By CARA COOPER
I’m going to start this out by stating the obvious – 98 percent of all Christmas songs suck.
That’s not a hot take, it’s the truth. The radio stations play the same 10 songs over, and over, and over, and over again to the point where you start wanting to ask Santa for a lobotomy.
And they’re not even good songs to begin with. There’s a reason middle school choirs can pick them up so easily. The musicality is subpar, the lyrics are cheesy, and not even fun cheesy. It’s all just bad. Just really bad. “Christmas Shoes” came on while I was in WalMart the other day and I just left. Quit shopping and walked out the door. I don’t need my holiday spirit ruined with that crap.
And “Baby It’s Cold Outside”? There’ve been enough think pieces written about everything problematic there. “Santa Baby”? Are you kidding? Change the lyrics to “Santa Baby, keep the ring, bring me a 401K and some Apple stock.” Did you know “Wonderful Christmastime” was written by Paul McCartney while he was sitting on the toilet? Google it. And don’t even get me started on “The Christmas Song.” Who died and decided THAT is THE Christmas song? I feel like there should have been a public vote.
I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. It’s my favorite. My birthday is the day after Christmas. I LIVE for this time of year. But I can only listen to handmade playlists of Christmas music because five minutes of holiday radio has me begging for New Year’s Eve.
There are exactly 13 good Christmas songs. That’s it. Sure, there are other Christmas songs that are listenable, but let’s be honest, very, very few are actually good. This is a definitive, complete list of them. You’re welcome.
(PS – Every Christmas song ever written has been covered approximately 8.5 million times, but just assume the versions listed here are the only good versions unless otherwise noted.)
(PSS – there’s a Spotify playlist at the bottom so you can skip the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and get through the holidays with your eardrums intact.)
LeAnn Rimes – All I Want For Christmas Is You
Look, I know Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a classic, and it’s… fine. I don’t hate it. It’s a fun party song. But in the battle of the songs with the same name, LeAnn Rimes’ AIWFCIY is far superior. It’s not as overplayed and you don’t have to hear people try to butcher high notes they’re definitely not equipped to hit. Plus, if we’re being honest, LeAnn Rimes’s song is super jazzy and cool and much more fun to sing.
Wham – Last Christmas
I love this song, and not just because the girl broke up with the guy on my birthday which cracks me up. “Last Christmas” is the one song where someone puts the radio on a Christmas station and it’s just kind of playing in the background and people aren’t paying attention, but your ears perk up as soon as this comes on.
By the way, yes this is a definitive list but I feel I really need to emphasize WHAM’S IS THE ONLY GOOD VERSION OF “LAST CHRISTMAS.” Period. End of discussion. If you try to tell me Taylor Swift’s is better so help me…
This Christmas – Chris Brown
Does Chris Brown suck as a person? One hundred percent. But did he do the best rendition of “This Christmas”? Also 100 percent. Everyone and their brother has done this song, but Chris Brown’s voice just glides here.
And if you’re like me and don’t like giving Chris Brown clicks or listens, just do what I do and illegally download the song off YouTube.
Two Step Round the Christmas Tree – Suzy Bogguss
I just discovered this song a few years ago when my local country station randomly played it, but now I get so excited whenever it comes on. It’s that rare Christmas song where you can picture it playing while someone’s grandma is flat-footing in the living room in front of the fire, or see it playing in a dive bar where people exchange gifts of Skoal cans and play pool with Christmas ornaments. I love this song so much. It puts a smile on my face every time.
Same Auld Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg
I have no idea why this is a Christmas song. Well, I guess technically it’s a New Year’s song. Other than having the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” playing at the end though, I still don’t know why. But I do know that it’s incredible and beautiful and sometimes makes me cry.
Someday at Christmas – Stevie Wonder
Of all the woke Christmas songs, this is the only good one.
Deck Da Club – Ying Yang Twins
If you don’t know why this song is on the list you’ve obviously never heard it.
Michael W. Smith – Jingle Bells
This is a really good and fun twist on “Jingle Bells,” which isn’t easy because “Jingle Bells” is literally just three notes over and over again.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday – NSYNC
I fully believe this song will very soon join the ranks of Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” as “songs that were once good and fun but are now super annoying.” Meaning, we only have a few more years to enjoy this boy band classic so let’s cherish it and not drive it into the ground any sooner than necessary, k?
Santa Claus Lane – Hilary Duff
If we’re going back to cheesy early-2000s bubblegum pop you definitely first heard on Disney Channel, then we have to mention this Hilary Duff classic. Hilary also did the really cool thing on her Christmas album where she did some originals on top of the ole’ Christmas faithfuls. We didn’t appreciate Ms. Duff enough when she was a thing.
If you want some amazing Y2K nostalgia, just listen to her Christmas album. She has a song, “Tell Me a Story,” with Lil Romeo that will make you pine for the good ole days of drawing Mickey ears with a fake light saber while practicing “You’re watching Disney Channel” in front of the mirror.
What was I talking about? Oh right. “Santa Claus Lane” is a banger.
My Only Wish – Britney Spears
I was reading the Wikipedia page for this song, and apparently it has been featured on eight Christmas compilation albums. And yet you never hear it! It’s far and away the best original pop Christmas song of the 2000s. It should be playing once an hour on every Christmas station. I’m going to take over radio and replace 1/3 of the plays of “White Christmas” and “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” with Britney and save the world.
Baby Please Come Home – Mariah Carey
Mariah gets mentioned every Christmas because she’s always on some special trying her best to sing “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but if we’re being honest, “Baby Please Come Home” is better. This is another that everyone has done, but Mariah’s is probably the best.
But if you’re over Mariah, Hanson also had a great version of this song, and had another Christmas album that shouldn’t be missed (also just realizing all those early-2000s pop groups all had to cash in on that sweet, sweet Christmas revenue. No shame in that game.)
Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
I’ll be honest, I’m only putting this song on the list because it reminds me of when I was a little kid and would hear it in the grocery store and shake my little booty and get laughed at by the bakery employees.
- Step Into Christmas – Elton John
- Christmas Don’t Be Late – Alvin and the Chipmunks
- I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Not Shirley Temple, apparently (I feel lied to)
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jackson 5
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Jackson 5
- Merry Christmas Darling – The Carpenters
- Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding (Or Hanson!)
- What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder
AND NOTHING BY JOHN LENNON OR THE CAST OF GLEE! Good night!