So you know when you go home for the holidays, and your mom puts on the same Christmas playlist she’s had on lock for the past three decades (with nary a modern Christmas hit to be found), and you’ve basically heard every single song about 10,000 times? Well, this is not that list, lol. Don’t fight us on it: Some of the best, most upbeat modern Christmas music of all time has been recorded in the last three decades—or even less, tbh. Please, come along with us and let us shock/awe/delight you with some new holiday faves.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyways: Of course, there are some classic songs on here too. There’s no question about it—the classics make the holiday what they are. (Number one is probably the most classic of them all! It’ll get stuck in your head for weeks!) But you’ll be surprised by how many modern artists sat down with a glass of eggnog one year and thought, Wow, I love the holidays. I should really record a Christmas song myself. And then a ~surprising~ amount of them have been absolute bangers.
So this is our (biased, totally individual) list of Christmas faves, old and new. You may not have heard of every single one of these—a bunch of them are underrated hits—but it gives the *classic holiday playlist* a much-needed update. Try putting this on and seeing what your mom thinks. I bet she’ll like some of ’em!!
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,” by Mariah Carey
The gold standard of Christmas songs, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” is capable of putting you in the holiday mood within the first five seconds of listening. You could hear this in the middle of July and not even get mad about it.
2. “Like It’s Christmas,” by 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,” by 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,” by the Waitresses
The timeless tale of a meet-cute in the checkout line.
5. “A Hand for Mrs. Claus,” by Idina Menzel feat. Ariana Grande
An anthem for Mrs. Claus sung by two angels, what else could you want?
6. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,” by 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,” by Justin Bieber feat. Busta Rhymes
Sorry to 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. “Last Christmas,” by Carly Rae Jepsen
The original Wham! version is great too, but it’s just so hard to resist that sax.
9. “All I Want (for Christmas),” by Liam Payne
An angelic ballad about making things work through the holidays.
10. “What Christmas Means to Me,” by Stevie Wonder
Two and a half minutes of pure holiday joy.
11. “8 Days of Christmas,” by 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.”
12. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ronettes
Ronnie Spector’s New Yawk accent makes the word “frosty” sound a hundred times cooler.
13. “Santa Tell Me,” by Ariana Grande
Ariana asks Santa for something that really matters: an opinion on whether or not a man is worth her time.
14. “Silent Night,” by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
The late Sharon Jones adds soul and swing to a ubiquitous standard.
15. “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” by Perry Como
I literally can’t imagine Christmas without this song.
16. “My Only Wish (This Year),” by Britney Spears
It is a travesty that the world has never gotten a full Britney Christmas album. (There’s still time, Britney!)
17. “Sleigh Ride,” by TLC
Only TLC could make a sleigh ride in the freezing cold sound sexy.
18. “Jingle Dem Bells,” by RuPaul feat. Big Freedia and Ellis Miah
If only bounce had existed when James Lord Pierpont wrote the original “Jingle Bells.”
19. “Christmastime Is Here,” by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Guaranteed to fill humans of all ages with uncontrollable nostalgia.
20. “Everybody Knows the Claus,” by Hanson
Snowed In was good, okay? Don’t fight it.
21. “Santa Baby,” by Eartha Kitt
What’s the point of Santa if he can’t bring you something extravagant?
22. “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” by 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.”
23. “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run-DMC
One of those times you can say “iconic” and mean it.
24. “Hard Candy Christmas,” by Dolly Parton
There’s nothing like a weepy country song to put you in the mood for hanging out with your family.
25. “I’m the Grinch,” by Tyler, the Creator
A family-friendly Christmas song in Tyler’s signature style. This is what dreams are made of.
26. “The Christmas Song,” by Ella Fitzgerald
You don’t even care that you’ve heard this song a thousand times when Ella Fitzgerald sings it.
27. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” by 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.
28. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” by Cat Power
A gorgeous, understated interpretation of a holiday radio staple.
29. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” by Brenda Lee
It’s really the only way to behave around a Christmas tree.
30. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” by the Jackson 5
The jazz hands throw themselves in the air.
31. “Kiss,” by 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.
32. “Scrooge,” by 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.
33. “Break Up Holiday,” by Dude York
Christmas is all fun and games till you have to see your ex at a holiday party.
34. “Joy to the World,” by Earth, Wind & Fire
The most dance-inducing version of this song ever recorded.
35. “Bring Me Love,” by John Legend
TBH, John Legend’s entire Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas, should be on here.
36. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” by Bruce Springsteen
Aka, seven minutes of uninterrupted holiday fun from your dad’s favorite musician of all time.
37. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” by the Temptations
Do you remember the order of the reindeer? Let the Motown group take you way back.
38. “Just Ain’t Christmas,” by Ne-Yo
How is Ne-Yo going to make a Christmas breakup song sound so smooth? Ugh.
39. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” by Jessica Simpson
So, uh…did Daddy ever find out that Mommy was an adulterer, or?
40. “Jingle Bell Rock,” by Daryl Hall and John Oates
You know and love the original version of this song from Mean Girls, but try this ’80s version on for size. You won’t be sorry.
41. “Run Rudolph Run,” by Chuck Berry
Excuse me, the father of rock ’n’ roll would like to stop being excluded from the Christmas conversation.
42. “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out,” by Fall Out Boy
Am I gonna be placed on the naughty list for imagining Pete Wentz in a Santa suit? Asking for…a friend.
43. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” by Michael Bublé
Can we agree that Michael Bublé is, like…the modern king of Christmas? Legit every song on his Xmas album is just *chef’s kiss*.
44. “Won’t Be Home for Christmas,” by Blink-182
Christmas…but make it pop-punk.
45. “Christmas Tree Farm,” by Taylor Swift
Sorrynotsorry, but this track is infinitely better than her version of “Last Christmas.”
46. “Happy Holiday,” by Peggy Lee
As a native New Yorker, I can 100 percent say that I heard this more times than I’d care to admit while working at Macy’s 34th Street during the holiday rush. But does it get old? Neverrrrr.
47. “Step Into Christmas,” by Elton John
A criminally underrated Christmas bop, if you ask me! BRB, creating a petition for this Elton classic to be played on alllll the radio stations this year.
48. “Candy Cane Lane,” by Sia
The only thing more perfect than a Sia holiday song is the cute little stop-motion claymation video she has to go with it. I mean, that snowman eating Christmas lawn decorations is just TOO ADORABLE.
49. “Cozy Little Christmas,” by Katy Perry
Legit cannot believe that we had to wait until 2019 to get an official Christmas song from Katy, but god was it worth the wait.
50. “Wonderful Christmastime,” by Paul McCartney
A local Lite FM classic, this Paul McCartney track is what gets me into the spirit every single year without fail.
51. “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas,” by Carla Thomas
The Queen of Memphis Soul blessed us with this track back in 1963, and TBH…it still slaps all these years later.
52. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day,” by Leona Lewis
When she isn’t “bleeding love,” Leona Lewis is wishing it’s Christmas every day. Get it? (Please laugh.)
53. “Let It Snow,” by Boyz II Men feat. Brian McKnight
If this isn’t on repeat during your holiday szn, what are you actually doing, friend??? I don’t look forward to Christmas—I look forward to a time of year when it is socially acceptable to blast “Let It Snow” at any and all times. Trust me, your holidays will be waaay more soulful and silky with this one on the playlist.
54. “Joy to the World,” by Whitney Houston (The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack)
Let queen Whitney Take! You! To! Church! with this Christmas classic. The Georgia Mass Choir backs her up, and it’s truly the most heavenly experience. Oh, and if you haven’t seen The Preacher’s Wife, fix it. Quickly.
55. “Underneath the Tree,” by Kelly Clarkson
The OG American Idol star made her mark on the modern Christmas music scene with this absolute banger. It just makes you feel so good and cozy, ugh. Where’s my cocoa and Hallmark movie???
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