Who in all honesty doesn’t have a big, red and glowing soft spot for the best Christmas pop songs?
Every year, as the nights draw in and the shops go mental, the songs we have all grown up with suddenly become the soundtrack to our lives yet again. Of course, it’s always a sickly treat doused in nostalgia: the memory of your grandparents creaking into life with Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, or that first romantic fumble under the mistletoe to Wham!’s perennial sob-fest ‘Last Christmas’. Perhaps that’s why so many contemporary pop acts turn to the Christmas songbook for a fresh interpretation that breathes new life into something so cosy and familiar – as the best Christmas pop songs prove.
Listen to the best Christmas pop songs on Spotify, and scroll down for our ten best Christmas pop songs.
Ariana Grande: ‘Santa Tell Me’
Perhaps Ariana Grande’s 2017 Christmas wish was to become the planet’s biggest female star with her 2018 album, Sweetener. Well, Santa was certainly listening, and this US hit, first issued in 2014, nicely complements a brace of festive covers issued on 2013’s Christmas Kisses EP. The Motown-inspired midtempo track was first performed at the A Very Grammy Christmas concert and TV special, and was supported by a cute-as-a-button promotional video.
Justin Bieber: ‘Mistletoe’
Almost every major star tackles a festive album at some point and Justin Bieber got his in early at the age of just 17. This was the lead single from the Under The Mistletoe collection and hit the charts just about everywhere in 2011, while continuing to stack up downloads to this day. Written with Nasri, from the band MAGIC!, and Adam Messinger, it’s now been certified multi-platinum in both the US and Justin’s homeland of Canada.
Mariah Carey: ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’
Sometimes acts love the holidays so much, they release more than one festive collection (stand up Hanson and Cliff Richard), but it’s rare for them to revisit the same song twice. Mariah, however, likes to do things differently, and for her second seasonal album – Merry Christmas II You – she re-recorded her 1994 classic, which is not only one of the best Christmas pop songs in history, but one of the biggest-selling singles of all time. With new vocals and a beefier production, it’s yet to dislodge the original from radio playlists, but nicely updates something that was truly special to start with.
Paul McCartney/Jimmy Fallon/The Roots: ‘Wonderful Christmastime’
When you want an all-star cast, there’s probably no better person to arrange it than talk-show host Jimmy Fallon. When he decided to update Sir Paul’s 1979 single, he signed up stars such as Reese Witherspoon to join his house band, The Roots, on this spritely rattle through a song that’s been covered by acts as diverse as Kylie and metal band Helix. Paul also joined Jimmy here, making it his second update – he’d previously also guested on the 2013 Straight No Chaser version.
Michael Bublé And Anne Murray: ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’
Country legend Anne Murray enlisted two fellow Canadians for her 2008 seasonal collection: Diana Krall on ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and Michael Bublé on this festive classic. The song dates back to 1944, and Michael’s got form with it already, having guested on it with Idina Menzel for her Holiday Wishes album. What made this contribution particularly special was that the album he made it for turned out to be Anne Murray’s last studio project to date.
Sia: ‘Santa’s Coming For Us’
Selected as the launch single for Sia’s seasonal album, ‘Santa’s Coming For Us’ became one of the few contemporary Christmas singles to chart on release in 2017, making it one of the best Christmas pop songs penned in recent years. Typically, Sia was nowhere to be seen in the memorable video supporting the song, but Kristen Bell stepped in admirably as the host of a retro-styled festive house party.
Ellie Goulding: ‘O Holy Night’
Recorded as a gift to her fans in 2015, after a very successful year for the star, Ellie’s take on a carol that dates back to 1847 suits her voice perfectly. It made a belated entry to streaming catalogues after a couple of years and now regularly features on festive playlists. It also sits nicely alongside her other seasonal recording – a turn on Band Aid 30’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
Gwen Stefani: ‘Santa Baby’
No one was surprised when this saucy seasonal classic found its way onto Gwen Stefani’s Christmas album. Released off the back of her success as a judge on the American talent-show The Voice, You Make It Feel Like Christmas was a big hit and was showcased on a US TV special. ‘Santa Baby’ was first made famous by the late Eartha Kitt and was later covered by Madonna for the first volume of A Very Special Christmas, in 1987.
Train: ‘Shake Up Christmas’
First appearing on a deluxe edition of the band’s 2010 smash set, Save Me, San Francisco, this rock track was dusted down five years later for Train’s Christmas In Tahoe album. A largely live performance video helped nudge the cut into the lower reaches of the singles chart in the US and some European markets.
Calum Scott: ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’
The rising star’s take on the 1951 classic by Meredith Willson was featured on the 2017 compilation Holiday Rules Volume Two. It’s a song that many artists have recorded across the years, including Harry Connick, Jr, and Johnny Mathis, but it’s Perry Como who perhaps truly made the song his own. Calum broke through after appearing on Britain’s Got Talent, and released his debut studio album in 2018.
Looking for more? Discover the best Christmas songs of all time.