir Terry Wogan!
9 x The Killers!
No, this isn’t cheating. Because The Killers have been releasing Christmas singles every year to benefit (RED), helping combat aids in Africa.
They started off with A Great Big Sled in 2006, but their most famous is probably Don’t Shoot Me Santa the following year – mainly as it’s a brilliantly insane single about Santa making an example of someone on the Naughty List.
This was directly followed up by 2012’s I Feel It In My Bones; in between the two came Joseph Better You Than Me (co-starring Elton John and Neil Tennant), the glorious ¡Happy Birthday Guadalupe!, the touching Boots – which we included in a list of great festive videos – and The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball (yes, as unconventional as it sounds). These are all available as single downloads or as an EP.
Christmas in LA (2013) boasted Owen Wilson in its video, while this year’s, Joel The Lump of Coal, premiered on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 1st December. It’s a welcome single from the band, who are currently on hiatus. But of course, they can’t miss Christmas!
Support These Great Causes
Please help out this season. It’s so easy – and you get great songs in return.
If this isn’t your thing, you could donate to any of these charities which give support for low income families struggling to cope with the pressures of Christmas. Or you could donate as a gift. Even taking a minute out of your day can help make the world a better place.
There are plenty of ways to spread Christmas cheer. Personally, I recommend Boots by The Killers, but I guess you could go for Band Aid 30 too. It is for charity, after all.
Now, take to the comments and tell us about your favorite picks of all time.