That’s right, we’re laying down the gauntlet and offering up what we believe to be THE definitive list of the very best music to listen to over Christmas. Whether you’re a year-round listener, or believe that Christmas songs should only be listened to on the big day day itself, it’s hard to ignore the infectious catchiness that these songs offer up. But be warned, if you’re brave enough to read on, you may find yourself humming these songs all the way through to the New Year! We take no responsibility for what may happen as a result of reading about all these fantastic Christmas songs. If you’re brave enough, read on to find our list of the very best Christmas songs.
Oh, and by the way, no we’re not going to number this list. We’re already exposing ourselves up to enough potential for hate in case we didn’t include your favourite track. We’re not about to wade into the argument of whether ‘Last Christmas’ is better than ‘Blue Christmas’, or whether ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ should rank above ‘Killing In The Name’. We’ll leave the rankings up to you!
Listen along while you read by heading over to our Spotify playlist:
The Classic Christmas songs
Whether you grew up listening to them with your family, or just can’t escape them when you’re out and about over Christmas, these are the undeniable classics of the Christmas song world.
‘Last Christmas’ – Wham!
Apologies to all those participating in Whamageddon this year, but if you got this far without hearing the song you’ve surely just been walking around with ear-plugs in! As our Abi says:
“Who can resist singing along to our George? Sad Christmas songs are the best Christmas songs and sound even better on karaoke after everybody has had a few cheeky glasses of bucks fizz. Best lines to sing after said glasses o’fizz: ‘Once bitten and TWICE SHYYYY’ and ‘Now I know what a FOOOOL I’ve been’. Oh, the drama!”
‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ – Mariah Carey
We don’t actually need to say anything to explain this one. It’s cemented its place in the Christmas music hall of fame – and for good reason. That opening “I… don’t want a lot for Christmas” sets hearts a-racing immediately.
‘Fairytale of New York’ – The Pogues
Look, I get it, it’s the very definition of a Christmas classic, absolutely dominating our Facebook poll, and staff suggestions. But if you are going to listen to it, at least listen to the above version featuring vocals from Kirsty MacColl that swaps out the homophobic slur without affecting the song at all.
‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town’ – Bruce Springsteen
One of the best versions of the song out there. Stick around for the bit where Bruce clearly starts to lose it when one of the E Street guys comes in with the “ho ho ho”.
‘All Alone On Christmas’ – Darlene Love
That saxophone! Her voice! On paper a pretty depressing subject, but still a certified Xmas bop!
‘Christmas Wrapping’ – The Waitresses
Show me a Christmas song that tells as full a story as this, I’ll wait. As a plus, it has perhaps the best bassline of any Christmas song. Also perfectly illustrates our inability to make plans with friends in a time-poor world, which is extremely 2022.
‘Wonderful Christmastime’ – Paul McCartney
The song is often written off as too cheesy, but those synths slap. And isn’t Christmas the time for cheese, anyway? Ever since the Get Back documentary, everyone knows Paul is the best Beatle too…
‘Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays’ – *NSYNC
Ah, Christmas, one of the few times a year when it makes sense to move from a Beatle to that little band that Justin Timberlake was in for a while. Remember them? Well, you almost definitely remember this song!
‘Blue Christmas’ – Elvis Presley
Sometimes Christmas songs take on a lovely personal meaning, even beyond their connection to the holidays. Says our Kat: “Every Christmas when I was little, my dad would throw a present containing socks and mentos at me at 6 am, singing this song.” That sound is the sound of all of us melting into the ground from cuteness.
‘Driving Home for Christmas’ – Chris Rea
Georgie threw this one out as a favourite because “it reminds me of driving home from uni back in day and screaming it down the M1 with whichever parent was driving me back.” We will never tire of these adorable little Christmassy stories!
The future classics
From self-defined ‘basic’ obsessions, to newer entries to the Christmas music canon, and sometimes ignored songs from the past, we’re fairly certain these songs will still be kicking around for many years to come.
‘Don’t Shoot Me Santa’ – The Killers
Our Alex sums up this bizarre little Christmas track thusly: “It feels like an anti-Christmas song in all honesty (how many other Xmas songs have the lead singer pleading with Santa Claus not to kill him for being on the naughty list?), but it always gets stuck in my head around this time.”
‘Christmas Lights’ – Coldplay
A high-school girlfriend who was obsessed with Coldplay introduced this to me when I was in my typical high-school-boy-music-snobbery phase, and it never fails to get stuck in my head at this time of year, ever year. Bonus points for not sounding like any other Christmas songs!
‘So Much Wine’ – Phoebe Bridgers
With Phoebe Bridgers’ latest Christmas cover, this time a Handsome Family track, she proves that there’s nothing better than a spot of sad Christmas music. As with all of her Christmas releases, proceeds go to organizations doing essential community work – this year the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It’s one for the evening most likely, as the wine starts to make everyone drowsy.
‘Just like Christmas’ – Low
Our Charlie describes this Christmassy tune, from the band’s Christmas EP, as “one of the few Christmas songs I can stomach listening to over and over. As sweet and simple as the holidays should be.”
‘Stay Another Day’ – East 17
Not yet cemented in its status as a Christmas classic just yet, East 17’s Christmas number 1 single from ’94 is yet another example of the sad stuff being the best stuff over Christmas. What is it about the happiest day of the year that has us all loving the sad Christmas songs?
‘Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)’ – The Weather Girls
Another song sadly not as popular as it could be, no doubt overshadowed by their mega-hit ‘It’s Raining Men’, this song is catchy and infectious enough to bring anyone out of their Christmas flu stupor.
‘Santa Tell Me’ – Ariana Grande
Sometimes you just need to step back to the 2010’s and luxuriate in the sheen of Christmas pop music. Plus, with pipes like Ariana Grande’s, could this have the staying power of Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic?
‘Mistletoe’ – Justin Bieber
Don’t pretend you’re too cool for this one. You’re not. Just let the teeny-bopper years of Bieber wash over you with pure, unfiltered Christmas joy.
‘Christmas is all Around’ – Billy Mack (Bill Nighy)
Anyone who hasn’t seen Love Actually (who? Who hasn’t at this point?) has missed out on what is probably the simultaneously greatest and worst Christmas song of all time. An utter ear-worm, it remains permanently stuck in my head.
The left-of-centre Christmas songs
Some of these may be up for debate among the more strict Christmas music fans as to whether or not they truly classify as Christmas songs. But we won’t hear it! These are absolute tunes, and they’re plenty Christmassy to boot.
‘Killing in the Name’ – Rage Against The Machine
How can you say this isn’t a Christmas song? It was a number one! It’s veritably the Number One Christmas Number One of all time!
Mi Burrito Sabanero
It’s a danceable, and enjoyable, Christmas song about a donkey. What else do you need?
‘Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis’ – Tom Waits
The least Christmassy Christmas song ever is a masterclass in story-telling and characterization. It also has the added boon of being a Christmas song that you’re actually allowed to listen to all year-round without getting told off for it.
‘Christmas Unicorn’ – Sufjan Stevens
As well as being a hugely prolific musician/singer/songwriter in general, Sufjan Stevens may just be the world’s biggest Christmas fan. Collaborative efforts with friends, and a decade of exploring the Christmas catalogue, has seen Sufjan Stevens releasing 100 Christmas songs across multiple EPs and two expansive box sets. It’s hard to pick just one, but the epic 12-and-a-half minutes long Christmas Unicorn is indicative of his approach to both Christmas music and song-writing in general.
‘Vegetarian Christmas’ – FEET
It’s fucking hilarious and a certified (veggie) banger. Pop this on and crank the volume when a family member makes a snarky comment about the lack of meat on your plate.
‘White Wine In The Sun’ – Tim Minchin
Did an Australian stand-up comedian really write the most moving Christmas song of all time? Oh, yeah he did. ‘White Wine In The Sun’ will never, ever, not make me cry as I think of my childhood in Australia, and my family members celebrating Christmas across the pond – drinking white wine in the sun.
More Secret London staff favourites
‘It’s Christmas Again’ – Baron
Our Tamsin says of this track: “Three of my grandparents are originally from Trinidad, where Parang music is played at Christmas; something I’ve grown up with all my life. Whenever I hear this song, I’m instantly transported back to childhood Christmases.”
‘Last Christmas x Alright’ – Wham! x Kendrick Lamar (Green Power Ranger)
A mashup of Wham and Kendrick Lamar shouldn’t work, but it’s so damn good (and TikTok gold!).
‘Papa Noël’ – Janiro Basic One
Says Amanda: “This is a Christmas song from Curaçao, and I play it every year because I love the rhythm and reminds me of the Caribbean way of celebrating the season. It’s in papiamento, the language spoken in the island”
‘Feliz Navidad’ – José Feliciano
It’s a Puerto-Rican classic!
Let’s be real. We couldn’t include all of our favourites, or all of our Secret London readers’ favourites. So here are a few honourable mentions that you’ll definitely find us whacking on during the festive period.
- ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’ – Royal Guardsmen
- ‘Run Rudolph Run’ – Chuck Berry
- ‘Little Drummer Boy’ – Pentatonix
- ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ – Boney M.
- ‘Sleigh Ride’ – TLC
- ‘These Are the Special Times’ – Céline Dion
- ‘Do You Want To Build a Snowman?’ – Lea Michele
- ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ – Chris de Burgh
- ‘Last Christmas’ – Taylor Swift
- ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ – Jon Bon Jovi
- ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’ – Queen
- ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ – Brenda Lee
- ‘River’ – Joni Mitchell
- ‘Must Be Santa’ – Bob Dylan
- ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ – Slade
- ‘December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)’ – George Michael
- ‘I’m Yours For Christmas’ – Shalamar Baker
- ‘Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto’ – James Brown
- ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ – First Aid Kit
- ‘Christmas Feeling’ – The Merrymen
So, there you have it… The Secret London definitive, ultimate, conclusive, final, never-to-be-bettered guide to the best Christmas songs. What do you think? What did we miss? Should we have left any of them off? And which Christmas song is your very favourite?