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Alright, folks, you may officially bust out the wreaths and candy canes. Thanksgiving is over, which means that the next thirty straight days will be Santa, Rudolph, and, most of all, commercialization! Most people already have their favorite Christmas movie all queued up (if you’re a smart person it won’t be Elf), and, try as hard as you might, you can no longer avoid Christmas music.
Even before Thanksgiving day, radio stations were busting out the Christmas favorites. Now, it will be inescapable. Certainly there are some classic songs that your mom will always have on her “X-Mas Rox” playlist, but there are also the more hip songs that we jammed to as kids. Here is the unquestionably right ranking of the 10 (technically 11, but whatever) Christmas songs to be listening to this holiday season.
999. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
Come the fuck at me. I don’t care. I’ll die on this hill. This song is trash. It is a complete cash grab by Mariah and her label. This song had a pitch meeting, it had a marketing strategy. It was made to corner the opening in the market for “2000s pop Christmas song,” much in the same way that Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” was meant to capture the “2010s pop Christmas song.” So why is Mariah’s song singled out when it is, objectively, better and catchier than the Biebs’ (a low bar to clear)? Because people looooooove this song and aggressively demand it be played, unlike “Mistletoe.” So I’ll say what all guys are afraid to say around their girlfriends: this song is awful, I hate every moment that I know it’s being played on the airwaves, and I would rather listen to the sound of nails on a chalkboard than Mariah over-enunciate “yoooooou.” Also, don’t get the hype around her singing. She’s good, don’t be me wrong, but people fawn over her like she’s prime Whitney Houston. She ain’t Whit.
10. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee
It’s a staple, yes, but in all honesty, does anyone really enjoy this song? The vocals sound pitchy and the beat is janky. Remember Home Alone wherein Macaulay Culkin had all the cardboard cutouts set up to confuse the Wet Bandits as this song was playing? Remember how he was dancing like a mix of headbanging and out-of-rhythm spasms? That’s how my brain feels whenever I listen to this song.
9. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” – Alvin and the Chipmunks
I admit, nostalgia plays a little role in me rating this song in the top ten. The pacing is slow and the vocals are… well, grating is putting it kindly. It’s repetitive and boring. Yet, there’s something just so charming about the idea of having some of your childhood heroes singing a song for you. And it genuinely feels like a song sung by chipmunks, even though it was actually sung by some baritone old men and then sped up.
8. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Bobby Helms
Similar to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” this song is a classic but for some reason comes off as very grating. I don’t know why, because the vocals and the beat are far superior to RAtCT and its use in Home Alone 2 didn’t embed some deep hatred for the song lasting into adulthood. It just… it doesn’t slap is all I have to say. I don’t know. It’s fine, and it gave us that scene with the dance routine in Mean Girls which was probably peak Lindsay Lohan hotness (god, kids today will never understand or appreciate how fire that girl was in the mid-00s). It gets respect, but I can’t rate it that high.
7. “This Gift” – 98 Degrees
Of all the boy-band Christmas songs, this one is the least cringy twenty years later. It feels the least manufactured, as opposed to Mariah, Justin, or NSYNC’s Christmas albums. I don’t think this song is timeless or anything, but it’s solid and catchy. It feels fairly genuine. And maybe the fact that 98 Degrees got shafted in the 90s boy band rankings makes me a bit of a sap, so I’ll give them a nod for this one.
6. “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby
Mellow, simple, classic. Crosby’s voice is smooth and silky. The song is about the picturesque Christmas morning of a lawn covered in a fresh blanket of snow. A great song to be playing on Christmas Eve as you sip a hot toddy or spiked eggnog and watch the snow fall out the window.
5. “Let It Snow” – Dean Martin
An all-timer right here, in both song and singer. Dean Martin is one of those old-school male vocalists who sound like every guy from the show Mad Men was on Glee. If Bing’s voice was silky smooth, Martin’s is testosterone magic. Best paired with breakfast on Christmas morning to keep that energy going during that lull before (or after) presents have been opened.
4. “Christmas Time Is Here” – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
Top three Christmas movie, and an iconic song from that movie. Unlike with Alvin and the Chimpunks, this song is actually sung by kids. Listening to it is like hearing a Christmas play by an elementary school choir, except not terrible and you don’t have to sit through all the other kids you don’t care about. The song may sound a little dour and depressing, sure, but when you remember it in the context of the movie, the message is very uplifting. The song and movie are all about appreciating the true spirit of Christmas, giving, peace on Earth, family, friends, and all that mushy crap.
3. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” – Jackson 5
This song has probably been covered about a thousand different ways, but in my mind this is the only one that holds up. Jackson 5 is peak MJ, and the band adds a great, upbeat take on this old-timey song. The original version is great, don’t get me wrong, but I personally will always listen to this peppier version.
2. “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas” – Frank Sinatra
If “White Christmas” and “Let It Snow” had a baby, and that baby was kissed by an angel, it would be this song. First off, Sinatra is an icon for good reason. He is the epitome of the male vocalist. This song is right in his wheelhouse of slow and sultry, yet it still slaps. It’s not boring or dipping; it’s a perfectly-paced and sang gem. Play this puppy whenever you want. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Christmas night, this song is an ideal utility player for any phase of the Christmas festivities.
1. “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
This song fucking goes. I don’t know how else to properly describe this song other than it goes HARD. You’re telling me you managed to take an operatic song that captures the holiday spirit and combine it with some guitar riffs that would make Coheed and Cambria blush? Sign me up — sign me the fuck up, baby. Listen to this song whenever you please, because it fucking goes. Don’t even limit it to Christmastime. Put this bad boy on your drive to work playlist, your gym mix, etc. and play it year-round. Because — as I mentioned previously — this song goes..