As December rolls around, it’s time to get to work. Not on finals or job applications — those can wait — but rather, on curating the perfect Christmas music playlist to get yourself in the mood for all things holly and jolly by the time Dec. 25 rolls around.
We all know and love the holiday tunes that have solidified themselves as seasonal staples, but what we often forget about is the trove of delightful Christmas songs, both covers and originals, recorded by pop artists. From modern takes on the classics to entirely new efforts at becoming just that, the following are my suggestions for the tracks that deserve a spot on your playlist this Christmas season.
“Wit It This Christmas” – Ariana Grande
After a series of tweets proclaiming “Christmas & Chill” to be her “favorite body of work,” Grande’s 2015 holiday-themed EP climbed the iTunes charts, eventually settling in the top 20. The six-track EP contains only original songs, on most of which Grande can be heard experimenting with the chilled-out trap beats that would later become a staple of her music.
Each of these songs would make a welcome addition to your Christmas repertoire, however, the standout is clearly “Wit It This Christmas.” It combines violins, sleigh bells, a pounding bass and exceptional lyrics (“Are you down for some of these milk and cookies?”) into a modern Christmas masterpiece.
“Santa Tell Me” – Ariana Grande
On the other hand, if you want a more traditional Christmas effort from Grande then “Santa Tell Me” is your best choice.
In what is quite possibly the catchiest original Christmas song since “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Grande perfects the holiday pop model and deems herself a worthy princess of the holiday, next to Mariah’s Queen.
“Last Christmas” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Everyone knows “Last Christmas,” but not everyone knows Carly “Sleigh” Jepsen’s take on it. The song kicks off with the sultry saxophone that has become a staple of any great Jepsen track, only to explode into the ‘80s pop ballad that “Last Christmas” has always wanted to be.
It sounds like something straight off “Emotion” in the best way and breathes new life into the song that can easily feel so tired.
“My Only Wish (This Year)” – Britney Spears
When I was in high school, I worked at a frozen yogurt shop that played a Christmas radio station for the entirety of December. Needless to say, every hour or so, “My Only Wish (This Year)” would blast through the speakers — as it should yours this December.
Spears recording a Christmas song was inevitable from the start of her career, and “My Only Wish” being the only Christmas song in her more than 20 year career feels even more fitting. Point is, it’s a bop.
“I’ll Be Home” – Meghan Trainor
In the grander scheme of Trainor’s hand-clap and doo-wop filled discography, her original Christmas song “I’ll Be Home” is an anomaly.
Far from the standard she set with “All About That Bass,” the song is a gorgeous piano ballad that will surely occupy that open spot on your playlist reserved for a depressing Christmas track.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – Kacey Musgraves & Lana Del Rey
Not to be confused with the former, this one is a cover of the Christmas classic, recently released as a part of “The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show.” Vocally, the two singer-songwriters are a match made in Christmas heaven as they effortlessly deliver the tune over only an acoustic guitar.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Kacey Musgraves
Another Musgraves cover of a Christmas music classic comes off 2016’s “A Very Kacey Christmas,” in which she puts her distinct spin on the all too recognizable song.
While not necessarily a pop star, Musgraves still brings that pop star energy to essentially all that she does, and Christmas music is no exception.
“It’s Not Christmas Without You” – Victorious Cast
If you’ve recently let “Victorious” back in your life due to the show’s addition to the Netflix catalog, then consider doing the same for this infectious number performed by Victoria Justice, Elizabeth Gillies and Grande for the show.
Corny lyrics and a killer brass section make the song the perfect blend of all the ingredients that make a great Christmas song.
“Christmases When You Were Mine” – Taylor Swift
Another option for that “depressing Christmas song” slot starts with the lyrics, “Please take down the mistletoe / ‘cause I don’t wanna think about that right now.”
Taken from “The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection,” a 2008 EP that no one aside from devout Swift fans have heard of, the song is one of two original Christmas songs recorded by Swift, complete with the melodramatic lyrics and soothing guitar chords that were staples of Country Taylor.
“The Christmas Song” – Idina Menzel
Menzel is another singer who was seemingly born to perform Christmas music.
While her take on this Nat King Cole classic admittedly brings nothing new to the conversation, it’s still a joy and a worthy alternative if you’re tired of the same old thing.
“Someday At Christmas” – The Jackson 5
Okay, definitely not the best Christmas song, as “Love, Simon” suggested — which, side note, what gay teenager wouldn’t pick “All I Want For Christmas Is You?” Seems fishy, but I digress.
Still, the cover of what many consider to be one of the greatest holiday albums is a great Christmas song and definitely worth your time this season.