I love Christmas music.
I’m not one of those people (read: lunatics) who can listen to it year ‘round or anything, but when I flip the calendar over from November to December, I’m more than ready to hear a few ditties about sentient snowmen, thinly-veiled date rape references, bullying and exploitation, a childhood scarred by suspected parental infidelity, and the magic of pretending to care about poor, starving people for a couple of weeks now that it’s cold out.
I’ve never really been into the “classical” Christmas carols that you can really only imagine being sung by large choirs of prepubescent boys anxiously awaiting “the change.” No, that’s not really in my wheelhouse; that’s more Grace’s jam than mine.
While she’s content to wrap presents and bake cookies to “Little Drummer Boy” or “Do You Hear What I Hear,” I’m just not having it.
I am all about famous artists covering old Christmas songs and making them their own or, in some cases, legitimately making a song their own by throwing a handful of cockamamie references to snow, bells, or presents into the chorus to make a “Christmas song” built for Top 40 radio.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a handful of the old classics and standbys that are part of my personal Christmas canon, but it’s mostly going to be big name acts cashing in on Christmas, the way Santa and Jesus intended when they signed on with Hallmark back in 1856 or whenever the hell Christmas started.
Without any further ado, let’s jump right into the 17 greatest Christmas songs by famous artists, ranked:
17. Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby”
Straight-up, I’m going to tell you that I’m not actually a huge fan of this song in and of itself. The lyrics make this the ultimate anti-feminism ballad. That having been said, Eartha Kitt was freakin’ Catwoman. This fact cannot be ignored. I’m including a link to the Taylor Swift version as well. Taylor’s version is far more poppy than sultry, but there’s no way I could put this song in here twice and as much as I love Tay-Tay, no one matches Eartha on this one. Plus, Ms. Swift will find her way onto the list a little later.
16. Britney Spears – “My Only Wish”
Okay, I know…I know this song isn’t exactly what you’d call “good” or maybe even what you’d call “music,” but – in my defense – it was released at a time in my life where I was moderately enamored with Ms. Spears and I listened to it about 30,000 times until it become canon for me. It’s like the Stockholm Syndrome of Christmas songs. Judge me at your own discretion.
15. Jose Feliciano – “Feliz Navidad”
This song just reeks of Christmas. I hear it and I imagine that I’m sitting on a beach, sipping a margarita, and watching the waves wash over me…just like all of my Christmases growing up in northwest Iowa. It also holds a special place in my heart for another reason. Thanks to the wonders of marketing, I will forever associate this little ditty with Nachos Navidad from Taco John’s!!
14. Taylor Swift – “Last Christmas”
I told you she’d make an appearance. Taylor has a number of Christmas songs that were in the mix, but I really dig her version of “Last Christmas” – which you’ll soon learn is one of my all-time faves – and I think the upbeat tempo and twang adds a really fun vibe to this version. Plus, she’s very, very, very, very pretty and I like to think she’s singing it directly to me. So there’s that.
13. The Eagles – “Please Come Home for Christmas”
I’m not positive, but I think that this song has appeared in every Christmas movie made after 1970. Don’t look it up, just take my word for it.
…and don’t listen to the Bon Jovi cover. You’re better than that.
12. Jackson 5 – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
The first eight seconds are straight, hot fire in your earholes. Seriously, before I even get a full ten seconds into this sucker, I’m jacked up and ready to run through a brick wall, face first. These little dudes know how to pump a fella up. And seriously, if this song doesn’t get you all jacked up about the impending arrival of that fat, cookie-stealing old man when they hit the “Saaaaaaaaaanta Claus is coming to town” line, you’re probably dead inside.
11. Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Ol’ Blue Eyes busts out a classic and it’s about as perfect as it gets.
10. Meghan Trainor – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
I know what you’re thinking, “the ‘All About the Bass’ chick cracks the top ten?” I know, right? I was kinda surprised too, but this song has been on repeat for me for weeks now and I can’t get it outta my head. It’s not like she’s bastardizing the Bing Crosby original or anything, this sucker is a whole new jam. She doesn’t mention bass or booty or anything, give it a listen and try to tell me I’m wrong.
Unless you don’t like it. In which case, keep your opinion to yourself. No one likes a hater.
09. Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song”
I’m fairly certain there’s not a single thing that needs to be said about this one. It’s been covered by about ten bajillion people and no one has done it even half as well. In fact, it’d be great if they all just knocked it the hell off and quit trying. No one is ever going to top this. Stop trying to make fetch happen, y’all.
08. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime”
We’re at the point in the rankings were it becomes very, very obvious that I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Sir Paul released this one in 1979 and it sounds like it has laser beams all over the damn place throughout the song. Basically, it was tailor-made for the 1980s. As such, I think I heard this song dang near every hour on the hour from November to January throughout the entire time my brain was still forming. There’s no way this sucker doesn’t make the list, it’s pretty much my only memory before age six.
Also, LASER BEAMS!!
07. Wham! – “Last Christmas”
Guys, I don’t want to beat around the bush here, this song is f’n fantastic. I said earlier that I really like Taylor’s version, but the slowed-down, more subdued original is the absolute bomb-diggity-dog (people still say that, right?). Plus, the music video is the most-1984 thing ever. It’s got big hair, ridiculous clothes, an implied (but never seen) orgy in a ski loft, and SO MUCH sad George Michael. It’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t know how this music video didn’t win an Oscar.
06. Christina Aguilera – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
There was a time from roughly 1999-2001 where I was just a wee-bit obsessed with Christina Aguilera’s voice. I purchased all of her CDs. I purchased all of her singles. I purchased pretty much anything that had been recorded with her singing, talking, humming, coughing, burping, wheezing, etc. If a sound came out of her face during those years, you can bet your ass that I was paying someone for a muffled recording of that noise on a bootleg cassette. In short, she has one of my favorite voices of all-time and she ABSO-F’N-LUTELY owns this song. It’s off her holiday album, My Kind of Christmas, which I can say – without hyperbole – is probably the greatest Christmas album of all-time. Check it out. Listen to her voice. Bask in the awesomeness. Steal me a lock of her hair.
05. John Lennon – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
John Lennon is really, really good at what he does. That includes writing and singing songs with a political message discreetly tucked below a thin veneer of beautiful lyrics. No one can do this as well as he could, period. That is why no one should ever attempt to duplicate his work. If you try to do a cover of this song, I will come to your home and I will pummel you unmercifully with my bare hands and scatter your broken, battered remains in the cornfields of northwest Iowa.
Don’t believe me? Go ask REO Speedwagon all about it. What’s that you say? You can’t find ‘em? Hmmmm…weird.
04. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me”
I’m a big fan of happy, feel-good music. Five seconds into this jam and I’m bobbing my head. Ten seconds in and I’m on my feet flopping around like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man. By the time Stevie finally hits the chorus around the thirty second mark, I’m already running around giving hugs to strangers, donating my clothes to charity, and screaming “I LOVE EVERYTHING!!” to everyone in the street. This song makes me feel pretty f’n boss,y’all.
03. Chuck Berry – “Run Rudolph Run”
This song is basically taking all the best parts of the Rudolph story (read: not the part with the bullying assholes) combined with Chuck Berry cutting up on the guitar with a not-so-subtle homage to “Little Queenie.” It’s also pure, unadulterated energy. If you want to start Christmas day on the right foot, just set your alarm to crank this sumbitch at full blast when it’s time to pop outta bed.
02. Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
It’s Bruce f’n Springsteen singing the absolute hell out of a classic Christmas song and playing to the audience like a – no pun intended – boss. It all feels so organic and real. You’ve got his mic screeching, he’s making small talk, he’s giggling at various points. It’s just perfect and feels like he’s in the damned room singing it just for you.
Man, I love this f’n song.
01. Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas is You”
Here it is ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all-ages…the single greatest Christmas song of all-time. It’s so high-energy and happy and gives me a big ole case of the feel goods. It’s ridiculous how much I like this song. It’s also kinda crazy to think that it’s 20 years old this Christmas. Luckily, it’s aged wonderfully and doesn’t figure to get knocked off the top of the mountain anytime soon.
. . .
So there you have it, that’s the unequivocal, unquestioned 17 greatest Christmas songs by famous artists ranked from last to first.
Do you think I knocked it out of the park? Did I whiff wildly? Did I at least get the top song right?
Naturally, I’m going to assume that you all agree with everything I’ve written, but just in case one of you would have let any of my “honorable mentions” like “Little Saint Nick,” “Christmas in Hollis,” or “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” slip into the mix, I’d love to hear your dissenting opinions in comments.
Happy Holidays, y’all.