10 Best Christmas Songs
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — the time when you can hear Christmas music on a seemingly endless loop everywhere you go, whether it’s to the mall for holiday shopping, Starbucks for an iced mocha or simply your car, where the radio’s waiting with holiday jams. Most Christmas music gets old fast — but not the 10 picks on our Best Christmas Songs list.
These days, since the barrage of Xmas tunes starts as early as Thanksgiving, threatening to drive you crazy by the time Dec. 25 rolls around, you’re especially in need of stuff that doesn’t sound like mind-numbing elevator music. There are actually plenty of awesome, totally rockin’ holiday tunes by indie and alt-rock artists, so make a playlist with our 10 Best Christmas Songs and enjoy the season for a change!
“Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance”
Sufjan Stevens‘ 2006 holiday album Songs for Christmas is full of instant yuletide classics, but the best of the bunch may be “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance,” which boasts a seemingly endless string of verses with nearly nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, each followed by this catchy chorus: “Santa Claus is coming / Hear the banjo strumming.” Bizarre, indeed.
“Jingle Bell Rock”
Recorded during a drunken holiday party back in 2001 when pretty much nobody knew of Arcade Fire, the A Very Arcade Xmas EP was never supposed to leave the small circle of friends and family originally given the disc. Of course, when the band hit big a few years later, it was leaked — giving fans a chance to hear such sloppy gems as “The Christmas Song,” “O Holy Night” and the rocking tune that comes in at No. 9 on our list of the Best Christmas Songs, “Jingle Bell Rock.”
“I Feel It in My Bones”
The Killers have a tradition of releasing a different Christmas-themed tune each December — they started in 2006 with “A Great Big Sled,” kicking off a string of holiday tunes to benefit (RED) that were collected on 2016’s Don’t Waste Your Wishes. The naughty, Santa-themed “I Feel It In My Bones” was recorded in 2012.
“Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis”
Even Christmas has a seedy side, which Neko Case delves into with her cover of Tom Waits‘ “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” a bittersweet barroom piano ballad that appeared on his 1978 release Blue Valentine. The lyrics take the form of — you guessed it — a Christmas card sent from a prostitute in the Twin Cities, and Waits often used to perform the tune live as a medley paired with “Silent Night,” the popular Christmas carol.
“Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”
The original version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” which was recorded by Darlene Love for a Phil Spector-produced ’60s Christmas compilation, landed atop Rolling Stone‘s tally of the all-time Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs. U2 laid down their cover in July 1987 during a sound check at a stop on their Joshua Tree tour in Glasgow, Scotland, and the results could easily top a list of the all-time Greatest U2 Christmas Songs.
“The ‘Priest’ They Called Him”
Talk about a heartwarming Christmas tale. Speaking over late Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain‘s feedback-drenched guitar improvisation of ‘Silent Night,’ Beat novelist William S. Burroughs deadpans about an elderly heroin addict called the ‘Priest’ who on Christmas Eve gives his only stash to a young man in the throes of withdrawal.
“I Wish It Was Christmas Today”
The king of downtown New York cool offered fans a one-of-a-kind Christmas gift back in 2009: a cover of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” a tune first performed in a Saturday Night Live skit starring Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan. The Strokes singer, who had recently issued his debut solo CD, Phrazes for the Young, released it as a limited edition seven-inch vinyl single: the perfect stocking stuffer — and a surefire pick for our list of the Best Christmas Songs.
“Little Drummer Boy”
Oddly enough, this live version of the holiday standard was recorded by the Flaming Lips in the middle of the summer of ’93 during an in-store performance in Minneapolis. It turned up on the band’s — deep breath — Due to High Expectations … the Flaming Lips Are Providing Needles for Your Balloons EP. Mellow and meandering, it pairs nicely with a nice strong glass of eggnog.
Florence + the Machine try their hand ’80s British New Wave with their cover of “Last Christmas,” a holiday-themed hit released by Wham! back in 1984. The original sold well over a million copies en route to earning a dubious honor — it became the biggest-selling single in U.K. chart history not to reach the top of the charts.
“All I Want for Christmas”
Mariah Carey‘s festive ditty “All I Want for Christmas” may be the most inescapable holiday tune of the modern era — and thankfully, this Yeah Yeah Yeahs number — tops on our list of the Best Christmas Songs — is not a cover. Instead, it’s a Karen O original offered up over the 2008 holidays to fans who were still patiently awaiting a follow-up to their sophomore disc, 2006’s Show Your Bones.