So this is Christmas? As we’re knee-deep in Yuletide adverts, Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ and Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ are on heavy rotation. Fine if that’s your thing, but it may not satisfy those keen to celebrate a hipper festive season with more ostensibly cool Christmas songs.
Don’t get us wrong here. This isn’t a Scrooge-like attempt to knock the traditions any more than it’s intended to denigrate festive greats such as ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Winter Wonderland’. Yet, if Christmas is meant for one and all, then we feel it’s also fair to offer a gift to the more adventurous music fan. If you like a hearty slice of credibility to accompany your glass of festive cheer, here’s our selection of 20 cool Christmas songs, compiled just for you.
Weezer: ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ (2008)
A short, sharp and faithful pop-punk take on the popular festive staple from the 2008 Christmas With Weezer EP. The record’s six tracks were originally recorded for Apple’s iOS video game of the same name.
The Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Christmastime’ (1997)
Recorded during the sessions for the band’s fourth album, Adore, but released on one of A&M’s star-studded charity compilations, A Very Special Christmas 3 – the third in a series of releases home to many cool Christmas songs.
No Doubt: ‘Oi To The World’ (1997)
Infectious, skinhead-style ska salute to Christmas. Originally the B-side to ‘Happy Now?’ from the Diamond-selling Tragic Kingdom.
Eels: ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas’ (1998)
Another gem tucked away on a B-side. In this case, the flip to ‘Cancer For The Cure’ from Eels’ acclaimed sophomore album, Electro-Shock Blues.
Amy Winehouse: ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ (2004)
Amy Winehouse’s earthy, bossa nova-style version of Jimmy Boyd’s 1952 Billboard chart-topper was recorded live for a BBC Radio 2 Christmas Day special, The Gospel According To Christmas.
The Killers: ‘Don’t Shoot Me Santa’ (2011)
Collecting The Killers’ annual Xmas singles from 2006 to 2011, the digitally-released (Red) Christmas EP – featuring this track – was a charity record with the proceeds going to the anti-AIDS Product Red campaign headed by Bono and US activist Bobby Shriver.
Queen: ‘A Winter’s Tale’ (1995)
A dreamy, psychedelic beauty of a song recorded at the very end of Queen’s career with Freddie Mercury. It appears on the posthumous 1995 album, Made In Heaven.
David Bowie And Bing Crosby: ‘Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy’ (1982)
Described by the The Washington Post as “one of the most successful duets in Christmas music history”, Bowie and Bing’s transcendent version of this stellar Christmas song is actually a cover of a track first recorded by The Sound Of Music-inspiring Trapp Family Singers in 1951.
Beck: ‘The Little Drum Machine Boy’ (1997)
The self-proclaimed “holiday robot funk” of Beck’s seven-minute ‘Little Drum Machine Boy’ appeared six months after his landmark Odelay album, on Geffen’s Just Say Noël compilation. It’s got freaky Roland 808 drum beats, sleigh bells and cowbells, and it’s quite brilliant.
Tom Petty: ‘Christmas All Over Again’ (1992)
Rousing, widescreen anthem with a Jeff Lynne co-production credit and a touch of Phil Spector. It was included on another of A&M’s double-Platinum Christmas collections, A Very Special Christmas 2.
Lady Gaga: ‘Christmas Tree’ (2008)
A digital download-only festive rarity which liberally samples the classic Christmas song ‘Deck The Halls’. It cracked the Top 30 of Billboard’s Holiday Songs Chart, despite the lyrics’ sexual innuendos.
Blink-182: ‘I Won’t Be Home For Christmas’ (2001)
Originally recorded and issued as a radio promo in 1997, but only officially released as a single in 2001. It remains the Californian skate-punk stars’ sole Canadian No.1.
Bon Jovi: ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ (1992)
Jon Bon Jovi’s emotive cover of Charles Brown’s 1960 Billboard chart-topper was originally another stand-out on A&M’s A Very Special Christmas 2 in 1992. Issued as a single in 1994 (under the Bon Jovi banner), it went Top 10 in the UK and Ireland.
Snoop Dogg: ‘Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto’ (1996)
Featuring a sample from Isaac Hayes’ ‘Do Your Thing’, Snoop’s festive treat appeared on a Death Row Records charity compilation, Christmas On Death Row.
Chuck Berry: ‘Run Rudolph Run’ (1958)
A bracing rocker in the same 12-bar vein as Chuck’s signature hit, ‘Johnny B Goode’. Has since been covered by artists as disparate as Bryan Adams, Luke Bryan, Grateful Dead and Slaughter And The Dogs.
Squeeze: ‘Christmas Day’ (1979)
Released on suitably wintry white vinyl, Squeeze’s lone tilt at Christmas glory is a strangely downbeat take on the festive season, with Chris Difford providing an ‘Up The Junction’-esque lyrical take on the nativity.
Johnny Cash: ‘Christmas Time’s A-Comin’’ (1972)
Spirited yuletide number from The Man In Black’s second Christmas album, The Johnny Cash Family Christmas.
The Kinks: ‘Father Christmas’ (1977)
From The Kinks’ underrated Misfits comes this hard-hitting, socially-aware rocker, wherein Ray Davies threatens to duff up the big man with the white beard unless he “gives my Daddy a job ’cause he needs one/He’s got lots of mouths to feed”.
Pearl Jam: ‘Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time)’ (1991)
Early – and extremely collectible – Pearl Jam single, later recorded live for the 2011 compilation album Pearl Jam 20.
The Pogues (Featuring Kirsty MacColl): ‘Fairytale Of New York’ (1987)
Aside from Bowie and Bing, the only mainstream hit on the list, but it more than earns its place among these cool Christmas songs. It’s impossible to imagine the holidays without ‘Fairytale Of New York’, which was, bizarrely, recorded on a sweltering summer’s day in August ’87.
Low: ‘Just Like Christmas’ (1999)
Usually known for funereally slow alt.pop, Minnesota trio Low released the glorious Christmas EP in 1999 as “a gift to fans”. It’s transcendent and opens with this blissful bout of unashamedly pure, sleigh-bell-assisted pop.
Chris Cornell With Eleven: ‘Ave Maria’ (1997)
One of rock’s greatest losses during 2017 was Chris Cornell, so it’s fitting we should close this list of cool Christmas songs with his haunting rendition of Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’, originally featured on A Very Special Christmas 3.
For the best Christmas songs of all time, Christmas playlist here.