Christmas music has become such an integral part of celebrating the season in the last two or three decades. Uptempo party songs, sad songs, novelty songs and charity songs all form an important part of the jigsaw. It’s such a subjective topic because one person’s must-listen classic is another’s schmaltzy piece of trash! You can’t please everyone with a festive playlist and let’s not get started on the multiple versions of the same song which gets different generations arguing too. Below is a suggestion of what might well be the best 10 Christmas songs of all time.
10. ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ – Michael Bublè
Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Bublè, amongst others, have recorded versions of this festive classic but we think the latter has got the most iconic version with his silky tones and mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
9. ‘Last Christmas’ – Wham
A song that is gaining traction as each year goes by. Definitely one to put in the ‘sad songs’ pile although the festive phenomenon of Whamageddon is definitely a fun association with the song.
8. ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ – Slade
Another British classic. Is it really Christmas if you haven’t heard lead singer Noddy Holder scream ‘It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiisssssstttttttttttmas’? Whilst they were moderately successful in their career, this song is the one that will have got them all the cars and the villas in Spain, similar to Hugh Grant’s character in the film ‘About a Boy’.
7. ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ – Brenda Lee
Covered by a whole host of artists from UK comedian Mel Smith to lots of different Country music musicians, the OG version from Benda Lee is still by far the best version. It’s guaranteed to get you up and dancing!
6. ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ – The Jackson 5
Great version and a song that hides the big secret of Christmas right there in plain sight for all to see. Who doesn’t love Michael’s pre-pubescent vocals on this delightful Motown track?
5. ‘River’ – Robert Downey Jr
Ok, this is where I get all controversial but my favourite version of the saddest Christmas song ever (yes, move over Elvis!) was actually recorded, not by Joni Mitchell but by Iron Man! I know! As ridiculous as it sounds, Robert Downey Jr’s version of this beautiful song from the ‘Ally McBeal’ Christmas album is the one I go to each year. What a scandal!
4. ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ – Mariah Carey
A modern classic that took a few years to gain traction after it’s release in 1994 but has since been covered by a myriad of artists ranging from Jimmy Fallon to Miley Cyrus to Fifth Harmony. It was also given a boost by its inclusion in films like ‘Love Actually’ meaning it now stands as one of the most iconic Christmas songs of all time.
3. ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ – Bruce Springsteen
Another song recorded by hundreds of artists like Burl Ives, Justin Bieber and Dolly Parton but it is the Boss’ version, recorded live in 1972 that is the best. Dripping in energy and fizz, there’s a tightness to the band that never went away throughout their whole career and when saxophone player Clarence Clemons does his best Santa Claus impression you can hear Springsteen barely holding it together. Joyous.
2. ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’ – Nat King Cole
There have been so many versions (and titles) of this song that it’s hard to pin down which version is best. Is it Bublè? The Carpenters? Celine Dion? I have a special love of the version Country singer Tenille Townes released recently as her voice just slays that song but I’ve had to settle for the OG version released originally in 1946 and re-done again in 1962.
1.’White Christmas’ – Bing Crosby
Originally written by Irving Berlin in 1942 this has been covered by everyone from Elvis Presely to Meghan Trainor but it’s the original version that is the best, taken from the film of the same name and recorded by the original Christmas crooner himself, Bing Crosby. It’s the very embodiment of the season, in song form.