It’s not easy being a new song in the holiday music genre. Why listen to something from 2018 when we could just loop Mariah Carey for two months straight? But with artists like Tyler the Creator, John Legend, and even RuPaul coming in to offer something fresh, it might be time to update those Christmas playlists with some of our best and brightest picks below.
“I Am The Grinch” by Tyler the Creator ft. Fletcher Jones
Sounding like something that could’ve been a bonus track off of Flower Boy, “I Am The Grinch” harbors Tyler’s usual bouncing, chaotic energy and (somewhat) harnesses it into a pessimistic, but over all incredibly lovable, holiday track. Calling on Tyler for the Dr. Suess’ The Grinch soundtrack has to be one of the most fitting, endearing casting calls of this holiday season.
“Lonely Man of Winter” by Sufjan Stevens
For “Lonely Man of Winter,” Sufjan Stevens captures the vague and overwhelming melancholic feelings that often come with the depths of the cold weather season. And while Sufjan is king of a good sad song, the track does ever so slightly lean into the cheery side of the holidays as he croons of pretending his seasonal sadness is gone just for Christmas Day.
“Hey Sis, It’s Christmas” by RuPaul ft. Markaholic
This is the track to play at the holiday party to get people moving after the post-Christmas-ham slump, or maybe to simply startle your more conservative side of the family. Aptly titled Christmas Party, RuPaul’s holiday album is the exact type of hype, proud, and unconventional take you’d expect from Mother Ru. “Hey Sis, It’s Christmas” is a certified bop with lines about Santa’s elves giving life and sugar plum fairies dancing on ceilings. It even includes the line, “Holiday hoes, who could ask for more?” A question probably only RuPaul could answer.
“My Old Santa Claus” by Sia
“My Old Santa Claus” is really an A+ pop track that doubles as a holiday song. Sia sprinkles her trademark brass-y vocals over some jingling bells, though the song isn’t as cheery as it sounds on the surface. Sia laments of a happier, old Santa Claus as she croons, “’Cause if Christmas is so green and so red, then why am I so blue?”
“What Christmas Means to Me” by John Legend ft. Stevie Wonder
If anything, it’s shocking John Legend didn’t have a holiday album prior to 2018. A Legendary Christmas opens not with a cover, but more like a remix, to a holiday classic. The EGOT-winning artist teams with Stevie Wonder on “What Christmas Means to Me,” a track that originally belonged—and still pretty much does—to Stevie Wonder, who released his iconic version in 1967. The new rendition pairs Legend’s smooth familiar voice with some added female vocals and horns for an updated new staple.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson takes one of the most delicate songs of the holiday season, and absolutely nails it. With a reverberating string section and some incredibly crisp vocals, her version of the classic sounds full and chilling and sweet, just the way it should.
“Winter Wonderland” by Martina McBride
For any holiday music traditionalists, Martina McBride’s “Winter Wonderland” is probably going to be a go-to. The country music icon flexes her pop capability on this track as she shows off the soprano vocal range that made her famous. It’s a straightforward take that’s pleasing in its simplicity.
“I Got Your Christmas Right Here” by Aloe Blacc
Aloe Blacc brings the soul to his cozy original song “I Got Your Christmas Right Here.” The R&B Christmas track celebrates the “love and cheer” and all the other simple sweetness that comes with family and friends on Christmas morning. Plus, this one comes with a music video with some very cute home-style footage from Blacc himself.
“Finally It’s Christmas” by Mike Love ft. Hansen
As one of the founding members of the Beach Boys, Mike Love is no stranger to Christmas music. Fifty-six years after the band’s Christmas Album, Love has crafted his own collection of covers and originals for the holiday season. On this go-around, he’s added some ’90s flair with a little help from boy band Hansen for a cheery multi-generational collab.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Pentatonix
Pentatonix is a beatboxing a cappella group that really, really loves Christmas. For their fourth holiday album, they’ve included a squeaky clean pop version of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” with a very impressive kazoo solo that involves no actual kazoos, but some very well done mimicking from one of the members.
“White Christmas” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton takes on a holiday standard on his first-ever full holiday album, and gives it a bluesy makeover. With an added guitar outro, “White Christmas” feels much more modern, and much more rock-n-roll.
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Jessie J
For the first 30 seconds of the track, Jessie J holds the tempo back, letting her vocal cords do all the work over a few piano keys. Then, the horns hit. The song stays on its original jazzy note, but the funk builds as it progresses for this take of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”
“What Would Santa Do” by The Monkees
Although the height of their career was in the late ’60s, The Monkees are undeniably timeless, especially in their new holiday album Christmas Party. They’ve called in the help of Weezer’s River Cuomo for “What Would Santa Do,” which is a goofy, wholesome story of what to do when it feels like everyone is sucking out the holiday cheer.