Your Ultimate Guide to Christmas Music: Past, Present, Original, Covers, and So Much More
Happy December! Let's face it, you probably started blasting Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" the second you finished Thanksgiving dinner. You might have even already curated the perfect holiday playlist to blast for the next few weeks. We trust your judgement, but just in case, we've put together a comprehensive guide to all kinds of Christmas music you won't want to miss.
Reinventing the Classics: Your Favorite Songs With a Little Spin
1. "White Christmas" -- Made famous as a cover by Bing Crosby in 1942 (fun fact: his version is the world's best-selling single), this is the quintessential Christmas track, immediately recognizable by twinkling strings and Bing's slow drawl. Here are a few other versions you might like too:
by George Ezra: On his version, English singer-songwriter George Ezra offers a smooth, deep vocal delivery crawling among peppy horns.
by Lauren Daigle: Grammy nominated artist Lauren Daigle's version is a slick, slow jazzy number combining cool vocals with a woozy instrumental breakdown.
by Lewis & Leigh: On their version, Americana duo Lewis & Leigh slow it down with minimalist tropical strumming and breathy harmony.
2. "All I Want For Christmas Is You" -- Mariah Carey's 1994 Christmas car ride singalong always gets a crowd moving with a jingling background and incomprehensible high notes, but other brave souls have successfully tackled the tune as well:
by Dave Barnes: Nashville singer-songwriter Dave Barnes' version combines his low tones with an upbeat, danceable arrangement and a distant choir.
by Albin Lee Meldau: The Swedish artist's version takes a classic approach, blending elegant swells of strings with a deep soulful voice for an intense performance.
by MAX: On his version, genre-defying power artist MAX offers stripped-down acoustics where his versatile voice takes center stage.
3. "Santa Baby" -- We're no stranger to Eartha Kitt's sultry purr and even Kylie Minogue's doowop singalong, but just wait until you hear what other artists have done with this classic song:
by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: The Denver-based folk-rock outfit's version offers a light piano rhythm, steady percussion, and a folksy drawl.
by Wolf Alice: For English alt-rock band Wolf Alice's brand new version, airy harmony floats fuzzily above gentle guitar.
by Jhene Aiko & B2K: On their version, R&B songstress teamed up with boy band B2K when she was just 14 years old for a cute, upbeat R&B tune.
4. "Silent Night" -- One of the most popular Christmas carols of all time, its dreamy quietude and twinkling notes are a staple of the holiday tradition. Here are a few special variants:
by Sugar & The Hi Lows: Vintage duo Sugar & The Hi Lows' version reimagines the classic as an echoing, retro bop with even harmony.
by Dru Hill: 90s R&B group Dru Hill's version, released this year, offers a gorgeous arrangement and soulful vocal delivery.
by Priscilla Ahn: On her version, folk singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn shows off stunning multi-part harmonies, using her voice as the track's only instrument.
5. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" -- The ultimate holiday duet, we can't help but sing both parts, though we know a bunch of duos who do it better than we ever could:
by Haley Reinhart & Casey Abrams: The American Idol alums' version is chockful of sultry, soulful moments courtesy of two distinct voices melding perfectly.
by Jimmy Buffett & Nadirah Shakoor: The version of island escapist Jimmy Buffett and powerhouse songstress Nadirah Shakoor sounds like a tropical paradise.
by Lyle Lovett & Kat Edmonson: On their version, folk legend Lovett and Brooklyn singer Edmonson team up for a country croon and vintage drawl.
Original Holiday Songs to Swoon Over by Genre
Indie: Sure, they usually stick to stunning and simple arrangements led by soft harmony, but these indie groups have also put out some killer Christmas songs.
- "Christmas Is You" by Swear And Shake: A steady piano rhythm merges with simple guitar and a strong vocal performance.
- "Tracks In The Snow" by The Civil Wars: Airy harmony floats above consistent folksy guitar plucks.
- "Christmas Unicorn" by Sufjan Stevens: A 12-minute whimsical and psychedelic holiday epic.
- "Christmas Isn't Safe For Animals" by of Montreal: Brooding and dramatic with quirky songwriting.
- "Donna and Blitzen" by Badly Drawn Boy: Swells of orchestral strings kick it off before smooth upbeat tones come in.
Pop: We already know they've got the radio recipe down pat, but these pop songstresses go above and beyond with their catchy holiday originals.
- "One More Sleep" by Leona Lewis: Sugary sweet holiday anticipation from an English powerhouse.
- "XMas In Bed" by ELIZA: A jingling ode to spending Christmas with a loved one told by candy-coated vocals.
- "Mistletoe" by Lucy Hale: Uptempo country tune of folk instrumentation and impassioned delivery.
- "Santa's Coming For Us" by Sia: High-energy tropical holiday anthem from an inimitable pop songstress.
- "Mistletoe" by Colbie Caillat: Soft and sweet, light bells twinkle past bittersweet vocals.
Singer-Songwriter: Armed with an acoustic guitar and a whole lot of passion, these singer-songwriters blend poignant lyrics with sweet delivery.
- "Please Come Back Home" by Kris Angelis: Shimmers and strings are soft beneath a sweet holiday story.
- "It's Christmas Time" by Chris Trapper: Island instrumentation sets the stage for a tender vocal delivery.
- "Christmas Makes Me Cry" by Kacey Musgraves: A slow-rolling ballad told by country twang and twinkles.
- "Fallin' Like Snow" by Jaymay: Sweet, husky vocals tell a bittersweet story above elegant string arrangements.
- "Bizarre Christmas Incident" by Ben Folds: Layers of jazzy multi-instrumentation join together for a quirky holiday telling.
Rock: Some of our favorite alt-rock outfits have blessed us with seriously repeat-worthy rollicking holiday tracks.
- "A Great Big Sled" by The Killers: An intense explosion of sparkly rock launches this catchy holiday track.
- "I Won't Be Home For Christmas" by blink-182: Wild percussion and resigned vocals make up this angsty anthem.
- "Christmas" by Blues Traveler: Classic slow-jam sing-along from a Jersey jam band.
- "I Hate Christmas Parties" by Relient K: Soft vocals sing melodically above quiet alt-rock rhythms.
- "Drinkin' Rum & Egg Nog" by Angry Snowmans: Thrashing electric rhythms and percussion move beneath drunken vocals.
Rap: Nothing's better than a fuzzy-feeling Christmas rap, courtesy of these smooth wordsmiths and their jangling arrangements.
- "Christmas in Harlem" by Kanye West, CyHi The Prynce, and Teyana Taylor: The most perfect trio with an upbeat sentiment and pretty jingling beats.
- "Comin Home" by Trey Songz: Theatrical in its echoing instrumentation told by smooth R&B vocals.
- "Christmas In Hollis" by Run-D.M.C: A classic rapid rap-along from iconic Queens hip-hop legends.
- "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow: Funky quick-witted delivery and Grandmaster Flash-like beats from a Harlem rapper.
- "XMas Rap" by Treacherous Three: Humorous, clever rap sung among neon rhythms and buzzing percussion.