30 Best Christmas Songs – Best Christmas Music of All Time
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Now that Thanksgiving is here, it’s time for public spaces all over the country to flip their stereos to a holiday-centric playlist. While the saccharine quotient of some songs can be off the charts, these tracks are worth pausing your routine and indulging in some Yuletide cheer.
Louis Armstrong — “Cool Yule”
This Steve Allen-penned Christmas track has gotten a lot of play over the years, bur Satchmo’s inaugural version still stands above the rest.
Donny Hathaway — “This Christmas”
The R&B legend’s 1970 Yuletide tune is a lightly funky bounce that revels in the holiday season’s possibility.
The Kinks — “Father Christmas”
The cheeky Britpoppers’ class-conscious Christmas rave-up cloaks its serious message about the haves and the have-nots in a letter to Santa. .
Slade — “Merry Christmas Everybody”
Billy Squier — “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You”
The arena rocker’s sweet ode to the Yuletide spirit imprinted itself on a generation when it doubled as the de facto Christmas card from the then-fledgeling MTV to its viewers.
Wham! — “Last Christmas”
The greatest pop singer of the ’80s turns his holiday heartache into snowy synthpop.
Darlene Love — “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Yuletide longing spins into pop gold for a 1960s pop doyenne.
Mariah Carey — “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Mimi’s entry into the Christmas canon is filled with flirtatious coos, beltable verses, and girl-group harmonies.
The Ronettes — “Frosty the Snowman”
Pop’s preeminent bad girl Ronnie Spector shows off her winter-wonderland spirit.
Bruce Springsteen — “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”
One of the most buoyant takes on this ode to Father Christmas features Bruce Springsteen playfully needling his bandmates about their behavior over the past year and a joyous sax solo by Clarence Clemons.
Queens’ punk-rock royalty offers up a speedy plea for Christmas peace on the domestic front.
Alvin & The Chipmunks — “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”
A divisive track, to be sure, but you’re probably bluffing if you don’t crack a smile when singing along with Alvin’s wishes for a “hooooo-laaaaa-hoooooop.”
Daryl Hall & John Oates — “Jingle Bell Rock”
Bobby Helms’s 1957 celebration of Christmas rock is well-trod territory, but Hall & Oates’ blue-eyed soul version is a cut above its peers.
Madonna — “Santa Baby”
Madonna was in full-on “Who’s That Girl” mode for this cover of Eartha Kitt’s fireside seduction, all hiccupping flirtation and winking vamps.
The Darkness — “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)”
British glam bands from Wizzard to Slade have caught the Christmas spirit, but the outré absurdity of this retro-minded outfit provides a particularly sweet Yuletide thrill.
Run-DMC — “Christmas in Hollis”
Flipping “Jingle Bells” into a story of the holiday season in Queens, this track isn’t just one of the greatest Christmas raps—it’s one of the best 20th-century holiday songs.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings — “Please Come Home for Christmas”
A fiery take on Charles Brown’s brokenhearted love song from the much-missed soul revivalist.
The Jackson 5 — “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
Young Michael Jackson turns in one of his most joyous early performances, which is saying a lot given the ebullience quotient of his other Jackson 5 offerings.
The Temptations — “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Picking one track off these soul titans’ 1970 Christmas album is harder than choosing between rum and bourbon for your eggnog, so let’s just go with its opener.
John Denver & The Muppets — “Christmas Is Coming”
The delightful collaboration between the “Rocky Mountain High” singer and Jim Henson’s band of misfit puppets is full of highlights, but the album’s calypso-flavored version of this Yuletide nursery rhyme features a particularly giggle-worthy star turn from Miss Piggy.
Paul McCartney — “Wonderful Christmastime”
An upbeat trifle about having fun around the holidays that showcases the former Beatle’s silly side.
Al Green and Annie Lennox — “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”
The grain of the Reverend Al’s voice and the slickness of the Eurythmics singer’s belt on this Jackie DeShannon cover make for a glorious combination.
The Waitresses — “Christmas Wrapping”
Chance meetings with cute guys in the supermarket are the stuff Yuletide fairytales are made of—especially when they’re set to bubbly, sax-powered New Wave.
Sesame Street Cast — “Keep Christmas With You All Through the Year”
The 1978 special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street represents the educational show at its finest, and this original track about holding on to the Christmas spirit year-round still tugs at the heartstrings.
Otis Redding — “Merry Christmas Baby”
Otis’s blazing version of this R&B Yuletide classic is spine-tingling nearly 50 years after its recording.
Elton John — “Step Into Christmas”
Elton’s outsized personality and his signature holiday track’s rollicking feel make for a joyous occasion.
Stevie Wonder — “Someday at Christmas”
Stevie Wonder’s plea for Yuletide peace (which he recently covered with Andra Day) has extra relevance in troubled times.
Lloyd — “She’s All I Want for Christmas”
A new entry in the Christmas canon, this R&B rave-up showcases a Michael Jackson-channeling performance from one of Atlanta’s best new soul singers.
Bob Rivers — “The Twelve Pains of Christmas”
Goofy Christmas tracks are in no short supply, but this perky rundown of the holiday’s more hellish aspects has a relatable moment for everyone, from crying kids to hangover shakes.
Vince Guaraldi Trio — “Christmas Time Is Here”
Seasonally appropriate melancholia from A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is still the greatest animated salute to the spirit of the season.