Guilty pleasures: Music industry insiders reveal their favourite Christmas pop songs

Yes, it has sleigh bells and sentimental lyrics, but festive pop isn't all bad, says Holly Williams.

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Joe McElderry, singer

I'm going to say "When a Child is Born" by Johnny Mathis. I think it's just a really beautiful song and it's quite an epic ballad. You expect [Christmas songs] to be cheerful and happy but it has quite a sad sound – it's a different kind of Christmas song. It's quite a random one for a child to like, but I do remember being a kid and liking it... it was always played in our house, so it brings back childhood memories.

Joe McElderry won 'The X Factor' in 2009; his album 'Classic Christmas' is out now

Shaun Keaveny, radio presenter

It's difficult, isn't it? There's "2,000 Miles" by the Pretenders; Bruce Springsteen's "Ain't Good Enough for You" was my Christmas song of 2010, though it's not really a Christmas song; you could choose virtually anything off the Phil Spector album, A Christmas Gift for You... but if you're really pushing me for my number one Christmas song, then it's 1979, that supergroup Paul McCartney & Wings: it's "Wonderful Christmastime". From those trademark opening squelchy synths, it's altogether good fun. It must have been a hit when I was about seven – for me, it's the sound of Christmas. I've already put it on my smartphone, and pushed my kids around in a pushchair while it emanates from my pocket, just to make everything slightly more Christmassy.

Shaun Keaveny presents BBC 6Music's weekday breakfast show

Danny Wallace, comedian

The first one is Smith and Burrows, "When the Thames Froze", which has only just come out. It's by Andy Burrows from Razorlight and Tom Smith from the Editors – they've got together and done this amazing track, which for me is much better than all the usual songs. Those old songs have got a place in our hearts but they've lost their effect from being in adverts and things. But this is so contemporary, it can evoke proper emotion, and it's a proper song. My other one is Tim Minchin, the [Australian] rock comedy superstar: his song "White Wine in the Sun". It's just like being hit repeatedly in the heart – it's about family, and Christmas, and travel, and tradition, and love. It's just a beautiful song.

Danny Wallace presents the Xfm Breakfast Show

Emmy the Great, singer-songwriter

"2,000 Miles" by the Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde is just a complete hero of mine. I had a Christmas compilation when I was young and it had that on it – and I was like "it doesn't have 'Christmas' in the title, it's not a Christmas song". But it is, and that's why it's brilliant, it just mentions Christmas in passing – but it has that loneliness that you can feel at Christmas... Other people are with their loved ones and if you don't have that, it's extra hard. And, she can sing a Christmas song and make it cool – from my own experience, it's hard to do!

Emmy the Great – real name Emma-Lee Moss – has just released the album 'This is Christmas', recorded with her partner, former Ash frontman Tim Wheeler

Pete Mitchell, radio presenter

The Seventies was a decade of Christmas records, of Slade and Wizzard – there was always a great Christmas record during that period. But the one I've chosen is "Hey America" by James Brown. As well as being a Christmas song, it's political, it was about the war – it was released in 1970. And it's a funk tune; it almost doesn't sound like a Christmas record. For me, the story behind it has become important. I led James Brown on stage for his last ever gigs, and then he died on Christmas day a couple of years ago. And I had to ring Noddy Holder, and tell him his hero had died, on Christmas Day. It's all a bit weird...

Pete Mitchell presents a weekday show on Absolute Radio 60s

Jessica Wright, reality TV star

Funnily enough, I'd say that my favourite Christmas song probably is "Last Christmas" by Wham! – it's a bit of a ballad and it just pulls your heart strings. Recording our own version was amazing, and I sing the whole thing. I also love Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You"; it always turns up on the radio and I've never got sick of it.

Jessica Wright appeared in 'The Only Way is Essex'; the TOWIE Christmas charity single 'Last Christmas' is out now

Mista Jam, DJ

While a lot of Christmas records are indefensible drivel, Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" is possibly good enough to save them all. Even though it pre-dates my existence by a few years, it still sounds fresh today. From those knowingly catchy lyrics to the sparse – almost experimental – production to that funky synth (so funky, even hip-hop legends De La Soul sampled it), this is possibly as perfect as a Christmas song gets.

Mista Jam presents a show on Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra; he will appear at The Warehouse Project's New Year's Eve party in Manchester

Jack Johnson, singer-songwriter

I did a cover on the last holiday album we put out of a song that Stevie Wonder did called "Someday at Christmas". It was fun to record it. I almost don't even want to point people in the direction of the Stevie Wonder original because once you hear that you'll never listen to mine again. To me, it's such a nice, beautiful song, and on that same album there's one called "One Little Christmas Tree", and that one's really great too. Those are probably my two all-time favourite Christmas songs, both from Stevie Wonder.

A new one is the Bahamas track, "Christmas Must Be Tonight". I think I'll listen to that one even when Christmas is over. It has that nice, slow rhythm to it, almost like a Neil Young track.

Jack Johnson features on Brushfire Records' 'This Warm December' Christmas album

Liz Kershaw, radio presenter

I love "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues. On one level it's really happy and sounds all spangly and it warms your cockles – if you're among friends and family it's brilliant – but if you listen to the words on your own it's the most tragically gut-wrenching song ever.

And I really like the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" because it's really girly and it's all about the most important thing at Christmas, which is finding love at the eleventh hour. As you'll know, she just goes out to buy some tinfoil and happens to bump into this bloke she's been eyeing up all year and it all ends happily. So you've got your tinfoil – you're going to get your turkey – and you're going to get your big beefy bloke too!

Liz Kershaw presents a Saturday afternoon radio show on BBC 6Music

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