16 Holiday Songs That Don’t Suck: Your Autostraddle Christmakwansuka Playlist

December is upon us, and with that comes the onslaught of seasonal holiday music! If you’ve grown weary of the same Holiday Lite/local coffee shop repertoire, allow us to offer a few alternatives (and our favorite tried-and-true classics).

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Lady GagaChristmas Tree
Cherry cherry. Boom boom.

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Stevie WonderWhat Christmas Means To Me
If you only play one album at your holiday party this year, make it Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas. You will not regret this.

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The Go-Go’s – I’m Gonna Spend Christmas With A Dalek
The title of this song says it all. Where my Doctor Who fans at?

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Fiona Apple – Frosty The Snowman
A surprisingly upbeat move for Fiona, no?

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Catherine Feeny – The Christmas Song
Another selection from The Hotel Café presents Winter Songs, perfect for snuggling by the fire with those special someones.

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John Prine – Christmas In Prison
‘I dream of her always even when I don’t dream/her name’s on my tongue and her blood’s in my strings.’ Surely, some of our readers can relate.

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Run D.M.C. – Christmas In Hollis
Try not to start dancing while giving this classic a spin. Hip-hop’s best holiday tune, at least, so far

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Wham! – Last Christmas
A cliché choice, but you know you love it, and after an eggnog or five, everyone will be singing along to this one. Also, check out the video. Holy ’80s aprés-ski, Batman.

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John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Every year, this song takes on a new sense of urgency, and for reasons that are both entirely new and the same old. Let’s hope this is the year we make John and Yoko’s vision a reality.

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Sufjan Stevens – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
I mean, we had to include something from the Sufjan Christmas albums. As wonderful as the bulk of them are, especially his original contributions like “Come On, Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” or “Get Behind Me Santa,” it’s hard not to love this tender, banjo-filled rendition of a centuries-old hymn.

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Tegan & Sara – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)
Who’da ever expected this combination to work? We didn’t. But it does. Oh, it does.

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The LeeVees – Latke Clan
Because we’re all in need of some Hanukkah tunes not by anyone named Adam Sandler, members of Guster and The Zambonis joined forces to create The LeeVees, who have been warming our hearts since 2005 with lyrics like ‘Santa’s cool, but Chanukah Harry’s the man.’

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Ben Kweller – Rock Of Ages
Couldn’t find an video for this one, but you should download Ben Kweller’s tender reworking of a Hanukkah classic.

The Kinks – Father Christmas
The genius of Ray Davies cannot be denied, especially when listening to this hooky holiday reflection on the class struggle in the UK.

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Fucked Up & Friends – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
GZA, Tegan & Sara, Andrew W.K., Ezra Koenig, Kyp Malone and many more remake the Bob Geldof/Band Aid classic for the iPod generation.

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Stars – Fairytale Of New York
If you can get past the use of problematic language in the last verse, this Christmas Eve in the drunk tank classic by The Pogues really is one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written, and Stars just nail it.

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Your favorite holiday tune probably didn’t make our list and you probably have a lot of feelings about that: post them in the ol’ comment receptacle below!

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happy holidays

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Lindsay Eanet (@lindsayeanet) is a Chicago-based writer, editor and performer. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, Paste, Howler, Chicago Magazine and others. She is the host & producer of I’ll Be There for You, a biweekly podcast about pop culture and coping. But enough about her, let’s talk about you.

Lindsay has written 27 articles for us.

68 Comments

  1. I like listening to KT Tunstall’s cover of “Fairytale of New York” because I don’t have to wince during the third verse thanks to an easy lyric substitution. Also because it’s good.

  2. Winter song by ingrid michaelson and sarah baraleis makes me sad, its so heartbreakingly good and the video is pretty gay. Also baby its cold outside will be the best, I listen to it in june.

  3. “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon plays a thousand times throughout the holidays in my house. Also Christina Aguilera’s Christmas album.

    Awesome list. I didn’t know about some of those. Does Lady Gaga have a Christmas album out? I never know anything.

  4. ‘ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU’ BY MARIAH CAREY IS ONE OF MY TOP 10 FAVORITE SONGS OF ALL TIME. EVEN THOUGH I’M JEWISH. THE SONG ALWAYS MAKES ME WANT TO JUMP IN THE SNOW IN A RED SNOWSUIT AND THROW SNOWBALLS AT THE IMAGINARY VIDEO CAMERA THAT MAKES MY LIFE SO IMPORTANT

  5. Cristina’s “Things Fall Apart” is my absolute favorite Christmas song of all time ever. Produced by Don Was and just pure new wave excellence.

    Waitresses'”Christmas Wrapping” is also quite good.

    • OMG is this where the song “R2D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is from? I think *that* is possibly my favorite holiday novelty song of all time. Brian Dewan does a great cover.

      Over all this list is very high quality but I must take exception to the inclusion of Wham!. You guys, that song is The Worst! Christmas is not a time to sing horribly cheesy love/breakup songs!

  6. Imma let you finish Autostraddle, but the definitive Christmas song, nay Christmas ALBUM, is “A Christmas Album” by Bright Eyes. You’ll laugh, but mostly cry along to Conor Oberst’s holiday crooning, and I think that kind of sorrow is just what I have come to expect with the season of light.

    Happy holidays!

    • yeah i have to agree here. even though she’s REALLY autotuned (who knows why), lea michele is stunning on o holy night. skip the first 30 seconds, it gets really good.

      also who can resist kurt + blaine

  7. The Barenaked Ladies’ (actually a group of fully-clothed men, don’t get excited) Barenaked for the Holidays is really good. It’s got both Christmas and Hanukkah songs, which is neat.

    Also, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is fucking awesome. Their thing is that they’re an orchestra with electric guitars thrown in. Although sometimes they don’t have either of those things. They’re kinda varied. Examples:
    Orchestra + RAWK – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHioIlbnS_A
    Neither of those – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA0vPtboZIw

  8. Great list! Except for “Happy X-Mas (War is Over).” That song is absolutely atrocious. The chorus of shrieking children and a banshee like Yoko is near unbearable…until you get really drunk and belt out every line in a tone not to dissimilar to Yoko’s, come to think of it.

  9. True Story. I took a guy I know to see Tegan and Sara on Thursday, and he was convinced Tegan sounded like a chipmunk.

    It made me laugh though, she was super excitable. Completely adorable.

      • When I worked my first Christmas in retail, the store played “River” constantly and every time it came on the radio I was like, “Why are they playing this? This is NOT A CHRISTMAS SONG.” I only knew it from Almost Famous. Kind of like when they would play a male singer’s cover of “My Favorite Things” and I’d be like, “JULIE ANDREWS FOREVERRRRRRRRR”

  10. One of these:

    Ron Sexsmith – Maybe This Christmas – Makes me sad in a warm, calm way, if you know what I mean.

    Sufjan Stevens – Sister Winter – Lyrics hold a lot of meaning to me. ‘All my gifts I gave you everything, your strange imagination, you threw it all away’

    Leona Naess – Christmas – Only loosely related to Christmas, meaning it’s good all year round.

  11. The “I’m Gonna Spend Christmas with a Dalek” is sure to become one of my favorites. I sent it to all of my Doctor Who loving friends too. Very excited about that one.

    So here are some of my favorites:
    The Weepies – All That I Want
    Joni Mitchell – River
    Harry Nilsson – Remember (Christmas)
    (River and Remember are via You’ve Got Mail, which is my favorite movie to watch around the holidays even though it’s only vaguely holiday related)
    Wings – Wonderful Christmas Time
    Eartha Kit – Santa Baby
    The Carpenters – Merry Christmas Darling
    Norah Jones – December (which isn’t about the holidays, but it’s got the word December in it, so that’s good enough for my holiday playlist)

    I also like Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which has been done but tons of people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby,_It's_Cold_Outside). I can’t find my favorite version of it because it’s on a CD that never got transferred to my iTunes (mostly because I avoid holiday music in general).

  12. I had to de-lurk because nobody mentioned that Kirsty MacColl sang ‘Fairytale of New York’ with the Pogues. And I agree with comments above: it is spectacularly better than the Stars version. I listen to it a lot over the festive period. Along with Jethro Tull’s ‘Ring Out, Solstice Bells.’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBW466n5LJA

    And, having de-lurked myself, I also have to say thanks to all at Autostraddle for all your work in making such a great site.

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