The 41 Best Christmas Songs of All Time – Definitively Ranked

The 41 Best Christmas Songs of All Time - Definitively Ranked #Christmas #Music #Holiday

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When it comes to the best Christmas songs of all time – we all have our favorites… Some are a little ‘poppy’ while others may lean a bit ‘classical’ but no matter the situation (in Q4 of any year and part of Q1…) – there’s a Christmas song for that!

 

Every year (for the past 3 years) my wife and I throw a grande ‘ole bash on Christmas Eve (a real rockin’ holiday party) where we invite over family and some friends for a great night of food, festivities, fun, and … you guessed it – Christmas music! But inevitably, there’s always debate about which Christmas songs are the best (read: worth our precious dance party time).

 

So… I’ve searched high and low for an authority on the matter. And I’m stoked to report that I have found the high power of all Christmas music rankers!!

 

This individual has written on MikedUp Blog in the past, with posts about how to best prepare a successful student and the most effective way to fly with an infant (and keep your sanity). He’s a close friend, published author, English teacher, and current candidate for Virginia Senate – He’s my brother-in-law, Ronnie Ross (@ronnierossva)! He is a busy man and we are incredibly fortunate to steal him away for the next 41 songs to finally give us a definitive answer on which is best! Take it away, Ronnie!

 


 

This Thanksgiving, my wife (Josie), son (little Ronnie), and I spent over 24 hours in the car, driving from Virginia to Michigan and then back again

 

That’s a lot of time in a small space with the same people, and, to be frank, one of them currently only has ten words, which makes conversation a little difficult. I can only ask, “what sound does the owl make?” so many times. But, enough about Josie…

 

All of this time gave me time to think, and I realized something the world needs: another ranking of Christmas songs. But, this one is different because it’s MY opinion. Not yours, not Mike’s, but mine.

 

Why am I qualified to do this?

 

Two reasons. One, I have a degree in literature, and my brother told me I would never use it for anything. Well, joke’s on him. I have this list. And two, I teach high school. This keeps me hip and fetch.

 

At minimum, I hope this list gives you something to talk about on your own trips, and, when your talking devolves into arguing, something to listen to.

 

The ground rules:

1  I have to attempt to give an explanation

2  I have to give the best version of the song

 

Ready? Here we go!

 

The 41 best Christmas songs of all time – definitively ranked

 

The Not-Christmas-Songs Christmas Songs

3- We Three Kings

Technically, this in an Epiphany song. It gets low marks for accuracy: Magi are not kings. It also gets low marks for, in the fourth verse, having the lines: “Sorrow, sighing, bleeding, dying / Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.” C’mon John Henry Hopkins, Jr. This is supposed to be a happy time of the year. Stop reminding us of the inevitable, slinking approach of death. That’s two strikes. Get it together.

Best Version: Albright College Concert Choir 

 

2- O Come, O Come Emmanuel

As a Catholic, I’ve sung this song roughly 1,812,763 times. It’s what we sing during Advent–you know, the period that leads up to Easter–and we sing it every frickin’ Sunday. It’s great because it’s tied up to that anticipation that we feel waiting for Christmas. The actual musicality is great too: it’s a deep, booming song that at times soars. It’s anticipation, written on a song sheet.

Best Version: for KING & COUNTRY, live from Phoenix

 

1- Carol of the Bells

Yes, everyone thinks of this as a Christmas song. I get it.  I did too until I started doing some research for this article.  Turns out it was written by the Ukrainian musician Mykola Leontovych as a song for “winter well-wishing.”  So, yeah, it’s out. For what it’s worth, I originally had it ranked #5 on this list until I figured out that we had all been hoodwinked.

Best Version: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

 

The Inappropriate Christmas Songs

38- Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Let me see the scene: a man and woman are on a date. The woman wants to leave. Instead of respecting her decision, the man tries to get her drunk and take advantage of her inebriation. What does this describe? An episode of Law & Order SVU? No. It describes “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. No thank you. Hard pass.

Best Version: Idina Menzel & Michael Buble

 

37- Santa Baby

Gwen Stefani’s version drives home just how inappropriate this song is.  Her voice slinks and slides over the lyrics, feeling each one out in her mouth before passing it out to the audience.  Her voice is so sensual, and you, as the listener, almost get drawn into this erotic love story. Then, though, you realize it’s about Santa.  Gwen is seducing Santa. He has a wife, Gwen! Hurry back up that chimney, Santa. Stay away!

Best Version: Gwen Stefani 

 

36- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

I’m 32 years old. I was 31 when I realized that this song isn’t about adultery. Turns out, Santa is the kid’s dad. Who knew? Well, not adolescent me. This song’s low ranking is entirely based on its traumatizing effect on young me. (Mike: DUDE!! I just found this out…)

Best Version: The Jackson 5 

 

35- Do They Know It’s Christmas?

This song came from a good place. I get it. But you know what? So did that time my parents took me to the circus and introduced me to clowns for the first time.  Both came from a good place and turned out so, so poorly.

 

I mean, “Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa / A song of hope they’ll have is being alive / Why is comfort deadly fear / … How can they know it’s Christmas time at all? / Here’s to you / Raise a glass to everyone / Here’s to them / And all their years to come / Can they know it’s Christmas time at all?”  

 

A little self-awareness of how European colonialism led to the West African predicament that this song describes might have gone a long way to some better songwriting.  It’s kinda hard to hear this without cringing. And besides, they definitely know it’s Christmas time.

 

The shame of it all is that this is actually a good song. I know. I’m as frustrated as you are.

 

Best Version: Band-Aid (duh) 

 

Songs from Old Movies

34- Frosty, the Snowman

This song is brilliant for children and also for adults who want to remember their childhood.  Not only does it remind us of the first time we watched the “Frosty” cartoon, but the lyrics drive home how children know something that adults simply don’t or can’t access.  It’s brilliant in that way. Even more, it contains eminently sing-a-long-able lyrics with “thumpity-thump-thump”. So why isn’t it higher on the list? Because Frosty dies in the song. Just like your childhood.

Best Version: Jimmy Durante 

 

33- Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Everyone loves an underdog story.  From Rudy to the American Revolution, we love people who overcome the odds.  Rudolph would seem to fit neatly into that narrative, and in many ways he does.  He goes from the butt of all the reindeer’s jokes, to the one leading Santa’s sleigh.  But, the attentive listener will notice several problems.

 

First, he’s still a beast of burden under the autocrat that is Santa.  Great job, Rudolph, you went from back of the pack to the front. But still, the whole function of your existence is to pull around a fat man.  Second, the only reason the other reindeer start liking him is because of Santa’s approval. They don’t really like him, like him. They don’t like him for the wonderful deer that he is.  Oh no. They just want to get in with the fat man. Third, the last lines of the song tell us that Rudolph will go down in history… like Columbus. You know, the guy who though widely venerated, is also responsible for the genocide and enslavement of indigenous peoples.  It leads us to ask, what will you grow into, Rudolph?

Best Version: Burl Ives 

 

Songs Your Grandparents Definitely Like

32- Blue Christmas

I’ll admit some personal bias here: I don’t really like Elvis; his voice doesn’t do a lot for me.  But, I certainly appreciate him. I feel the same way about him that I feel about the Beatles. I get why people like them, and I get why they’re important.  I just don’t like them. Sorry. So, yeah, this song rates low. But, on the positive side, I appreciate what Elvis tried to do here in his songwriting, the way he tries to juxtapose colors against each other in order to evoke feelings.  He just doesn’t do it very well. But, then again, it’s one of the most popular songs of all time, so what do I know? (Mike: I knew we share a mostly similar world-view, but to this point – I had no idea the Beatles don’t do it for you either… We’re we separated at birth??)

Best Version: Elvis Presley 

 

31- I’ll Be Home for Christmas

This song is surprisingly good.  In fact, the reason it’s ranked so low is because I remember it as being “not good” or at least “boring”, and the impression a song leaves years later has to count for something.  But really, it’s a sweet song without being sugary. Who hasn’t yearned to be home with the ones they love during the Christmas season? Who hasn’t hoped to be there by Christmas Eve?  And to have mistletoe waiting is a nice piece of songwriting understatement. All of this leads up to the gut punch at the end: he might have to only be home in his dreams. Ask me again next year and this song might be higher.

Best Version: Bing Crosby 

 

30- Winter Wonderland

This is another song that I remember as being not very good but, upon revisiting, actually holds up really, really well.  The rhyming and consonance make it memorable, and the image of walking outside in the winter evokes a kind of warmth even though it would assuredly be cold.  The best part of the song, though, has to be the two young lovers turning a snowman into Parson Brown. It’s all very Romeo and Juliet-ish. Let’s just hope this romance ends better than that one did.

Best Version: Dean Martin 

 

29- Holly, Jolly Christmas

This song is much more trite than the last two.  The lyrical work isn’t as good or as adept, as evidenced by the “holly, jolly” in the title.  However, the simple, happy melody gives the song heft during the buildup to Christmas. Even more, the perspective of the narrator, his expansive happiness and well-wishing to everyone, must warm even the most frosted heart (even though “kiss her once for me” might go a bit too far).

Best Version: Burl Ives 

 

28- Silver Bells

“Silver Bells” falls into the same category as “Holly, Jolly Christmas”: it’s a trite, simple Holiday song.  The saving grace is how tightly written the verses are. The chorus of this song does nothing for me, but the verses, held together by a technique called “alliterative verse” are really, really strong.  It’s how poetry used to be written in Old English, but “Silver Bells” takes out the harshness of that language by hammering sibilants and other soft sounds, almost like the ringing of a bell.

Best Version: Bing Crosby 

 

27- Let It Snow

As is the case with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, and “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, I’m a big fan of songs whose titles are commands.  I think it’s because I’m the father of a strong-headed toddler. Whatever the case, I love the image of yelling at the world to snow. I can picture my little guy going “Snow, Snow, Snow!”  I also love the story this song tells, leading up to the two lovers “still good-bye-ing.” If only the song didn’t have so much forced rhyming!

Best Version: Dean Martin 

 

26- White Christmas

This song feels especially relevant in the age of climate change.  Did you know the last time the earth had a cooler than average month was in February 1985?  I wasn’t even alive then! So, yes, this song reminds me of my childhood when I would scour the back page of the newspaper, looking for the forecasts in order to see if there was a chance of having a white Christmas.  But, it also reminds me of rising global temperatures. So, I guess we’ll call it a draw, but, unfortunately, a draw is only good enough for 25th on this list.

Best Version: Bing Crosby 

 

Songs That Should Slap A Lot Harder than They Do and/or Are About Bells

25- Wonderful Christmas Time

I really want to like this song.  It’s so easy to bop to or to sway to, and that works really well in its favor.  However, there are these weird electro-pulses that for some reason keep happening throughout the song.  Those suck. More drums–maybe some double bass rolls–and some shredding guitars would’ve placed this song a lot higher on the list.  In fact, I originally had it ranked in the top 15, but then I listened to it again, and I remembered how blandly “okay” it was. Plus, let’s be honest, the Beatles are intensely overrated. (Mike: Preach)

Best Version: Paul McCartney 

 

24- Jingle Bells

The joy of this song is in its simplicity.  It’s perfect for young children. The lyrics and melody are breezy and uncomplicated.  It’s a perfectly vapid song. But that’s it; that’s all it is. Children have spent innumerable years trying to make it go harder by including lyrics like, “Jingle bells / Batman smells / Robin laid an egg / The Batmobile / Lost a wheel / And the Joker got away”, but the fact of it all is that the song has no real depth.

Best Version: Whatever version is sung by kids

 

23- Jingle Bell Rock

Yes, I would love to do the jingle hop.  I have no doubt. I may have even done it at some point.  Just like I may have been to Jingle Bell Square / in the frosty air.  The problem is, if I’ve been there, I don’t know because it doesn’t rock as the song’s title promises me.  Sure, Bobby Helms tries to give you instructions, such as we need to pick up our feet and jingle them, whatever that might mean.  Point is, I’ve tried it, and I’m not rockin’ when I do. So, nice try, good effort, Bobby, but I need more.

Best Version: Bobby Helms 

 

22- Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Look, I know Brenda Lee was only 13 years-old when she recorded this song.  I’m sympathetic to that. But, if you’re going to put the word “Rockin’” in the title of your song, it better go a little harder than this song does.  Brenda’s effort is tepid at best. It’s only saving grace is that 10 year-old me hadn’t yet discovered actual rock music and so, come Christmas time, Brenda was basically Pantera.

Best Version: Brenda Lee

 

21- Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

I really like Bruce Springsteen, and so I really want this song to be good.  And, to be honest, it almost is.  It’s this close.  The drum breakdown is awesome, and the sax is incredible. If you listen to a version, make it the live one.  But, the song never quite gets there.  I can’t describe what “there” is, but I suspect you know what I mean.  It gets tantalizingly close, but not quite there.

Best Version: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 

 

A Song that Actually Slaps

20- Run Rudolph Run

Now this song, goes.  It’s Chuck Berry, so of course it does.  But juxtaposed against these last four songs, it becomes clear just how much better Chuck is.  You feel like you’re actually running alongside Rudolph in this song, and the guitar work is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.  Like so many great songs, the music perfectly matches the lyrics. And, did I mention, it’s Chuck frickin’ Berry?

Best Version: Chuck Berry 

 

Let’s Go to Church

19- O, Holy Night

This is a beautiful song, and in the hands of the right singer, it can soar.  Whether it’s Mariah or Josh or someone similar, when the song tumbles into the chorus, it takes off.  We fall on our knees and the song shoots upward: “O hear angels’ voices”; “O night divine” “O night when Christ was born”.  The problem comes when you or I try to sing it. That’s why this song is tucked away at number 19. In Josh’s hands: great song.  In my hands: basically a sheep bleating about nighttime. (Mike: But you’re damn good at ‘rapping’ Macklemore…)

Best Version: Josh Groban 

 

18- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

When sung right, this song takes on a kind of powerful, deep-bellied momentum.  It embodies a Germanic winter’s night, folks huddled close around a fire, trying to keep both the cold–and evil–away.  The music video for Annie Lennox’s version of the song drives this mood home, but I also love the video because of the way it interweaves Pagan symbolism into the song.  Much of modern Christian tradition has its roots in co-opted Pagan ritual. In Lennox’s hands, this song’s fearful meditations are as much on Krampus as on Satan.

Best Version: Annie Lennox 

 

17- What Child Is This?

As a kid, I had this amazing joke.  Anytime someone would sing this song or it would come on the radio, I would wait until the title line and then shout, “IT’S JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.  It was hilarious.  I promise you.  And, at first blush, the song does seem a little silly; everyone knows the answer to the question, right?  However, give the song a few listens, and you’ll start to hear the wonder that it is meant to evoke. Imagine a god being born into the world.  How could we not be struck dumb in that kind of a presence? What child is this, indeed.

Best Version: Carrie Underwood 

 

16- Mary, Did You Know?

Another song, another titular question.  This one, though, isn’t really a “church song”, but I put it here because we can still do some theology on it.  In fact, I feel like a little theological research would’ve gone a long way towards answering the central premise of the song.  Did Mary know? Well, the Bible certainly suggests that she knew of Jesus’ divinity, and after Jesus’ birth, Simeon tells Mary that “a sword will pierce her soul.”  But, really, that’s about it. So did she know “your baby boy would one day walk on water”? Nope. That he would “give sight to a blind man”, “calm a storm with his hand”, or “make the lame leap”? Nope, nope, and nope. To be honest, I’m glad Mark Lowry didn’t look this up when he wrote the song because it’s a pretty good tune.

Best Version: Pentatonix 

 

15- O Come, All Ye Faithful

Another song commanding us to do something, so you know I’m going to love it.  Even more, these commands are punctuated by exclamation points. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is basically that kid at the party (almost always a guy who’s had too much to drink) yelling “Let’s Go!” at every opportunity.  So, I challenge you, next time you feel the urge to yell out something of that type–maybe after your team has scored a touchdown, or maybe after sinking that winning bag in cornhole–don’t shout “Let’s Go!”. Instead, try “Sing in Exultation!”  Or, if that’s not your thing, how about “Behold Him!” or “Come to Bethlehem and See!”? Try it; I think you’ll like it. (Mike: Are you talking to me…?)

Best Version: Casting Crowns 

 

Songs Your Grandparents Definitely Love and You Should Too

14- The Christmas Song

When was the last time you saw a chestnut, let alone roasted one on an open fire?  Do you even know what a chestnut is? Picture one. Go ahead. Can you? If I had to rank Christmas foods, I feel like it would go 1.) cookies 2.) ham 3.) gingerbread 4.) hot buttered rum …….. 162.) chestnuts.  But, and here’s the “but”, that doesn’t mean this song isn’t a banger. a.) whether or not we’ve had a chestnut, our collective consciousness is filled with images of them roasting on an open fire and b.) few things let you know it’s Christmas time like Nat King Cole crooning those opening lines.  Also, it’s literally called “The Christmas Song”. What a flex by Nat.

Best Version: Nat King Cole 

 

13- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Yet another song that is firmly imprinted in the cultural zeitgeist, and with good reason.  Whereas some Christmas songs are bombastic in their holiday proclamations, this song goes in the opposite direction.  Its power is in its quietude. It is a soft song; even Christmas itself becomes “little”. Its size–its smallness–though, let’s the song worm its way into you and rest there, making your yuletide gay.

Best Version: Frank Sinatra 

 

Songs about Noise or Lack Thereof

 

12- Do You Hear What I Hear?

Yes, yes I do. I hear the lamb and I hear the boy, but most of all, I hear this song way above the trees. And, yes, its voice is as big as the sea.  By itself, this song is a crowd pleaser. It is written deftly, building through our various senses and social classes until all the world is made aware of the power of a child.  However, in Lincoln Brewster’s hands, this song really takes off and feels its full power. Brewster is a master on the guitar, and he shreds his way through this song, nearly vaulting it into the top ten.

Best Version: Lincoln Brewster 

 

11- Silent Night

This song is gorgeous, so gorgeous, in fact, that it takes three of our best singers to produce the best version of it.  “Silent night, holy night / All is calm, all is bright.” This song has some amazing writing and equally amazing musicality.  So what keeps it out of the top ten? Two things, both springing from my childhood. 1.) It is so awkward, unless you’re Madonna, to sing the word “virgin”, especially in a Christmas song, and especially in church, and this song makes you do it multiple times. And 2.) When I was younger, I didn’t realize the second and third lines of this song were enjambed.  That is, the song should read: “All is calm and all is bright ‘round yon virgin”, as in it’s calm and bright around Mary. When I was young, though, I thought it was calling Mary “round”, as in she’s fat. Now, I realized that she had just given birth and so still had much of her pregnancy weight on, but still, it seemed mean-spirited. So, yeah, any song that made a young kid think about a round, post-natal Mother of God can’t crack the top ten.

Best Version: Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood, & Reba McEntire

 

The Modern Classics

 

10- Feliz Navidad

Ah, the song that gave every student in Spanish 1 the feeling that they were nearly native speakers.  No one, and I mean no one, sang “Prospero año y felicidad” with an overwrought and inappropriate Spanish accent quite like 13 year-old me.  I mean, I killed it. It gave me the confidence to go to Taco Bell, order a burrito, and roll those “r’s” like nobody’s business. So, yes, this song gets high marks for inspiring generation after generation of new language learners.  But, frankly, it’s also a rockin’ song. I mean that from “the bottom of my heaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart.”

Best Version: Jose Feliciano 

 

9- Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

Is it a little too “hitting the nail on the head”?  I mean, maybe. It does repeat “Christmas” roughly 50,000 times.  And, in someone else’s hands, it might come across poorly. But, Mimi aka The Voice? She kills it.  You can feel her yearning in these lyrics. I just feel like whoever is refusing to come home to her is an absolute idiot.  Get your butt home, man. But, in the meantime, the rest of us will pretend the song is about us.

Best Version: Mariah Carey 

 

8- Happy X-Mas, War is Over

This song keeps it real in a really effective way.  In many ways, Christmas is an aspirational season: we think about the best versions of ourselves and the best versions of the world.  Ideas like “peace”, “joy” and “brotherhood” occupy our minds. But then, John Lennon cuts in with “So this is Christmas / And what have you done?”.  It cuts like a knife, you know? You have all these warm feelings? Cool, cool, cool. But what have you done? And then, if it were even possible, the song keeps it even more real: it reminds us of the wars we fight.  It reminds us that there are men and women serving in Afghanistan who were barely even alive when that war started. So, yes, be aspirational, but keep it real.

Best Version: John Lennon 

 

7- Little Drummer Boy

This song was originally ranked a lot lower, but then two things happened.  One, I started to learn how to play drums, and all of a sudden this song became about me.  I hop on my kit and straight “Pa rum pum pum pum.” Mary nods and the ox and lamb keep time (mostly because I’m really bad at keeping time myself).  The second thing that happened was I discovered the for KING & COUNTRY version of the song. It knocked “Little Drummer Boy” up, like, 30 spots.

Best Version: for KING & COUNTRY, live from Phoenix 

 

Songs about Angels

 

6- Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!

I appreciate that this song begins with a command.  Direct, to the point, I like it. Also, as a new father, I’ve started yelling “HARK!” at my child.  It’s yet to be effective, but I’m hopeful. The thing I appreciate most about this song, though, is its versatility.  Yes, you can play it in church, and it works really well. But, it also can be rewritten to really rock.  Brenda Lee should have been taking notes.  That’s why there are so many good versions of this song.  The first verse just builds and builds and builds into a full on swell while you’re singing words like “glory”, “joyful”, and “triumph”, alongside frickin’ “angelic hosts”.

Best Version: Lincoln Brewster 

 

5- Angels We Have Heard on High

I remember the first time I saw this song in a songbook.  There was this big, swoopy mark over the “Glo.” I had no idea what it meant, but I was ready for it when we got there.  I waited and waited and waited, and then I heard “Glo-oh-oh-oh-oh—-oh-oh-oh-oh—–oh-oh-oh-oh-or-ia”, and I was like holy crap (I was in church and minded my language), this song is awesome.  And there’s Latin?!?! Let’s go! I’m sad to say that, from that moment forward in time, this song has been a curse for whoever is next to me because I can’t sing for shit, but I’ll belt the hell out of this song. “Glo-oh-oh-oh-oh—-oh-oh-oh-oh—–oh-oh-oh-oh-or-ia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Best Version: Pentatonix 

 

The Contemporary Classic

 

4- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Okay, so the music video for this song is terrible. Like really, really bad.  We need to acknowledge that and put it to the side. Also, the lyrics themselves are a jumbled mess.  They mean literally nothing, all cliches and vapid phrasings. And, when the boys from *NSYNC do try to go for meaning, they try to be all things to all people: they throw in some mentions of “God” for the religious, mentions of “Christmas” for the secular fans of Christmas, and mentions of “Holidays” for everyone else.  I mean, c’mon… The testament to how good this song is, though, is the fact that it is ranked #4 despite all these shortcomings. I mean, just put it on and try not to dance, just put it on and try not to be happy. These boys can sing and the song is slickly produced, aimed at just that part of your brain that turns thought off and tells you, “shut up, stop thinking, and enjoy this song.”

Best Version: *NSYNC 

 

The Undisputed Top Three (Order Subject to Change)

 

3- All I Want for Christmas Is You

I’ll admit it.  I’m a bit of a contrarian, which is partly why Mimi’s Christmas classic gets ranked #3.  Most lists have it as #1, and you could probably talk me into it. It is a really damn good song.  From the slow build up with Mariah’s rich vocals to the mostly tasteful Christmas-inspired instrumentation, it is near perfection.  Plus, isn’t this song the antidote to a culture of consumption? In an era when we are finally starting to realize how things can never really fill us up as people, Mariah has long known this.  She doesn’t want things, only “you.” She was so far ahead of her time.  The problem, I think, is two-fold. One, it is so overplayed; the song is omnipresent during the Holiday season.  Two, there’s nothing complicated about the story that she’s telling; it’s just simple wish-fulfillment. For me, then, the song is great, but not the best.

Best Version: Mariah Carey 

 

2- Joy to the World

I frickin’ love this song.  Like, for real. Few things compared to walking into church, looking up what songs we would be singing that day and finding “Joy to the World”.  When Mom and Dad weren’t looking, I would throw some fist pumps; I felt like God would have approved. It even got to the point where I just memorized the page number of the song. So what makes the song so great?  Well, it was written almost 300 years ago in 1719, and it still bangs. In fact, it’s the most-published Christmas hymn. Second is the tune of ANTIOCH that it’s set to. That tune was written over 150 years ago, and it goes just as hard today as it did back then.  The song is a triumphant masterpiece. Words and tune interlock to communicate the exact same message, and it is a message of, well, joy. In just four quatrains, the singer and audience are taken on a soaring adventure together. There are so many great versions of this song, but the one I listen to the most is Jeremy Riddle’s because he and his band stretch the song out to seven minutes and rock their faces off doing it.

Best Version: Jeremy Riddle 

 

1- Last Christmas

This song is number one for a lot of reasons, but one of them has to be that there are no bad versions of this song.  Taylor Swift? Crushed it. The cast of Glee? Yup. Ariana Grande? Sure, why not. Cascada’s weird elctro-beat version? I’m in.  Jimmy-frickin’-Eat-frickin’-World? 100% percent. Wham! did something special with this song. They made an eminently coverable, eminently related Christmas song.  And, really, isn’t that what a great Christmas song is? Something we can all sing and dance to, something we can all relate to, something complicated enough to evoke powerful feelings, but not so heavy as to overwhelm us?  This is it. This is the archetype. “Last Christmas” is the best Christmas song for This Christmas and all Christmas Futures.

Best Version: Wham! 

 


 

Reader’s Input

 

Holy Christmas songs, Batman! Alright – let’s hear it. What did Ronnie do wrong (if you can actually find something) and what did he do right?!?! Let us know in the comments below and we’ll let this debate rage on into the new year!!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Ron, An excellent and well thought out read. I thoroughly enjoyed the article. Thank you for taking the time but one question, where is the Eagles “ Please come home for Christmas “? It’s a completely different song than the Mariah Carey song with the same title. Great job still and not much else to disagree with.

    1. Thanks! Hmm….. That song had skipped my mind. Mea maxima culpa! Let’s do a completely scientific calculation. It gets negative points because I don’t really like the Eagles and because the song makes me sad when Christmas should be a happy time. It gets positive points, though, because, for an Eagles song it’s pretty good and because I could see myself drinking egg nog to it . I’d give it a solid low 30’s ranking.

  2. Oh gosh Ronnie Last Christmas Really? And you forgot Brittney Spear’s Only Wish!! And in a culture where women flock to see 50 Shades of Grey, I think Baby It’s Cold Outside is pretty harmless

  3. I’ve been searching for some new Christmas music for my eclectic collection, so your post was very timely! I hadn’t heard the Annie Lennox version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” before, that was great!

    Right now I’m listening to Imagene Peise “Atlas Eets Christmas” (produced by the Flaming Lips), which I love. Also enjoying Relient K’s Christmas CD. And an old-time favorite Christmas song is “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters.

    If you or any of your readers have heard a version of “The Christmas Song” (the one with “chestnuts roasting…”) that has an odd sound to it – almost like parts of it are being sung underwater . . . please, please let me know who it is done by! I heard it once on the radio & it’s a mystery to me.

    By the way, yes, I know what a chestnut looks like! Vendors were selling roasted chestnuts as street food when I was in Greece this past October, and I had a delicious chestnut stew in a restaurant there.

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