A Christmas playlist for the festive cook


By Lucy Corry

If you’re the lucky one pulling on an apron to match your Santa hat this Christmas, you’ll probably already know that a bit of musical motivation is key to coping with the culinary marathon ahead.

Loving Senior Couple Wearing Fancy Dress Antlers Dance In Kitchen Whilst Preparing Christmas Dinner

Photo: 123RF

Of course, you could revert to seasonally appropriate tunes – singing along to The Messiah is always good for the soul – but sometimes you need something a bit more uplifting.

I’m as fond of Mariah and George Michael as the next person, but since various Spotify Christmas hits playlists have been on high rotate in my house since December 1, I’m giving myself the gift of a break from all those jingle bells.

Nor am I taking up any offers from others to ‘make a Christmas playlist for you’ – that chores-escaping trick is as old as time, just dressed up in new tech. Instead, here’s what I’m going to listen to during my food preparation vigil. Rest assured that there’s nary a drop of Bublé to be heard.

(Warning: some songs contain strong language)

1. I Am Woman – Emmy Meli

I’m at least 25 years older than Emmy Meli’s target TikTok-loving audience, but I can’t get enough of this song at the moment. If you need a mantra to repeat while stuffing the turkey/stacking the dishwasher/cleaning the fridge, I think the chorus will do nicely: “I am woman/ I am fearless/ I am sexy, I’m divine/ I’m unbeatable, I’m creative/ Honey, you can get in line.”

2. Walk (Back To Your Arms) – Tami Neilson

Wash the stresses of the year right out of your hair with this deliciously retro number from one of the best things to come out of Canada since maple syrup. Tami Neilson wrote this tune with a new baby in her arms – if that’s not a metaphor for the Christmas story and the festive multi-tasking juggle, I don’t know what is.

3. Love Me Tonight (Love, Love, Love) – Fern Kinney

According to Wikipedia, Fern Kinney was a backing vocalist turned housewife when she decided to make a comeback in the dying days of disco. I don’t know about you but this is exactly the kind of narrative I need at this time of year. Poor Fern was a bit late to the party then and her career failed to fire, but this song signals good times (not least thanks to some excellent Nile Rodgers-esque guitar).

4. Paris (Aeroplane Remix) – Friendly Fires

Cleaning the gunge out of the sink? Mopping the floor? Don’t even go there without singing along to this (“one day we’re going to live in Paris, I promise”) very loudly. Friendly Fires are an English indie band who look like the sort of nice boys your mum would like you to bring home for Christmas dinner. They’ve also just told off Boris Johnson for using one of their songs without permission at a Conservative Party do, which makes them all the more lovable.

5. That’s Where The Happy People Go – The Trammps

Our household motto is ‘a little bit of dancing every day’ – in other words, most things can be improved by a bit of a boogie. This 1976 number is nearly eight minutes of unbridled disco joy, mixed with important life lessons that seem just as relevant in the Covid-19 years. It’s a good tune to listen to when you realise people are about to show up and nothing is ready.

6. Let the Sun Shine – Milk & Sugar (Purple Disco Machine Extended Remix)

German house music producers Mike Milk and Steven Sugar (no, those are not their real names) work their infectious dance magic on the iconic Age of Aquarius tune to brilliant effect. Listen to this one when you’re commencing a session of epic potato peeling or doing the last-minute dash to the supermarket.

7. It’s A Good Day (To Fight The System) – Shungzudu

Hopefully you’re doing all this festive prep because you like it, but if you feel trapped by familial and societal expectations/obligations, turn this one up loud and sing along as sweetly as you can. Or, leave the house and all the chores to everyone else while you listen to it on your headphones and plot revenge.

8. Fantastic Man – William Onyeabor

William Onyeabor was a bit of a Renaissance man – a Nigerian business titan who made enough money to indulge his passion for cinema and music-making. This is a synth-heavy, mood-lifting track that’s closely associated with good times in my house (“it reminds me of eating chips when people come over for a drink,” says my daughter).

9. Empire State of Mind – Alicia Keys ft Jay Z

Being in a cramped kitchen in Palmerston North/Ashburton/Tokoroa doesn’t mean you can’t (try to) sing along with Alicia Keys and Jay Z’s anthem to big city living. This is as close as most of us are likely to get to NY for some time, so you may as well embrace it while you wait for the pavlova to cook.

10. Easy – CRO

More German house music (am I becoming a parody of my Gen X self?) – this time featuring an infectious sample of the soul jazz classic ‘Sunny’, which has previously been sung by everyone from Marvin Gaye and Wilson Pickett to Frank Sinatra and Boney M. This one’s a nice little circuit breaker to ease you out of the kitchen and into relaxation mode.

11. Tapu Te Pō (O Holy Night) – Marlon Williams with The Dhungala Children’s Choir and Paul Kelly

Most Christmas carols make me want to weep, but this one is enough to activate full ugly-cry mode. Marlon Williams sings the classic O Holy Night in te reo, accompanied by the sweet-voiced Dhungala Children’s Choir and latter-day Australian saint Paul Kelly. Watch the video to the end to see Kelly with something in his eye. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

12. Amazing Grace – Cat Power

When the day is over, the kids are in bed and you’re reclining on the sofa to the sound of the dishwasher purring (or the even sweeter music of someone else doing the dishes), this is the ideal comedown music – a reminder to be grateful for what you have on all counts.

Lucy’s ‘Tunes for the festive cook’ playlist (these songs and more) can be found on Spotify by clicking here.

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