9 New Christmas Songs to Add to Your Holiday Party Playlist

Culture / Music

By Meghan McKenna

Date November 21, 2018

The season for holiday gatherings has begun. Maybe you’re hosting something at your home, or maybe you’re that person who insists on taking over the aux cord everywhere you go. Either way, it’s important to have a playlist prepared. With Gwen Stefani, John Legend and RuPaul all hopping on the Christmas album gravy train in 2018, there’s plenty of new jams to turn on as the turkey’s cooking. Play Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” between each of the brand new songs listed below, and you’ve got yourself the perfect holiday party playlist.

The Recreated Classics

For when your guests first arrive. You’re setting the mood with something familiar, without looking like you’re trying too hard.

“White Christmas” by Eric Clapton

(Mostly guitars, a few vocals. And a great animated video.)

“What Christmas Means to Me” by John Legend ft. Stevie Wonder

(I assumed this new track was off John Legend’s fifth Christmas album or something. Apparently, his recently released A Legendary Christmas is his first one.)

“Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” by Pentatonix

(You can always count of these guys. Read our interview with the a cappella group, where we touch on their favourite Christmas gifts and who they’d like to meet under the mistletoe.)

The Sad Supper Songs

For when you’re sitting down to stuff your face. Low and slow is the way to go when guests are making small talk between mouthfuls of food.

“Come Out and Play” by Billie Eilish

(The teen queen of melancholy music, Apple Music “Up Next” artist, sings a sprawling holiday ballad for Apple’s new holiday “Share Your Gifts” campaign.)

“Lonely Man of Winter” by Sufjan Stevens

(A Christmas song from the guy who sang your favourite tracks on the Call My By Your Name soundtrack.)

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ingrid Michaelson

(She also does a version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” that will make you want to cry. I didn’t know that was possible!)

The Turn Up Tunes

To cure your food coma, brew a pot of coffee and grab a bottle of Bailey’s — it’s time to party.

“I Am The Grinch” by Tyler the Creator ft. Fletcher Jones

(It’s what “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” sounds like in 2018.)

“You Make it Feel Like Christmas” by Gwen Stefani ft. Blake Sheldon

(Much like the unlikely coupling of Stefani and Sheldon, this is a high-energy holiday pop song is something you never knew you needed.)

“Hey Sis, It’s Christmas” by RuPaul ft. Markaholic

(This is just one song from RuPaul’s Christmas album. So you could also just scrap this list and download that.)

In no particular order, except for number one, which is exactly where it’s supposed to be.

1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey

The gold standard of Christmas songs, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is capable of putting you in a holiday mood within the first five seconds. You could hear this in the middle of July and not even get mad about it.

2. “Like It’s Christmas,” the Jonas Brothers

This song will be your new fave, trust. “You make every day feel like it’s Christmas.” <3

3. “Make It to Christmas,” Alessia Cara

There are so many new songs to add to your holiday playlist this year, and this is one of the great ones!

4. “Christmas Wrapping,” The Waitresses

The timeless tale of a meet-cute in the checkout line.

5. “A Hand for Mrs. Claus,” Idina Menzel feat. Ariana Grande

An anthem for Mrs. Claus sung by two angels, what else could you want?

6. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,” NSYNC

It’s physically impossible not to bob your head to this every time it comes on in a Starbucks in December.

7. “Drummer Boy,” Justin Bieber feat. Busta Rhymes

Sorry, every other person who’s recorded this song, but Justin’s take is far and away the greatest version on offer (and the only one that includes a verse where Busta Rhymes sends holiday wishes to his Twitter followers).

8. “Christmas in Harlem,” Kanye West feat. Cyhi the Prince and Teyana Taylor

A modern classic. In 20 years, your kids will hate it as much as you hate it when your dad puts on “Wonderful Christmastime.”

9. “Last Christmas,” Carly Rae Jepsen

The original Wham! version is great too, but it’s just so hard to resist that sax.

10. “All I Want (for Christmas),” Liam Payne

An angelic ballad about making things work through the holidays.

11. “What Christmas Means to Me,” Stevie Wonder

Two and a half minutes of pure holiday joy.

12. “8 Days of Christmas,” Destiny’s Child

Destiny’s Child’s Christmas album, also titled 8 Days of Christmas, is an underrated gem, but this track stands out for its oh-so-2001 list of Christmas wishes: dirty denim jeans, a diamond belly ring, and “a gift certificate to get my favorite CDs.”

13. “Frosty the Snowman,” The Ronettes

Ronnie Spector’s New Yawk accent makes the word “frosty” sound a hundred times cooler.

14. “Santa Tell Me,” Ariana Grande

Ariana asks Santa for something that really matters: an opinion on whether or not a man is worth her time.

15. “Silent Night,” Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

The late Sharon Jones adds soul and swing to a ubiquitous standard.

16. “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” Perry Como

I literally can’t imagine Christmas without this song.

17. “My Only Wish (This Year),” Britney Spears

It is a travesty that the world has never gotten a full Britney Christmas album. (There’s still time, Britney!)

18. “Here,” Lukas Graham

A beautiful song about the feelings of loss and missing loved ones during the holidays.

19. “Sleigh Ride,” TLC

Only TLC could make a sleigh ride in the freezing cold sound sexy.

20. “Jingle Dem Bells,” RuPaul feat. Big Freedia and Ellis Miah

If only bounce had existed when James Lord Pierpont wrote the original “Jingle Bells.”

21. “Christmastime Is Here,” Vince Guaraldi Trio

Guaranteed to fill humans of all ages with uncontrollable nostalgia.

22. “Everybody Knows the Claus,” Hanson

Snowed In was good, okay? Don’t fight it.

23. “Santa Baby,” Eartha Kitt

What’s the point of Santa if he can’t bring you something extravagant?

24. “Mistletoe,” Ginuwine

Like “Pony” but for the holidays.

25. “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” Julian Casablancas

What started as a joke on Saturday Night Live is now a new classic perfect for those times when you just can’t stand one more round of “Winter Wonderland.”

26. “Pretty Paper,” Willie Nelson

Best consumed while tearing open presents you know your mom spent hours perfecting.

27. “Christmas in Hollis,” Run-D.M.C.

One of those times you can say “iconic” and mean it.

28. “Hard Candy Christmas,” Dolly Parton

There’s nothing like a weepy country song to put you in the mood for hanging out with your family.

29. “I’m the Grinch,” Tyler, the Creator

A family-friendly Christmas song in Tyler’s signature style. This is what dreams are made of.

30. “The Christmas Song,” Ella Fitzgerald

You don’t even care that you’ve heard this song a thousand times when Ella Fitzgerald sings it.

31. “Ribbons and Bows,” Kacey Musgraves

Kacey’s Christmas album came out only two months ago, but this peppy tune does what every good holiday song should do and gets stuck in your head immediately.

32. “O Holy Night,” Mariah Carey

Yes, there are two Mariah Carey songs on this list, but that’s because Mariah Carey excels at Christmas music. In lesser hands, this song is a melodramatic slog, but Mariah and her backup choir make it a truly religious experience.

33. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Darlene Love

A song so emotionally effective that you’ll pine for your baby to come home even if he’s sitting right next to you.

34. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Cat Power

A gorgeous, understated interpretation of a holiday radio staple.

35. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Brenda Lee

It’s really the only way to behave around a Christmas tree.

36. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” the Jackson 5

The jazz hands throw themselves in the air.

37. “Kiss,” Lil Peep

On a first listen, you may not be convinced this is an Xmas song, but let me tell you those jingle bells in the background and the reference to kissing by the tree say otherwise.

38. “Scrooge,” the Muppets

It’s tough to pick just one song from The Muppet Christmas Carol (the greatest Christmas movie of our time, no arguments), but anyone born in the ’80s can tell you this is the one most likely to inspire a drunken sing-along at the annual holiday viewing. Should you get dumped this season, it’ll also double as an excellent breakup song.

39. “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus,” Loretta Lynn

Santa Claus is basically just a home invader who steals food and lets his reindeer poop all over your yard. Loretta Lynn gets it.

40. “Break Up Holiday,” Dude York

Christmas is all fun and games till you have to see your ex at a holiday party.

41. “I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun,” Beach House

It’s only a Christmas song in the sense that the lyrics are about snowflakes and there are jingle bells, but that’s all you really need, right?

42. “This Gift,” 98 Degrees

The gift is sex, right?

43. “Joy to the World,” Earth, Wind & Fire

The most dance-inducing version of this song ever recorded.

44. “Christmas in New York,” Lea Michele

Just one of the many amazing tracks off Lea Michele’s new album Christmas in the City.

45. “Mistletoe,” Justin Bieber

There are too many Bieber Christmas songs, said no one ever.

46. “Bring Me Love,” John Legend

TBH, John Legend’s entire Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas, should be on here.

47. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” Bruce Springsteen

Aka seven minutes of uninterrupted holiday fun from your dad’s favorite musician of all time.

48. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” Alvin and the Chipmunks

Long before NSYNC, there was Alvin and the Chipmunks—the adorable, animated vocal trio who performed under the guidance of their human, Dave, who kept everyone in line.

49. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” The Temptations

Do you remember the order of the reindeer? Let the Motown group take you way back.

50. “Just Ain’t Christmas,” Ne-Yo

How is Ne-Yo going to make a Christmas breakup song sound so smooth? Ugh.

Eliza Thompson senior entertainment editor I’m the senior entertainment editor at, which means my DVR is always 98 percent full. Peggy Truong Entertainment Writer Peggy is’s entertainment writer, specializing in Leonardo DiCaprio, This Is Us, and the royals. Niko Newbould Niko Newbould is an Editorial Intern.


Last updated on May 7th, 2019

It’s getting to that time of year! IT’S CHRISTMAS! (As Noddy Holder would say)

There’s nothing better than the moment it’s socially acceptable to play Christmas songs! They brighten up your day and make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy inside (either with genuine Christmas spirit or with simmering rage in a futile internal rebellion against the festive period). Here in the office, we had a great time picking out these Xmas hits, and it made us feel really festive.

We spent our precious time to put together a playlist that’ll save you hours when trying to plan your Christmas Party music. It includes the best of the best from our favourite bands and a few originals from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. It’ll get you and your colleagues dancing around the office, feeling full of Christmas cheer! These are the classics and the party starters, certain to jingle the bells of Christmas! There’s not a single song here that you shouldn’t already know, and if you find one… you should be ashamed. Christmas is the only time of year we are perfectly happy to listen to the same tired old 80s tunes over and over again. Any other instance, we’d complain constantly! Apart from Africa by Toto, we’ll happily listen to Toto on repeat.

We all love a good moan and groan about Christmas songs on the radio and TV, but we all know how much we love a good sing-song. They’re too catchy and easy to learn to sit with a straight face. How these artists have managed to harness the entirety of Christmas into a three minute song, we don’t know. But we are very impressed and will continue to sing-along as loudly and out of tune as we possibly can!

So enough of our waffle, here it is: The Top 30 Christmas Hits for your Work Christmas Party!

1. All I Want For Christmas is You – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey running around in the snow makes us feel extra Christmassy! We’ve all tried to hit that high note at the end! Maybe it’s best to play this one earlier in the night, you might have a better chance!

2. Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

This is sure to get everyone jumping! The Christmas party essential. IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!

3. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin Stevens

A top tapping festive tune! Perfect for that festive celebration at the end of the year!

4. Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney

Considered one of Paul McCartney’s worst compositions ever, this song is surprisingly over-played every Christmas! But a great one to sing along to, nevertheless.

5. Happy Xmas (War is over) – John Lennon

An legendary Christmas anthem, by former member of The Beatles and The Harlem Community Choir. A real feel good song when everyone’s singing along!

6. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues ft Kirsty MacColl

The one we all mumble along to… because no one knows any of the words! Even though we have heard it every year since 1987…

7. I Wish It Could Christmas Everyday! – Wizzard

The whole office should know the words to this one! If not… they should be ashamed of themselves!

8. Last Christmas – Wham!

A heartfelt classic! No one wants to have their heart broken this Christmas 🙁

9. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

The unforgettable British rock band of the Century released this Christmas hit in 1984, all whilst maintaining their signature sound!

10. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams

You have to bob along to this one! It’s brings a smile to your face without you realising! Spread the Christmas spirit!

11. The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth – David Bowie & Bing Crosby

A collaboration that goes down in Christmas history. The 1977 hit was recorded just 5 weeks before Bing Crosby passed away. A lovely duet to remember two amazing artists.

12. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews

A brilliant cover by our favourite silver fox. Challenge your colleagues to top this duet!

13. Let It Snow! – Dean Martin

A joyful and jolly Christmas number! We feel all warm and cosy listening to this one.

14. Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) – The Darkness

Possibly the most annoying Christmas song… But a Christmas song nevertheless! A bit of a parody Christmas song, but with all the elements of a traditional one, including the school choir!

15. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra

A family favourite, we love the calming voice of Frank Sinatra at Christmas!

16. Sleigh ride – The Ronettes

This Christmas jingle is an old favourite, making the festive period more cheerful and bright!

17. White Christmas – Bing Crosby

A song that all the family loves at Christmas! This 1940’s classic takes us all back to what Christmas is all about.

18. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Mel & Kim

One to get you grooving and moving! A comical take on Brenda Lee’s original, Mel & Kim have a bit of Christmas Party fun… or should I say disaster?

19. Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms

The original of the infamous American Christmas song. Covered by many, but it’ll always be Bobby’s song!

20. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

A naughty Christmas song, of a woman asking for one too many things this Christmas!

21. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Jackson 5

These 5 boys revamped this 1934 Christmas classic, and created a brilliant feel good tune for us all to dance to!

22. Winter Wonderland – Dean Martin

First written in 1934 by Felix Bernard, this vintage style Christmas song really gives you that tingly feeling. You can just imagine yourself walking through the snow in a real life Winter Wonderland!

23. Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid 1984

An emotional but encouraging Christmas tune, sung by some of our old favourites. The first version of the Band Aid hit single! Re-recorded in 1989, 2004 and 2014, but the original will always be the best!

24. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Perry Como ft Fontane Sisters

We certainly cannot help but sway when we hear this melody! A song to get you feeling special and magical during the holidays!

25. Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea

One to play just before you break up for the holidays! A light-hearted and merry addition to any Christmas playlist!

26. Lonely This Christmas – Mud

Glam-rock band Mud released this romantic Elvis Presley style Christmas number one in 1974. We love the matching Christmas suits… take notes for your own Christmas Party!

27. Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard

A song we all wish we didn’t know all the words to! However, a catchy and memorable Christmas must-have.

28. Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer – Destiny’s Child

The easiest way to remember all of the reindeer’s names at Christmas! A jazzy cover of the traditional children’s Christmas carol.

29. I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake

A Christmas song, that was never supposed to be a Christmas song! Written with the intention to protest against the trivial aspects of Christmas, strangely, this song reached number 2 in the UK Christmas Charts!

30. Frosty the Snowman – Gene Autry

Another children’s Christmas carol which was later adapted into a popular Christmas TV special “Frosty the Snowman”.

So, that’s your perfect Christmas playlist for the Work Christmas Party sorted! For added convenience, here’s a handy Spotify playlist for you to enjoy:

If you are interested in hiring a party band for your Christmas get together, be sure to check out our selection of the best Christmas party bands. If you find your perfect band, then just message one of our wonderful elves… I mean advisers!!! We hope you’ve enjoyed getting into the Christmas Spirit with us and hope you had a good sing-a-long in the process!

The Best Holiday Songs for Your Workout Playlist

Loading up your iPod with a new workout playlist? Try some holiday tunes! “Deck the Halls” may not be the first thing you think of when you’re looking for heart-pumping beats, but there are a surprising number of holiday classics that make great workout songs. Check out our favorite picks below and then tell us in the comments: What’s on your workout playlist this month?

1. “All I Want for Christmas is You,” Mariah Carey. While there are multiple versions of this song, Carey’s version is hands down the best. Seriously, no one does it like Mariah Carey. Have you ever really listened to her sing? That’s what a five-octave range sounds like.

2. “Last Christmas,” Cascada. No hard feelings toward Wham!, but the more fast-paced remix of this song by German Eurodance sensation Cascada is perfect for any high-intensity cardio workout. It also doubles as the perfect getting-over-you song for those going through a recent breakup.

3. “Sleigh Ride,” Karmin. YouTube sensation Karmin, consisting of Amy Heidermann and Nick Noonan, got its start in 2010, but hit it big when their single “Brokenhearted” went viral earlier this year. They teamed up with Coach this holiday season to put their own twist on “Sleigh Ride” and showcase some of this season’s hottest looks.

4. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,” *NSYNC. You knew it was coming. No workout playlist is complete without everybody’s favorite ’90s boy band *NSYNC making an appearance.

5. “Carol of the Bells,” Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Although it’s more commonly known as “Carol of the Bells,” it’s technically called “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” because it’s a mash-up of both “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and was supposed to embody “a cello player playing a forgotten Christmas carol in war-torn Sarajevo.”

6. “O Holy Night,” Susan Boyle. Remember Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle? She released this version of “O Holy Night” in 2010, and it is absolutely gorgeous, plus it’s perfect for a cool down or a yoga workout.

  • By Alanna Nuñez

The 50 greatest Christmas songs – ranked!

The First Noel

Tiring of the fact that no one wanted to buy albums of experimental American primitive guitar music, but they bought White Christmas every year, John Fahey recorded an album of Christmas instrumentals. It was, by a margin, his bestselling record. Atypical of his work, but beautiful.

Don’t Believe in Christmas

The Sonics believed some folks liked the taste of straight strychnine, so of course they didn’t believe in Christmas. What happened when they stayed up late to try to catch a glimpse of Santa? “Well, sure enough, don’t ya know / The fat boy didn’t show.” Cheeky so-and-sos.

Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)

Sounding much more like Ash than Emmy the Great – and the loudest, most raucous thing on their 2011 Christmas album – this is a song that sounds joyous, but is really about the desire to escape, to anywhere that isn’t cold. So long as it’s not alone.

Rock’n’Roll Christmas

Rock’n’roll and rockabilly are a treasure trove of Christmas novelty numbers (try Marlene Paula’s I Want To Spend Xmas with Elvis), but we’ve only got room for one. So, given Christmas is all about the kids, bless their souls, let’s have a song by an actual kid who promptly disappeared from the pop world.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town

One imagines this would be the soundtrack to Don Draper’s Christmas – as creamy as eggnog, with a supple swing that’s nagging but not unobtrusive, it’s exactly the sound of an idealised Christmas from the 60s. Rawls made a ton of Christmas albums, but his first from 1967 is the best.

45. Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo & Simon Wright

How would Christmas sound reimagined by Black Sabbath? Almost exactly as you would imagine, to be honest. The most oddly foreboding of all the big Christmas songs suits the grinding and roaring. And it helps, naturally, that it contains a reference to “Satan’s power”.

I Was Born on Christmas Day

From fire and brimstone to prosecco and chocolate, bursting with optimism for the winter: “Getting groovy after Halloween / Mid-November, got back on the scene / I’m so glad that I just got my pay / I was born on Christmas Day!” A song as sweet as a selection box.

Close Your Mouth (It’s Christmas)

Probably the song that goes on in Don Draper’s apartment after Lou Rawls, when the hip young kids have arrived. “Get to know the people in your house,” they sing. “You might like them.” Draper knocks back a whisky, raises an eyebrow and shakes his head.

Anorak Christmas

A gorgeous bauble from the mid-00s wave of Scandinavian music that crossed electropop with the feyest indie. Sally falls in love on a Tuesday before Christmas, “at a gig with a band that we both liked”. But will she end up by herself “or in the perfect kiss”?

Presents for Christmas

The king of rock’n’soul pitches himself somewhere between a revivalist preacher and Santa Claus: “We want to give out a present to everybody this Christmas! All around the world for every man, woman, boy and girl!” he exclaims in the intro. One of the few artists whose spoken sections routinely rival the songs (track down a copy of Soul Alive! if you don’t believe me).

Christmas Song

Blank-faced and affectless, here’s Christmas for the shoegazers from the duo briefly toasted at the start of the last decade. Kevin Shields and David Holmes produced, and you can bet Beach House were listening.

The Man in the Santa Suit

Truthfully, this version is only here because the Fountains of Wayne original – an homage to the Kinks’ Father Christmas – isn’t on Spotify. But what a perfect, sad song: “And he’s a big red cherry / But it’s hard to be merry / When the kids are all laughing / Saying: ‘Hey, it’s Jerry Garcia.’”

Christmas Eve Can Kill You

The Man in the Santa Suit is a laughfest compared to this Everly Brothers number from 1972, about a hitcher alone the night before Christmas. Organ and pedal steel sound like the wind whistling through the trees as our hero trudges on: “The sound of one man walkin’ through the snow can break your heart.”

37. Santo & Johnny

Do we need cheering up? I think we do. Thank goodness, then, for the twangy guitars of Brooklyn duo Santo & Johnny, the gaudy, overlit shop window that contrasts with the stark loneliness of the Everly Brothers.

Christmas in Hollis

Hip-hop hasn’t been a huge source of Christmas songs, but Run-DMC were on top of it back in the first golden age. What would you do if you found Santa’s wallet on Hollis Avenue? It’s a perennial question. Run decides its best to post it back; he is rewarded for his honesty.

35. Shirley & Dolly Collins

Two of the greatest British folk voices combine for a drinking song that, if we’re honest, is unlikely to be ringing out in pubs this Christmas. The asceticism of the British folk tradition can be a useful astringent amid the sleigh bells and tinsel.

34. Tracey Thorn

Originally from Scritti Politti’s sublime 2006 album White Bread, Black Beer and reworked by Thorn on her gorgeous album Tinsel and Lights – which is enough to qualify it as a Christmas song – here is a featherlight breath of winter to freshen your face.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

You can’t really have Christmas without acknowledging that someone significant was born on 25 December – and not just Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne. The queen of gospel wants you to spread the news far and wide, and she imparts her message with due gravitas.

Jesus Christ

Big Star’s Third is the least likely album to contain a Christmas song, but amid the desperation and despair was this huge burst of fervour. Did Alex Chilton mean it? Was it a joke? Its effect is magnified by the music that surrounds it on the rest of the album.

Green Grows the Holly

Gorgeous and stern, and undoubtedly the best adaptation by an Americana band of any poem written by Henry VIII. The horns bloom, like the flowers of the song, turning something indisputably English into a desert lament.

Winter Wonderland

McGriff opens with a squall of organ that doesn’t lead you to believe Christmas is coming anytime soon, then takes Winter Wonderland at such a leisurely pace that it takes a moment to recognise it. (If you like this, try Jimmy Smith’s Christmas ’64 as well.)

Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects

When you live in poverty, certain logistical problems come to mind. Namely, if you’re in a big public housing block, how does Santa get the presents underneath the tree? A fabulous addition to the long line of socially conscious soul and funk Christmas music.

When Was Jesus Born?

We all know the answer, but when it’s posed this beautifully, in such impeccable close harmony, the obviousness of the question can be forgiven. There are many versions of this, but it’s a hard song to do anything but beautifully.

Listen, the Snow Is Falling

Yoko Ono’s is the original version and Galaxie 500’s rendition is more celebrated, but Thea Gilmore gets the perfect ratio of iciness to wonder – it sounds like a Christmas tree, if such a thing were possible. The 2009 album Strange Communion is highly recommended.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Oh, wrap yourself in the blanket of those glorious voices! Motown took Christmas seriously, with the result that you could probably do this list entirely from Motown tracks. This one gets selected because what is really a fairly dismal song is transformed by a perfect arrangement.

25. Clarence Carter

Pure Christmas filth. Back Door Santa can “make all the little girls happy / While the boys are out to play.” But don’t mistake him for Father Christmas: “I ain’t like old Saint Nick / He don’t come but once a year.” I dare you not to dance, though.

24. Ramones

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) is better known as a Ramones Christmas song, but the sublime Danny Says gets the nod, qualifying on the grounds that the desperate, lonely band are stuck on the road deep in winter and “it ain’t Christmas if there ain’t no snow”.

Things Fall Apart

No matter how bad your Christmas is, it’s not as bad as Cristina’s. Mind you, given it’s the early 80s New York art underground, she was probably forbidden from liking something so bourgeois. Even a party can’t cheer her: “I caught a cab back to my flat / And wept a bit and fed the cat.”

22. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell is bereft, too, on this gorgeous piano ballad, when Christmas just makes her mourn her relationship and flee Laurel Canyon for her home in Canada, where there might be a frozen river she could skate away on, away from everything.

The Christmas Song

Completing the mini-run of joyless Christmases, here’s the most joyless of all – when the only way to pay for Christmas is to rob and deal and kill. The climactic “jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way” is not intended as cause for celebration.

Little Drummer Boy

Hans-Peter Lindstrøm takes almost 43 minutes to assemble a Christmas song – from electronic squiggles, through the martial drumbeat, to the melody coming in at eight minutes. It then spends a further 25 minutes warping and mutating, picking up and discarding musical phrases, before exploding orgasmically in its final 10 minutes or so.

Every Day Will Be a Holiday

It doesn’t actually mention Christmas, but gets counted – and not just by me – as a Christmas song because of the little horn lift from Jingle Bells, for it being about being lonely waiting for his baby to come home (presumably for Christmas), and because its B-side was Please Come Home For Christmas. It’s also a fabulous piece of Stax soul.

18. Belle and Sebastian

On the 2000 charity album It’s a Cool Cool Christmas – which was pretty strong – Belle and Sebastian took on the most beautiful of all the Christmas hymns. Something so delicate suited them. Also recommended: El Vez merging Feliz Navidad and Public Image.

Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?

The Staple Singers are worried: too many wars, too much space exploration means people are “searching for light and can’t seem to find the right star”. Jesus isn’t just another baby boy, they warn. So show some respect. Glorious.

Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy

Just listen to the voices: this is Christmas as it must have sounded when it was a religious festival in the depths of winter, rather than an excuse to rack up debt. Make your own fun! Maybe weave an Action Man out of three pieces of straw! And yet it’s so beautiful.

15. Eartha Kitt

We’re into the start of the big songs now, and Eartha Kitt’s contribution is the precise opposite of the Watersons’ vision of Christmas. She wants a sable, a convertible, a yacht, a platinum mine … She wants every sensation. And what’s Jesus got to do with anything?

White Christmas

Who knew the most famous Christmas hit of all could be so emotionally wrought? Where Bing Crosby sounded as if he was fondly pondering his Christmas, Otis sounds like he’s breaking into a sweat trying to will it into existence through sheer force of desire.

13. The Pretenders

Sometimes simple is best: Robbie McIntosh’s guitar playing on the Pretenders’ 1984 hit is a model of folk-rock restraint, taking from the Byrds, and offsetting Chrissie Hynde’s voice and lyric with a sense that everything, somehow, is going to be OK.

12. Bob Seger and the Last Heard

“Santa’s got a brand new bag!” hollers Bob Seger, who was a Detroit R&B shouter years before he became a heartland American beard rocker. Sock It to Me Santa is a fabulous explosion – garage rock and soul brought together into something made for the best bar in the city on Christmas Eve.

Last Christmas

A big Christmas hit that was unlike previous UK seasonal singles – it wasn’t wrapped in sleigh bells, there was nothing consciously novelty about it. Perhaps George Michael had been paying close attention to some of the great US Christmas soul singles, because this was a heartbreak song that just happened to be set in December.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector codified the sound of Christmas: maximal, filled with signifiers of the season (there is nowhere sleigh bells can’t be draped). Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was the standout on a record on which the quality didn’t drop from start to finish.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

Roy Wood’s enduring contribution to the season owed a huge debt to Phil Spector – there’s almost certainly a kitchen sink section at work somewhere in the mix – but it transcends imitation by its sheer verve. It was recorded in summer, with the studio air conditioning turned down to make everyone feel wintry. Attention to detail, right there.

Merry Xmas Everybody

Christmas 1973 brought not just Wizzard but the most enduring of all British Christmas singles. Forty-six years later, people still bellow “It’s CHRISTMAS!” in Noddy Holder’s face, which, apparently, gets a little wearisome. The whole thing was Jim Lea’s mum’s idea – why didn’t Slade have a song they could release every year? She got her wish.

7. Donny Hathaway

It wasn’t a hit at the time, but took off when it was included on a 1991 reissue of the 1968 Atco compilation Soul Christmas. To which you can only say: why did it take the world so long to notice? It’s a Christmas song that stands up regardless of the season. And according to the publishing body Ascap, it’s now the 30th most performed Christmas song of all time in the US.

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

Probably not one to play when you’re unwrapping the presents. A character study that begins grimly, then offers hope, as the narrator says things are getting better – before ripping the rug away without ceremony. Do you want to know the truth of it, she asks: “Charley, hey, I’ll be eligible for parole come Valentine’s day.”

Purple Snowflakes

A song so beautiful it’s almost otherworldly – Marvin Gaye’s flawless falsetto, the unexpected chord changes, the sense of mystery. Yet it’s wrapped up in the most comforting of Christmas imagery – chestnuts roasting, blankets of white – without ever explaining why the snowflakes are purple.

Christmas Wrapping

Like Cristina’s Things Fall Apart, Christmas Wrapping was originally written for the Zé label’s 1981 compilation – the most punching-above-its-weight Christmas comp ever. It’s a fabulous stream of consciousness, during which Patty Donahue talks herself from wanting to miss Christmas to knowing she can’t miss Christmas, that bursts into joy at its horn refrain.

Just Like Christmas

Low’s 1999 Christmas EP – released as a “gift” to fans – was one of the most unexpected seasonal delights: ascetic indie band embracing the season without irony. Its lead track was a joy, the discomfort of touring reminding them of when they were young, and it feeling just like Christmas. Just two verses, and a repeated refrain – perfect.

Fairytale of New York

There’s almost nothing left to be said about Fairytale of New York, a song that has been impossible to avoid for more than 30 years. Such is the strength of the songwriting and the grace of the performance that, despite the overexposure, it feels fresh every single time. That a scrappy folk-punk band produced something that will endure as long as Christmas itself is a real Christmas miracle.

All I Want for Christmas Is You

The best Christmas songs should only work at Christmas. They should make you feel festive, in the same way that the 174th repeat of The Snowman does. They should work anywhere – in shopping centres, in bars, pumping out of PAs in gig venues after the band has gone off, on the radio in a cafe, in your home or on your headphones. All I Want for Christmas Is You is all of those things. It’s a shameless pastiche of Phil Spector that’s so brazen and joyful and simple – it took Carey and Walter Afanasieff only 15 minutes to write – that it transcends its lack of originality. It’s the rare modern Christmas song that has become a standard, and deservedly so.

Fast paced christmas songs

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