The 50 Christmas songs you really will love (we promise)

Christmas songs don’t have to suck! From traditional favorites to obscure nuggets, we’ve got the proof right here (and it’s wearing festive antlers).



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“Just Like Christmas” by Low

Behold the indie Christmas song that spawned a thousand indie Christmas songs. Before Low’s Christmas album, the holidays were, like, not cool; this 1999 gem changed that by dint of being so bewitchingly beautiful. The slow, somber track suggests Karen Carpenter backed by Phil Spector’s wall of sound. Just take a listen: Very likely your heart will melt like a snowman next to a hairdryer.—Sophie Harris

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“Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi Trio

A silky, subtle counterpart to the more upbeat “Linus and Lucy,” Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas gem might be the season’s most tasteful mood-setter—even with the voices of the Peanuts themselves crooning angelically along as they skate across a frozen cartoon pond. There’s no specific religious imagery here, but the bittersweet melody and ballad-style treatment serve as a reminder that there’s more to the holidays than face-stuffing and present-hoarding.—Hank Shteamer

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“Let It Snow” by Dean Martin

Inclement weather serves as an excuse for fireside snuggling and prolonged goodnight kissing in this romantic charmer, written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn in 1945 but perhaps best captured in Dean Martin’s 1959 recording. Swinging lightly through the lyrics in an insouciant bedroom purr, lubricated with liquid ls, Martin adds a hint of nice naughtiness to the equation. (Note how his “hold me tight” gets upped to “grab me tight.”) It may be cold outside, baby, but Dino’s voice will warm you right up.—Adam Feldman

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“Got Something for You” by Best Coast + Wavves

New California indie-pop It couple Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast and Wavves frontman Nathan Williams team up for a holiday tune that truly makes the hipster senses tingle with delight. Cosentino’s sultry voice and Williams’s soft backing vocals make “Got Something for You” just too darn cute to skip. Oh, and the chiming sleigh bells in the background—whether emblems of hiptastic irony or otherwise—don’t hurt the cause either.—Rachel J. Sonis


“Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt

Before Victoria’s Secret and the slutty Kris Kringles of SantaCon, there was a time when Christmas could be genuinely sexy, as evidenced by this saucy 1953 number from cabaret tigress Eartha Kitt (described by Orson Welles as “the most exciting woman in the world” ). “Just slip a sable under the tree / for me,” coos gold-digging Eartha. “Been an awful good girl,” she adds, with delicious emphasis on the awful.—Sophie Harris

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“Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms

For a song that goads you to “jingle around the clock,” its sleepy lap-steel arrangement makes it possibly the worst choice for that endeavor. Accept no imitations (like this Hall & Oates abomination); the original is the perfect soundtrack for a postprandial nap next to the tree.—Andrew Frisicano

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Bob Dylan

“It Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Leave it to a Jew who famously embraced Jesus in the ’70s—re: Dylan’s current affiliation, it’s anyone’s guess—to produce the most klezmerish Christmas ode of all time, an accordion-fueled stomp that finds the bard of Hibbing, MN, cataloging the features of Old Saint Nick, 20 Questions–style. It might seem a little weird that the man responsible for immortalizing Santa’s “big, red cherry nose” in song is the same one who recently issued a 14-minute historical epic about the sinking of the Titanic. Then again, maybe it makes perfect sense.…—Hank Shteamer

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“The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

The transgenerational meeting has generated numerous parodies over the years, and sure, there’s something weirdly off about crooner Crosby discussing Christmas traditions with Low-era Bowie (Bing’s spiritless take on modern music: “It’s marvelous, some of it really fine”). But there’s also a timelessness about the resulting collab, in which the pair interweave separate melodies while standing shoulder to shoulder.—Andrew Frisicano

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“Christmas Rappin’” by Kurtis Blow

Selling over 400,000 copies, Kurtis Blow’s holiday single, “Christmas Rappin’,” was the first song the old-school Harlem rapper released when he got signed by powerhouse Mercury Records in 1979. Blow made history that year by becoming the first rapper ever to be picked up by a major label. But who could blame them? Even if it is a tad corny, “Christmas Rappin’ ” is undeniably catchy at its core. With a fun rhyme and a funky beat, this tune is bound to get stuck in your head, and for most people, it surely does.—Rachel J. Sonis

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James Brown

“Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” by James Brown

Ever a man of the people, Brown begs the big dude in the red suit to shell out gifts to “mothers and soul brothers.” Not that the song sounds preachy or anything—more funky (duh) and perfectly suited to a fun holiday soiree. Fans of this soulful yuletide hit would do well to check out the rest of Brown’s excellent Christmas oeuvre.—Tim Lowery

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